A 5% Investment in Self-Care Gives Big Health Payoffs

Many people think “getting healthy” requires a total lifestyle overhaul, a major investment of time and money, and a lot of work.  Too often, those expectations solidify into an insurmountable obstacle, people feel intimidated, and consequently they never set out on the journey to better health.

The truth is, devoting just 5% of the day towards acts of healthy living can lead to major improvements in whole body health.

It need not be dramatic. For example, starting the day with stretching in bed, followed by a little bit of yoga or a movement technique like Feldenkrais can really make a difference.

Walk, hydrate, and eat alkaline foods. Don’t forget to stop periodically during the day and practice gratitude for life. And end the day with a relaxing transition to restorative sleep with an Epsom salt and soda bath. These simple things are highly beneficial, they don’t cost much, and they can be deeply enjoyable.

Committing just 5% of each day—that’s roughly 72 minutes—to key acts of self-care can keep stress in check, maintain healthy blood pressure and weight, and improve sleep, all of which nurture the heart while also restoring and rejuvenating the entire body.That 5% investment can pay out a lifetime of functional benefits.

Here are a few easy self-care practices that your patients can embrace to improve well-being and reduce disease risk. And if you’re not already giving yourself the care you need, now’s a good time to start! After all, “doctor” does mean “teacher” and we need to be good role models.

Stretching in Bed: Just 5 minutes of stretching in bed, on arising, loosens up muscles and stimulates circulation. Plus, it feels really good.

Dream Journaling: Take a few moments just after arising to jot down some quick notes about the prior night’s dreams. There is wisdom in that famous teaching attributed to the 4th century Talmudic sage, Rav Chisda: “A dream which is not interpreted is like a letter which is not read.”  

Eat, Drink (water), and Be Merry: Many people are healthier when they limit food intake to six hours a day, but stay well hydrated and active for the rest of their waking hours. I recommend consuming more than four liters (or four quarts) of water, teas, or (unsweetened) herbal beverages daily.

Begin Meals with Something Warm & Wet: Warm water with fresh lime juice is a good option, as is vegetable, fish, or meat broth (but never bone broth), or fresh vegetable juice.

Eat Foods You Can Easily Digest: Ideally, your diet should consist of foods you can digest, assimilate, and eliminate without putting major burdens on the immune system. This, of course is highly individualized: a food that is easy for one person may be problematic for another. Lab testing—especially Lymphocyte Response Assays aimed at detecting delayed hypersensitivities—is helpful in helping people figure out which foods to include and which to avoid.

10 Minutes in Movement: Give 10 minutes of each day to activities like Hatha Prana Yoga, Tai Chi Chuan, Aikido, Pilates, Trager Mentastics, Feldenkrais / Anat Baniel techniques. Again, the choice is individualized—people should use whichever practices most appeal to them.

Ambling in nature and forest bathing are also greatly restorative. So are walking, gardening, or dancing. Keep a notebook, or video/audio recording device handy for capturing the creative free associations that often arise when walking, dancing, or practicing.

7 Minutes for Gratitude: Take a little bit of time every day to remember what you are grateful for, and send goodwill and good wishes to those about whom you care. This is a valuable practice. Learned optimism is a choice. I find that for myself, this works best in the early morning time. Others may find that mid-day or evening is better.

End the Day with a Personal Restorative Sleep Ritual: Dedicate 30 minutes to making the transition from ordinary waking consciousness to restorative sleep. This process can include:  

  • Epsom Salt & Baking Soda soak, coupled with use of aromatic oils (use clean, high-quality naturally derived essential oils)
  • Dry skin brushing with an absorbent towel.
  • 5 minutes of abdominal deep breathing
  • 15 minutes of active mindfulness meditation practice or listening to contemplative, uplifting, harmonious music
  • Stretching in bed for 5 minutes before going off to sleep
  • Keep the bedroom cool, dark, and WiFi-free.

Dichro Green Light (PAR 38 150 watt dichro): Use of a green light source timed for at least 20 minutes prior to falling asleep and also when awakening helps reset and rebalance the pineal control center.

There are many other small but impactful things that people can do to cultivate health and well-being. 

For those who work outside their homes, I recommend leaving shoes and exterior clothes at the door and changing into comfortable “home” clothes shortly after arriving home.

For people living in urban environments, an ULPA (ultra-low particulate) or HEPA (high-efficiency particulate) air cleaner is usually necessary to ensure optimum air quality. Indoor plants can also help clean the air.

I recommend using a tooth powder rather than toothpaste for gum and tooth health, as well as buffered l-ascorbate as mouthwash to promote healthier oral microbiome. Goat’s milk soap or castile soap are the best choices for body and hair.

There are also a few simple self-assessments that can be very helpful in ongoing self-care. These include:

In the clinical context, there are eight key predictive biomarkers that we can measure to give our patients a wealth of vital information about their individual epigenetics, health risks, and lifestyle choices. Remember that only about 8% of total disease risk is genetically ‘hard-wired’ by transgenerational inheritance, while 92% of all risk is the result of epigenetic variables, which basically means diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors.

The eight key biomarkers are:

  • Hemoglobin A1c (HgbA1c): Ideally A1c should be down under 7%
  • High-Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (HS-CRP): should be at 1.0 mg/L or less
  • Homocysteine: Levels over 50 mmol/L signal significant cardiovascular risk. Normally, homocysteine is in the range of 5-15 mmol/L
  • pH Level: A healthy pH is on the alkaline side, between 6/5 amd 7.5.
  • Vitamin D: The optimal range is 50-80 ng/ml
  • Omega-3 Index: We want to see 8% or greater
  • 8-Hydroxy-2-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG): When elevated over 25 ng/mg, this marker of DNA oxidative stress is associated with high risk of autoimmune diseases, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and certain cancers. The ideal level is under 5 ng/mg.
  • High-Sensitivity Lymphocyte Response Assays (hs-LRA): this array of ELISA-based tests detects all major subtypes of food and chemical hypersensitivities, including acute IgE, T-cell mediated, and immune complex mediated forms.

Functional tests, properly interpreted, can be strong patient motivators. They can also provide encouragement and reinforcement, as patients see quantitative changes in their lab values that correlate with their subjective experiences of better health.

Just 72 minutes of daily self-care is sufficientto renew, restore, rehabilitate, recreate, and regenerate. As we individually practice healthier habits of daily living, we inspire those around us to become healthier. Our daily choices and habits really do make a difference.


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