According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we need to first take care of our physical health before we are able to focus much energy on our emotional well being. When our physical needs are being met and our bodies are functioning well, we free up energy to focus on our emotional needs.

I challenge each of you to return to the basics of physical health and find balance in your life by making small improvements in each of the following areas:

Exercise: Engage in physical activity of a type that you have found enjoyable in the past. Exercise has many healing effects including a) the release of endorphins to increase our sense of euphoria, b) stress reduction, c) decrease in sensitivity to emotional and physical pain, and d) improvements in our ability to sleep more soundly.

Nutrition: Eat healthy and regularly. Be sure that you are eating balanced meals in healthy portions. Make improvements to better manage your protein, carbohydrates, sodium, fiber, sugars, cholesterol, calorie, and caffeine intakes. Eat foods high in the nutrients your body needs to function at its best. Learn more about antioxidents and omega 3’s. Get your recommended daily intake of essential vitamins and minerals (C, E, iron, calcium, betacarotene, etc.)

Sleep: Get an appropriate amount of sleep — the average person functions best with 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Keep your sleep in check: a) manage both the quantity and quality of sleep you are getting each night, b) optimize your sleep environment, c) build healthy sleep routines.

Sunlight: Get some amount of sunlight every day. The sun serves to nourish and energize us. Studies show that vitamin D is produced as our skin absorbs sunshine. Vitamin D is important because it is healthy for our bones, circulatory system, immune system regulation, maintaining healthy body weight, and can increase serotonin levels in the brain.

So take a personal inventory of where you stand in each of these areas and challenge yourself to do just a little bit better. For one person, improving physical exercise might mean parking a little farther while for another person it may mean training for a marathon. Likewise, improving nutrition for me might mean not eating any Twinkies this week, while for you it might entail 100 grams of protein, switching to tofu, and increasing your Omega-3’s. It doesn’t matter where you start from, as long as you start to improve your physical health. You’ll be surprised at how much better you feel as you target each of these physical needs. Good luck!!

Note: You may want to schedule a physical exam with your doctor to help accurately identify how to best meet your physical needs. Many insurance policies cover one wellness visit to your doctor per year.