Most of us navigate life like robots, going through the same motions we have for years, if not decades. Very few of us think about why we actually do what we do — it’s just routine, it just happens.
But in reality, every little seemingly unimportant or benign decision we make (or don’t make) has a huge impact on our health. Why? Because in developed countries, our biggest threats have become chronic diseases, like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
These conditions are largely related to our environment, lifestyles, and diets. And while there is a genetic component, researchers are now saying that bad genes only play a role in about 5-10% of all cancers.
So the bad news is that your chances of being diagnosed with these increasingly common illnesses are largely determined by your actions every day. And the good news? Your chances of being diagnosed with these increasingly common illnesses are largely determined by your actions every day!
There is so much you can do to reduce your toxic burden and make choices that encourage health.
Consider this scenario:
You wake up to the alarm clock on your phone which is sitting on the nightstand next to your head. The phone has been emitting radiation all night just inches from your brain, vibrating with notifications. Only one or two of them woke you up, but your sleep was still interrupted one or two times, unnecessarily. The second time you finally turn on the ‘do not disturb’ mode on your phone, but it still takes you a while to get back to sleep.
You wake up groggy and don’t want to get out of bed. You snooze a few times and finally grab your phone. You check your email and realize your boss wrote you a bunch of emails late last night. Your heart rate rises. I’ll just deal with her on my commute, you think. So you scroll through Instagram. Your post yesterday got hardly any likes. People are so mean! You see that a few friends from high school went away on a trip together this past weekend. You should have been invited to that. You feel slighted and hurt.
Suddenly you realize you need to leave the house in 30 minutes or you’ll be late for work. Ugh! You wobble into the bathroom to brush your teeth with a blue colored toothpaste made by a big name brand, because isn’t all toothpaste the same? You get in the shower and use more big name brand body and hair products. These are huge companies so this stuff must be safe. Soap is just soap, right?
You towel off with cheap towels you bought in college and can smell the scent of your generic detergent as you dry your whole body. You slather on an aluminum-based antiperspirant because sweating is gross, and rub the latest drug store cream that promises to reverse aging all over your face. The ingredients list is long and complicated and you’ve never even bothered to look at it. You get dressed and hurry into the kitchen.
You chug a glass of cold water from the tap (filtering is for drama queens) to wash away the strong minty flavor in your mouth. Your organs shudder as the chill drains through them. You open the fridge only to see that it doesn’t have much in it, but you don’t have time to make breakfast anyway. You decide to grab a coffee on the way to work, along with a pastry or breakfast sandwich.
You’ll have no idea where the breakfast you buy comes from, and since the nearest coffee shop isn’t organic, you’ll end up eating dirty meat, dairy, refined carbs, and drinking glyphosate-covered coffee. Maybe you’ll even pour in a fake zero calorie sweetener packet, which will spike your blood sugar, but then leave you exhausted and hungry in a few hours when the refined carbs and fake sugar wear off. You’ll worry about lunch then, and if you need a snack, there’s a candy bowl in the office kitchen, or maybe you’ll just have a second coffee in the afternoon.
Now, let’s imagine another scenario, a scenario where your mind and body are working together to make more health conscious decisions that will change the entire course of your day:
You wake up to an alarm clock because your phone is not in your bedroom. You need to leave the house at 8:15am and your alarm goes off at 7am. Because your phone is not in your room, you take a few undistracted minutes to breathe deeply, smile, think of three things you are grateful for about the previous day, and a few things you’re looking forward to about this new one. You set an intention for the day (or a prayer) and you’re off. You open the curtains to let in natural light and do a few brief yoga poses or stretching exercises to open up your body and get rid of the stiffness from sleeping.
You brush your teeth with non-toxic toothpaste, use all organic and non-toxic soap, shampoo and face wash in the shower, use an organic cotton towel to dry off, and then apply body lotions or oils that have only a few ingredients that exist in nature and that you can actually pronounce.
You get dressed and head to the kitchen to have a room temperature (or warm) glass of water with some fresh lemon juice to jump-start your digestive system and detox your organs, and take a probiotic to support your gut health. You make a pot of organic coffee or a cup of tea and a smoothie for breakfast with nutrient-dense organic fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and spices. You sip the warm beverage and the smoothie slowly, looking out the window (not on a device), and think about how delicious it is and what a nice day it’s going to be.
After you finish eating, you take the supplements you know you’re deficient in, like vitamin D, vitamin K2, and magnesium. You grab a few metal containers of food you prepped the night before for lunch and a late afternoon snack in case you get hungry. You throw some workout clothes in a bag for a Pilates class after work, and head out the door.
It has been one hour — and you have already made over 20 decisions that directly impact your health. It is these 20 decisions, done for months, years, or even decades that are truly your healthcare.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith is a board certified patient advocate (BCPA), speaker, and the founder of WellBe, a media company, educational program, and community dedicated to helping people implement wellness and navigate healthcare. She received her BA from Johns Hopkins University and her MBA from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University. She lives with her husband in New York City. WellBe is her greatest mission and her life’s work. Follow her for daily inspiration and information at @getwellbe.