Delving into the WHOLE picture of nutrition and nourishment!
Most people think of nutrition simply as what we eat but it goes far beyond that. Nourishment does not begin and end with our diet, it encompasses every aspect of our lives.
The Food We Eat
"When diet is wrong medicine is of no use. When diet is correct medicine is of no need." - Ancient Ayurvedic Proverb
The food we eat is of course one of the most important aspects of nutrition. I mean, it is our main source of physical nourishment. Fuelling our bodies with the right nutrients gives us the opportunity to thrive. When the body is well nourished with essential nutrients it has the ability to heal itself and ward off viruses, illness and disease. Our bodies are resilient and are constantly working to maintain a state of balance. They are quite literally fighting for our lives every second of every day, the least we can do is provide our vessels with the nutrients they require to really thrive rather than just survive.
Eating a diet rich in whole foods and eliminating or at least restricting processed foods is one of the best things we can do for our health. Shopping around the outside of the grocery store is one of the easiest ways of ensuring those packaged, processed "goods" don't magically appear in your cart. Filling your fridge and cupboards up with wholesome foods is the best way to start. Placing convenient containers of cut up veggies in the fridge or keeping a jar handy of a homemade trail mix can really help to deter from grabbing the junk foods that are conveniently there and already prepared.
If your diet is need of an overhaul, don't panic and jump into the deep end all at once. Take small baby steps and only make changes that are attainable for you at this time. The more attainable your changes are, the more sustainable your new healthy habits will become.
The Skin of the Matter
Our skin is the largest organ of the body, we not only ingest what we put in our bodies through our mouths, we also absorb what we put directly on our skin along the myriad of pollutants we are exposed to in our environment. Many of the commercial brands of shampoos, body lotions and soaps are filled with not so nourishing ingredients. A lot of these products actually cause more harm than good. Although our bodies may have the ability to maintain a healthy state when exposed to one or two of these chemical concoctions, when we are exposed to multiple a day, often layered on top of one another, there is no measuring what affects this has on our health and how overburdened this can cause our bodies to be. Each of us is different and we all have varying thresholds for how much toxins and stress our bodies can handle before manifesting illness or disease.
One of the best ways to make sure we are not overburdening and bombarding our bodies with toxins is to make sure the products we use topically are as clean as what we would put inside of our bodies.
A Breathe of Fresh Air
Air quality plays a crucial role in our health. If we are constantly breathing in polluted air whether it be inside or out, these toxins (even though they are invisible to the eye) accumulate in our bodies. Here in Canada, we are pretty lucky to have an abundance of undeveloped land, which means there are lots of places we can escape to get a breath of fresh air. On the other hand their is still a great amount of pollution produced in our larger cities and it can be even worse inside, most commercial building materials and furniture produce an off-gas (a chemical concoction emitted as a by-product of a chemical process), dust is also considered to be a pollutant. Opening windows is a great way to clear out the stale and stagnant air in your house or workplace and when it comes to exercise, outdoors is preferable, where there are plenty of trees (which help to filter out the pollution, providing us with clean, fresh oxygen). Avoiding running or cycling on busy streets, especially during rush hour will greatly reduce the amount of pollution inhaled. On top of the pollution we individually cannot control, many perfumes and air fresheners are laden with nasty chemicals which in turn are also contributors to poor air quality, it is always best to stick to natural scents such as essential oils.
A great way to purify the air of your home and workspace is with plants! Our beautiful green and flowering friends, convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and many of them also act as a filter, removing nasty toxins from the air such as formaldehyde, benzene and xylene (to name a few). The longer a plant is exposed to a specific toxin the better it becomes utilizing it and in turn removing it from the air, so the longer a plant has been in your house the better it will act as a filter. Even if you're not much of a green thumb it's a great idea to keep at least a few plants in your house, there are some hardy indoor plants that are nearly impossible to kill. Aloe, golden pathos, spider plants and snake plants are all great filters and don't need much tending to.
It is not so much for it's beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit. - Robert Louis Stevenson
Stress is no joking matter. In our western society especially, we are a culture that has taken on the belief that we need to HUSTLE in order to achieve any sort of success. How many memes on social media have you seen that say something along the lines of "Good things come to those who hustle"? The hustle has become so glorified that it has become shameful to take the time for ourselves that is actually essential to our physical, emotional and mental well being. When we push ourselves to go, go, go all the time it's a recipe for disaster. We need to honour how our bodies are feeling and we need to honour the emotions we, as humans are feeling. Maybe you had a crazy busy week at work, you're feeling very drained physically and emotionally and your heart is screaming at you to not go to that dinner date tonight. If you keep ignoring these little signals and desires from your body and emotions, you are missing very important messages that are being communicated you. It is so important to get in tune with yourself, physically and emotionally so you can give yourself the support, time, rest, relaxation and fun you NEED. Honouring yourself and your desires is so essential to our nourishment. There is a huge rise in the amount of people being prescribed medication for anxiety and depression. These medications are suppressing our emotions, which are our best navigators through life. When we are depressed or anxious, it's our bodies communicating to us that something is off, we are not in alignment with our souls desires and our highest and best interest. They are messages that something needs to shift, sometimes it might just be a belief or an internal pattern that needs to be released but it could also be that it's in your best interest to change a major area of your life such as leave the job that is so taxing on your energy and joy or maybe to leave a toxic relationship.
We live in a society that tells us to shut our feelings off or "don't catch feelings" and we're encouraged to constantly distract ourselves with the hottest new series, social media, partying, sex and even exercise. We have so many distractions at our fingertips, it's easy to lose ourselves in it all. One good thing about social media and the internet is that we have so much information at our fingertips as well, we are becoming more aware of how important self care really is. It's about time we start honouring ourselves, our hearts and our souls. Nourishment does not only apply to the physical body, it also applies to the mind and soul.
Sit quietly, take a few deep breaths, connect to your heart (simply focus your attention on your heart) and ask yourself, what would bring me the most joy in this moment?
Touching on Touch
The last (but definitely not least) piece of our nourishment comes from our connections, physically and emotionally. Even if they are provided all the nutritional nutrients required, babies cannot survive without the physical touch of another being. Emotional and physical connections with others are essential for our survival and our overall wellbeing. Hugs are one of the most healing forms of touch we can give and receive. They are proven to provide many health benefits including boosting the immune system, lowering blood pressure, reducing stress, easing pain, easing depression and lessening fatigue, just to name a few. The healthiest hugs do come from a trusted companion opposed to a complete stranger, and might I add, pets do count! The same health promoting hormone, oxytocin is released when we bond with both our fellow humans and our furry friends.
"we need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth." - Virginia Satir
The sum of it all
Nutrition is not just about food and the body. Nourishing every aspect of yourself; mind, body and soul is the key to a vibrant, thriving body AND LIFE!
Marcela, J. (2014). How hugging makes you healthier and happier.
Wolverton, B.C., Johnson, A., & Bounds, K. (1989) Interior landscape plants for indoor pollution abatement.