In terms of health & fitness there are so many factors that have an impact on us. Often in society today, we focus mainly on exercise as our number one, and then consider nutrition when we don’t see the results we want. But, what about the other factors that may be even more important? When you look at the complete picture it’s essential to track and evaluate the hours of sleep you get a night, your stress levels, and happiness. Have you considered these areas lately? If not, you may be better off switching your focus to other areas that may have more value.
Sleep is vital to overall health & wellness. Without getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night we are setting ourselves up for a myriad of health issues. Lack of sleep decreases cognitive function, increases appetite and poor eating habits, elevates blood pressure, and increases the risk of accidents and injury. Usually people think all of these factors can be improved through exercise alone, but what if inadequate sleep is the main culprit. Notice how we may be fighting our progress and hard-work by not considering sleep in the overall equation. Exercise all you want, but if these issues aren’t getting better consider there may be another factor causing the problem.
Getting enough sleep can be troublesome for many people who have lacked it for years. Don’t start by trying to get bed 2-hours earlier, but just add 15-30 minutes per week/month. And remember, it’s usually not only about getting to bed earlier but creating an environment which promotes rest and relaxation. Some ways to create the optimal sleep environment are:
- having complete darkness in your bedroom, this means lights from the alarm clock and cell phone
- no television/external stimulation in your room
- relaxing ambient noise
Stress is another huge factor. Yes, exercise is also an avenue to decrease stress, but are you addressing it in any other way throughout your day. Chronic elevated stress levels can be detrimental to your body in the long. It causes symptoms such as: elevated blood pressure and heart rate, elevated blood cortisol levels, decreased mental function and performance, lack or too much sleep, increased appetite and hunger, and pain. Again, all factors that would negate our progress with a sound exercise and nutrition program.
Dealing with stress is essential since much of it comes from perspective. Things happen in life that are out of our control and it is important to deal with them appropriately. I challenge you to evaluate how you react to daily stressors. Do you let them get the best of you? Or, do you put things into perspective and handle the problem the best that you can. One avenue not many people travel is finding alternative methods of rest and relaxation. This could include: deep breathing exercises, yoga, taking naps, exercise, reading, listening to music, or anything else and is specific to the person. Taking just 3-5 minutes per day to get your mind of the unwanted stimulus and taking a few deep breaths can have a huge positive effects.
Happiness is our main goal in life, right? I personally think this area is not thought about by many. We often work hard at our jobs, exercise, family, etc., but don’t think in terms of what will make us truly happy. Is the path that we are currently on the one that will give us the most joy and satisfaction. In the past few years I honestly could not say someone has told me their number one goal is happiness. I hear weight loss, get stronger, feel more confident, and so many more reasons, but happiness is not one of them. Wouldn’t happiness encompass all of those goals? Or, I guess a better way to put it is, if we had happiness would any of those other goals even matter or would they just be a byproduct of striving for happiness? Try thinking about it to yourself and see if the path you’re on actually aligns with being truly happy and content at the end result.
Albert Einstein defined insanity as: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Wouldn’t this apply to our health and wellness if we continue to do the same things thinking the end result will miraculously change. If you have been focusing on one factor without seeing results, consider evaluating the above areas and make the necessary changes. Often exercise and nutrition alone won’t take you all the way without incorporating adequate sleep, stress management, and a focus on happiness.
Garrett McLaughlin is an Athletic Trainer, Personal Trainer, and Certified Active Release Techniques Provider in the Greater Nashville area. In addition to fitness and rehabilitation, Garrett coaches his clients to make improvements in the areas of nutrition, exercise, stress relief, and sleep management. For more information, contact Garrett.