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We're used to seeing hearts everywhere we look during the month of February. With Valentine's Day, this month has come to be known for love and caring. Whether you're handing out cards to your coworkers, or giving roses to that special someone, you're spreading kindness. Amidst all this, it's important that we not forget about... ourselves! You might think, "Does kindness to myself just mean I get to eat all the chocolate I want?" Well...not quite. Kindness to ourselves can be quickly divided into three areas that address our health: nutrition, sleep, and mindfulness.
Eating healthy can seem complicated, especially with so much misinformation and downright confusing diet trends out there. You could fill a whole book with nutritional guidelines, so we'll just focus on one thing that we can all do to improve our health. Eat. Less. Sugar. We've all heard it before, probably since we were children, but it isn't just about getting a tummy ache or putting on the pounds. Overconsumption of sugar puts a unique strain on our body.
Fructose (the part of sugar that actually tastes sweet and wonderful) isn't what we need for energy. That would be glucose, and you probably remember hearing about it in science class at some point. Fructose, however, can only be processed in your body by one organ: your liver. Your liver is really the MVP when it comes to letting you consume sugar. Unfortunately, your liver can get overworked. Imagine pulling an all-nighter to write an essay. At some point, you're going to make some spelling mistakes. These little mistakes happen with your liver, too. It sometimes results in the formation of bad cholesterol called "small, dense LDL," which increases the risk of heart disease. We can all agree -- that's not sweet.
Hittin' the hay has long been regarded as a key to better health and overall happiness. We feel better about most things after a good night's rest. Believe it or not, it's only recently that we've discovered one of the most incredible things that happens during our sleep. Our brain actually gets washed. Kind of like a shower, or a car wash, our brain gets cleansed with cerebrospinal fluid. According to Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, "It's almost like opening and closing a faucet. It's that dramatic." This cleaning flushes out waste proteins that can become toxic to our brains. Long story short: get some sleep!
The topic of mindfulness has been gaining traction in public discussion for a few years now. If you're still unsure what it means, it essentially means "awareness." Practicing mindfulness encourages taking time (even just 1 minute) to become aware of your thoughts, emotions, and surroundings. If you close your eyes and stand still for 1 minute, what do you hear? What can you feel? What can you smell? Learning to identify aspects of ourselves and our environment can help us be happier, and minimize stress. With that, we can keep not only a healthy body and brain, but also a healthy mind.
This month’s Random Act of Kindness challenge is: try 5 new vegetables. And remember, “kind is the new cool.”