The beginning of spring season is a perfect time to incorporate health-promoting rituals easing the change after a cold, wet, and dark winter. The warmer and sunnier days tempts us to spend more time outside but we feel heavy and sluggish, with a desire to shed some extra layers. Here are some simple strategies that can quickly transform mind and body towards the rejuvenating rhythm of spring.
RAW & REAL FOODS
Spring give us an opportunity to reboot our system by providing abundant, mouth-watering fresh and in season offerings of fruits and vegetables. It is the best time to add more life-giving nutrition and nourishment that our body craves to get back into the groove. Start to make room for foods that grew from the ground, close to its natural state and minimally processed. Experiment with some ancestral food traditions to get the digestive system in tip-top shape. The easiest way to add more live good gut bacteria (nature’s probiotics) is to consume before each meal fermented drinks such as kefir or kombucha to increase digestive power and better assimilate nutrients. Remember no guts no glory so take a few gulps for good measure.
WEIGHT & WATER
The body's need for hydration and metabolic functioning changes as outdoor temperatures rise as well as the body wanting to exert more energy. Foods available in the spring have a higher water content are exactly what the body needs to improve circulation, flush out winter excess, cool the system, and provide natural sugars as an energy source. Greens and sprout are high in vitamins and minerals, aid digestive function, which help the weight loss process. For an added boost of vitality, adding a shot or two of wheatgrass juice a day will go a long way towards renewing and revitalizing your health warriors which are of course your cells-the building blocks of life.
SUNSHINE & SATISFACTION
Warmer temperatures mean more time outside and more time outside means better mental and physical health. Research suggests that spending time in nature can vastly improve your health, from reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and a significant improvement in hormonal balance. Soak up some vitamin D rays which are very important for many bodily functions, emotional wellbeing and last but not least an important catalyst for assimilating certain nutrients such as calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D works best with Vitamin K that can be found in green leafy vegetables such as kale (Kale provides not only plenty of calcium but the most vitamin K with 882μg (1103% DV) per 100g serving, or 547μg (684% DV) per cup). Go kale crazy but do add a sprinkle of seaweed such as kelp to add more rich minerals in your daily fare but also to avoid any of its goitrogenic effects.
Night and day, endless enticements make implicit cultural demands to work hard and play hard. The beeping-flashing-ringing technologies and gadgets that’s become an everyday reality can overwhelm and inundate our system causing havoc with sleep patterns and the inability to slow down. We are wired and tired at the same time. An over-stimulated mind and body manifest the same emotional and neurological problems of overeating. The mind gets chronically filled beyond capacity to the point of weakening the entire system because the body can no longer adapt. We then seek rewards and pleasures to relieve stress by choosing to over-indulge in foods and activities that don’t serve long-term health and well-being.
How to respond to stress is an important piece of the health puzzle because as a living breathing being, it’s unavoidable. You can decide to turn off the tele, heal a relationship, go away on a retreat, or create some positive space in your life for more time to being instead of doing. Additionally, adding great sources of essential fats rich in omega 3s can help alleviate the demands of chronic stress which can deplete the body of vital nutrients and potentially cause less than optimal brain function along with impaired immunity and poor digestion. The best plant-based sources which are easily assimilated are from coconut, flax, chia, hemp , sacha inchi in either nuts, seeds, butter or oil form. Olive oil is another great source of good fats although it’s omega-3 content is much lower, but it contains certain properties such as oleic acid that has tremendous health benefits as has been demonstrated by its liberal use in the Mediterranean diet. Try a scoop of some fermented coconut yogurt for breakfast to give you two boost in one-more brain power and additional good flora for your gut; afterall, the belly is your second brain.
THE SKINNY ON SWEETS & SLEEP
When was the last time you had that deep, sweet sleep where you woke-up refreshed, ready to bolt out of bed with a bundle of energy to boot? For some this is a dream. We know chronic stress, lack of physical movement, poor diet blah blah blah… The solution is more simple than we think but simple isn’t always easy. We have been bombarded by diet dictators, dogmas of eat this not that; this is good this bad. We are lost between listening to what our body truly needs and what the diet du jour is shoving down our throats. Fact is that the brain needs a certain amount of glucose to function optimally and that means needing something sweet to keep it satisfied, otherwise you will have one stressed and surly brain that refuses to get a shut eye when bed time rolls around. There are many who believe that the brain can function well without any starch or sugar by burning ketones (for simplification: ketones are made when the body uses up stored fats) which is touted as the greatest discovery in modern nutrition science. In theory this sounds all great. We all want to burn those extra unsightly blubber, but what still remains controversial is the bodily process and when this regimen is done for a prolonged period of time, what kinds of side-effects does this have on optimal health. The symptoms and side effects may vary because as humans, we are each unique in how we function. Some individuals can thrive living a carb-depleted state but it’s not for everyone. As some studies and observations have stated, sleep patterns seems to be affected along with chronic raised levels of cortisol. If we look a little closer, when the brain is not getting sufficient nutrients, it gets stressed and starts to disrupt hormonal balance which for one affects sleep. Anyone who has ever tried to go on an extreme diet, or cut out specific macronutrients knows what how this feels. If you can maintain your sanity sans sweets more power to you. For some indulgence can be filled with integrity as long as the servings comes from whole foods and sweetened with natural occurring sugars that cause no harm to the body such as spiking insulin or rob the body of its mineral stores. The best time the body uses up sugars is in the late afternoon between 3 and 4 p.m. This again has been followed by many world traditions from the Spanish merenda, the French gouter, to the British high tea. If you want a sound and restful sleep, and still maintain your shapely figure, a serving of some coconut domes in the later afternoon will make you and your brain
CONNECTION & COMMUNITY
Now it's time to dig a little deeper to create harmony with the season through acts of mindfulness, creating new bonds, becoming more conscientious and allow nature as an inspiration to take those first steps towards renewal and self-transformation. Reflect on the things that are honestly and truthfully important and prioritize to do more of those or discover some new ones. The hardest part is saying good riddance to those things that no longer serve us nor have any life-affirming values. Keep in mind less stuff less stress equals more life. Make the time to commune with nature by going for a walk or hike and ask a few friends, join a group or get creative and organize a community with like-minded beings. Get in synch with spring’s symbolic gift of rebirth by reconnecting to the creative self where it longs to give and share its hidden talents and treasures. Your inner social papillon is waiting to forge a connection to this awesome process of growth and renewal.
Seasons change, we change. Physiological needs of the human body are profoundly affected by rhythms and cycles. Spring time starts a whole new cycle of beginning ...a new way to prepare your body (and mind) to perform at peak levels. The above suggestions are simple suggestions. Adopt one and try it for 21-days (this is sufficient time to create a new habit) then try another or make it your own. Most importantly, listen to your body because it’s always communicating with you. You are the only expert when it comes to your health and well-being. So, there it is simple steps to get in the groove for springtime. One more thing to keep in mind: Slow dow, keep it simple and indulge with integrity.