I don’t know about you all, but a lot has transpired for me in 2021… and I was happy to leave it behind! Along with many of the changes and stresses of the last year, came a renewed commitment to take better care of myself.
It’s true, much of my life revolves around health and wellness. And many people will scoff at the idea of focusing on that even more. But the reality is: I struggle with an invisible disease, just like the rest of you with autoimmune illness. My healing has not been linear, and I recently experienced a flare, likely brought on by trying to do too much without refilling my cup.
Truth be told, as a mother of 3, wife, and doctor I spend a whole lot of care time taking care of other people. And to be honest I love my work, and sometimes I would rather do that than take care of myself. Perhaps you can relate? But, I know healing is a journey and have thus recommitted to putting my own health first, and I’m feeling and performing much better for it.
If this resonates with you, I’d invite you to join me in taking advantage of the New Year to re-up your commitment to health, emotional well-being, managing stress, and deeper self-care.
This will look different for everyone based on your goals, lifestyle, state of health, season of life, and a million other factors. But, I wanted to share some key practices and products I’m using to help establish new health habits for 2022 and beyond.
Here are 10 health habits (and products) I’m embracing and loving:
#1: Dialing in sleep
This is listed as #1 for several reasons. First off, far too many of us are sleep deprived and suffering from sleep-related disorders…which can cause other disorders downstream.
Often, this is not your fault as sleep issues can be caused by other underlying conditions such as hormonal imbalances, autoimmunity, anxiety, neurotransmitter imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, blood sugar imbalances, thyroid dysfunction, and many other reasons.
However, it’s also true that many of us intentionally deprive ourselves of optimal sleep by burning the midnight oil. I’ve been guilty of this for sure! And the occasional late-nighter is sometimes unavoidable (especially for parents). But, we mustn’t let it become a habit. I’ve always prioritized sleep, but the stresses of last year did disrupt my sleep cycle…which is why I’m taking steps to get things back on track.
A few tools I find effective for combating these sleep issues are:
- My Oura Ring, which tracks and records my quantity and quality of sleep (think of it as a sleep lab wrapped around your finger)
- Quicksilver Liposomal Melatonin which helps me fall asleep faster and increases quality of sleep. Melatonin is also helpful to break the staying-up-to-get-one-more-thing-done habit, because once you take it you’ll want to be in bed within 15-20 minutes. And the liposomal delivery system ensures optimal transportation and absorption.
- Ashwaghanda acts as a calming adaptogen and has been shown to enhance quality of sleep.1
- My Higher Dose PEMF Mat (use the code, DRMAREN75 for discount), level 1 for delta brain wave sleep. This amazing little mat grounds you to the earth’s magnetic field (aka: “earthing” or “grounding”) while using infrared heat to enhance the relaxation experience. This helps me get back to sleep during those restless (or child-interrupted) nights.
I also recommend cutting out caffeine (coffee, tea, matcha, kombucha, etc.) after noon, sleeping in a cold and very dark room, and running an air purifier to prevent allergen-related symptoms from interrupting sleep.
#2: Exercise often and appropriately
Movement is key to healing from disease and maintaining your health. However, the right exercise for YOU is one that you enjoy, can easily access, and that replenishes you vs. burning you out.
For example, if you’re in the throes of a stressful experience, big life change, and/or chronic illness, your adrenals would benefit from restorative exercises a few times a week (like yoga, walking, Tai chi, etc.) vs. strenuous (HIIT, aerobics, CrossFit, etc.). But, if you’re feeling well, sleeping well, and energized then you can push yourself a lot more.
Nothing beats outdoor exercise for the fresh air and sunshine. However, at the moment Peloton bike rocks my world because I enjoy it immensely, it’s accessible, and leaves me feeling like I can take on anything. I also love their weight training classes (Adrian Williams is the best!), and for spin my faves are Emma, Alex, Tunde, and Robin. All that said, I am careful to balance things out with regular yoga and strength training classes. Variety is the spice of life so don’t be afraid to try something new to mix up your exercise routine this year. And remember, some movement is better than no movement at all. Even a walk around the block, some jump rope or joining your kiddos on the trampoline adds up.
