14 Habits for Good Health, Longevity & Happiness

Health is a journey of continual balance and adjustment. The ancient Chinese realized this through the yin and yang theory. Yin and yang represent the dualistic nature of reality: Night and day, up and down, dark and light, positive and negative, hot and cold, active and passive, etc.
Chinese medicine is about maintaining your balance while these opposing energies are pulling you this way and pushing you that way.
In today’s modern world, our days are filled with uncountable responsibilities, things to do, interactions and stressors. The key to good health is to find balance amidst the never-ending and constantly changing currents of life.
Maintaining our center and inner peace while the constant push (yang) and pull (yin) of the world invites us – or forces us – into this eternal dance we call “Life”.
After years of clinical practice, I’ve come up with “14 Habits for Good Health” to help my patients maintain this balance, empower their immune system and stay one step ahead of stress and illness.

Habit #1 Drink plenty of pure water.

 

We are made of 70% water. Chronic dehydration can cause all kinds of symptoms – from allergies, digestive disorders, fatigue, poor mental clarity to infections, inflammation and joint and muscular pain. Water is vital to proper cellular and metabolic health. The more stress you have, physical or mental, the more water you should drink. Water helps cleanse the body of toxins.
The quality of the water is important. Choose spring or distilled water over tap water, because tap water may contain chemicals such as chlorine, fluoride and even hormones, it may also contain heavy metal particles from pipes. According to classical Chinese longevity theory, long-term health is dependent on nourishing and tonifying the “water element”.

Habit #2 Make breakfast as nutritious as possible.

We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s true. Heed this wisdom and watch your health, digestion and energy in the day increase. Based on Chinese medicine, it is in the morning that your stomach and digestive energy is the strongest. Avoid empty carbohydrates and high sugar foods (like toast, sugar cereals, pastries, muffins, etc.).
Look into Japanese breakfasts for some great ideas for nutrient-packed morning meals. Never skip breakfast. The worst thing you can do is have only a coffee for breakfast. This will deplete your adrenals, dehydrate you, throw off your chemical balance and starve your cells of nutrition. Even if you have the habit of eating very little or nothing, force yourself to eat a solid nutritious meal and you will add years of health onto your life.

Habit #3: Silence your mind daily.

 

Dozens of scientific experiments and studies have proven the beneficial effects of meditation. Not only does it lower cortisol levels, which reduces internal inflammation, but it also helps clear the mental and emotional clutter that can easily build up due to today’s hectic and demanding world.
Meditation is really a way to be still and silence the mind. It doesn’t matter what kind of meditation you do. Take 5 minutes twice a day to just do nothing but focus on breathing and allow your mind to become silent. Silencing the mind isn’t only achieved through meditation. Art, yoga, tai chi, walking, bird watching, exercise and many other relaxing and rejuvenating activities can induce the silent mind.
Even if you just get 30 seconds of a silent mind, this emptiness is like a trash can for the build-up of stress. For every second of mental silence you achieve, you gain 1 minute of productive, vibrant and effective healthy energy. It’s a positive return on investment that is well worth your time and effort.

Habit # 4: Keep your spine and muscles limber.

 

Tension in your muscles will reduce the circulation of blood, lymph and neural signals in your body. It can also cause joints to compress, which can lead to arthritis and chronic pain. The spine is called the “central axis” in Chinese medicine and Tai Chi.
The connection between your brain and the rest of your body and organs is linked through the spine and the spinal cord and nerves. Additionally, the spine acts like a supporting column for head, neck, shoulders, chest and abdomen. If the spine is stiff, all the organs suffer. If the muscles are tight, circulation is cut off, and your health will degenerate. Do yoga, Tai Chi or Qigong to stay limber. Get regular acupuncture and massages. Learn to relax and unwind. Don’t let tight muscles or a stiff spine go untreated.

Habit #5: Balance Stress and Rest.

 

We can’t avoid stress altogether. In fact some stress is good for  us. This “good stress” is the pressure we feel when we push ourselves to meet our goals. This “good stress” is our own refusal to submit to inertia, but instead we push ourselves to step outside our comfort zone and grow beyond our  limits. Some evenings we may not feel like going to our Qigong or Tai Chi or exercise class, so we may feel some “good stress” as our desire for self-improvement pushes against our crusty apathetic comfort  zone.
The difference between “good  stress” and “bad stress” can be measured by the result.
The result of good stress leaves us feeling empowered. We might be exhausted, but we feel fulfilled. Bad stress leaves us tense, frazzled, uneasy, or maybe even anxious. The effects of “bad stress” are destructive on our physical and mental health.  Bad stress leaves us requiring more healing. Good stress can be balanced with simple rest.
You need to get enough rest to proportionately replenish yourself from the effects of stress, whether it’s good or bad.  If not, even good stress will leave you depleted after a while and it will inevitably become “bad stress”.

Habit #6: Laugh out loud and visit with friends often.

 

“True friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils.
Strive to have friends, for life without friends is like life on a desert island…
to find one real friend in a lifetime is good fortune; to keep him is a blessing.” – Author unknown
Our need for social connection and belonging is one of the most crucial needs we have. Researchers have concluded that those who maintain active social lives live longer, get sick less and are generally happier. Even the recovery from illness and surgery has proven to be faster when someone is actively socially engaged. Laughter truly is the best medicine. Do not suppress or hold back your laughter. As I always say, the angels dance whenever sincere laugher choruses in the air.

Habit #7:  Cleanse your body and sweat frequently.

