Tag Archives: Health

Healthy habits for the New Year; pt. 3: Sleep

Sleep is crucial to be fully functioning and effective in everyday life.  Too much sleep isn’t good and not sleeping enough isn’t good.  Oversleeping can be just as problematic as insomnia, and it actually has many of the same effects as insomnia.  Sleeping too much can also be a sign that something is wrong either mentally or physically.

A rule of thumb is to figure out what length of time is optimum for you to sleep and aim for that time.  You absolutely must figure out how to be truthful with yourself and accurately estimate the length you need.  Try to think of a time when you’ve had good, uninterrupted sleep at a time when you feel mentally and physically healthy.  What you want to do is figure out, during that time-frame, when you would naturally awake and feel refreshed.

You do yourself a disservice if you over or underestimate the number of hours you need; the vast majority of people will need right around 8 hours.  Don’t try to be eccentric or different and act as though you need much more or less.  More than likely you need 7 — 9 hours.  Many times people let “sleep debt” sway their opinion on how much “basal sleep” they need.  You want to keep aiming for you basal time every night, and eventually your “sleep debt” will disappear.

Many focus on too little sleep, especially those suffering from insomnia.  If at all possible do not take sleep aids, they normally have bad side effects and can actually make your insomnia worse in the long run.  Instead, make a true commitment to change habits that could be leading to your insomnia.  Long term insomnia is not good for your health; physical, mental, or spiritual.

General Sleep Hygiene

  1. Pick a fixed bedtime and awake time, and follow it even if you are off of work
  2. Avoid sleeping/napping during the day. If you have to take a nap, limit it to 30-45 min.
  3. Alcohol should be avoided 4-6 hours before your set bedtime
  4. Caffeine should also be avoided for 4-6 hours prior, and limit yourself to 2 cups a day. (Things like chocolate also have caffeine and should be avoided)
  5. Avoid heavy foods 4-6 hours prior
  6. Don’t exercise within 2 hours of trying to sleep
  7. Do exercise during the day, with at least some of it being outside
  8. A cool room (not cold) is more conducive to sleep
  9. Use relaxation techniques before bed
  10. Try to designate waking hours to “worrying” and not to carry it with you to bed. Making lists for things to deal with/think about the next day, and then plan to do what needs to be done BEFORE laying down to sleep, esp. a few hours before.
  11. Try to have a pre-sleep ritual. Taking a shower, reading for a bit, etc…
  12. If you can’t sleep for around 20 min, get up, go into another room and do something like reading until you are sleepy again.
  13. Sleep in as dark a room as you can stand. Television isn’t recommended, and if you need something to fall asleep to, try radio instead.
  14. Your bed is for sleeping and sex, try not to use it for anything else like watching TV or reading.

Psychological factors

  1. Loneliness, stress, and depression can add to insomnia.
  2. You also don’t want “rewarded” for insomnia; for example, increased attention.  So, try to avoid posting about it on places like Facebook and/or Twitter just to get a response from others, or to show how late/early you are up.

Milton H. Erickson once said to make sure your alcoholic is sincere in wanting to quit, or else it will do no good to try to help.  The same is true of insomniacs; if you are not sincere in wanting to change your sleep patterns, you will find all manner of excuses and rationalizations to avoid changing bad habits.

Give yourself time to establish an actual new pattern.  It can take up to 30 days, for example, to completely modify your sleep schedule.  As to when you should wake up, there are many advantages to waking early, but the important thing is to be honest about the outcome of your day; meaning if you deal with people on a regular basis through the day, you should probably stick to a schedule to be fully rested with the mainstream.

You may want to stay up late, but if you have to be at work at 8 am, that isn’t going to be a healthy choice.  Make the commitment to follow the healthy sleep hygiene points above and do it consistently.

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Healthy habits for the New Year; pt. 2: Water

Water; drink it. Seriously.  One of the main factors my psychologist husband and I notice when talking with others and attempting to help them mentally, spiritually, and physically is a lack of water.  It may sound simple, and it is.  You need water to live.  Not pop, tea, beer, coffee, Gatorade, mix-ins, etc… but just plain ol’ water.

Water helps your brain work properly, helps you to lose weight, helps to clear up skin, and obviously helps us function physically.  Your body is composed of around 60% water.  Even if you don’t exercise daily (as we all should) you lose water during the course of the day, even just by breathing.  Your body is also processing toxins constantly, drinking plenty of water helps flush out those toxins, keeping us healthier.

I mentioned weight loss above; if we keep hydrated by drinking enough water we will not confuse our physical feelings of thirst with hunger.  You can drink colder water to aid in weight loss, as your body has to work to maintain your core body temperature by raising your metabolism.  If you aren’t concerned with weight loss, stick with cool or room temperature water, as you can drink more faster, and your body doesn’t have to work to warm itself.

