Making New Year’s resolutions is a great way to plan for success in the new year. Some people may decide to travel to at least 3 countries or pick up gardening as a hobby ;-), while others will wish to play an instrument or try wind surfing. These are fantastic ideas, but my question is this: if you don’t have the energy and motivation to do any of them, what is the point? This is why I am writing these New Year’s resolutions with strength and radian health in mind. It’s actually really simple to have healthy body and clear mind, but it might require changing a few rusty habits.
In fact, healthy people and healthy Earth are not separate, they are part of the same goal. One cannot exist without the other. With Permaculture we strive to create systems that are efficient, sustainable and beneficial to humans, while nurturing the landscapes. I would extend this definition to aiming to create the healthiest and most lucid people on Earth. When we focus our minds on treating ourselves with love and care, it is inevitable that we will want to be surrounded by an environment of health and balance. The opposite is also true. It’s hard to feel low in a vibrant garden of beauty and absolute abundance.
In 2011, I am going to extend the topics covered on this blog to include human health and nutrition. Permaculture is a natural way to create food, and it is also important to know how to best use this food, so we may live a long life with grace and energy to do the things we love.
1. Eat well
According to latest research, the healthiest way to eat for human is a diet of whole plant-based foods. What does it mean? Eating fresh fruits and raw/steamed vegetables (especially leafy greens), whole grains (oats, brown rice, quinoa, millet, lentils, barley), raw nuts & seeds, roots (potatoes, carrots, parsnips, radishes). You get the idea. To put it very simply, eating things the way they are found in nature, the way they grow in your garden. Anything canned, wrapped, packaged will most likely have been processed and lost its nutrients on the way.
Dr. Colin Campbell, PhD, conducted the largest nutritional study to date by analysing dietary and disease patterns in rural China, which he summarised in his book “The China Study.” Through experimental research, he has established direct links between animal protein consumption and major Western diseases, including various cancers, heart diseases and diabetes. It’s not just animal protein, but also animal fat and dietary cholesterol that are major influencers. In other words, excluding any kind of animal products from your diet is the smart thing to do for longevity and vitality.
Many of my Permaculture colleagues will not agree with this idea. Domesticated animals are definitely an essential part of a balanced eco system, but I would argue that eating your 4-legged, winged or finned workers is not a requirement.
I’ve been eating a whole plant-based diet for about 6 months now, and I am literally feeling better than ever! This year has been full on, with many changes in both personal and professional life. Having a clear head, strong energy and comfort in my body allows me to navigate the paths of life with grace and fluidity. I also maintain an intensive daily exercise routine of jump training, weights and yoga. I burn LOTS of calories, and yet I feel perfectly energised, nourished and satisfied from the whole plant-based foods.
This is a video from Chef Rod Rotondi to get you started. Delicious!
2. Shop at farmer’s markets
Going to farmer’s markets is the easiest and cheapest way to purchase whole (often organic) plant-based foods described above. Observe the stalls. Almost nothing is individually packaged or wrapped. All you can purchase is the goodness of nature herself. Rows of potatoes, carrots, leafy greens, apples, capsicums…it’s a beautiful work of art that will nourish you and your family. Of course, you could decide to just shop at a local organic food shop, but prepare to shell out a fortune for these “specialised” goods. It’s a strange idea that good old natural (organic) vegetables are now considered specialised.
If that wasn’t enough, there are other major benefits to shopping at farmer’s markets. You are buying the freshest foods that are in season now. Your produce did not spend a week rattling inside a shipping crate. It did not need to be chemically treated for long shelf life. All it did was have a nice life on a farm and come directly to the stalls. Farmer’s markets are a way for local producers to make a living, and by supporting them you are supporting your immediate food security. Most of all, it’s fun! Farmer’s markets are festive and friendly, a perfect way to begin your weekend.
3. Do regular exercise
Resolve to include at least a 30-45 minute aerobic work out each day. Ok, maybe 3 times a week is all that is possible right now, but do it! Aerobic exercises are ones that make you sweat. Consider adding a refreshing jog to your morning routine, and get off the train a few stops early for a brisk walk. Other fun ways to add aerobics into your life may be taking dance lessons, playing Frisbee, or “shooting some hoops.” Just get out there and get moving. Even games like “Dance Dance Revolution” and some Wii games will make you break a sweat.
Why aerobic exercise is so important? It causes the blood in the body to flow vigorously, thus shuttling oxygen to the vital organs and exercising the veins. This strengthens the immune system, and gives cancer sells no chance to multiply! For more information, refer to Mark Anderson’s book “The RAVE Diet & Lifestyle.”
4. Spend time in nature
When we live in cities, we are very removed from nature, clean air, invigorating green and life energy. Many people have reported that when they touch the soil, they feel a charge going through their bodies. It’s very therapeutic. So my recommendation is to take weekly (or monthly, whatever works) walks in nature, or even spend a few nights under the stars in a tent. If hiking is not your thing, spend more time in the garden! This can be your backyard, or if you don’t have one, join a community garden near you. We have over 15 in Sydney, and most other cities have them as well.
When we are in a natural environment, we are detoxing ourselves from the bombardment of flashy colours, advertisements and man-made structures that surround us in an urban environment. This is chance for the mind to relax. You may experience spontaneous spurs of inspiration and creativity. This is the time to listen to the surroundings, and to give thanks for our beautiful land.
Trust me, it works. Walking in nature allows us to re-connect to the place we came from, it lifts the mind and spirit, and it’s an integral part of a healthy lifestyle.
5. Rise early
Ok, I know this is not for everyone. It wasn’t for me for the longest time. I used to think that I was a “night person” and that my most productive hours were after dinner. Now I am a firm believer that this is just a habit. Try rising early for a month, and your body will completely settle into the new rhythm. In fact, human bodies are tuned to the light cycles of the sun. According to research reported in Scientific American, we are genetically “programmed” to be active during hours of light, and to sleep during hours of dark. It’s called circadian rhythm. That’s how it used to be in the old days before electricity was discovered. This is how we evolved. Western societies do not adjust seasonal working hours in accordance with light cycles. As a result, during winter months people in many countries have to rise before the sun to go to work, only to leave the office after the sunset. This is a major reason why people experience depression in the “bleak” winter months. Christie Nicholson of Scientific American says, “Waking with light is the best remedy for the winter doldrums.”
However, many of us like to shut the curtains and sleep into the late hours of the morning. Not wise. A much better plan is to go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier with the sun. This is the most creative time of the day, when the mind is refreshed after sleep, especially if you start your day with aerobic exercise and a nourishing breakfast of fruits and whole grain cereals.
Don’t take my word, try these for yourself!