Dr. Kaushal B. Nanavati, MD says that living a peaceful life is a decision we make. No matter the challenges we each face, we can choose a life of peace, or a life of misery. Our decision won’t necessarily make the challenges go away, but it will influence how we weather each storm.
“I have chosen a life of peace, and I find these four pillars to be important components of that life,” he says, before sharing:
- Eat seven to nine servings of vegetables daily.
- Eat one to two servings of fruit daily — (no more than one serving for people with diabetes, early in the day, or split into two half servings) – and chose fruit over fruit juice so that you ingest some insoluble fiber to aid in digestion.
- Include with each meal at least 10 grams of protein, with beans and legumes as the primary source.
- Do not eat bread, rice, potatoes, pasta or cheese after lunchtime.
- Limit red meat consumption. If you eat meat, emphasize fish, turkey or chicken, and add it to your plate only after it is loaded with vegetables, grains and beans.
- Avoid processed meats including cold cuts, bacon, sausage and ham.
- Make whole grains (including oats, barley and quinoa) a part of your diet.
- Walnuts and almonds are better for your cholesterol than cashews or peanuts.
- Get your dairy primarily from yogurt or buttermilk.
- Drink water.
- Get 30 to 60 minutes of exercise on most days. Choose an activity or activities you enjoy and can do regularly.
- Walk at a brisk pace, or get a pedometer. Walk 10,000 steps a day to maintain your weight, or 12,000 to 14,000 steps a day to lose weight.
- Working out first thing when you wake up, before you eat, will help your body burn more fat than at other times of the day.
- Lift weights before, rather than after, you do a cardiovascular workout, and explore “interval” training for your cardio portion in order to burn more calories and increase your metabolism.
- Stretch muscles before a workout as well as after, to help prevent injury. Ingest 10 to 25 grams of protein within a half hour of working out, to help with muscle recovery.
- Consider Tai Chi, one of the most complete forms of mind-, body- and spirit-strengthening and balancing exercises.
- Sleep for 7 to 9 hours each night.
- Recognize that stress is caused by one of two things: things you can do something about, and things you cannot control. Do the following exercise: On a sheet of paper, make a list of all the things that create stress, tension, worry, anxiety or concerns. On a second sheet of paper, create two columns. Label the first “stressors I can do something about” and the second “stressors I cannot control.” Look at the list you made and sort each item into its proper column. The stressors you cannot control (for example, what other people say or do) will remain on the list until someone else takes care of them. The stressors you can do something about are truly yours to deal with. Take one at a time and make a written action plan for resolution. When it is done, cross it off your list. This act of physically crossing it off will give you a sense of control over your stressors.
- The achievement of peace can mean different things to different people. You have to figure out what peace means to you. Once you define peace, make a plan to get to that place in your life where you have a sense of peace. Then comes the important but tricky part: Don’t let anyone get you out of this place. There may need to be some give-and-take, so determine what is important and what is not so important to you.
- Some people meditate daily. Others use 10 to 15 minutes of deep, slow abdominal breathing to clear their heads. Such breathing can reduce anxiety, avert anxiety attacks, reduce blood pressure and increase focus and concentration. You breathe in through the nose for a count of five or 10, and then out through the mouth. When you inhale, your shoulders should not rise, but your abdomen should push out. When you exhale, the abdomen sucks back in.
Kaushal B. Nanavati, MD is an assistant professor of family medicine at Upstate. Listen to this interview.
Read this and other stories in the summer Upstate Health magazine.