One complaint I’ve heard the most when it comes to water is the taste, “I don’t like water.” Seriously?  That’s your excuse?  As my husband is fond of saying, “Ok, little baby let’s just go by taste and not what is good for you.”  We are not infants.  We can make healthy choices regardless of things like taste.  But, putting that aside, there are many many different tasting waters.  I don’t recommend bottled water, instead, find some way to make your tap water, or well water both safe (if it isn’t already) and palatable.

I personally have a reverse osmosis filter, and tote around a stainless steel bottle.  If you want, add in simple fresh lemon juice to change the flavor of your water.  Make sure it is readily accessible to you when driving, at work, while working out, and at home.

Make smart choices when choosing what else to drink.  Soda is actually the Devil in liquid form (haha), but if you choose to drink pop, drink regular, not diet.  Also, severely limit you soda intake; none is best.  If you need caffeine, drink tea or coffee instead.  Try to not add sweeteners, but if you do, go for the most natural options like honey or raw sugar.  Both tea and coffee are diuretics, which means you need to also drink water to replenish what those drinks make you lose.

Most people don’t realize that store-bought juice is not really a healthy option when it comes to liquids.  If you do drink juice or let your kids drink juice, it should be in moderation.  A better option that is good for everyone is to juice your own fresh juices from veggies and fruit.  These drinks are incredibly healthy and also count for water intake because of high water content of these juices.  My favorite is orange-carrot-apple.  If you have the money and access, organic is always a better option.

That brings me to milk.  Milk can also be drank in moderation, but weigh your options carefully especially for your children.  Oftentimes organic whole milk is actually the best option available (See this article on FoxNews: Why skim milk isn’t necessarily better).  When fat is removed, many companies replace that fat with synthetic additives.  Fat in moderation is good for developing brains.  I say organic, because our dairy products are one of the greatest sources of non-human hormones, and antibiotics.  Going organic on dairy can be expensive, but consider getting your kids organic, even if you can’t afford them for the whole family.  Taste organic milk (I prefer Horizon brand), and you won’t want to go back.

Some forms of alcohol in moderation are fine (esp. some beers and red wine), but remember you also need to replenish your water levels while drinking alcohol, esp. when the night is through and you are getting ready for bed.

As I mentioned in part 1 of this series, don’t jump into changing your drinking habits haphazardly; if you are addicted to pop, cut down gradually don’t try cold turkey.  Gradually increase your water intake, and just really begin to notice what your are drinking and how much.

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Healthy habits for the New Year; pt. 1: Routine

Many people approach the New Year in a frenzy of goals and promises.  This is actually an unhealthy approach to change.  Take diet for example, if a person approaches “diet” in a frenzied state, making promises to themselves and others, they are setting themselves up for failure.

Any new goal should be approached in a balanced way.  I say that because even though this series is entitled “healthy habits,” if they are approached haphazardly, or even with an overabundance of enthusiasm, they are more likely to fail.  Also when I speak of health, I speak of the health of the whole human; body, mind, and soul.  Any or all of these suggestions should be approached in a balanced way, not to be seen as a set of rules that “must” be followed; humans don’t tend to do well with orders, even positive ones.

So, with that being said, the first “habit” is a bit redundant, it is “routine.”  This doesn’t mean you need to plot and plan every minute of every day, but rather it should be a framework.  Later I’ll specifically talk of sleep patterns, but every daily routine should begin with a plan of when to go to sleep and when to wake up.  This routine isn’t just a workday routine, but a routine that should be followed on weekends and holidays too.  In a later article, I’ll write about how waking early in the day is a way to get ahead, and be more successful at whatever you set out to do.

For now, you need to set a time to rise and a time to go to bed.  You also need to schedule time to eat during the day and try to stick as close to that schedule as possible.  These things help to regulate your body, which functions better with routine.  It’s the same with medication; in short, anything that will have an effect on your body and its metabolism should be a part of your routine, for your physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Establish “mini-routines” for the most important parts of your day.  When you rise, have a routine to kick off your day.  For example, an easy exercise (walking, yoga, etc…) or simple stretching routine, quiet time, a time for prayer and/or bible study/praise and worship, and then breakfast.  Then the steps you go through to make yourself presentable to the day; shower, brush your teeth, etc…  When you go to bed, the same thing (will blog about specific bed routines later).

