(originally posted November 15, 2011)
A Paleolithic lifestyle is about more than just nutrition. It’s about getting ALL of your Paleolithic ducks in a row. When we approach our lives this way, we are addressing both our short- and long-term health as well as our longevity. This is where everything comes together so we can feel great AND keep feeling great for a long, long time. So what exactly are these caveman ducks that must be lined up, you ask?
1. DIET: I suggest committing to a Paleolithic diet for the rest of your life, as outlined in my post “So, What Exactly IS Paleolithic Nutrition?”. I also suggest including gluten-free cheats from time to time (more details on how to do this coming soon).
2. STRESS: Do what you can to reduce your stress levels. Go for walks. Meditate. Try yoga. The stress hormone cortisol works against you in almost everything you are trying to achieve with better nutrition. Getting enough sleep, eating a lower carbohydrate diet, eating a 1:1 omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, and making sure that your exercise isn’t too strenuous will all help lower cortisol. Yes, these are not your average ducks; they are intertwined.
3. SLEEP: Prioritize good quality sleep and aim for at least 8-9 hours every night. Your brain and your body need this time to repair and to recharge. The difference in your energy level and mood when you’ve had enough sleep is huge. Plus it helps regulate your cortisol levels! Read more about the importance of sleep in this excerpt from The Paleo Approach.
4. EXERCISE: You don’t need to go crazy, but it is extremely beneficial to include as much low-strain exercise as you can in your life (like walking, hiking, playing, gardening, swimming, etc.). In addition to this, some strength conditioning is very beneficial (weight lifting, martial arts, pilates, yoga, etc.).
5. BEING OUTDOORS: We get so many benefits from just being outside: the biggest of which is the vitamin D that our bodies make when we are exposed to the sun. This can help fight depression, regulate your stress hormones, and regulate your circadian rhythms leading to better quality sleep!
6. YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK: New research is finding that one of the keys to longevity is to have a strong, active support network. This includes relationships with your family, your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors and your religious and community groups. In some ways, maintaining this network is more challenging than ever with how many people move away for school or jobs (like my husband and I did). But in other ways, it’s easier than ever with long-distance phone calls and social networking.