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14 commandments for a healthy lifestyle

Last updated on: January 09, 2014 19:53 IST

14 commandments for a healthy lifestyle

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Shameem Akthar

The start of a new year is traditionally the time to make resolutions – the kind we hope will transform our lives. Never mind the jokes about breaking them. Somewhere along the line, some New Year resolutions, if not all, will stick.

Most New Year resolutions have to do with our health, no matter what our age.

Career, personal and emotional transformations come next.

Here are some resolutions that could make a difference to your life.

Shameem Akthar, proprietor Yoga Kuteer, offers 14 great ways to start off the New Year.

1. Do yoga!

In its worst form, with the weakest teacher, yoga will still keep you healthy, wealthy and wise!

Yoga is not a new age health fad but an ancient and time-tested practice, guaranteed to sort you out.

More than a health mantra, it is a life-transformative practice.

Part of its magic is because it utilises a high-stress challenge on the body and ensures that you can relax while executing it.

This becomes a life’s lesson in itself: we can never run away from stress, but we can learn to deal with it better.

Yoga can teach very important lessons on how to deal with stress and challenges.

Along the way, you become healthier, learn to prioritise, de-stress and become younger and more flexible.


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2. Plan a holiday!

Planning a holiday can be far more relaxing than actually taking it.

Choosing a destination, researching places you wish to visit, planning outings that suit your personality, choosing a place to stay, deciding the cuisine you will experiment with, can all be very exciting.

If you do make the trip, oh wow!

If you do not, you could still feel as if you were actually travelling without the hassles of it.

This sort of re-creation sets off the feel-good hormones (oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin).

These powerful hormones help us feel good. And what is health but a high that comes from these hormones flowing in a state of harmony?


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3. Weekend planner

Do not crowd your weekend. Plan it with something that you have meant to do for a long time and did not.

Like reading a book.

Catching up on your favourite, must-see film.

Visiting a friend.

Cooking your fav recipe.

The list can be endless and personal.

These activities too release the hormones we spoke of earlier: the feel-good hormones that help us become healthy and spike our self-esteem and guide us to make healthy choices.


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4. Take a walk or trip outdoors

You may not be a naturally outdoorsy sort of person. Nevertheless, it is something to consider.

According to a study, exercising outdoors releases high levels of the feel-good hormones like endorphins.

It is these hormones that keep us vital, young and healthy.

When all things flow in an even manner, the immune system is singing happily.

We recover faster from casual sickness (or even long-term, or chronic ones) and we can handle stress better.


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5. Learn something new

Dig up the list of things you want to complete before you pop off, and do them.

You may not know it, but the subconscious is fully aware of your yearning to catch up on something you really, really want.

It resents that you are not able to complete your desire. This adds to the pile of stress factors. So, find the time and means (cost, teacher, class, etc) to do it.

Attend a one-day hobby workshop that gets you twisting and dancing, or learn to juggle, mix a cocktail, carve vegetables, or bake a cake.

And see those happy hormones gushing out to keep you younger and feel more alive.


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6. Listen to music

Post-operative heart patients who listened to music recovered faster than those who did not, a study has found.

Technology today allows you to access music cheaply online and carry it with you wherever you go.

Plug into your favourite tunes in your car, on your mobile, or on your laptop and let the feel-good hormones do their stuff to up your health quotient.


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7.  Balance yourself!

One of the most important markers for youthfulness is the physical ability to balance oneself.

Just standing on one leg and increasing the time you can do so can keep you young. 

The sense of balance comes from another sense – a lesser known one called proprioception.

This is modulated by the cerebellum, which is also involved with memory, reflexive reactions, impulse control, and cognitive learning.

These are among the skills that may pass you by if you don’t hone your sense of balance.

 A marker of youth is how young you are inside. This does not mean your chronological age (as noted on your birth certificate) but your biological age (which is determined by how young you are inside).

Your sense of balance is something you want to test (now!) and rectify (easily enough) with just a few balance teasers (like standing on one leg).

Do a few balancing postures and keep both body and mind young.


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8. Eat green

Ensure that every day you eat something that is green in colour.

