Who is responsible for your health and well-being?  Are you taking that responsibility?  If you’ve been on an airplane any time recently, you’ve heard the spiel about the oxygen masks.  You know–Put your own mask on first before helping others.

This advice holds true in every area of our lives–you need to take care of yourself before you can give yourself fully to helping others.  Taking care of yourself begins and ends with caring for your physical body and your emotional well-being.  We don’t usually think much about the importance of our health until something happens to threaten it.  But why wait for a threat to rear up, when we have all the tools and knowledge we need to be proactive rather than reactive?

Here are some basic tips for living as healthy as possible:

1. Drink plenty of water.  Most experts recommend 8 cups of water per day.  The more accurate number I’ve heard is that you should aim for drinking in ounces half your body weight in pounds.  So, if you weigh 160 pounds, you would be aiming for 80 ounces of water per day, or 10 cups of water.  Our bodies are mostly made of water, and our brains need the water in our systems to properly transmit the electrical signals through our nervous system.

2. Move more.  Get in motion.  Whether you are a gym rat, prefer outdoor sports, or just like to dance in your living room like I do, spend some time each day in movement that gets your heart rate up.  Recommendations suggest a minimum target of walking at least 30 minutes three times a week as a starting point.  Take breaks during long periods of sitting to stretch, take a short walk or do some other form of physical activity.

3. Eat less.  The average western meal serves up 2-3 times the actual amount of food you need at one sitting, and a lot of it is processed and filled with salt, fat and/or sugar.  Choose foods in as close to their natural state as possible, fill at least half your plate at each meal with fruits and vegetables, and pay attention to your body’s signals when it tells you to stop eating.

4. Get some sleep.  Many of us go through our lives chronically sleep-deprived.  If you are not waking up naturally, feeling well rested, you are probably not getting enough sleep.  Aim for at least 7 hours of high-quality sleep each night.  Try darkening your room and removing electronics from the bedroom, avoiding screen time with TV and computers for an hour before bedtime, and dimming the lights in the evening so your body begins to produce sleep chemicals to aid you in getting your rest.

Taking care of yourself is not selfish–it is your responsibility.  Only when you are in top shape can you fully show up for others.

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