On December 25, 2013 I turned 36. What?! Really, 36 already?!?! It feels so weird to even say it. I don’t feel much older than 25! I feel very blessed to even say that now, because when I was 25 years old I actually felt like I was 80.
About 10 years ago I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a chronic musculoskeletal disorder that is characterized by widespread pain. I had very low energy, difficulty sleeping, and I was getting colds and other persistent illnesses regularly. I found myself exhausted, in constant pain with little energy to spare for work or relationships. I felt hopeless and as a result I resorted to prescription drugs. After several years of gripping side effects and little relief, I decided to take a more holistic approach to healing.
An illness can be a beautiful thing. It lets us know that we have physical or emotional needs that aren’t being met. I started to learn everything I could about the human body and about holistic health practices. I’ve been on a journey, seeking a healthy, balanced life for several years.
On my quest to find natural cures for fibromyalgia, I have read and studied extensive research in the areas of healthy eating, natural healing, and mind-body connection. I discovered that the body has a naturally ability to heal itself. Finally free from fibromyalgia symptoms, including ALL prescription drugs, I now feel happier, healthier, younger, and more vibrant than I did 10 years ago!
I attribute my good heath and overall wellness to multiple things. Here are the Top 5-lifestyle changes I made that have brought me the greatest health benefits, including a more balanced and joyful life!
1. I follow a mostly pant-based, organic diet.
Hands down, this has had the greatest impact on my overall physical wellbeing! I know that some of you may be thinking that this sounds extreme. But, for me, extreme was popping multiple prescription drugs during the day to suppress pain, followed by 2-3 Ambien pills at night to help me sleep. At 25 years of age, that was beyond extreme, it was down right criminal.
I didn’t go full throttle as I transitioned to a plant based diet. I didn’t become a tempeh loving, kale eatin’, green smoothie drinking, veg-head overnight! I recommend starting by adding one plant-based meal a week, then another. I started by adding more greens and veggies to meals, then gradually replaced certain ingredients and left meat out of several dishes. There are numerous delicious, plant-based recipes on this site to get you started.
I love food and believe it should taste good, but most importantly, it should nourish your body. Eating whole foods that are not processed or full of pesticides will nourish your body and make you feel and look younger on the inside and out! If you don’t believe me, watch the documentary Forks Over Knives, it will change the way you think about food!
As affirmed in Time Magazine (2013), "In one of the largest studies to date, researchers from Loma Linda University in California report that vegetarians outlast meat eaters.
Among a group of 70,000 participants, researchers determined that vegetarians had a 12% lower risk of death compared with nonvegetarians".
Reducing consumption of animal products & adding more veggies will improve & increase your life span!
2. I use natural, chemical-free beauty products.
I stopped lathering my face & body with harmful chemicals that appeared to be giving me a more “youthful appearance”. Harsh chemicals will only hurt you over time. Almost all shampoos, body washes, lotions, perfumes and other “magical potions” are loaded with harmful chemicals that are detrimental to your health. Read the ingredients in your products. You will likely find it very difficult to pronounce most of them (the same goes for processed food).
Look for products that do not include synthetic fragrances, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or SLS, Phthalates, and Parabens. Your skin (the largest organ) absorbs these into the blood stream and increases your toxic build-up. I use a lot of coconut oil on my skin, Andalou face lotions and washes, aluminum-free deodorant (not antiperspirant), roll-on essential oils instead of perfume, and Tarte or Josie Maran cosmetics. I feel so much better knowing that I am not pumping unnecessary chemicals into my body!
3. I practice yoga on a regular basis.
You don’t have to be a contortionist to do yoga! Most yoga studios and local gyms offer yoga classes that are open to all ages and fitness levels. I never thought in a million years that I would ever be able to do yoga with the intense pain I had in all of my muscles. I was wrong! It has changed my physical body, my flexibility, and my life! Yoga can change your body, mind, and spirit quickly, while improving your long-term health.
Yoga is not just about working out, it’s about a healthy lifestyle. It allows you to be still in a world filled with chaos. You can receive peace and tranquility through regular practice. In addition to providing relief from physical pain, yoga has helped me relieve stress and unclutter my mind!
4. I take care of my gut.
Good health begins in your gut. Some people have described the stomach as the second brain. I believe that digestive issues and a leaky gut contributed to the symptoms I developed associated with fibromyalgia. I used to be sick A LOT! I had to take antibiotics often to kill the bacteria and fight off various illness and infections. However, the antibiotics also destroyed all the good bacteria as well. When I changed my diet, my health drastically improved.
Now I hardly ever, ever get sick (honestly)! I have been able to build up the healthy bacteria in my gut and I do not have to rely on antibotics anymore (unless I absolutely have to have).
Maintaining optimal gut flora, and eating fermented foods and probiotics may be one of the most important steps you can take to improve your health. Some healthy fermented foods are kombucha tea, raw cultured sauerkraut, raw cultured pickles, coconut yogurt, coconut kefir, miso, and kimchi, and tempeh. If you are not eating a lot of these fermented foods, and/or have taken a lot of antibotics, you should consider taking a high quality probiotic supplement. You can read more about the importance of gut health here.
5. I practice Reiki.
I saved the best for last! During my very first Reiki session, I knew that I had discovered something amazing. I felt a surge of warm, healing energy flowing through my body, bringing a sense of peace and comfort. I wanted to learn more about this remarkable modality. I followed my intuition, and now several years later, I am a Reiki Master teacher and a Lightarian Reiki Master.
Reiki has enriched my life in so many ways, including bringing a sense of balance that I was lacking. Changing my diet was a first and important step on my healing journey, but I knew that there was something missing. Reiki was the piece of the puzzle I needed to feel whole and balanced on all levels.
Reiki is a form of complimentary therapy. It’s a safe, gentle healing technique that uses life force energy to restore balance in mind, body and spirit. Reiki helps relieve stress and tension by promoting deep relaxation. Stress can negatively effect your health in numerous ways, including chronic pain (like I had), heart disease, cancer, digestive disorders, and PREMATURE aging just to name a few.
Aside from the physical benefits of Reiki, I have experienced great peace and joy on an emotional and spiritual level from practicing the five Reiki Principles daily. The Reiki principles are a set of guidelines for living a fulfilled life.
The five Reiki principles, or ideals, as described by Dr. Mikao Usui are:
Just for today, I will let go of anger.
Just for today, I will let go of worry.
Today I will count my many blessings.
Today I will do my work honestly.
Today I will be kind to every living creature.
Each morning and night I sit quietly in prayer position with my hands to my heart and recite these principles. Focusing on the present is extremely helpful. By reciting, “Just for today…” it feels more realistic and less overwhelming than saying, “I will never be angry again.” It’s manageable. You can do anything for just one day!
Reciting the principles daily is an important step as recommended by Dr. Usui. However, the key to this practice is that you eventually make them a part of your every day life. Over time, I have absorbed these principles into every aspect of my life. I recite them at various times throughout the day as certain situations arise.
Try it! You don’t have to practice Reiki in order to benefit from these principles.
Can you imagine what the world would be like if each person applied these principles to their life?
I also recommend that you get a Reiki session if you have never had one. It is a blissful experience! Look for a practitioner in your area (or stop in and see me if you are in CT, or request a distance Reiki session!)
Through a combination of healthy eating, yoga, Reiki, and a spiritual practice, I have found the ingredients for a happy, healthy, youthful life. I can honestly say that I feel younger than I did ten years ago! I hope you take away something from this list that will benefit and enrich your life.
With love & gratitude,