You will find a great improvement in your skin tone, your weight loss (or gain) goals, your mood, your healing and your sleep pattern.

Green coloured vegetables contain Vitamin K (needed for repair inside your body), Vitamin C (for skin brightening, boosting immunity), and calcium (for healthy bones).

They are rich in anti-oxidants that prevent the bad fats from piling up.

The anti-oxidants are also important for keeping you on a constant mood high.

Your greens should ideally be dark, but others like cucumber, lettuce are also great fighters of inflammation inside.


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9. Breakfast like a king

Ensure that you eat a hearty breakfast every day.

Being organised about the most important meal of the day means you are disciplined and have your priorities right.

It is known that those who eat a healthy and hearty breakfast are less likely to face heart-related health issues.

It also means you will be better able to control your weight (whether you want to gain, or lose the inches).

Those who miss breakfast are also most likely to make unwise food choices during the rest of the day.

The brain needs blood sugar too. When that is not fuelled by a hearty breakfast, you become prone to anxiety attacks, anger, irritability, and depression.

The maximum nutrient absorption comes from your breakfast because the digestive system (metabolism) slows down as the day progresses.


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10. Let off steam

The jury is divided on whether letting off steam is good or bad for you.

That dithering could be largely coloured by spiritual disdain for anger display.

You do not need to always display rage by throwing a tantrum – just find some creative outlet to let it all out.

A lot of street dances were created to channelise the sense of anger or repression (copeira, B-boying, hip hop, to name a few).

Keep a journal. Have a soul mate, a sounding board to discuss problems with.

Learn martial arts, kick-boxing (Muay Thai) or plain boxing, to further channelise and transform your anger into a positive one.

One of the reasons women live longer than men is because they express their pain or anger more than men do.

Repressing negative emotions has a negative impact on blood pressure (creating what is called the “ostrich syndrome”).

The original intention of anger was to alert you to the idea of some potential threat. Understanding that, and finding a way to sort out the problem, would be better than swallowing-and-suffering.


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11. Heal yourself

We all have nagging health problem – the tooth cavity that needs looking into, a chronic knee pain, weight gain (or loss), acne, low blood pressure, hormonal issues…

Give yourself a deadline to deal with it. With chronic problems (eg diabetes) you may not be able to remove the problem, but you can control it.

Today we are empowered by the easy availability of information on all health issues. Not all online sources are suspect. Some are genuine medical sites.

A deadline to reach some milestone with a particular health problem would be the biggest gift you gave yourself.

You will be amazed how that will add to your self-esteem, your overall health in other spheres, your sleep patterns.

And believe it or not, even your personal and professional life will enjoy a turnaround from this one rule!


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12. Meditate

Here’s another suggestion, also from yoga: meditate.

It is a good way to allow the mind to unknot itself.

More than that is the health benefit of serious and regular meditations.

More immune cells are generated, different parts of the brain “light up” at different visualisations during meditation suggesting that something powerful is happening within the bio-organism that we are.

Blood pressure is known to drop. Stress hormones drop. Metabolism is regulated.

A lot of healing in chronic illnesses is set off by meditation.

It seems that the body appreciates your personal commitment and responds by setting off all the buttons for healing.


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13. Clean up the cupboard

De-clutter your life.

Throwing things out of the cupboard is advocated in several “new age” therapies, especially Feng shui.

It is said to increase chi (or life force).

Things that have not been used for decades, memorabilia of painful relationships, mouldy footwear, make-up and food stuff past the expiry date can be safely dumped.

De-cluttering is more than emotionally or spiritually satisfying. It also helps you feel lighter physically. It helps you with prioritising and being selective in other areas of your life too.


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14. Try charity

Instead of blindly paying for some charity anonymously, engage in hands-on charity.

Our sense of empathy and generosity are hormone-based.

By now you will not be surprised to find that even our sense of generosity is spiked by the flow of the feel-good hormone oxytocin.

Those who are generous have higher levels of oxytocin in their blood.

If you understand that oxytocin is also related to your performance in bed, your relationships, your sense of exploration, then maybe you should also look to charity to add to the sense of high you could feel.


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