 

Our bodies are constantly consuming molecules, elements and nutrients that keep us alive. Through the process of consumption and energy expenditure, metabolic waste is created. This needs to be cleansed from our bodies. Just like the oil needs to be changed in your car at regular intervals, so should you cleanse your own body regularly too.
We naturally cleanse through going to the bathroom, sweating, crying and sometimes even allergic reactions, skin outbreaks and symptoms of the cold and flu are part of the cleansing process. Make it habit to do an intestinal cleanse at least once a year – give your digestive system a rest from the stress (see rule #5). Sweating is a great way to release toxic build-up and stress hormones.  Do some exercise, have a sauna or take a steaming hot bath until your pores open and your flush your lymphatic system through a good sweat.

Habit #8: Every tear heals, don’t hold them back.

 

I know this rule seems odd because our society has taught us since our childhood that crying is a sign of weakness or “big boys (or girls) don’t cry”. Unfortunately, this social conditioning has caused us to suppress one of our most natural self-healing mechanisms. There is a reason that babies cry. There is a reason that children cry when they are hurt (physically or emotionally).
Crying is a way for us to heal from hurts – both physical and emotional. Studies have been done on the chemical make-up of human emotional tears and traces of stress hormones have been found in them. In this study, when they measured human tears caused by chopping onions, the stress hormones were not present. Combine this with your own experience of how good and clear minded you feel after having a good cry tells us that crying heals us. It is a way that our body can release toxic build-up. That’s why often snot and mucus can accompany tears during a good cry.  So don’t hold them back. Even if you are male and you were told that men don’t cry… go ahead and let them out if you feel your eyes brimming. You will feel much better afterwards.

Habit #9:  Exercise, move your body and breathe deeply.

 

It doesn’t really matter what kind of exercise you do, as long as you move your body and breathe deeply. Cardiovascular exercise is proven to be good, but you don’t need to do it every day – as long as you do it sometimes. Find some form of activity that requires you to move around and do it a couple of times a week. Qigong, tai chi, yoga, cycling, walking, tennis, swimming, skating, skiing, team sports… there are so many options. Don’t choose something you “think you should do”, instead find something that you enjoy because then you will make more of an effort to do it.  If you want to learn authentic Qigong and Tai Chi, I teach two classes every week at www.AylmerQigong.com

Habit #10: Avoid processed foods and eat lots of fresh organics.

 

I receive so many questions about nutrition and healthy eating. Let’s face it, this subject can become more and more confusing and contradictory the more you google it.  To keep healthy eating simple and sustainable, I follow a simple formula: Eat as close to nature as possible, choose fresh organics, and avoid inflammatory foods. Inflammatory foods are things that are hard to digest or that are known to cause inflammation in people who are sensitive, such as anything that has been overly processed or that is high in sugar, chemicals, preservatives, food colorings, or additives. Take some time to learn about “ingredients”.
To make it easy, I tend to avoid the biggest, most marketing and cheapest brand names, because they usually can spend more on marketing and charge a lower price because they use the cheapest ingredients with the highest level of preservatives to extend the shelf-life.

Habit # 11: Follow a path with heart

 

Your path with heart is the one that keeps you smiling.  Above all, this is YOUR life. You get to decide your own destiny. What do you want your life to stand for? How happy and fulfilled to you want to be during the limited time that you are here on earth? Whatever makes you and those around you smile the most – that’s where your heart is. Follow your own unique path with heart. Don’t settle out of fear. Reach for your dreams if that’s what makes you smile.
Remember it’s not only about “what” you do, but also “how” you do it. Your life may be 90% aligned, but maybe your health is just what’s lagging? Maybe you need to step out of your comfort zone more. Maybe you need to stand up for yourself more? Maybe you need to stand down and let those around you stand up more? Connect with that sacred place in the center of your chest, allow it to bring peace and satisfaction to your soul, and live from there.

Habit #12: Breathe through sunny days and stormy ones too.

 

Life isn’t always a sunny day on the beach. It’s full of ups and downs. No one escapes life without experiencing sadness, loss and pain. That’s ok. It’s a part of the experience. It’s the stormy days that make us appreciate the sunny ones that much more. Just remember, keep breathing. Our first act in life is an inhale, and our last act before death will be an exhale. The mind is like a kite, the breath is the string that allows us to connect and control the kite.
So whether it’s stormy seas or a calm blue ocean, keep breathing. With each breath, appreciate the moment, because one day your last exhale will come. It’s death that gives life meaning. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the emotional energy associated with the Lungs is “acceptance”. Be like the supple tree that accepts the strong wind – bend and return without losing your roots.
If you struggle with the ups and downs of life, or if you have a hard time breathing deeply or steadily, get some acupuncture and learn qigong.

Habit #13: Connect with nature regularly.

 

Nature heals us. Time in nature will reset your mental, emotional and physical state. It recharges and grounds us. Go for a walk in the park. Contemplate a tree. Listen to the sound of water. Feel the ground. Breathe in the smells of nature. A great thing to do is to find your own personal nature sacred spot. Somewhere that you can go frequently to just unwind and clear your mind. Ideally find a spot where you will be all alone without any interruptions. But if that’s not possible it can be in your local park. Make a point of connecting with nature regularly.

Habit #14:  Never stop growing and learning.

 

Growth happens outside your comfort zone. Growth is our nature. “If you’re not growing, you’re automatically dying” – Author unknown. Think about it, if a plant isn’t growing, it’s deteriorating and wilting. Humans are like plants, we need to keep growing. Our comfort zones are the edge of what we know. Explore the unknown a little. Stretch yourself past your limits. Cross something new off of your bucket list. Take a class, learn a new skill. Grow and thrive.