Fatigue. Headaches. Poor concentration. Irritability. Low energy. Low sex drive.
Do you believe that any of these symptoms will help you live a vibrant, energetic, and purpose-driven life?
Probably not. I’m guessing you wouldn’t necessarily choose these if you were setting out to build a healthy and successful life. Yet so many of us guys (myself included) have accepted these detrimental manifestations as a normal part of our daily lives and forget that we have the choice to live another way. We get so used to running at less-than-full capacity that blah becomes normal.
As we continue to accept these daily neusances, eat a standard American diet, and neglect our bodies, we realize that we are missing out on something.
What we are missing out on is something I call vitality.
Vitality can be defined “exuberant physical strength and mental vigor; the capacity for survival and the continuation of a purposeful or meaningful existence.” I believe that most men in modern society have lost their vitality, which is a natural birthright. We find ourselves trapped in less than optimal lifestyles that promote consumption of processed junk food, overwork, under-sleep, and addiction to mindless, passive entertainment. How do we break this negative cycle and begin to bring that vigor back into our lives?
Here are five things you can do today to start living a healthier, more vital life:
1. Get Sleep
Sleep is the foundation of health. Getting adequate sleep improves energy levels, cognitive function, growth hormone, testosterone and just about anything else you can think of. Yet most of us eschew sleep as if it were our mortal enemy. In our noisy, constantly moving consumer culture, the fear of missing out on something (anything) has replaced the desire to rest and replenish our minds and bodies.
The temptation to stay up late to catch up on work, binge-watch Stranger Things, or browse social media has cut into the time we need to rest and recover from stress. The average adult male requires 7-9 hours of sleep. Are you getting that much? If you are sacrificing sleep for the sake of productivity, the first thing you need to do is shift your mindset.
Realize that you will be more productive, more energetic, and more focused if you make sleep a priority in your life.
What can you do to improve your sleep habits? Resolve not to use electronics after 8pm. The blue light emitted will interfere with your production of melatonin, and thus impair your sleep. Keep your bedroom dark, and install blackout curtains if you must. Keep the temperature cool, aiming for about 65 degrees Farenheit. Use the bed only for sleep and sex, and you will begin to train your brain to associate your bed with sleep.
Improving your sleep habits is one of the most empowering steps you can take in reclaiming your health and vitality, and you will begin to feel the physical and psychological effects on a daily basis.
2. Eat Real Food
When it comes to choosing which foods to eat for energy, choose real, whole foods. This means your diet should consist of plants and animals that were recently living.
Obesity and type 2 diabetes have been skyrocketing in America over the past twenty years, fueled by the “Standard American Diet” that is mostly carbohydrate and refined sugar.
Toavoid becoming another statistic in the rising obesity epidemic, learn to embrace fat; do not be afraid to eat grass-fed beef, cheese, and even butter. Studies are now showing that there is no correlation between saturated fat and heart disease, and that dietary cholesterol does not mean instant death. Eliminate all grains from your diet; this includes breads, pastas, and cereals, and even pizza (unfortunately). Ditch sugary snacks and soft drinks. Red Bull doesn’t give you wings, it gives you man-boobs. Make water your beverage of choice, with coffee and tea as options for energy boosts.
An optimally healthy diet will be mostly plants by weight (fresh vegetables, starches, nuts, seeds) with animal products (grass fed beef, chicken, seafood, free range eggs, butter, etc.) comprising the bulk of calories. This is the way human beings were designed to eat over millions of years of evolution.
When you eat the way you were designed to eat, your energy, testosterone levels, and cognitive function will improve, and your bothersome symptoms like headaches, rashes, and blood sugar crashes will disappear. Diseases like obesity, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes can be improved an even reversed.
Eat the way you were meant to and it will pay dividends.
3. Get Moving
Sedentary behavior is not good for your health. Once you transition into healthier eating habits, it’s time to focus your attention on moving around. It is estimated that the average American spends over 9 hours a day sitting, an this has been linked to a number of health issues, including obesity and metabolic syndrome. High intensity exercise is extremely beneficial both physically and mentally; but before you start doing burpees and deadlifts, the most important change you can make in your levels of physical activity is to move around more throughout the day.
For me personally, this simple shift in daily activity was life changing. Once I incorporated more movement throughout the day, it gave me increased energy, focus, and mood. I had less aches, pains, and muscle tightness, and it gave me increased stamina for the nights I did hit the gym or do cardio.
How can you incorporate more movement throughout the day? Set a timer on your desk to beep every twenty minutes. When it beeps, get up, stretch, and walk around the office. Schedule walking meetings instead of sitting in a stuffy conference room. Use the stairs instead of the elevators. Park farther away from the building. Invest in a stand-up or treadmill desk. Invest in a Fitbit and try to beat your score each day. You will find yourself coming up with creative ways to add more activity into your life.
Moving more throughout the day will create a positive loop in which you feel more energetic and want to engage in more physical activity.
4. Fast/Eat in a Compressed Eating Window
I have found that fasting is one of the easiest ways for me to increase my energy, vitality, and mental focus. 10-12 hours into a fast, my mind feels clear and body feels clean on the inside. Intermittent fasting is essentially an eating pattern in which you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. I like to do what is called the “compressed eating window”. I consume all of my daily calories from 12pm-7pm, and spend the rest of the time fasting, as studies have shown that 16 hours is an optimal length to experience all of the benefits.
Periods of nutrient depravation activate a process called autophagy in which damaged proteins, organelles, and cell membranes within your cells are broken down and recycled by enzymes called lysosomes.
Fasting helps renew and regenerate the cells in your body, and essentially clears out the junk while stimulating growth hormone. This is a great and simple way to renew your body and regain energy.
Meditation has been steadily growing in popularity around the world and for good reason: it is extremely beneficial. Meditation can reduce stress, improve concentration, enhance your immune system, and slow the aging process.
But I believe that the greatest benefit of meditation is that it takes us away from engaging in passive entertainment and puts us in touch with ourselves.
It is extremely difficult to live a life of vitality when your mind is constantly distracted and fragmented. We are constantly being bombarded with negative news stories, advertisements, and temptations to spend the day spacing out watching Netflix. Meditation and focusing on our breathing helps bring us back to the present moment and lets us begin to become active participants in our own lives instead of engaging in mindless consumerism. If you are a beginner, there are many great apps that can help you get started like Headspace, 10% Happier, and Calm.
When your attention is less scattered, your energy is less likely to be depleted.
These five simple tips can go a long way to making your life more energetic, vibrant, and vigorous. A vital life is not just for a few lucky men – it is within each and every one of us.
What choices will you make each day to rediscover your vitality?