#3: Drinking clean water, and lots of it
We health-conscious people often get so wrapped up in what we’re eating (and not eating) that we forget about the importance of drinking clean water.
Since bottled water is terrible for the environment and often contains a frightening amount of chemicals and microplastics, I recommend drinking filtered water from your tap. At our temporary home, we’re using a Berkey Water filtration system with an added fluoride filter (very important, especially for children and pregnant mamas!). The Berkey is great because it’s 100% stainless steel, portable, has easy to change filters, removes a variety of chemicals, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, etc. and comes in different sizes. You can also get a 100% stainless steel spigot, which I recommend. At our permanent home (which is currently being remediated for mold) we have an Aquasana Reverse Osmosis with remineralizer, plus a whole house filter which removes contaminants from drinking and bathing water. If you have limited counter space, an Aqusana is a great choice.
I am for 8-10 glasses per day depending on my workout schedule, coffee intake, etc. If you’re not a fan of plain water or have trouble drinking enough, try adding some lemon or lime juice to a mason jar full of water and drink until it’s gone.
#4: A bone broth a day
Bone broth is one of the simplest ways to nourish yourself while supporting gut health, skin health, and overall immunity. As much as I’d love to spend hours at home making my own slow-simmered broth…I just don’t have the time. Fortunately, the bone broths from Fond are as good (or better) than I could make myself. The ingredients are super clean (pasture-raised meats, organic veggies, etc.), they come in glass jars, and have lots of creative flavors. The spicy Nopal, Habanero, and Cilantro and Youth Tonic with shiitake, sage, and shallot are two of my faves, but truly they’re all delicious.
I like drinking mine in a mug as part of my afternoon snack (bone broths contain a good amount of protein and other nutrients), but you can also add them to soups, grains, sauces, etc. Aim for at least 1 cup a day for best results. Use the code: DRMAREN for 20% here.
#5: Drink more fresh vegetable juice
There are few things more healing and nutrient-dense than freshly made veggie juices. In fact, if you study any alternative cancer diets or preventative cancer diets, most of them include a heck of a lot of vegetable juice.
To make juicing more convenient I use an Omega Juicer at home. After researching all the brands, I settled on the Omega because it extracts the maximum amount of juice from the vegetable or fruit without heating up, which can destroy some nutrients. I remember the first time I used the Low Speed Horizontal I was surprised how dry the pulp was compared to other juicers I’d used in the past. Plus, the Horizontal models don’t contain any sharp parts, which makes them safer to use around my kiddos (who love to help!).
Some of my favorite veggies to juice include cucumbers, leafy greens, celery, lemons/limes, carrots, radishes, beets, and I’ll often include an apple or some pineapple for the kids or if I’m desiring a little extra sweet. Always opt for organic whenever you can, don’t add too much sugar via fruits, and consume your juice right away.
#6: Eat regular meals
Eating regular meals seems like a no brainer… but when you’re in my shoes it’s a thing. Mamas, you hear me?! Getting more calories has helped my workouts (duh) and also helps me sleep better. But ease is important, which is why I’ve had to call in some help.
For breakfasts I start most days with SmoothieBox (use code SAS10 to get $10 off plus free shipping on first order) and add Vital Proteins collagen peptides. The combination of vegetables, fruit, and clean protein satisfies while keeping my blood sugar stable throughout the morning. Plus, collagen is excellent for gut health, skin and hair, and overall healing.
For lunch, I do YaYe Organics Meal Delivery (in Detroit we have URTH). Their food is awesome, there’s endless variety, and the convenience-factor can’t be beat. These types of organic/healthy meal delivery services are popping up everywhere, so be sure to check out what’s available near you. Other healthy/quick options include Paleo On The Go (use code: MAREN for $15.00 off) and Daily Harvest.
A couple smoothie tips: whether you order from a smoothie service or make your own, be sure to use a higher volume of vegetables (greens, cauliflower, and cabbage all work well) to fruit and consider adding in some green bananas for extra prebiotic power. For liquid, an unsweetened non-dairy milk (like coconut, almond, or oat), coconut water, or plain water with ice.