One important routine to establish is a goal routine; you set specific goals in the morning, and review them at night.  Obviously this includes a lot of honesty.  If you failed to reach a goal, why did you fail?  Did you set too big of a goal, did you squander your time, did something else come up?  This is where you must watch for defense mechanisms, like rationalization.  Rationalization is where you basically fool yourself into believing an excuse instead of the real problem.  The truth is, many of us are lazy and just don’t want to do certain things, but routine and schedule will help to develop a level of discipline that will help get things done.

Figure out what else is important to you such as exercise, reading, gardening, etc… and make sure to set aside time for them as well.  There will be certain things you are willing to sacrifice in a day for the sake of already scheduled events, and somethings you make a priority.

Kids and pets thrive on routine, so they will thank you too.  What if you don’t have kids or pets?  You have friends or a boss, or a spouse, or co-workers who will also thank you, because you’ll be in a better mood and be better functioning.  One last point about routine; it is obvious but the routine you establish should be positive, if you establish a negative routine, you will reap the opposite results (for example, if going to bed at different times all week is your routine, that is going to have ill effects on your physical, mental and emotional state).

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Jehovah-rapha; The LORD that Healeth

Jehovah-rapha, The LORD that Healeth…as in the other names I have already covered (Jehovah-shammah, Jehovah-rohi, Jehovah-tsidkenu, and Jehovah-nissi) this name is to help us grasp a fundamental nature of God and His character. He is the LORD that healeth, and further more, this is one of His names that He revealed about Himself; He is the one that uttered, “for I am the LORD that healeth thee,” to the Israelites.

This name is revealed in the book of Exodus, after the Israelites were journeying away from Egypt.

Exodus 15:22 So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. 23 And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. 24 And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? 25 And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, 26 And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee. 27 And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.

Now, it is important to read those verses to get the context of this revelation. The Israelites had seen the plagues of God released upon the Egyptians that kept them as slaves, here God promises to never do this to the Israelites if they hearken to His word.

Notice that this revelation of His name is connected to another event; the miraculous occurrence of making the bitter waters sweet. I’ve blogged about water before, and how it is intimately connected to life itself, and of course we have Christ as our living water. Here we have a people that are desperately thirsty, and who see this body of water, and who are devastated when they realize it is unfit to drink.

God then “heals” the water by directing Moses to place the “tree” in the pool, which makes the water sweet, and fit to drink (wouldn’t you love to taste that water! ). Many see the parallel with Christ, who was raised up on a tree to heal us, and to offer us living water through His life, death, and resurrection.

Yes, God is the LORD that can healeth even our physical bodies, as He has shown abundantly through scripture and even in our own lives, or in the lives of those we know. However, the emphasis on healing both in the Old Testament, and even more so in the New, is NOT on physical healing, but on spiritual healing and renewal.

To many humans the physical side of healing is the end all and be all; but I submit that to those of us in Christ, it is the spiritual healing that is the awesome thing. Christ Himself put forth the teaching that the physical healing was symbolic of a deeper, more important healing…that of the forgiveness of sin.

Matthew 9:6 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.

When we are sick in our physical selves, should we not cry out to God to see if He will heal our bodies? Of course! However, we must be very very careful, for there are those “teachers” out there teaching a false message; if you aren’t healed then you didn’t have enough faith. How despicable!

Paul himself prayed for healing, but was answered in a different way; 2 Corinthians 12:7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. Does it matter precisely what kind of infirmity Paul was praying to be healed?  The idea still stands; God has His reasons in all things, and in all answer to prayer.

The new covenant in Christ is beyond our physical selves, it is so much more. Christ, the Great Physician, offers healing on a much more fundamental level…and yes, for those that have faith in Him, someday everything about us will be healed fully when we are home; our physical selves, our minds, our wills…everything.

For now it is enough that we recognize that by giving ourselves to Him, and making ourselves a living sacrifice, that He is the one in control, and that He can either physically heal us or not, according to His will. This name of His; however, shows us that healing is in His very character, and we should never be ashamed or hesitant to call upon Jehovah-rapha to heal us in any way.

He is the one who makes the waters sweet, Who cleanses us from our sins, and makes us whole in Him. As always, Jesus contains this aspect of God made flesh. He walked amongst us, healing as He went, again, to underscore Who He was and is, and that He has the power to heal spiritually as well as on the “surface.” He also took upon Himself all of our sin, and went through a torturous death…He sacrificed His own health for us.

He heals situations as well…He uses them for good, even if they are bad situations, Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. We are not ever promised perfect lives, or perfect physical health when we become believers, quite the contrary. But, we are promised that He is with us, He is The LORD that heals on many different levels, and that He can use all things for good. We too, to really tap into this promise, should hearken to God and His Word, and put all our faith in Christ. Then we truly can be content in whatever situation we find ourselves, and also possess the knowledge that we can indeed call out to Jehovah-rapha, and He does indeed hear us.

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