Stretch 7 Ways to Optimize Your Health and Improve Your Life Boost your energy, restore your focus, and identify what’s most important with these basic elements for vibrant physical and mental well-being. By Melissa Colleret Photo by Franciele Cunha There are only a few months left to the year. You’ve got amazing things you want to either start, finish, open, close, or create. It can be both exciting and paralyzing all at once. You think: “How will I ever get it all done?” This thought is followed by a feeling of fatigue. Discouragement. You’re drained; tired of the hustle, of the “do more” mentality that is often celebrated in our culture. Yet you’re still trying to do it all while running on an empty tank. It’s time to break the vicious cycle. This may sound harsh, but if you’re trapped in this cycle, you’re missing the point. It’s not about doing it all. It’s about who you will be as you do what you want to do most. This starts by making your physical and mental health a priority. Without health, nothing matters. Forget those goals, projects, and dreams that make your spine tingle. Desires change the same way the seasons do, but your physical health—and being the happiest person you can be—will never go out of style. There’s another way. Before you continue feeding the beast of doing more till there’s nothing left, review the elements of what I like to call the Health Pyramid. Made up of seven elements based on our basic physiological need to survive, these directives can help you thrive, to be the healthiest and the most productive you can be. Take Care of Your Heart We are given an incredible body in which a heart beats, blood flows, and ideas grow. Your heart is your most precious asset. Without it, I wouldn’t have the honor of writing this article for you and you wouldn’t be reading it. Did you know that the heart generates the largest electromagnetic field in the body? This beating drum, no bigger than the size of your fist, reaches far beyond what we can logically understand. It has the power of connecting you to your highest self. A power that has been within you since the moment you were in your mother’s womb. Take care of it. Start by cranking up your favorite song. Right now. Dance your heart out. Then at the end of the song, pause. Place your hands on your heart and simply enjoy the feeling. Do this several times a day. Bonus: Do this with someone you love! Breathe Intentionally Unless you have a committed pranayama practice or have developed breathing skills like a big wave surfer, you probably can’t hold your breathe for much longer than one minute. (I’m betting some of you will want to test this out!) We are designed to breathe; our bodies need oxygen to survive. In fact, the average person can survive for only 3–6 minutes without oxygen. Thus, it is imperative to fuel our bodies with fresh air. The act of breathing intentionally can change everything within seconds. Regardless, we often take our breathing for granted when considering how to optimize ourselves to live our best life. Often, when anxiety creeps in, breath becomes shallow and short. Take three deep breaths. Notice the difference. Practice slow and deep breathing as you go about your day. Notice the impact this has on how you show up in your life. One of my favorite practices is alternate nostril breathing. Click here for 3 free simple breathing techniques from the author! Make Sleep a Priority Ever pulled an all-nighter? If you attended college or brought beings into the world, chances are you have at least once. These were a badge of honor when I completed my degree. Libraries staying open 24 hours so that students could stay up all night in order to finish a paper was the norm. It all seems ironic now, considering that cognitive function decreases significantly with sleep deprivation. You would think that a university promotes an environment conducive for becoming the greatest version of yourself… But that’s a topic for a different day. It’s important to take your sleep cycle as seriously as you do your grades or bank account. Making sleep a priority will increase your energy, restore your mood, clear your mind, and improve productivity—hence support you in accomplishing more of the things that matter most to you. And if that’s not enough, J-Lo attributes sleep to her glowing skin and rocking bod. I’ll take it. An easy way to improve your sleep is by getting an old-school alarm clock. You know the one with AA batteries that were around before smart phones saw the light of day? Yeah. That one. Use that as your alarm moving forward. Leave your phone in a different room at least one hour before your bed time. That way you won’t be tempted to scroll down J-Lo’s feed when you should be sleeping. Do this for one week. Let us know how it goes. Photo by Marion Michele Stay Hydrated Are you drinking enough water? Is your mom drinking enough water? Chances are one of you isn’t if you abide by the eight-cups-per-day guideline. Proper hydration helps cleanse your body—inside and out. It supports proper muscle function, which is important considering all the amazing things you want to be doing in your lifetime. You want to practice well into your 90s, right? Drink up! Instead of rushing to the coffee machine after turning that old-school alarm off—and not snoozing—have a tall glass of water. To kick it up a notch, add fresh lemon juice or 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar to also awaken your digestive system. You Are What You Eat If you are what you eat, are you eating foods that support who you want to become? Unless your dream is to create the next chip empire, chances are that bag of Miss Vickie’s isn’t serving you. I often see my eating patterns go downhill when I start feeling like I have too much going on. When I catch myself and switch the chips for salad, and wine for green juice, I quickly get back on track. Enjoy those salty delights once in a while. Follow the Pareto principle—the 80/20 rule—to stay balanced: 80 percent clean eats, 20 percent soul-food. And if you have “all or nothing” tendencies like I do, a seasonal cleanse can do wonders to get your nutrition back on track. I created the REVITALIZE Cleanse for this reason. Move Your Body Since we’ve already agreed to keep practicing asanas well into our 90s, why not prepare our body for a lifetime of fluid movement now? Whether you love to flow, dance, run, or qualify for the CrossFit Games, moving your body is much more than physical strength, power, and flexibility. Movement shifts energy around, releases tension, and creates a sense of peace. The six-pack is a bonus. If you’ve let your movement practice slip, get back to basics by simply going for a walk around the block—or, better yet, unroll your mat and practice on Wanderlust TV 😉. I’ve been practicing for over a decade and teaching for almost as long, yet nothing grounds me more than a practice that brings it back to the foundations—the 21-Day Challenge “Vinyasa for Life” with Schuyler Grant is my favorite. Love It’s what the world needs right now. It’s what YOU need right now. More than anything else. Go ahead—change the world, but always remember that to someone, you are their world. No matter what you set your mind to do in this life, remember to love yourself first and most. Be kind to yourself. Discover the hidden treasures within you. Smile more. Hug tight. Laugh often. And if you end up having a few too many slices of pizza on Friday night instead of going to hot yoga, don’t judge yourself for it. Enjoy every damn bite. Love is just as important, if not more so, than any other items on this list. It’s a practice, a journey, an adventure. You may need to love yourself more right now—do one thing today that you love. Maybe you’ll pour a hot bath, call a friend, or write a love letter: to yourself. (No joke, it’s a beautiful gift!) And no matter what you do, remember, do it with love too. — Melissa Colleret is a life coach, speaker, and yoga instructor based in Montreal. Sharing her mission to make you come alive and live your best life keeps this passionate entrepreneur on her toes. From 1:1 sessions, online workshops, cleanse programs, and yoga classes, Melissa wakes up every day wanting to inspire and empower.