FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS, COVID HAS TOUCHED ALL OF OUR LIVES.
Put simply, we are at a crossroads when it comes to our health. On Target Living has been helping folks feel their best for many years—the pandemic has underscored for many how important it is to take care of our health. It truly is our greatest asset.
It’s Time to Play Offense!
During the COVID pandemic—we have focused almost all our efforts on social distancing, wearing a mask, washing our hands, and most importantly, the vaccine. All are necessary components for slowing down the pandemic.
Unfortunately we don’t hear much advice about how to play greater offense with our health. And there’s so much to say! How stress can weaken our immune system and compromise our health. Sharing simple breathing exercises to quiet the mind and relax the body. The powerful benefits of getting quality sleep. How about nutritional strategies to improve gut health and rejuvenate the immune system? Or the importance of moving the body for greater mental health? Here at On Target Living, we believe all you need to live a healthy lifestyle are three little words: REST, EAT, MOVE.
Balance Your Nervous System—REST
Step One: We must have a balanced nervous system to have a healthy immune system.
We all know what stress feels like, but do we know how destructive stress can be for our health? When we feel threatened, the body reacts physically. Your heart rate goes up, pupils dilate, and muscles contract. When stressed, blood pressure goes up and digestion slows down. Most importantly, constant stress compromises your immune system.
So what can you do about it?
Let’s start with reframing. If I asked you to think of three things that keep you up at night, what would you say? There are a lot of common answers to a question like that: work, bills, a fight you had with your spouse. But more often than not, those quick top-of-mind answers are just symptoms of a larger issue. It can be very cathartic to consider the root cause of all of those issues—you might just find there’s only one thing that’s really bothering you after all.
For more immediate results, consider breathing exercises. Mindfulness or breathing exercises are one of the fastest ways to calm your mind and relax your body. If you’re new to this kind of breathing, don’t worry. It’s easy to learn. Start by breathing through your nose. With each breath, make a point of engaging your diaphragm to take a full, deep breath. Slow down your breathing to get the most benefits. You can find breathing exercises on many fitness apps, including our own on My OnTargetLiving. Other tools like the Fitbit and Apple Watch have mindfulness primers built right in.
When it comes to REST, there’s not much more important than a good night’s sleep. Without a restful night of sleep, it’s nearly impossible to feel or be your best. You’re not alone in facing this challenge: insufficient sleep is a global problem with serious health implications. That’s the bad news. The good news is, there are ways to improve the quality of your sleep. Start by getting some sunlight during the day to keep your circadian rhythm in check. Include foods high in magnesium in your diet regularly. Make sure you’re planning for at least 8 hours of sleep and creating an ideal sleep environment—think cool, quiet, and dark. And when we say dark, that includes phones and other electronics. Give your mind and eyes a break from your electronic devices to get into a restful mindset and promote quality sleep.
Another tip for solid sleep: take Micro Breaks throughout the day. A short break is better than no breaks! Give your mind and body a rest by taking a walk, stretching, or getting a massage. Take a few deep breaths—even 60 seconds makes a difference! Listen to some relaxing music, take an Epsom Salt bath… the options are nearly endless. The point is to give yourself the space to recharge your batteries. Even quick Micro Breaks will promote balance and REST throughout the day.
Protect Your Gut Health—EAT
Step Two: Rejuvenate and build a healthy immune system by focusing on gut health. 70% of the immune system is in the gut! You may already know that what you eat affects how you feel, but it does so much more than that. Think of your gut as a garden; the healthier the garden, the healthier you’ll become.
One key to a healthy gut? Water! Make sure you’re drinking a minimum of 60 ounces of water each day to promote a healthy gut. Just like with a garden, you need water to help your healthy gut flora flourish.
Speaking of that garden: Don’t forget to feed it well! You’d never expect your plants to grow in a dry and desolate soil. Make a point of including foods that promote healthy bacteria in your daily diet. Aim for a mix of prebiotic, probiotic, and synbiotic foods to create the best environment for your healthy gut. These are foods that feed healthy bacteria (prebiotics), contain live bacteria (probiotics) or foods that contain both (synbiotics). Target foods like oatmeal, apples, bananas, potatoes, berries, onions, garlic, greens, nuts, seeds, lemons, sauerkraut, pickles, cacao nibs, coconut, apple cider vinegar, spirulina/chlorella, and wheatgrass.
Beyond normal immune boosters, there are a few foods with nutrients known to help your immune system fight viruses such as COVID-19. Look for foods rich in Vitamin C like oranges and other citrus fruits. While selenium and zinc are important minerals that help support a variety of bodily functions, research suggests that deficiency in either of these micronutrients is more likely to be associated with serious COVID-19 infection. To help stay healthy, choose foods rich in selenium and zinc, such as pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, hemp seeds, and spirulina/chlorella. Omega-3 Fats and Vitamin D3 are other important dietary staples in the fight against COVID. OTL recommends cod liver oil as a healthy source of these important fatty acids and vitamin D.
Finally, don’t forget about the Food Target! Eating foods closer to the Source helps make sure that you maximize the nutritional impact of the foods you’re eating. Fruits, vegetables, ancient grains and healthy proteins and fats are all great options. Processed oils and sugars do less to promote gut health and can work against the steps you’re taking to grow your garden. If you’re overwhelmed, we recommend using the Food Target to help you make better choices. No one dietary change is going to save you from COVID-19 or any other virus—but changing the way you eat by making small swaps and upgrades daily will change your life. We’ve seen it time and time again.
Improve Your Mental Health—MOVE
Step Three: Get back into the swing of things by moving daily!
How’s your mental health lately? How are your stress levels? As the pandemic continues, COVID-19 feels like a threat to our safety, our security, our health, our loved ones, and even our relationships. (No matter which side of the argument you’re on, who hasn’t had a disagreement about masks, lockdowns, or vaccines over the past couple of years?) The stress of the pandemic brings up a lot of negative emotions, but we’ve got the solution: Motion creates positive emotion.
Put in the effort to develop a movement mindset. Make it your goal to move your body for at least 5-10 minutes every single day. If you’re not active now, you’re not alone—over 80% of Americans do not have a regular exercise routine! But moving every day, even just a little bit, can do a world of good for your body and your mind.
The key to making movement a part of your mindset is finding activities that bring you joy. If you hate running and find it a chore, don’t try to commit to running on a treadmill for an hour a day. Odds are you’ll hate the idea of it so much you never get started. Movement shouldn’t be a chore, it should be something you truly enjoy—so go for a walk with your pup, play outside with your kids, or take a dance class that keeps your toes tapping. When you find that brand of movement you truly enjoy, it goes from something you have to do to something you can’t wait to do.
Finally, here at OTL we challenge you to play more. Play is a key part of the OTL MOVE pyramid. When you play, you unlock creativity, enhance memory, relax your body, and calm your mind. The benefits are of play are boundless. Most importantly, the opposite of play is not work—the opposite of play is depression. Society tells us that play is frivolous, especially for adults, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. We challenge you to find time to play so you can see firsthand just how much of a positive impact it has on your mental state. We all need to play more!
The defense we’ve been playing during this COVID pandemic has so much value, but it’s time to go on the offense! By following the On Target Living playbook, you can live a healthy lifestyle that helps keep you prepared for anything this pandemic throws at you. REST, EAT, and MOVE your way to a stronger immune system.
Learn more about how you have the power to feel your best in Chris Johnson’s latest book REST, EAT, MOVE.