Holidays are well over for most of us and surely summer days are now gone. We all enjoyed spending more time outdoors during summer, enjoying the sunshine and being in touch with nature with its multiple benefits. The release of endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and melatonin, all ‘feel good’ hormones, is greatly aided by exposure to sunlight which stimulates the whole endocrine system. Those neuro-chemicals produced by sun activation, are proven to have a positive impact on mood, sleep and reproductive system.
Summer encourages us to be more active and spontaneous so, we become more connected to our body and we nurture it more. With higher temperatures and more outdoor time, we are naturally inclined to eat lighter and healthier food, at least generally speaking. As a trainer, I enjoy seeing so many people involved in a variety of physical activities in the local parks.
How do we maintain and keep that momentum, that connection of our mind, with an active, fit, healthy and well-responsive body? This is so important and so essential for our general wellbeing and health, especially in winter and in the cold season. Well, I do have few suggestions here to share and my motto is, as the Latin saying goes, ‘Mens Sana in Corpore Sano’, which means ‘Healthy Mind in Healthy Body’. Our ancestors and the old ages have a lot to teach us still today. The Roman poet Juvenal expressed it in a poem:
‘You should pray for a healthy mind in a healthy body.
Ask for a stout heart that has no fear of death,
and deems length of days the least of Nature’s gifts
that can endure any kind of toil,
that knows neither wrath nor desire and thinks
the woes and hard labors of Hercules better than
the loves and banquets and downy cushions of Sardanapalus.
What I commend to you, you can give to yourself;
for assuredly, the only road to a life of peace is virtue’.
There are five elements to keep that mind and body balance all year round:
3. Meditation, relaxation, Mindfulness
We inject vitality into our bodies with the food we choose. Go for fresh, raw or slightly cooked, simple ingredients, varied, full of colour, herbs and spices (as these are rich in minerals and antioxidants). Pick good protein sources like eggs, fish, chicken, pulses, quinoa and buckwheat. Yes, although these last two are grains, they are high in protein and a source of unrefined carbs. Focus on a complete breakfast and lunch and keep the evening meal light and not too late. Oats, brown rice, oily fish like tuna, salmon and mackerel (which are rich in omega 3) are great mood boosters and so are a lot of greens, like spinach. Dark chocolate is a mood booster too! You can add brazil nuts rich in selenium and bananas.
Exercise is the next big component of your health, happiness and well-being. Lately, there has been a lot of talking about how exercise, nutrition and sleep can determine and impact noticeably your metabolic age, which influences main risk factors like heart and cardiovascular diseases or diabetes. Set days and times aside each week or each day. Don’t limit yourself just to the two full sessions a week with your PT or at the gym, add something every day or every other day, just 20 minutes is better than nothing. Get yourself a fitness and activity tracking monitor to keep you motivated and on track. And remember that exercise can be fun! Choose what works for you, alongside inspiring professionals, and train in a motivating environment.
Now, keeping in touch with yourself and with your inner voice is the key, as that will guide your daily choices. Set a schedule and a time for relaxation. It is most effective to do your meditation/relaxation and mindfulness exercises with few gentle stretches, in the morning and before bedtime. You only need ten minutes. In the morning, it will help you focus, and in the evening it will prepare your body and will settle your mind for a good nights sleep. A great proven health benefit of this is the lowering of blood pressure, and it also helps you to stay more focused. Establish your values and your goals for the day, for the week and for the month in advance and also practice gratitude.
Sleep is our recharging time for the mind and for our body cells, where tissue repairs occur. It varies from individual to individual but a minimum of 7 hours per night is recommended. The Dalai Lama said that sleep is the best meditation. Have a bedtime routine, like a bath with aromatherapy and candles, some soothing music, some light reading and switch off all screens an hour before, avoiding the tv, laptops and using your phone in bed, even when it’s very difficult.
Last but not least, always have some fun along the way and try as much as possible, to make work and chores fun, dedicating time to enjoy life and indulging in your favourite pastimes.
On a daily basis, all these aspects need to be taken care of as they will impact hugely on how youthful you’ll keep yourself. Make time for the ‘mind-soul gym’ its as important as the fat loss, muscle building, heart pumping, sweat dripping physical training.