Number one

Dr. Rickford’s “Five Keys To Healthier Living”

1. Mental Attitude

The way we think about a situation affects how we act and in turn our actions can affect how we think and feel. Attitude and action are two powerful ways to change your outlook associated with current circumstances and create a sense of control in your life. Those individuals who feel in control of their life are often challenged by their busy schedules and believe there is a solution to every problem and a way around any obstacle. On the other hand, those that see problems as unsolvable and obstacles as too big to tackle don’t feel in control and often feel overwhelmed by the stresses of life.

While there are many ways to achieve a sense of control, it has been suggested to begin by changing your attitude and creating an action plan. If you are feeling depressed, for example, it’s hard to control your negative thoughts and even harder to control your emotions. A small action, however, like going for a walk is much easier to control and taking this action can, in turn, have a positive effect on your mood.

2. Exercise

Physical activity has a dramatic effect on buffering the negative effects of stress. Current research suggests that exercise physically changes the neuro-chemistry in your brain towards a more positive outlook, even turning mild to moderate depression around. Exercise should be performed 3-7 times per week and does not need to be for a long duration of time. 10-20 minutes of exercise per day is enough to have a positive effect on your body. Walking is recommended for most individuals or simple meditative exercises like Qi Gong, Tai chi or Yoga. At some point more intense exercise should include weight lifting and cardio (hiking, skipping, running and/or dancing). Once a routine is established you should be getting around 150 minutes of exercise per week.

3. Sleep

Sleep is a powerful ally to negate the effects of a high stress load on your body and mind. The recommendation of sleep is 6-9 hours per night of uninterrupted sleep. If you are having sleep concerns (insomnia) then you should be asking yourself “what stressors am I facing?” and at that point go back to the first lifestyle piece. Look to see what is out of control in your life. Write down how you can change these factors by taking counteractions to them and working this action list with a positive attitude.

4. Social And Spiritual Affect

Those individuals that laugh in the company of others are creating hormonal, immune and psychological ways to counter the effects of stress and to promote a healthy and enjoyable life. The two most important reasons for our existence (I believe) are family and friends. People work hard to provide for their families and enjoy time with friends; however, the pursuit of our North American lifestyle often results in the opposite effect and we can neglect our families and friends. This type of action often adds a heavy and lonely sense to our spirit.

5. Diet

The wrong foods like sweets and processed food break down into chemicals that trigger the wrong messages for cell-to-cell communication in our body. This can lead to inflammation, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and neurologic disease. The right foods (vegetables, legumes, fruits, etc.) promote proper and effective cell-to-cell communication and provide us with good health. It is also worthy of note that during times of stress, the wrong foods compound the stress response and have even more of a negative effect on your physiology and psychology.

Working toward improving these five elements in your own life can have profound and long-lasting effects on your health and well-being. Begin with small steps and who knows where good habits will lead you?