Toxins and Nutrients: The Sum Total of What We Take In

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This Thursday will be my last GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) group meeting. Over the course of the last nine sessions (six of which I actually attended), the focus has mostly been on cognitive behaviour, mental and emotional stability, meditation and finding purpose in life. As we began wrapping things up last week, the focus was on our physical bodies and what they amount to.

My group leader explained our bodies and minds as “the sum total of what we take in.” Of course, we talked first about food and how important it is to get the right nutrients while eliminating as much of the crap (processed, sugary, salty, caffeinated, alcoholic, greasy foods) as possible. Feeding our bodies right helps us to be more proactive in everyday life. After all, good in, good out. But there are many other factors that we often neglect to take into account when we think about getting the right nutrients while eliminating the toxins (or crap).

Exercise is important too kids! This one’s another no-brainer, but it must be reinforced since we constantly seem to forget or overlook the importance of getting off the couch and being active in today’s world. It just always seems there are more pressing things to get done before we focus on our own physical fitness, but aside from generating overall health, the endorphins released after a workout or a bout of physical activity are a natural medicine for combatting depression and anxiety. Remember to focus on yourself before all of that other really important stuff that never seems to come to an end anyway.

Get some Zzzzzzzs! This is one of my major downfalls. I do not get enough sleep and my schedule is often totally off balance. But getting enough sleep at night is said to greatly improve our performance and decrease the risk of depression. Sleep deprivation is one of the leading contributing causes of depression in many people, and sleeping too much or being tired all the time (hypersomnia) is a key symptom of depression. It is recommended that you get at least eight to nine hours of sleep a night, and try to go to bed at the same time and awake at the same time every morning.

Our environment is also hugely important. Getting enough fresh air, eliminating noise pollution, turning off our electronics and soaking up some sun is vital to healthy living. Fresh air and peace and quiet is something we are all too often lacking living in the city. Being in nature has been linked to decreased stress and anxiety, and personally I can vouch for this as the ONLY time I truly feel relaxed (without the influence of some sort of substance) is when I am out of the city. Traffic noises spike my anxiety and I often feel I am choking on the air in the city. Try to get out into nature as much as possible, even if it’s just for a few hours on your bike on some trails that lead you away from the busy streets.

Turning off electronics is also hugely important in today’s world of constant connectivity. Not only is the energy that is emitted from electronic devices harmful to us, but there are all sorts of new anxieties stemming from technology including how often we use/the way we use social media. For a more in-depth look at this topic, check out my most recent article for HUSH Magazine on Social Media Anxiety Disorder.

Sunny days aren’t just a metaphor for feeling good. It’s summer time for the northern part of the world, so get out and get some sun! Of course moderation is key as we all know what too much sun can do to us, but sun exposure is literally vital to life on Earth. To give an example, I have been quite into gardening lately and have been tending to my plants on my balcony. I have noticed that the ones getting regular water and sun are doing the best while the shaded ones look limp and lifeless. I also have a few houseplants that are doing okay, but as soon as I put them out in the sun for a few hours they spring up straight and seem so much more vibrant and full of life than they looked in my window-less bathroom. The point is, if a few hours of sun a day makes that much of a difference for plants, imagine what it can do for us. The light therapy combined with the Vitamin D the sun provides does wonders for our bodies and souls. If you are prone to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), you might want to get a light box to help get you through the dreary, dark winters that I know we certainly endure every year here in Vancouver.

Finally: Keep good company. The people we surround ourselves with also act as either nutrients or toxins. Keeping healthy social connections with friends and family who love and support us while we love and support them back is one of the quickest and easiest ways to elevate our mood. On the other hand, toxic friends and family members who try to sabotage us, backstab us, get us into trouble, bring constant stress into our lives and generally do not have our best interests in mind should be cut or phased out as necessary. Keeping company with these people is one of the quickest and easiest ways to throw you into a cycle of anxiety and depression. They are like weights dragging you under the water and they are often strong enough that they will bring you down despite all of the other healthy choices you make. Supportive, trustworthy company is your lifeboat. Hold on to them and cut the chains loose.

The concept of good in, good out applies to almost all areas of our lives. We almost always have a choice regarding what we take in to our physical, emotional, intelligible  and spiritual bodies. But we still often make the wrong choices and find ourselves in a poor physical and mental state. When trying to improve your lifestyle, the best way is to start small. Some people benefit from (and are able to) change their entire lives all at once, but most people who try this find themselves falling off the wagon before week’s end. Pick a few small, healthy goals and work on achieving those goals or forming a few small, healthy habits before moving on to more changes. After all, as i said in my last post, baby steps will still get you where you are going as long as you are headed in the right direction.

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