Originally published in the Catholic Times, Jan. 31, 2016.
"I praise you because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works!” Psalm 139:14.
This Scripture passage is on my mind a lot as I talk with people about ways to build new healthy habits in the new year.
The human body is an amazing gift from God.
Sometimes, it can be easy to dwell on the things we don’t like about our physical bodies, and harder to be grateful for all that our bodies can do. The human body is amazing vessel for us to serve God and the people in our lives; to be his hands and feet in the world.
With 640 muscles, 600,000 miles of blood vessels, 300 million capillaries, 270 bones, and our incredibly complex brain, this magnificent gift is beyond comprehension.
We can develop healthy habits to honor our body any time of the year. Here are 5 simple ways get started:
- Move More - Prolonged periods of sitting can cause tightnesses in the back, legs, hips and shoulders. When we work at a computer, setting the alarm to remind us to get up and move every hour or so is invigorating! Moving our joints throughout the day and praising God for our ability to do so is a healthy practice. Mobilize the neck, shoulders, thoracic spine (middle back), elbows, wrists, fingers, hips, knees, ankles. Include your family in this fun activity.
- Use Safe Technique - If we have a physical job, or enjoy physical hobbies, we should be careful how we move, reach, bend, lift, carry and stand with a load. We can use a hip hinge, for example, when we pick up something heavy off the floor, rather than shifting forward overloading our knees. Packing our shoulders and carrying heavy loads close to the body helps prevent harming the low back.
- Flow 5 Minutes Every Day - 5 Minutes of gentle moving and stretching, and pairing this with our daily prayer time, is a great way get blood and nutrients flowing into your muscles and joints to prepare us mentally and physically for all that God is asking us to do that day.
- Have Good Posture When Standing and Sitting - It is recommended to stand upright and align the ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles for good posture to help prevent tightnesses, asymmetries, pain and injury. This also improves breathing capacity and heart function. When sitting, think 'heart up to heaven' with an upward chest instead of hunching forward over a phone or computer. A posture correction can also be a 'God pause' that reminds us to offer up a little prayer thanking God for the many blessings in our day..
- Practice Getting Up and Down Off the Floor - This skill is vital to independent living and helps prevent falls. We can enlist the help of a movement coach or medical professional to safely practice this skill to build strength and confidence in our bodies.
Let us pray to the Holy Spirit for help in developing healthy habits, practicing good self-care and for a spirit of gratefulness for being wonderfully made in His image and likeness.