Health and wellness through my lens

If you know me, you probably know that I consider health and wellness as a top priority. I am writing here to share my approach to health and wellness and the facets I consider important. Over the past 4–5 years I have been experimenting and instilling habits in my life that positively contribute towards my health and wellness.

“Your life only gets better when you do.”

Before anything, let me ask you to identify what is important to your survival. My list looks something like this:

  • Air
  • Water
  • Sleep
  • Food
  • Movement
  • Mental Sanity

Imagine for a second not having one of the above in your life. When you do, you will realize how important of a role it plays in your survival. This is the same way (well somewhat) I visualize and focus on my health and wellness. This includes 6 main facets:

  • Breathing
  • Hydration
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise and mobility
  • Mental health

Breathing

Breathing is probably the most understated aspect which I never thought was as important until I read the Oxygen Advantage and started doing more research. Ask yourself:

We pay very little attention to how we breathe and most of the time we are not breathing correctly. A common problem is mouth breathing and over breathing. For example: how many of us have our mouths open when we are sleeping? we may not realize it but we are probably breathing from our mouth rather than our nose and probably snoring as a result too. Breathing right has shown to significantly improve our health. For example; one of the things I’ve tried doing is focus on nasal breathing. One of the ways in which you can train yourself to use your nose (which might feel clogged because it’s underused) is taping your mouth when you sleep at night. This automatically trains your nose to function for what it was built. I’ve also incorporated nasal breathing during light runs and I’ve seen a significant improvement in my performance.

If you are working near a construction site or a factory or if your neighbor is burning trash, you may be inhaling particles that are extremely damaging to your health. There is not many solutions I can provide for this but it is something you should keep in mind and be conscious of.

Hydration

Drink enough water ! Up to 60% of our bodies are made up of water and water is essential to regulate body temperature, deliver nutrients, help organs function, better skin and so much more. The general minimum target is 2 Ltrs but it really depends on your day to day activities and how much you sweat.

I usually carry a water-bottle with me everywhere I go. I like to sip my water rather than gulp it down, so I have a sippy water bottle. Carrying a water bottle with you or having a jug or bottle of water on your desk, office and vehicle will help remind you to hydrate. It also helps you measure how much water you drink (or at least give you a rough indication).

Sleep

Sleep is a super power! Around 7 years ago, I was an insomniac and had a very bad sleep routine. Exercise immensely helped reverse that and since then, I've always prioritized my sleep and its made a huge difference to my health. Which one of the below statements do you relate to?

The second statement is what I believe in. More sleep helps me in being more productive in everything I do when I’m awake. It helps me in being more alert, more creative, retain information and boosts my physically recovery.

In the last year, I’ve been monitoring my sleep data and in particular my sleep quality and sleep efficiency. I’ve come to realize that quality is more important than quantity. I track the different stages of my sleep using my fitness tracker each night to determine the quality of my sleep. Your sleep quality can be dependent on several factors including; your sleep routine, disturbances, nutrition, caffeine, alcohol and other habits. For me, the consistency of my sleep timings have the biggest impact on my sleep quality.

I think sleep efficiency is also an important aspect (the difference between the time you spend in bed and the time you spend actually sleeping). I have a sleep efficiency of 80–85% and usually spend approximately an hour awake in bed.

Sleep Data (Whoop)

I would highly recommend watching this TED talk by sleep scientist Mathew Walker. If you want to dig deeper, his book; “Why we sleep” is an amazing read.

Nutrition

Firstly, I must say that the quality of food in general has deteriorated over time. Most foods we consume contain chemicals intended to produce bigger/larger quantities or help preserve shelf life. There are many hyped diets out there, but it is important to ensure that whatever you choose is something sustainable and works for you. I have a simple approach which I try to follow:

  • Eat more protein (I love eggs)
  • Eat more plants and not what is made in plants (processed/packeted)
  • Try to avoid sugar (I try to only consume sugar around my workouts or if it’s something worth it)
  • Don’t over eat (overconsumption of anything is not good)
  • Eat more home food (you just have more control and know what you are eating)

If you want to learn more, my friend/coach Andy has a wonderful article on it which I’m linking here.

Exercise and Mobility

Exercise can not just help burn fat and build muscle but also leaves you feeling amazing because of the endorphins that it releases. I found CrossFit in 2016 which completely changed my life. That's not an exaggeration! Back in 2016, I was overweight, lethargic and diagnosed with hypertension. Since getting hooked, I've lost 16 kg and reversed my health condition. Exercise/Gym has always been the time where I can zone out and release the stress I am carrying.

I try to keep my self physically active most of the time with the things I love. Some of these include; CrossFit, running, swimming, hiking and beach walks. Pick something you enjoy! It’s important for us to keep moving, because that’s what we as humans are built for. I also try to incorporate stretching sessions whenever possible to increase my flexibility, reduce stiffness and prevent injury. I would suggest: try stretching first thing in the morning. You will realize how amazing that can make you feel.

Participating in the CrossFit Open 2020

Mental Health

I must admit that over the years, I’ve given this facet very little attention. Its only in the last 4 years that I properly started understanding the importance of mental health including my own mental health. In the past, I’ve always subconsciously tried to avoid negativity without trying to understand my thoughts and feelings.

Now, I make more of a conscious effort to check in on how I’m feeling, understand insecurities and cope with them in the best possible way. A practice of mindfulness and gratitude can help you focus on the present. Journaling and meditation are two practices that can help. Placing my trust in a higher power helps me let go of things I cannot control. I have also realized that the way in which we communicate with ourselves and with others in life can have a huge impact on mental health. Take a moment to be kind to yourself and give yourself some love. You deserve it!

Finally, I want you to know the below:

  • All these five elements that I spoke of are interconnected. For example; when you have good sleep, it positively impacts your mental health. Similarly; hydration, exercise and nutrition will lead to better sleep. Don’t try to fix everything at once. Reflect, pick one aspect you want to change and inculcate that.
  • I’ve come to realize that there are best practices, trending diets, new discoveries out there in the space of health and fitness but it’s important to know that what works for others may not work for you and vice versa.
  • There are so many other aspects that affect all these elements and how you approach them including; your bloodwork, genetics, injuries, environment and so much more.
  • This is simply me sharing my experience and useful resources which could help you dig in deeper and experiment on what works for you.
  • Remember to be consistent. Leaving you with a quote from the book Atomic Habits here — “Changes that seem small and unimportant at first, will compound into remarkable results if you stick with them for years.”

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

I am going to be committing myself to a series of 30 day challenges to experience best practices to help me improve in these facets. Some of them include; 30 days of Journaling, 30 days of meditating, 30 days of yoga etc. The idea is to experience and learn through each of these challenges and then look at if and how to incorporate them into my life. I will be sharing them on my instagram (https://www.instagram.com/hamzels/), so feel free to join.

Corporate Animal by day, Crossfiter by evening and Adventure junkie by Weekend. TEDx’er, Teacher, Photographer and serial socializer at other times.