Some counterintuitive ways to boost your mental and physical health.
Meditate! Be Grateful! Journal! It’s starting to sound a lot like “Marsha! Marsha! Marsha!” from The Brady Bunch. I now know what Jan must have felt like. Daily, if not hourly, we are bombarded with much of the same information on how to improve our overall health and well-being. While all of those practices certainly work and are valuable, there are a few methods that do not get as much air time.
The following tips might sound a bit strange and counterintuitive, but not only are they effective, but they are also cost and time-efficient.
1. Contrast therapy
Being told to take a cold shower and sober up may have more than one meaning after all. Contrast therapy or hydrotherapy is a process in which you take your body from one temperature extreme to the other through the use of hot and cold water. This centuries-old practice is widely known for its many benefits.
Ranging from inflammation reduction, accelerated tissue repair and improved circulation, contrast therapy is no longer just primarily for athletes. “It has the ability to help tone the autonomic nervous system in ways few things can,” says Dr. Kelly Bender, founder of the Pure Vitality Rejuvenation Center located in Los Angeles, California.
People seeking to increase their energy, sharpen focus and enhance overall mood have started to incorporate contrast therapy into their daily life. According to Dr. Bender, “The easiest but still very effective way to use it is by simply ending your showers with 30 seconds of cold water. Start with cool water one day and work your way up to full-on cold. Ending your shower with about 30 seconds of cold has a different effect than taking entire cold showers. Having a quick burst at the end will actually cause your body to react and heat up more”. The intensity and duration of the shower can be adjusted depending on your preference and tolerance. No matter how small you start one thing is certain, you will have the ability to get comfortable with being uncomfortable real fast.
It’s known that sunlight is an actual physiological human need. More often than not, we think about the sun in terms of how over-exposure leads to skin cancer, eye injuries and premature aging. But depending on the time of day, the sun brings a lot of reward with reduced risk.
The golden hours to reap the benefits of sunlight are between 7 am to 9 am, as opposed to later in the day when the sun’s rays are the strongest. When our skin is exposed to sunlight, it triggers the production of vitamin D, aka the “sunshine” vitamin. Aside from just building bones, D plays a major role in strengthening our immune system. If you’ve been having trouble sleeping, oddly enough, sunlight is extremely powerful in regulating our circadian rhythm, the body’s internal alarm clock. Misalignment of the circadian rhythm not only throws off our sleep/wake cycle, but our ability to handle stress is severely diminished. If you are still not convinced, take into account that the phrase “sunny disposition” holds some merit. Sunlight increases serotonin, the feel-good hormone which helps us to feel calm, focused and promote overall well-being.
A few simple ways you can invite 15 to 20 minutes of morning sun into daily routine include going for a quick walk or any other type of activity. If you are pressed for time you can get smaller amounts of sun exposure by opening windows as you get ready for the day or even while driving.
Earthing, otherwise known as “grounding,” has evolved from once being considered an oddball trend to more of a mainstream therapeutic technique. Having been around for centuries, grounding is simply what it sounds like — making direct physical contact to our planet. Whether by bare feet, hands or even our entire body, the belief behind this practice is that the Earth’s surface contains electrons that promote feelings of well-being. Healthline reports that there’s not a ton of scientific research on the benefits of grounding, but that people who do it have reported improvement for conditions such as fatigue, anxiety and depression.
Grounding is an easy lifestyle addition involving a minimal amount of effort and time. Although it may sound a bit off the beaten path, it’s as simple as sitting, standing or walking barefoot outdoors for a few minutes a day. A patch of grass, dirt, sand or a body of water, are all great places to soak up the healing power of nature.
4. Cellular repair
This wellness component is so important and yet talked about very little. The best way for us to maintain the foundation of our health is on a cellular level.
Well known within the science world, it’s only recently that the molecule NAD has become mainstream and embraced by the wellness industry. NAD, think of it as a “helper”, is an essential resource because it supports the repair of our cells, supports metabolism and helps turn what we eat into energy. Additionally, increased NAD fights immune stress. As we age, we lose up to 50% of these helpers. In addition, a variety of everyday stressors and even viral infections can deplete our cell’s NAD levels (up to 80% in the case of viruses).
While the potential health benefits of NAD supplements are still being examined by researchers, Tru Niagen is one worth checking out. They used to sponsor my podcast and I really just like the product.
5. Gut health
You know that “gut feeling” you have when something is or isn’t right? The condition of our gut affects way more than just how our stomach feels. Hence, why the gut is often referred to as the second brain.
Gut health is simply the balance of good bacteria vs bad bacteria in our intestinal walls. For optimum health, obviously the good must outweigh the bad. Bacteria not only helps us digest food and assimilate nutrients, but has the power to affect our state of mind. It serves the super important function of producing serotonin, the mental “feel good” chemical. It is estimated that our gut produces about 95 percent of the serotonin in the body.
The gut-brain connection is no joke and if you want to get an upper hand on brain fog, anxiety, bloating and depression, read on. To keep the “butterflies” in your stomach at bay, consider ditching the artificial sweeteners, processed foods, gluten and limit alcohol consumption. Rather than mindlessly reaching for something sugary, try a more bacteria friendly snack. Foods that are easy to incorporate in your diet such as apples, almonds and sweet potatoes are all great choices. Berries, live yogurt, bone broth and kombucha are excellent additions as well.
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