In the memoir, "What the River Knows," Wayne Fields writes this nursery rhyme:
“The best six doctors anywhere
And no one can deny it
Are sunshine, water, rest, and air
Exercise and diet.
These six will gladly you attend
If only you are willing
Your mind they'll ease
Your will they'll mend
And charge you not a shilling.”
-- Nursery rhyme quoted by Wayne Fields, What the River Knows, 1990”
Fields' book was a beautiful and poignant memoir; a meditation on families and aging, and a whimsical response to what time, and streams, and those we care about bring into our lives.
In the nursery rhyme, he struck a simple chord for anyone searching for health and well-being. He mentions 6 simple doctors: sunshine, water, rest, air, exercise and diet. Improving on even just one of them would be a noble, and reachable, resolution for the New Year. We examine each one below:
Get More Sunshine
Now, we're not talking about tanning. With the Sun, there can definitely be too much of a good thing. However, that fiery ball of radiation that climbs into the sky every morning can be just as good for your health as it is damaging.
"Being out in the sun boosts our mood, improves sleep, and promotes vitamin D production," says James Spencer, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York. "There's no controversy about that."
An article in U.S. News says the Sun can help you get better sleep; can make you happier by increasing serotonin (psychiatrists often recommend that depressed people spend 30 minutes of the day in the sun); may give you protection from autoimmune diseases and asthma; and can lesson the symptoms of Alzheimer's.
Drink More Water and Eat More Water-Based Foods
There might be too many benefits of drinking water to list here. But some of the benefits as cited by MindBodyGreen include: increased energy, promote wieght loss, flushes out toxins, improves skin, aids digestion, supports the immune system, a natural headache remedy, prevents cramps, much cheaper than flavored drinks. A six-year study also suggests that people who drink more than 5 glasses of water per day were 41% less likely to die from a heart attack than people who drank less than 2 glasses per day.
But aside from drinking more water, don't forget putting more water-based foods into your diet. The more fruits and vegetables you consume, the more nutrition you'll get and the better you'll feel.
Get More Rest
A recent survey found that more people are sleeping less than six hours a night, and sleep difficulties visit 75% of us at least a few nights per week. A short-lived bout of insomnia is generally nothing to worry about. The bigger concern is chronic sleep loss, which can contribute to health problems such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and a decrease in the immune system’s power, reports the Harvard Women’s Health Watch.
The Harvard Women’s Health Watch also says a good night sleep supports learning and memory; metabolism and healthy weight; safety and better performance in daily tasks; a better mood; cardiovascular health; and a strong immune system. Go here for more information on herbs and natural supplements that support rest and relaxation.
Breathe Better and Get More Oxygen
Oxygen is arguably the most important substance for our health. If we run out of it, we'll die in minutes. It's important we get enough oxygen to keep our body and organs functioning correctly.
We breathe more than 20,000 times a day. It is the first thing we do when we are born and the last thing we do when we die, so it makes sense to become good at breathing. Soldiers master different types of breathing to perform in life or death situations -- whether it's to calm down, to increase endurance or to wake up and have more energy. In Yoga, correct breathing is not just crucial to supply the various organs enough oxygen, but to also to help rid the body of waste and toxins.
Oxygen is critical to our well-being, and any effort to increase the supply of oxygen to our body -- and especially to the brain -- will pay rich dividends.
Get More Exercise
The benefits of exercise are obvious: stronger muscles and bones, a healthier immune system, better weight, higher metabolism, stress relief, warding off depression, etc. But it also might make you smarter. A recent article in the New York Times claims that the size of the human mind increased over time because of the necessity of exercise for early humans.
"The broad point of this new notion is that if physical activity helped to mold the structure of our brains, then it most likely remains essential to brain health today," says John D. Polk, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and co-author, with Dr. Raichlen, of the new article. "And there is scientific support for that idea. Recent studies have shown, he says, that 'regular exercise, even walking,' leads to more robust mental abilities, 'beginning in childhood and continuing into old age.'”
There seems to be a direct, and even an evolutionary, correlation between a healthy body and a healthy mind. This gives an even more powerful incentive to be active in 2013.
Eat More Whole Foods
Diet and exercise are probably the top two resolution goals made every New Year's. But, instead of a diet plan that is doomed to fail, it might be more realistic to focus on eating better.
Eat more natural foods, more vegetables, more nuts, more fruits, more lean protein, more essential fatty acids like fish and avacados, and make sure to get the right herbal and vitamin supplements to fill in the holes. Don't eat processed foods, refined flours, conventional frozen meals, and cured meats with byproducts. Instead, eat more whole foods that are as close to nature as possible, including high-fat foods grown the way nature intended. If you have difficulty getting enough whole foods, consider shakes like Nature's Harvest, which is full of vegetable protein.