I am writing a couple of articles for a nutraceutical company and it’s giving me a chance to pause and reflect on my top recommendations for optimal health and well being. With more than twenty years of medical practice experience, I’ve come to honor the ability of our bodies to come into balance and heal. On the other hand, I see that there are several individual choices we can make to encourage this healing and balance. Here are the top ten recommendations – in reverse order of course!
10) Pay attention to the cycles of nature around you. When the earth is resting in the wintertime, slow down! Dormancy and rest are important times in our lives. These can be distilled down to a monthly conscious awareness of the moon cycle. During the new moon each month, pause and reflect on what you want to grow in your life as the moon waxes to full. During the full moon, consciously pause to acknowledge your accomplishments – we are quick to remember “negatives” in our lives and oh so slow to connect with the positives. For guidance in this process, I recommend studying with Lisa Michaels and the Natural Rhythms Institute. I joined nine Natural Rhythms experts to collaborate on our book “Nature’s Success System” which was published through Hay House last year.
9) Assess the relationships in your life. Do they continue to serve you? Do the friends and family you interact with offer unconditional love and support? Do you offer unconditional love and support to your friends and family? We all know people that “drain” us – recognize who and what circumstances make this worse. Find a mental health professional and explore the reasons why you stay in relationships that are unhealthy.
8 ) Become conscious of your physical health along with your core strength and posture. Move your body every day: walk, run, bike, swim – whatever! Abdominal exercises and pilates can help; yoga, tai chi or chi gong can help you become more conscious of how you hold your body as you stand, sit and exercise. I have gained an appreciation for chiropractors, massage therapists and other body workers through the years. They “repair” the damage that poor posture and overuse and inflammation have caused.
7) Ask your doctor to measure your 25-OH vitamin D3 level. Supplement as needed to the 50 – 80 range. For some people the best dose is 400 IU daily, for some it is 5000 IU. Some people need 50,000 IU weekly for three months to build up their stores and then 1000 to 2000 IU daily. I disagree with “one dose fits all” and suggest that following vitamin D levels is the ideal way to know how much of this important vitamin to take.
6) Add a high quality fish oil to your diet or eat ocean-caught fatty fish (tuna/salmon/mackerel etc) three times a week. Most people benefit for 2000 mg of EPA and DHA daily. Ask for advice from your integrative physician about whether or not you need a higher dose or an adjusted ratio of the two fats if you have an autoimmune or inflammatory disease. Avoid bargain discount fish oil and look for supplements that have had heavy metals like mercury removed. If the brand you’re using gives you a fishy “burp-back”, find a supplement that has had the fish proteins removed from the fat and keep the bottle in the freezer and take the capsule frozen.
5) Learn and practice some time of relaxation breath work every day. It can be as simple as paced breathing – counting on the inhalation to three, holding for a count of three, counting on the exhalation to three and holding for a count of three. While you’re breathing, become alternately aware of the bottoms of your feet and your connection to the earth and the crown of your head and your connection to the sky or cosmos. My favorite type of paced breathing like this connects with a prayer or an affirmation. An example would be an in breath with the mental recitation of psalm 23; I might inhale with the thought “The Lord is my shepherd” and then during the pause I’d consider what it means to have a shepherd. I would then exhale and pause and with the next inhale I’d recite “I shall not want” and then during the pause I’d consider what it means to have all my needs provided. I’d continue through the psalm line by line, stopping and pausing with each breath purposefully.

4) While you’re breathing, learn and practice other types of stress management. For you it may be prayer, meditation or listening to a guided imagery cd. Seek out practitioners who can teach biofeedback techniques or Heartmath™. Consider an energy medicine appointment with practitioners that do Reiki or Healing Touch. Try a “spirit walk” in a nearby park or woods – breath in as you walk on your right foot, breath out as you walk on your left foot. Whatever you choose, make time to do it daily. It is as important as eating and sleeping!

3) Grow your connection to your creator. Honor the gift of life you have been given today. Look with gratitude at the opportunities and blessings that you’ve received. Seek out pastoral or spiritual support to help in this area if needed.
2) Pay attention to the quality and quantity of sleep you receive each night. Sleep is our opportunity to restore our neurotransmitters and remove toxins from our body. What is interfering? Is your brain still wound tightly with worry or anxiety? Is your body sore or inflamed? Is your spirit troubled? Is your nutrition sub-optimal and filled with stimulants like caffeine and sugar? Explore this with your integrative physician – the solution is NOT solely a sleeping pill!
1) Nourish your body with lots of whole grains and colorful, organic, locally-grown vegetables and fruit. Learn to can and freeze the produce when it is abundant to last you through the winter. Add lean protein in a small amounts and keep the processed food to a minimum. Your life force energy is fed by the quality of your food!

May these suggestions guide you to a path of health and healing…Be Well!
Claudia E. Harsh, MD