Modern life is dangerous to our health.
While laid up with covid most of December, sleeping and binge watching old movies for almost two weeks, I noticed in the street scenes of New York city, there were very few, if any, overweight people. Contrast that with a current street scene in any American city you see on any daily news program.
Pandemic or not, we live and sit in our heated and air conditioned boxes. When it’s time to go out, we jump into our motorized heated and air conditioned boxes on wheels and sit while riding to other heated and air conditioned boxes where we sit and work or sit and socialize and/or get entertained.
Our work for many centuries was physical, but, thanks to our machines and modern conveniences, today the majority of us do our work sitting and tapping away at keyboards and staring at screens. When the workday is done, we hop back into our motorized transports to go back home – or maybe move from our office to the living room – where we will likely be sitting and staring at some other screen until bedtime, which has gotten later and later thanks to our artificial lights.
The food we eat is processed and packaged so that it will store well on shelves for indefinite periods of time in stores and at home. We make a grand attempt to add back in the vitamins and minerals we processed out and call it nutritious. Or, we turn to vitamins and minerals pressed into tablets to supplement our depleted food.
After a few years of modern living, we began to notice many of us were struggling with weight and health issues. Well what could be causing that? It must surely be the fat in food making us fat ... seemed logical. So being the smart folks we are, we removed all the fats from all of those foods we were processing. But it’s the fat in food that gives it flavor and makes it satiating. Now everything tasted like cardboard, and no matter how much we ate, we were still hungry. No problem ... just replace the fat with sugar!
When many of us realized that was a bad thing and protested, the manufacturers had the solution ... simply take out the sugar, and replace it with a sweet tasting chemical. See ... no more sugar! Now it still tastes good and it’s healthy!
I swear ... if the theory of evolution is true, something has gone terribly wrong. “Evolving” surely means we’re getting better and better. But at some point we made a u-turn and are now “devolving” in many areas.
I’ve noticed in my own life, all this drawing and writing means a whole lot of sitting. Sitting, I’ve heard, is the new smoking. Not good. So I’ve been trying the last few months to move a little more, eat a little better, balance work and rest a bit more.
We’ve got a new year stretched out before us ... lots of time for drawing, writing and living! And we want to stay healthy so our bodies and minds can get it all done.
So I want to issue a challenge to myself and anybody who’ll join me. It’s just 5 little daily habits we need to incorporate into our daily lives ... at least aim for doing them five days a week, and save indulgences for the weekend.
This is the most important habit ... our bodies are designed to heal and rebuild themselves ... food provides the raw materials for that. Many people don’t like the taste of vegetables, simply because their taste buds have been trained to prefer the additive-laden packaged foods. But our taste buds can be retrained, and, when they are, you will be amazed at how sweet and flavorful foods are without adding the extra sugar and salt and whatever else they add to those packaged foods.
Eat real, whole food. If it will rot over a few days when left on the counter, that’s the right stuff. With few exceptions, avoid anything boxed or canned. Frozen fruits and veggies are probably okay if they were frozen at their peak, but frozen dinners are full of salt and who knows what. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and stay away from those center isles for edibles. Aim for a plate filled with ¾ veggies and ¼ protein. Eat a big raw salad 3 times a week. Add some protein in the form of lean chicken, boiled eggs and cheese and make it a complete meal. Don’t be afraid of fats ... whole eggs, butter, olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocados, coconut. Your brain cells will love you! Stay away from fats and oils and margarines that have been processed to death.
Locally grown, in season and organic is best, but grocery store meat and produce is still much better than anything canned or boxed. This will be a hard habit to develop, so take it slowly, and make small tweaks and improvements as you go along.
I suppose other drinks do have water in them along with whatever else, but our bodies need some plain H2O daily. Many people hate the taste of just plain water, but it helps our kidneys and lymphatic systems flush away toxins, and keeps our blood thinned and flowing, lubricates joints, and keeps your digestion system “moving” the way it should. If you don’t give your body the water it needs, it has to pull water from other places and over time things will go awry. You will get some water from food, so above that try to build up to one-third to half your weight in ounces of water spaced over a day. The most important glass is the first one in the morning after fasting all night during sleep. Add some fresh squeezed lemon for the vitamin C and to help your digestion system wake up for the day.
