Paleo is more than simply a diet. Although making better choices by choosing Paleo foods is important for supporting overall health, diet is only one of the aspects supporting the numerous processes working in your body. Various lifestyle components play an important role in a Paleo lifestyle and contribute to optimizing your health, staving off disease, controlling hormone levels, stabilizing mood, regulating the immune system, and optimizing your microbiome and overall gut health.
Often though small lifestyle changes may seem inconsequential or too simplistic and it is easy to continually avoid or put them off without realizing how impactful they can be. If you have shifted your food choices but are feeling your success on your Paleo diet is limited or thwarted, chances are one of these areas requires some attention. Components of a Paleo lifestyle include components, sleep, stress management, exercise and movement, nature, and social connection,
Sleep and Recovery
Sleep is vital to good health and with society constantly on the move and technology always accessible, getting adequate sleep can pose a huge challenge. 7 hours a night is a bare minimum, 8-9 is ideal. You may think you can get away with less, but even short-term sleep deprivation carries some awful consequences for your health:
Simple Tips for a Good Night’s Rest:
- Reduce or eliminate your exposure to bright lights, such as fluorescent lights, for at least two hours before you go to bed. Avoid electronics at night. Electronics emit blue light that messes with the production of melatonin, a hormone that’s necessary for sleep.
- Make sure you have finished your last meal of the day at least three hours before you retire. A light supper will be easier to digest and keep you more comfortable as you prepare for sleep. Do your best to avoid products or drinks containing sugars (even those that are Paleo friendly), caffeine, or nicotine later in the day. This will allow your body sufficient time to eliminate most or all of these non-sleep friendly stimulants before you snooze.
- Get some exercise every day. However, try not to exercise too close to bedtime.
- Getting sunshine throughout the day will keep your circadian rhythm healthy.
- Make sure your room is as dark as possible during the night. Sleep in a fully dark, cool room. Blackout shades might be a good investment, depending on where you live.
- Try reading a book 30 to 45 minutes before bedtime.
- Following a regular, consistent sleep schedule will produce greater energy throughout each day and fewer sleepless or restless nights.
Being active and moving your body regularly are important components of a Paleo lifestyle and maintaining your health, wellness and strength. Your body was designed to move regularly. Movement need not be confined to a gym or specific workout time and regular daily movement should incorporate:
- Low levels of activity such as walking, changing positions and favoring movement throughout the day. If you are accustomed to sitting at a desk for work, try standing. You could even throw in a deep squat, a long stretch, hang from anything that is safe and can support your weight. Greater movement variety will develop greater mobility in a greater amount of positions, making you healthier overall.
- Bouts of high intensity activity or training. This is what you might typically think of as fitness and includes strength training, sprinting, running, CrossFit, any type of structured fitness program falls here. Pay attention to your recovery make sure you are not exercising more than you can recover from. Understand where you are and what your body will allow and grow from, respect your level and do what you can manage.
- Play as little and make sure your movement is fun. The best exercise regimen or routine is the one you are most likely to stick to. Find something you enjoy, that you look forward to, and that you can do consistently. This is where you will discover your ideal fitness training.
Stress plays a major role the efficacy of your immune system and can impact your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, brain chemistry, blood sugar levels, and hormonal balance. Managing stress is possibly the biggest challenge of living a Paleo lifestyle and attaining and maintaining optimal health and vitality.
Addressing stress can begin simply and may include:
- Getting adequate rest, nature, clean water, movement and quality food – keeping the other aspects of your Paleo lifestyle in order
- Detoxifying your home. Ridding of plastics and toxic cleaning and beauty products.
- Practicing gratitude by simply shifting your focus from what is not okay or not enough, to what you’re grateful for or appreciative of. This can completely change your perspective – and relieve stress.
- Cultivating empathy, for yourself and others. Sharing openly and honestly. Not bottling up emotions inside and doing things you love.
- Managing your time will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed with commitments and stretched too thin Learning to say no and establishing boundaries will support you in remaining present and relaxed.
Connecting with your tribe, the earth and your inner self can often get overlooked or not prioritized. Living a Paleo lifestyle requires connection to bring balance and harmony.
Humans are social animals and being an active part of a tribe or community keeps the body and mind healthy.
- Take the time and make the effort to foster your close, personal relationships. These relationships have arguably suffered the most in the modern environment.
- Join a small gym or workout group that resonates with you. These places tend to breed community through a shared desire for self-improvement.
- Connect with a Paleo meetup group, or start your own where you can discuss food, fitness, health, and longevity with like-minded individuals.
Getting outdoors, connecting with and being a part of nature and the earth will help prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder, Vitamin D deficiency and Circadian Rhythm disruption
- Getting 30-60 minutes outdoors time – fresh air - per day.
- Turning off screens at night time and eliminating artificial light exposure as much as possible.
- Eating seasonally and supporting sustainability and permaculture farming
- Take breaks from your computer, desk and to-dos to pause, look up and take a deep breath (of fresh air) in.
Living a Paleo lifestyle includes a sustained practice of mindfulness, spirituality, meditation, giving, gratitude, and connecting with nature. This encourages mental health and well-being, and inspires a more positive outlook on life. Living a happy, fulfilled and healthy life is ultimately what being Paleo is all about!
Life gets challenging, and healthy lifestyle choices are sometimes inconvenient. The secret to successfully living Paleo is to make better choices, slowly and surely, today and every day. Today’s choices matter, and are under your control, every day.