It is so hard to know the “right” thing to do sometimes. That’s been especially true the past two years, with constantly changing information about how to keep ourselves and others safe and healthy. But the pandemic isn’t the only thing that continues to evolve. It seems like just when we think we have things figured out, we’re presented with conflicting information about what’s best for our health.
We need more calcium; we need less calcium. Buy organic – no, wait, buy local even if it’s not organic – no, actually, grow your own food! Always wear sunscreen to protect yourself against skin cancer; let your bare skin be exposed to direct sunlight to maximize Vitamin D. Avoid plastics, but be sure to eat yogurt daily (and it’s only sold in plastic containers…).
We’ve been told there are toxins all around us – and there are! But staying healthy is hard enough without being bombarded with information about all the things we may be doing wrong. That’s why so many women just give up. “I can’t win,” they tell me, “so why try?”
I understand that impulse. I’ve even felt it myself from time to time. But I remind myself, and the women I work with, that every moment is an opportunity. And we should feel good about all the things we are doing well, rather than dwelling on those we haven’t quite mastered yet. Baby steps.
So what does that look like? Yesterday, I had a call with a woman who was just beating herself up because she hadn’t met her goal of cutting all processed foods out of her diet. As we talked, and she shared her food logs with me, I realized that she had only defaulted to packaged meals twice this week – far less than the week before! When I pointed that out, I could hear the change in her voice as she recognized how far she’d come.
Last week, I met a friend for a walk. She was lamenting how hard it was for her to get motivated to exercise right now, and upset that she’d only walked twice in ten days. When she told me all the stressful events that had occurred in her life in the past two weeks, I helped her see that carving out two walks was a big accomplishment!
Another friend shared recently that she was struggling with cutting out caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes and sugar. Well, of course she was! Going cold turkey on one bad habit is hard enough…but four at once? During the course of our conversation, I gently reminded her that she was smoking half of what she had been, partly because she usually smokes when she drinks alcohol and she’d cut way back on that as well. I encouraged her to pick the one she wanted to give up the most and focus only on that for now.
When you focus on the positives, it all seems a little easier. And when we lighten up on ourselves a little, we can embrace another healthy habit: laughter.
Did you know that laughter has a host of health benefits? Laughter can lower blood pressure, increase response of healthy cells that kill disease, boost memory and learning capabilities, and diminish your stress response. And, it’s just plain fun to get a good laugh! It’s also nearly impossible to hang on to emotions that are bringing you down when you find something that makes you belly laugh.
Here are a few tips on finding laughter in your life – no matter what it looks like right now!
- Find a comedian who always gets you laughing and make a point to watch a clip every single day.
- Fake it. Even false laughter has benefits – and often turns into the real deal! Check out laughter yoga to get you started.
- Spend time with young children – or just watch funny videos on social media sites. Children don’t hold anything back – and they’re hilarious without even meaning to be!
- Do something silly like skipping down the street, using a funny accent, or singing loudly (even off key) in the shower.
- Spend time with friends who make you laugh.
- Spend time with pets or watch funny animal videos.
Life has seemed incredibly difficult for far too long. It’s easy to feel like we have no control over what will happen to us – and with some things, that’s true! But we can control our thoughts, and we can add joy and playfulness to our lives. And that goes a long way in keeping us healthy, happy and strong!
Reviewed by Dr. Mark Menolascino, MD