Longer days, abundant local produce, and outdoor activities make summer time a great opportunity to joyously upgrade your health. It can be easy. It can be fun. It can be lasting.
Tiny improvements in health habits accumulate into huge benefits over the years, like a penny doubled every day. Involving family and/or a few friends to formulate their individual choices for an upgrade creates a contagious momentum. Do more of the healthy things you love rather than forcing yourself to struggle towards some idealistic “should.” (Don’t should on yourself!)
Since holistic implies multidimensional considerations, I urge you to pick one small daily upgrade in one of three categories. After that habit is firmly established, upgrade another category. Give yourself awhile until those gains feel natural in your lifestyle before moving on to a third category. Continue cycling through categorical improvements at a pace that works to create consistent success.
(1) Nutrition. (You might add any fresh fruit or veggie to a specific meal; or drink a pint/quart of pure water throughout the day; or substitute beans or raw seeds/nuts for animal protein for one daily meal; or chew each mouthful at least 20 times; or eat a daily salad meal.)
(2) Physical activity. (Five minutes of morning stretching, jump rope, belly laughing, or dry brush massage; or consistently park a block away from your office for a little daily walk; or do five minutes of stretching, neck rolls, deep breathing before leaving work; or walk up and down the stairs every day instead of riding the elevator.)
(3) Mental/spiritual activity. (Learn and tell a daily wholesome joke; or do one random act of kindness every day; or consistently pray for the well-being of loved ones; or meditate 10 minutes before dinner; or read 10 minutes of uplifting, inspirational literature before bedtime; or play a musical instrument after dinner; or daily handwrite a short personal note and mail it; or consistently drive within the speed limit.)
~ Enjoyment, Simplicity, Ease, Consistency ~
Go with what you enjoy. Keep it simple and easy. Be consistent. No exceptions. Recruit companions and let them choose their own activity upgrade. It’s easiest to commit to some daily activity. It takes at least three months for a new habit to take root. Give yourself maximum chance of success with a small, realistic goal, and maintain it for life.
For example, in the first category someone who loves fruit might commit to the daily addition of locally grown fresh fruit with breakfast. Not canned, not frozen. (By all means continue to eat those, too.) Fresh. It’s simple. It’s specific. Every day. Every breakfast. No exceptions.
Eating a luscious, local fruit at the beginning of your day wakes up your taste buds and brightens your mood. Everybody knows the general nutritional benefits of fruit—antioxidants,
vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fiber, but few have looked into specifics about individual fruits.
Go online or read the binder on display in your supermarket’s produce section. There are always nutrition blurbs in newspapers and magazines that will now catch your eye since you’re eating fruit with every breakfast. And you just might hear someone quoting that Yale dermatologist’s book about eating melons for a better complexion. Did you know that blueberries support adrenal function? That rhubarb is a blood cleanser? Browse some of those quirky health food books at the mall for other little known facts.
~ Scrumptious Food, Knowledge, Motivation ~
Knowledge is a powerful motivator. Motivation keeps you on track strengthening a habit that becomes a delightful part of your ever-healthier lifestyle. And when knowledge and motivation meet the sparkling colors, textures and flavors of local ripe fruits on your palate every day, you are on a lifelong track joyously upgrading your health. Yummmm, just imagining that glistening ruby color and juicy flavor burst of a perfectly ripe watermelon first thing on a summer morning makes my mouth water.
See how eating delicious food can enhance your willingness to upgrade your lifestyle? Now that we’ve awakened your palate, brightened your mood and fired up your imagination, let’s consider how to keep up that positive vibrational frequency as we think outside the box (we are talking fresh, here) about having a supply of local succulently ripe fruit consistently on hand.
Fix in your mind the idea of playing with your food. Lose those parental admonitions, and give yourself permission to really play. Create an adventure. It starts with creative ways of acquiring the local fruit. Forget “shopping.” Go on a fruit safari! Or make it a treasure hunt.
Whether at the supermarket, farm stand or U-Pick-It, search for color, firmness or just the right “thunk” of a melon. I stalk and hunt my food, and then I adopt it. You need to participate, not delegate. Gently massage your way through the peaches, picking up your choices with a loving hand and nestling them into your bag, basket or cart.
~ Heighten Instincts and Discernment ~
With practice, you begin to hone your primal instincts and to refine subtle skills of discernment. Just like the fabric buyers, strolling past bolts and bolts of cloth in a vast marketplace, who could sense with a long dowel, using it to lift a fold of a fabric, its weight, quality, thread count, etc. You develop way more intuition or inner guidance than scientific information in this search. Who knows? In time, you may actually begin to believe that there might indeed be nature spirits and devas guiding you to the most incredibly fantastic tasting delights.
Treating them gently as you unpack at home, arrange them with the ripest on top in bowls, or baskets if they need air circulating, and place artistically in dining room, kitchen or refrigerator. Each time you select some to eat check the others, repositioning them as they ripen to their peak. Hard skinned fruits can be washed first thing, berries and soft skinned fruits wash just before eating. Dowse with a little milk or yogurt, but please, no sweeteners! Properly ripened local fruit has sweet and tart elements that dance on your palate if you are open to the entertainment. When you play with your fruit, your fruit will play with you.
A few months of this new habit will build it strongly enough to comfortably segue beyond the last harvests to incorporate fresh fruit, not quite as magnificent as seasonal locals,
from other regions and other countries and other hemispheres. You will continue to develop the knack of adopting the best of those and tenderly ripening them to a pretty good flavor peak.
In winter, the pineapples I adopt take awhile to ripen at room temp even if the label swears it’s ripe. I’ve learned that they ripen from the base to the crown. So I cut a perfectly ripened round from the bottom, trim off the rind, cut chunks to eat, and put the rest of the pineapple, cut side down with headdress up, on a plate and place on the top shelf of the refrigerator. Next day, I slice off another round. I’ve enjoyed exquisitely ripe pineapple from the same fruit as it matures upwards for as long as two weeks!
The fruit adventure actually escalates in winter as you try new varieties. (I never heard of a Kiwi when I was a kid.) The travel time may impede the fullest flavor, but there’s enough winter variety to keep this one holistic health habit upgrade pleasantly in place. Every day. Every breakfast. No exceptions.
In the second category, you might commit to 5-10 morning minutes of developing one of the following as a lifelong habit: stretching, jump rope, belly laughing, eye strengthening exercises, opera voice training, or dry brush massage. Set a timer to stay honest—even a little fudging will erode the habit and you’ll have the added baggage of yet another failure to overcome next time good intentions try to assert themselves.
Pick one activity that you can do whether you’re at home or traveling, whether you’ve had a great night’s sleep or feel a little hung over, whether the baby’s colicky or you’ve got carpool duty. Every day. No exceptions. This is a gift you give your body, so tune in a positive attitude like you would tune in to a TV or radio channel.
In the third category, you might intend to cultivate humor. Start a daily journal of at least one wholesome joke that doesn’t demean anyone, and tell that joke to at least one other person. Every day. No exceptions.
Consider this practice of categorical upgrading a lifetime practice. Be gentle with yourself. Better to enjoy and stay effective in maintaining the upgrades you’ve made than rush too quickly into more changes. Attitude is an extremely important component of holistic living. Take time and employ strategies to keep your focus proactive. (See last month’s article on Holistic Mind Management.)