Too little sleep can impact health and quality of life. This post talks about my journey with insomnia and anxiety and all natural sleep aids including meditation.
Alcohol is quite the controversial subject sometimes. We hate to admit that maybe it’s not good for us. Or that maybe it forms a crutch to relax or be social.
I know it was a crutch for me for the years of my late teens and early 20’s. I drank to excess, I drunk to be social, to feel accepted, to bond with friends, to have a good time. I definitely drunk to feel happy since my emotions could be a roller coaster, not realising that maybe it was negatively affecting my moods.
Alcohol is a depressant, after a big night the low’s hit hard. It was so ingrained in my life it became part of my identity. Working part-time in a nightclub enabled me to keep drinking to excess, even on nights I wanted to stay home. Things began to change when I started running to get fit. Obviously, my old pursuits didn’t gel with my new one. Training to run marathons was a big turning point. Not only was I too tired from doing a weekend long run to consider going out, I didn't want to feel like crap the day after drinking. Slowly my idea of a good time changed, I guess my tastes and hobbies matured with me and I no longer felt like I fit in out late at the bars.
Alcohol and me now
In the present, for me, discipline is choosing between what I want now and what I want most. I keep this in mind when faced with the option of having a drink. If what I want most is to be fit, healthy and I’m working towards a fitness goal, I prefer to say no. Or if I know I’ve indulged in other ways, lots of desserts and not enough vegetables, I know that having a beer isn't going to get me back on track. We’ve all heard that there are antioxidants in red wine, sure. But if we compare it to say, broccoli or blueberries it probably doesn't stack up too well.
Alcohol increases appetite
When we drink these empty calories not only are they devoid of any nutrition, it’s also too easy to overdo. Especially when you take into account the effect alcohol can have on our food choices. One or two glasses of wine deep, it’s not hard to convince me to get the fries and the pizza and the dessert. Then because your body is busy processing the alcohol out of our systems, which is it’s number one priority other bodily functions are put on the back burner. Research shows alcohol consumption can impair the metabolism of carbs, protein and fat. Our metabolism slows down, we stop burning fat and repairing muscle so that we won’t reap the rewards of that workout earlier in the day. It also puts normal detoxification processes that are going on in your body on the back burner. Then the next day the dehydration from drinking will impact our performance in the gym or on the hike or just in our regular day.
Alcohol reduces perfomance and recovery
Ok, I too have seen athletes or trainers posting pictures of them guzzling beer. Or that person we all know who can drink alcohol several times a week but still stay in great shape. Yes, life isn't fair. I have had to stop comparing myself and listen to my own body. I know that I don’t feel great the next day after having some drinks. My sleep is usually affected, it feels not as deep while my body is still trying to metabolize the alcohol. The next day I’m usually in a sluggish and lazy mood even if I didn’t drink enough to be truly hungover. One too many nights in a row and I start feeling soft around the middle. I don’t want to be sweating it out at the gym just to undo my hard work in a few drinks.
In the end, moderation is key for all things. If we truly want to indulge in a drink, do it in a deliberate way. Making the conscious decision that this is what you really want and then enjoy the experience and time to bond with friends or family. Make sure to eat something and drink water to counteract the effects of alcohol, have fun and then move on with your life.
Camping and health, until recently I never gave much thought to how the two could have anything to do with each other. I never camped as a child or growing up, and my first real camping experience was in my mid 20’s with my twin sister. By my late 20’s I was a turned into a camping pro by my love for rock climbing. I have camped at altitude, camped by myself on many occasions, camped in my car in rest areas and on the side of empty roads, camped on snow. But what does camping have to do with health? I started thinking more about what camping can add to my life and realised what a positive impact it can have on health.
When we spend day and night in natural light we are exposed completely to the light-dark cycle of the sun. I noticed I slept better and when the sun set’s you feel sleepy because I wasn't in an electrically lit up room. A study found just a few days of being exposed to the natural light and dark pattern of the sun re-set our circadian rhythm and resulted in an easier time falling and staying asleep afterwards back at home.
Cooking is more of a fun activity instead of a chore. We can all get involved in preparing the meal, cooking it and then eating it because it’s part of the adventure. We can invest the time into cooking a meal mindfully since we are not in a rush to check emails or watch Netflix. When car camping I always buy sturdy vegetables that last without refrigeration for days, no processed packaged convenience camp food here. Even when snow camping on Mt Baker where I had to carry in all of my food I made sure to sneak in some fresh items!
Back to our roots.
No electricity means fewer devices. When camping, by default I tend to unplug more from my phone and computer. Being in a beautiful place in nature is the best time to really be present. Take in your surroundings, spend quality time with your companions or make new friends around a shared campfire. We don’t need to see what’s happening on social media. When I’m camping it’s naturally the best time to take a technology detox. Take some photos sure, but then put the phone away.
None of these previous benefits take into account the powerful impact of being in nature. Getting away from urban life, stepping out of routine, being amongst the green of trees or desert plants or lakes, rivers, the ocean. I can observe for myself the impact these surrounds can have on reducing stress and improve mood. Research is now starting to show that not only does nature have a positive impact on our emotions but it can also help our physical well being by lowering the stress hormone cortisol and lowering blood pressure.
I didn't get into camping for the health benefits but it is interesting to see that there are explanations for the natural feeling of well being it brings. I’m sure there is plenty more research being done on explaining the positive effects of camping and nature but I don’t need to dig any deeper to know that the impact it has on me will have me coming back again and again.