Start your new year by changing some old habits that don’t really contribute to your well-being. Here are some quick tips to make a few easy changes that can give you more energy, an overall better feeling, ease of motion and less muscle ache.
1. Drink more water, eat more protein
The latest health experts report that we should drink half our body weight in ounces of water a day as a minimum. A 150 lb person starts out with 75 oz of water and must adjust to accommodate physical activity and/or caffeine consumption. Since caffeine is a diuretic, coffee, coca cola, green or black tea all work to deplete our systems of water. We must replace that lost fluid with more water.
The same “half your body weight” applies to eating grams of protein. Your body’s connective or soft tissue is collagen based and uses protein to rebuild and strengthen tissue. Legumes and grains, poultry, nuts, fish, meat, plant protein and dairy; pick and choose what is right for you. Having some protein at each meal and snacking on nuts, a power bar or starting your day with a protein and fruit smoothie will all add up to a healthier you. Go for about 20-25 grams (5-8 ounces) at each meal to give you sustained levels of energy throughout the day.
People report feeling less muscle ache, more energy, faster recovery from work-outs, better digestion and less foggy brain when they are well hydrated and eat enough protein.
2. Develop a balanced sleeping position
Sleeping on your back, side, belly? Pillow, no pillow? The best position for sleeping is on your side with a good, thick pillow that supports your head and neck. This keeps your neck and head in line with your spine. If your pillow is too flat, your head drops and puts strain in your neck. If your pillow is too high or you use two pillows, again, that puts strain into your neck. Your leg closest to the bed should be bent to avoid falling forward. Your top leg could be on top of that bottom leg or slightly bent with your calf resting on the bottom leg ankle. This keeps your hips “square” and keeps you from rolling on your stomach which is the worst position and should definitely be avoided. Many stomach sleepers have chronic neck pain, unstable hips and/or lower back issues.
If you prefer sleeping on your back, try a rolled-up hand towel placed at the base of your neck. This provides neck support without lifting your head. A pillow behind your head lifts your head up and tucks your chin into your chest which is not good for your breathing or your neck.
Try this test. Lie flat with your normal head position. Take a deep breath. See how far up into your chest your breath goes. Place a rolled hand towel under your neck which lifts your chin up and take the breathing test again. More air flows into your chest and neck. Lastly, it’s best to have a couple of pillows under your knees to soften your lower back and flatten that lower back arch. That arch increases when your legs are flat, putting a lot of strain in your low back.
3. Sitting well
Check Natural Nutmeg’s November 2019 for my in-depth article about sitting, but I’ve included the highlights here. Stick your butt out when you sit, reaching your sit-bones to the back of the chair seat. This assures the correct pelvic position. Bring your feet out in front of you, slightly more than a right angle from your knees. Shift your weight slightly forward of your sit-bones which has you rest on the fleshy part of your pelvic floor muscles instead of feeling the weight in your lower back. This slightly forward position shifts your weight into your feet. Notice how much lighter your lower back feels!
Stack your head and neck on top of the rest of your spine, not hanging forward. The natural curve of your lower back gives your chest lift which then allows your head to maintain the correct support. Your shoulders will be relaxed when your eyes are balanced at the horizon line. Lastly, by placing your hands palms up on your lap, you avoid the trap of supporting yourself with your arms which pushes your shoulders upward creating more tension.
Try these few suggestions for a happier, healthier you. Your body will thank you.
Sharon Sklar is in her 39th year of private practice as a Certified Advanced Rolfer. State licensed and the only Rolfer in Central CT, Sharon works with direct manipulation of the soft tissue of the body and movement re-education over a ten-session series to help her clients feel freer, get more balanced and reduce chronic pain. Call 860.561.4337 for more info or to schedule a consultation. www.SharonSklarRolfing.com.