You don't have to be an athlete or join a gym. Take stretch breaks during the day and upon awakening. A simple 20-30 minute walk per day will work wonders. If limited in time or stamina, break it up into a few 5-10 minute sessions over the day, and build up. Just brisk walking, swinging your arms. Our bodies aren't designed to be as sedentary as modern life has made us. Your lymphatic system is the trash guy removing all the sludge and garbage from cells, but, unlike the heart, it has no pump and depends on our movement to keep it moving. Walking and swinging your arms will accomplish that, as well as improving your mood, balance and posture, keeping joints moving and clearing your head. Two or three times a week, up the pace a bit and give your heart a work out, too. And pay attention to your breathing when exercising ... deep inhales through your nose, long slow exhales through your mouth. You'll be oxygenating your cells, which is a good thing because cancer cells hate oxygen!
Humans have spent millennia living and working out in the sun, but in the last few centuries we've moved our living and working indoors. We worry about skin cancer and when we go out we slather ourselves with sun block. Now doctors tell us we're low on our Vitamin D and prescribe pills to help that. I think that generally it's a problem with lack of moderation and our crummy, denatured diet. You can definitely get too much sun exposure, but avoiding it altogether isn't the answer. I like to combine getting my sunlight with my daily movement. Early morning walks before 10 am or afternoon walks after 2 pm keep me out of the harshest rays and I still get all of the wonderful benefits of the warmth on my skin and the light that lifts my mood. In the mornings it wakes me up and prepares me for the day. Later in the day, it's like my body picks up the signals that it's time to begin winding down for the evening.
I'm no doctor or scientist, and I can't prove or explain it, I just know in the depths of my soul that sunlight is healing and life giving, physcally and mentally. The week I began recovering from covid, we were blessed with a string of 5-6 sunny days in the 70's, so I resumed my daily morning and afternoons walks ... and that, more than anything besides eating, helped me recover better than any pill or drug I could've taken. And it was free!
So use wisdom and moderation – especially if you have had problems with skin cancer – and let a little sunshine in.
I think you will be pleasantly surprised that just doing the first 4 habits above will impact your sleep in very positive ways. Especially the movement and morning sunlight. Sleep is more important than many of us realize. During sleep is when your body heals and repairs from whatever stress and trauma its been through during the day. You need to sleep long enough to get into deep enough sleep so your brain can sort out thoughts and emotions and work out problems you're not even thinking about at the moment. That's what's happening when you're dreaming. If you're too sleep deprived, and don't allow yourself to get into the dreaming and deeper stages of sleep often enough, it will affect you emotionally and psychologically. Go too far and you can lose your mind. It's that important.
Before our artificial lighting, we rose and slumbered with the sun. Now we can go for 24 hours straight if we want to, and many of us try to do just that. Our machines and screens glow enticingly, but we'll pay a big price if we don't learn to use some moderation and shut them down at night. We've learned that the blue light eminating from screens is really bad for us to be staring at late at night, so we try to find ways to filter and dim it. The best solution of all is to TURN IT OFF! But, like weening off of processed foods, that is really tough for most of us. But it would be the wisest thing to do ... we can turn it back on in the morning!
Life moves in cycles: a time for work, a time for play, a time for rest. Don't follow the herd, be wise, be the one with good sense and give your body and mind a chance to refresh and restore. Turn the electronics off an hour or more before bedtime. Try to maintain consistent times to go to bed and get up. Keep your bedroom cool and as dark as you can get it. Establish a night time routine, maybe a hot bath to relax. Light reading will relax your mind when it's racing. Don't eat or drink right before bed.
Of the 5 habits, this one might be the hardest one to implement, but you'll likely see the benefits sooner. Like the food habit, it will require some prep and planning so that you can be prepared to shut things down at night. It will require real effort at first, but will get easier and more routine over time as you form the habit. Be patient, keep at it. Your reward will be waking refreshed and ready to go every morning, with maybe a bonus of a solution to some problem your brain has worked out for you the night before!
These 5 simple habits will transform your physical health and keep life humming along.
You won’t see them advertised on TV. Except for buying groceries, they won’t make anybody any money ... we might upset some people when we stop buying their pills, franken-foods and packaged snake oils. But we won’t care, because we’ll be busy writing and drawing our picture books with clear heads and great ideas. Maybe we’ll be the ones making all the money!
We can’t avoid every pandemic, disease, or catastrophe that might befall us. Eating your greens won't keep a bus from running you over or stop an asteroid from falling on your head, but we can certainly maintain some good habits to stack the odds in our favor. We've got lots of books to draw and write, so let’s make it count!