41: Point Your Compass Toward Your Health

Mai Trinh is a chronic disease prevention expert and corporate wellness speaker. She says what we focus on grows. If we focus on stress and feeling disempowered, our feelings of helplessness grow. “As long as you are alive, you have the choice of where to place your compass,” she says. “By focusing on your health, you are pointing yourself in the right direction.” You can find her at www.maihealthnow.com.

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Here’s what you’ll learn about in this episode about reducing stress and bolstering your health:

• Many people are overeating and oversleeping these days because they are filled with “emotional hunger.” Those maladaptive behaviors are triggering feelings of regret, guilt and powerlessness.
• Get adequate sleep—seven to eight hours a night. When you sleep less than seven hours a night, it increases your chances of getting chronic disease. Invest in blackout curtains and keep your bedroom temperature at 69 degrees. Be consistent: Go to sleep and wake up at the same day each day.
• Don’t sleep too much! More than nine hours a night or more can increase your chances of getting heart disease, cancer, diabetes and depression. Get up and move your body!
• Do a digital detox before you go to bed. Good sleep hygiene includes turning off electronic devices two hours before you go to bed.
• Practice mindfulness. Be aware of your experience from moment to moment. When you are having a conversation, actively listen without judgment towards yourself or others. If you focus on the present, you give your brain a vacation, preventing you from stressing about the future, which causes anxiety, or focusing on regrets from the past, which can cause depression. Being present can lower your cortisol and stress levels and bolster your well-being. Practice self-compassion.
• Steer clear of junk food and sugary drinks, particularly in midlife. The more sugar and processed foods you eat, the more you crave them. Research shows that junk food is more addictive than cocaine. Too much sugar spikes your insulin and stress levels.
• Most Americans are eating too many white foods, including white bread and white pasta, which cause inflammation and increase your chances of developing chronic disease. Avoid foods with too much sodium, including frozen dinners and canned soup. Lots of restaurant foods contain too much sugar and salt, which make you want to eat more.
• Eat foods that fuel your body: Leafy green vegetables, fruit, whole grains like quinoa and brown rice.
• Avoid binge drinking. For a woman, binging is drinking four glasses of alcohol over two hours. For a man, it’s drinking five glasses of alcohol over two hours. Too much alcohol can cause cancer and inhibits your sleep. Alcohol online sales have spiked 243 percent during the pandemic. Alcohol is full of sugar and carbs. Many Americans drink the bulk of their calories each day, causing them to consume empty calories without nutrients and gain weight.
• Focus on positive, nurturing relationships, which correlate to a long life free of chronic disease. Be pro-active about connecting with people who matter most to you.
• Ditch toxic relationships. After you interact with someone, determine if their presence makes you feel invigorated or drained. Avoid ambivalent relationships where you don’t know where you stand. Focus on the people who bring you joy and love you.