Wellness is first and foremost a choice to assume responsibility for a healthy life. It begins with a conscious decision to shape your lifestyle, and that can happen at any age or any stage in life. When considering your nutrition, how you care for your skin, or how you live your life, a holistic approach that emphasizes the interconnectedness of all these areas is the healthiest and most sustainable method.
You do not have to master all practices at once. Identify small ways to incorporate healthier choices and be sure the changes you choose are practical and sustainable. Over time, these small changes can lead to a truly transformative outcome.
Prioritize Plant and Whole Foods
We truly believe that a whole food and plant-centric diet — meaning a diet comprised mostly of whole, unrefined (or minimally refined) plants, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, lays the best foundation for healthy skin and overall good health. A plant-centric diet has been shown to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar, reverse or prevent heart disease, prevent and reverse obesity, lower risk of cancer and diabetes, reduce the risk and delay the onset of the chronic age-related diseases and improve overall quality of life.
Begin crowding out processed foods in your diet with whole plant foods. You can begin with plant foods you already like and build from there. By eating more vegetables, fruits, and other nutrient-dense foods, your cravings for less healthy foods will naturally diminish.
Nourish Your Skin
As you start to add nutrient-rich foods that serve your body well, you will soon discover its benefits to the skin. Skin is the human body’s biggest organ, and 60 percent of the products we apply topically have the potential to be absorbed in the bloodstream and circulate to our cells. It is more than likely that the toxins you took care to remove from your diet are still lurking in your personal care and household cleaning products.
By opting for organic natural skin care, you are choosing to nourish your skin with the healthiest available ingredients free from toxins, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers. Furthermore, natural skin care products can be thought of as nutrients for our skin, as they are rich in plant-based vitamins, minerals and plant compounds called phytonutrients, and are biocompatible with our skin. Recent research has shown that phytonutrients are associated with an array of health benefits — from protecting against free radical damage (a major cause of fine lines and wrinkles), to supporting collagen production and increasing circulation. When absorbed by the skin, natural ingredients deliver these powerful benefits, helping to leave the skin looking vibrant and healthy.
Move With Intention
Exercise is a key component of any healthy lifestyle, but in our increasingly connected world, breaking away to move is getting more and more difficult. It matters little what activity or sport you choose, so long as you step up and out from your desk or computer to move intentionally.
The most important thing is that you get your heart rate up, break your normal movement patterns, and sweat every day. (Bonus: sweat aids skin health as it flushes toxins out.) Decide in advance what you will do and schedule it into your daily/weekly calendar as you would any other appointment to increase the chance that you follow through with the activity.
The integration of exercise and intentional movement into your life supports and enhances all the other wellness-inspired choices you are making.
It should be welcome news to learn that getting a great night’s sleep is another vital part of wellness. Your whole body benefits from getting better sleep. Your immune system, your energy level, your memory, your ability to focus — even signs of aging are improved by getting more sleep.
Yet too many of us fail to give our bodies and minds the opportunity to regenerate overnight. While you slumber, important repairs and rejuvenation are happening at a cellular level. Your body also has a chance to detoxify and increase its immunity, therefore reducing the probability of developing diseases later in life.
If getting a good night’s rest is difficult for you, consider adopting a before-bed routine. Begin slowing down by disconnecting: Turn off your screens and unwind by reading a book and enjoying a cup of herbal tea. These are cues that will signal to your body that it’s time to pause for the night.
Keep Stress in Check
In concert with adequate rest is the need to de-stress. Over time, prolonged stress can lead to chronic inflammation, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and weight issues. It suppresses the immune system, clouds our thought, reduces our productivity, and often seeps into all areas of our life, creating a negative outlook and inability to make good and healthy choices.
While some amount of stress in life is unavoidable, there are certainly ways to minimize it and practices to help manage it. Yoga, meditation, visualization, consistent rest, work/life balance coupled with stress-reducing techniques counteract stress to create deeper, long-lasting health. Prioritizing sleep and decreasing stress will undoubtedly result in healthier skin, a stronger body, and a more grounded sense of self.
Say No to Sugar
Few foods wreak as much havoc on our health as sugar. There simply isn’t much to like about refined sugar. Sugar is a highly addictive substance and most people eat far too much of it. More studies are proving that sugar plays a pivotal role in the development of many of the devastating illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. Even without the risk of future illness, overindulging in sugar diminishes our skin health, taxes our immune system, adds pounds, and after a brief lift in energy, usually sends us crashing.
Some of us are more dependent on it than others, so assess your personal habits and think about ways of reducing your sugar intake, keeping in mind the body does need trace amounts of sugar to function. To ensure you are getting the needed sugar and the right type of sugar, choose whole foods as close to their original form as possible. Keep your vegetable servings bigger than your daily intake of fruit.
Once you grow accustomed to life with no (or less) refined sugar, your cravings for it will subside, you will see improvements in skin health, and you will likely feel more even keeled, which is a great motivation to continue to eat it sparingly.
Follow — and Heal — Your Gut
All the healthy food in the world won’t help a compromised digestive system. There is a lot of buzz around gut health right now — and for good reason. The gut is an essential part of how our nutrients make it from the food we eat to our bodies. If there is an unhealthy amount of bacteria there, we can compromise our health with gastrointestinal and digestive conditions, potentially leading to far more serious autoimmune disorders and a weakened immune system.
Consider adding probiotic supplements and probiotic food to your regimen to increase the amount of healthy bacteria in your gut. Adding probiotics to your meal plan helps maintain a healthy level of good bacteria in your gut, thereby reducing inflammation that can trigger aggravating skin conditions. Probiotics are said to also increase collagen production, hydrate skin, and reduce fine lines.
Good gut health is literally at the center of your vitality and wellness. As you move further along your wellness journey, don’t neglect this highly important function in your body.
Live a Life of Purpose and Passion
As you make progress on your wellness journey and start looking and feeling better, you might notice other parts of your life feeling misaligned or imbalanced. How we spend our time, personally and professionally, has a tremendous impact on our overall well-being.
Finding and following your passion, maintaining healthy and loving relationships, feeling comfortable in your home, and being balanced in all areas of life are as important to authentic wellness as any food and exercise plan.
Hopefully this wellness journey is reminding you of who you are and what is important to you. A strong sense of identity and purpose in the world is very closely connected to wellness. Now that you are on your way, it’s the perfect time to integrate the things you love and enjoy into your healthy life.
This story originally appeared on Well Within Beauty. It has been reprinted with permission.