I feel like we are living in this really incredible time in history right now. I promise not to get into political things here. Hear me out.
There seems to be a lot of big changes going on in the world, either politically, or personally in peoples' lives. I was thinking the other day how this obvious increase in dis-ease and dis-comfort for people is on the rise. I see this discomfort and disordered health as signs of inflammation; certainly at the root of most chronic diseases out there, is inflammation.
The way some things seem to be exploding right now on the world stage, or in medical circles? In faith, in communities, across the board? In the way the commerce world is going? How we receive our information, how it is packaged for us? It seems the inflammation is reflected there as well.
Do not be disheartened.
I really deeply feel this inflammation is a harbinger of change. And a call to action. A call for us to pro-actively choose for ourselves what fits, what we want, and what we wish our outcome to be and that of those around us. No longer are we to sit idly by while things happen to us. This inflammation (be it in our bodies, or in our social circles) is a call to take charge of our own destiny, to be pro-active in our own pursuit of health, and to be active participants in choosing quantity and quality of life.
At the core of this whole not-so-quiet revolution currently taking place, in this our work to reduce inflammation on every level, is the ability and occasion to cultivate joy.
From the get-go in January of this year, I decided to write an article a week, focusing on an easy-to-implement idea for prospective clients. My motives were simple: committing to writing an article a week would force me to develop online content, which would help me really explain what I'm all about as a Holistic Nutritional Consultant.
It would be an exercise in discipline; as it turns out, it was an exercise in really figuring out what my bent is, my approach to food and how it can best support a person. It became clear halfway through the year that my interest in supporting people lies in reducing inflammation and improving digestion, as key players in overall health. It's all about the gut, love. (Look for the full list and links to each weekly article from 2016 here.)
In the interest of reducing inflammation in the body in order to best support optimal health, let's talk about how your mindset and intention to cultivate joy can be a key player in reducing said inflammation.
Reducing stress is one of the key components in reducing inflammation. Earlier this year I spoke about the idea of Practicing Mindfulness around meal times: remember the idea on how stress shuts down the digestive process? In order to digest like a pro and get at those nutrients found in our meals, we need to be calm, cool, collected when it comes time to sit down to a meal. In a stressful event, should you be eating or digesting, this function goes on the back burner and those foods you have just put in your belly will not be completely digested. These incompletely digested morsels now contribute to inflammation in the gut.
Another reason stress may hinder things: the stressful response calls on your adrenals to release cortisol, which in turn now frees sugar in your blood stream. The idea here is that you get a quick hit of energy to your muscles. When this reaction came about so many millions of years ago, that stressful reaction meant you were face to face with a saber toothed tiger. Insta-sugar hit to the muscles meant you could run like the dickens, away from the tiger. You would live to see another day.
Unfortunately, this stressful reaction we experience in our day to day lives nowadays is more like 75 saber toothed tigers every day, as opposed to one every two years as it was when that evolutionary piece came along. It's that teeter totter effect of blood sugar levels up and down many times during the day that tax our bodies, our adrenals and contribute to low grade inflammation.
So I'm tying together here stress, blood sugar imbalances and inflammation. Which now contributes to impaired digestion. Which begets more inflammation. Oy.
So sure, today's post is about reducing stress and inflammation. But let's not call it that. Let's turn it into a positive thing to add to your to do list: let's talk the power of cultivating joy.
Having fun and prioritizing good times can play a pretty big part in reducing inflammation. It helps bring down stress, which is a contributor to ongoing inflammation; it helps improve circulation to get nutrients to where they need to go to work on the problem and keep inflammation down. Having fun releases chemicals in the brain that help reduce inflammation there and in fact, end up protecting your noggin against inflammation.
The heart is central to feeling and expressing joy; when joy is missing in our lives, it is the heart and the circulatory system that feels it keenly according to Chinese Medicine. Making a point to ensure joy in every day will go far in supporting a healthy cardiovascular system, and a happy heart.
Your immune system is also quite sensitive to stress and negativity. By choosing joy and actively seeking out a more positive spin on things, you will be doing your immune system a service and proactively protecting it.
Here is your prescription then for cultivating joy on the daily:
- Prioritize fun! Every day!
- Go to the park (whether or not there is a little in your life)
- Call a kid in your life, dress fancy, and take them out for tea and cake
- Play games, find a games cafe in town
- Have a night out with your honey or bestie or favourite kid: go to movies, comedy shows, go dancing, buy season's theatre tickets
- get involved in something that is important to you, in order to connect. Volunteer somewhere!
- Take a walk – this helps my kiddo immensely on days where she is in a funk
- get a pet – they are a good reason to go out for a walk every day, plus the love is so unconditional
- practice self care
- soak in an epsom salts bath with your favourite magazine
- start a book club
- movie night with the gang – in summery times, find some outdoor films in town!
- Check out a nearby town for antiques or farmers markets
- Reconnect with a hobby you had when you were wee
- Joint a community theatre troupe (like my honey just did)
- Dust off your skis, your bike or skateboard and get out there. Move your body!
- Join a choir like you always wanted
- Find those who bring out the best in you, and make time for them. Call them more often.
- Add a gratitude practice to the start of your day, actively focus on your blessings
- start a jam night with friends
- check out some new local music, head out to a local club, get tickets for a big show and call a friend
- host a games night with friends and neighbours
- downsize your commitments (Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne was a huge book for me that helped me figure this one out)
- start a garden
- join a yoga class or a local tai-chi group in your area
- take up pottery like you always meant to
- share a meal with a honey in your life (eat together!)
- take a cooking class
- get season's tickets to one of our fabulous theatre companies or orchestras in town
- schedule in regular date nights. In pen. Don't back out.
- GO OUTSIDE! OFTEN! GO WALKING! DANCING! SING TO THE TREES! Whatever it takes to get you out there. And do it daily.