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Develop Healthy Habits this Summer by Dr. Alona Pulde

I can imagine by this time of year the approach of summer is warmly welcomed! Yet after a few weeks of focusing on well-deserved rest and relaxation, you may be asking, what’s next? Summer is an excellent time to develop new healthy habits that are easier to maintain, rather than start from scratch, in the hustle and bustle of a busy school year. Here are a few of my favorites…

Nutrition – Although “healthy from the inside out” sounds so cliché, the reality is – it’s true! Like our cars that need to be gassed up and well oiled to run, and our homes that necessitate a solid framework on which to build, we too require nourishment to function optimally. With more time available over the Summer, this is a wonderful opportunity to create healthier eating habits. This can include challenging yourself to improve on already familiar favorites or finding new quick and easy delights for “on-the-go” convenience. Wholefoodsmarket.com (health starts here), Forksoverknives.com, and DrMcDougall.com are great starts for finding delicious and healthy recipes. And finally, you can use this time to fill your freezer with ready-made meals that are easy to access and require little to no additional preparation.

Fitness -- Developing a regular fitness routine not only keeps us healthier, it makes us happier! Endorphins coursing through our bodies help us stay pumped up long after an invigorating workout. The key here is finding something you enjoy doing so that you are more likely to stick to it. You can choose from more traditional options such as the gym, running, swimming, or biking or opt for trampoline jumping, gardening, or dancing. Stress Reduction – Ironically it feels like taking the time to reduce stress only adds to our daily dose of it…but trust me when I tell you that developing this habit is worth its weight in gold! And the best time to work on stress reduction techniques is when you actually have the time and are not as stressed. These practices can last from five minutes to an hour and can include a 5-minute breathing exercise, a 10-15 minute walk outside, a 20-minute meditation, or a 60-minute yoga class. The key is to find something that helps you relax and do it as much as possible and as often as needed.

 

Sleep – It is not over-rated, and no one can tell you that better than yourself going on a stretch of insufficient sleep. Sleep deprivation affects our energy, our motivation, our choices, our concentration and our mood among other things. Getting an adequate amount of sleep (for most people around eight hours) is essential for the body to renew for a new day. But more importantly, you need sleep to function optimally each and every day.

Overall wellbeing – A regular check-in with yourself can be very helpful in identifying what areas of your life may need additional attention at any given time. This again does not have to take much time, but it does need to be a period where you have eliminated distractions (the phone, computer, television, etc.) and allow for focused and deliberate attention.

Dr. Alona Pulde is a board-certified practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine and a family medicine physician specializing in nutrition and lifestyle. She developed the Lifestyle Change Program for her clinic, Exsalus Health & Wellness Center, and is lead author of the book Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole: Your Guide to Optimum Health. Dr. Pulde joined Whole Foods Market in 2010 as a medical advisor for the company’s Wellness Clubs.