Ash Wednesday: Baby Steps to Better Health

IMG_1041Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. It is the day you see people with a dirty forehead and until you remember what day it is, or someone explains it to you, you want to tell them to look in the mirror. We Catholics believe this period before Easter Sunday is a time to reflect on our lives and focus on our faith. When I was a child, we were taught to give up something, be it cookies, soda or candy. As an adult many people give up alcohol — for me this would be more of a sacrifice for those who have to live with me. Junk food and coffee are common ones. I personally know someone who gave up mastarbation one year. This was harder on me … um, I mean his wife, than it was on him. I have a cousin who gave up Lays potato chips every year, not any other kind, just Lays, because they were his favorite. He was probably missing the point, but maybe we all are. Sacrifice often leads to bitterness, envy and cravings. The real goal should be to use this time to make positive changes, ones which can lead to an improved mind, body and spirituality. Just like New Year’s Resolutions, goals are easy to set but hard to fulfill. Don’t take on too much. Try these five simple ways to make changes which seem small, but which may improve your mental and physical health.

1 — Each night, write down 2-3 things you are grateful for. Keep the list next to your bed and read it before closing your eyes. Grateful people are both happier and healthier.

2– Add two servings of vegetables or fruit to your day. The fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals will give your body a boost and you will naturally have less appetite for high calorie processed foods. Zucchini, cucumber, carrots are great to eat raw, and like apples and pears, will last a while. Stock up and keep them on hand.

3 — Stretch. Yoga is a great form of exercise, but for now, just stretch for 2 minutes when you wake in the morning. It will improve your mood, get your blood flowing and reduce the risk of injury — especially on these cold days.

4 — Don’t look at your phone or any other screen at least a half an hour before bed. You will fall asleep faster and sleep better. Try to work up to an hour, which is better, but for now, baby steps.

5 — Drink more water. Have a glass before any other beverage or snack. This will improve your energy and your immune system, benefit your digestive system and curb your appetite.

Additive is better than restrictive. Add these simple things to your day to day, and good health and better choices are bound to follow.

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