#7: Matcha tea ritual for a mid-morning pick-me-up
I don’t know about you, but as a working parent when mid-morning rolls around I need a little pick-me-up. Instead of reaching for sweets or more coffee, I’ve started a Matcha tea ritual. Matcha, for those who don’t know, is Japanese-style green tea that comes in a powder and is super-high in antioxidants, calming l-theanine (which means no crashes later) and nutrient-dense chlorophyll.2 It can also be made into lattes or enjoyed iced depending on your mood.
Pique is my tea company of choice because they test all their teas for common contaminants like heavy metals, pesticides, and molds—which are prevalent in most green and black teas, and grow/extract their plants to enhance nutritional benefits. If you’re a tea-lover, you’ve got to try them out!
#8: Make meditation a no-brainer
Meditation is one of those things we know is good for us, but it does take time, patience, and persistence to master. For me, the Muse Headband (15% off via this link) has been a God-send for getting into the groove with my meditation practice.
It’s an EEG device (much like we use in hospitals) that detects and senses your brain activity, heart rate, breath, and more to create a personalized mindful meditation experience. That health data is then transferred to your Smartphone so you can learn more about your brain, heart, breath, and body over time. And it automatically creates goals, challenges, and incentives to help keep you on track. It’s a lot like having a biofeedback device and master meditation coach by your side anytime you need them. Plus, it’s passive and does not use electrical stimulation so you can even use it to enhance your sleep or boost focus during the day.
I also have to give another shout-out to my Higher Dose PEMF Mat (use the code, DRMAREN75) which I use every day for yoga (setting 3), meditation (setting 2) and sleep (setting 1). For meditation, it helps me get into the thoughts-floating-by zone much easier and achieve a deep state of relaxation and peace.
I also find it helpful to focus on prioritizing mindfulness throughout the day. No, this isn’t always easy with kids and a dog! But by focusing on gratitude when doing basic things like folding laundry, doing the dishes, etc.; and being fully present when spending time with loved ones makes staying in the present moment much more natural.
#9: Sauna for detox and stress relief
There are few things more detoxifying, healing, and relaxing than taking regular saunas. However, if you don’t have a lot of space or a big budget, getting regular saunas in can be a challenge. That’s why I was so happy to find my Higher Dose Infrared Sauna Blanket. I can just climb in there after a long day and sweat like crazy, then fold the thing up and hit the shower.
I’m also a big fan of SaunaSpace portable saunas, because they take up less space and do not expose you to potentially harmful EMFs…which we’ll cover more in the next point.
#10: Practice safer tech
Since the advent of wireless technology and Smartphones, appliances, etc. EMFs (electromagnetic fields) have become a big part of our lives. However, a growing body of evidence shows that they can do harm (with certain forms of EMFs classified as possible carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer) if used in excess and can be especially bad for babies and children.3
However the reality is, most of us rely on at least some EMF-producing devices to run our businesses, homes, etc. Fortunately, there are some really helpful tools to help mitigate regular exposure.
Some of the ways I’m doing this for me and my family include:
- Putting our WiFi on a Christmas tree timer so it shuts itself off at night. You can even buy some hardwire kits to switch over from WiFi completely. I’m not quite to that point yet but thought I’d mention it for those who may be interested.
- Using DefenderShield products like the DefenderPad and Laptop case
- Using EMF-free headphones and Air Tubes
- Talking on speaker phone
- Keeping electronics out of the bedroom
- Disable Bluetooth when not using
- Limiting my children’s screen time
But EMFs aren’t the only type of “tech toxin” to avoid. Although most of us think nothing of it, research has found that blue-light-emitting devices such as screens and LED lights, can lead to age-related macular degeneration,4 retinal damage,5 and poorer quality sleep by suppressing melatonin production.6
To help cut down blue light exposure, I’ve started using my Blue Light Blockers from TrueDark religiously. They have a variety of styles for daytime and nighttime, adults and children, and I highly recommend them for everyone who spends more than an hour a day on a screen.
Like I tell my patients (and myself): it’s small changes in the right direction that add up over time to create the biggest results. I hope these 10 practices and tools will inspire you to start creating some new healthy habits for better self care in 2022.
To make this even easier, we’ve done our best to negotiate discounts for you with many of the companies listed above. To take advantage of those, be sure to click the links within this article or visit our Trusted Products page for direct access.
Happy New Year!!