When you think of the word hygiene, you may think of acts of being clean like washing your hands with soap and water, or brushing your teeth.
Definition of hygiene: conditions or practices conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease, especially through cleanliness.
These are things we do every day, maybe multiple times a day, right? They are habits; we just do them without thinking much about it. And sometimes we go a little extra further, like going to the dentist once or twice a year for a more in depth cleaning, or to the doctor for a yearly check-up.
Proper hygiene is taught to us at a young age…”wash your hands after you go to the bathroom!”, “shower regularly and wear clean clothes!” If we don’t do these things, we may get sick, get others sick, smell bad, lose teeth (or just be looked at strangely).
In our day and age, we don’t have to worry as much about dying from infection or nutrient deficiencies. Nowadays, we have to watch out for overeating, undersleeping, overworking and being too sedentary. For all of which, we have evidenced-based studies linking to chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and autoimmune disease.
Times have changed, and so must we, so I propose a NEW updated definition of hygiene….
Lifestyle hygiene: linking the old concept of practices (habits) that are conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease through cleanliness, WITH evidenced-based self-care activities in all areas of our modern lives.
I like to use Dr. Andrew Weil’s concept of health and wellbeing separated in to 7 core areas:
When I meet with clients, they often sit down and right off the bat ask me what they should be eating. As we get in to our conversation and dig deeper, there is so much more going on from disturbed sleep, to poor coping skills, to a cluttered house. Yes, diet is super important! But diet is just one of the 7 core areas of our lives that we must pay attention to. By becoming more aware of what’s going on, and working on enhancements in each area we can be so much healthier, get to the root of our illnesses, decrease symptoms, prevent flare-ups, and mitigate future disease.
Let’s use the analogy of keeping our teeth and gums clean. We are taught to brush twice a day and go to the dentist for annual check-ups, right?
With each core area of health, we need frequent practices, paired with less frequent but more in-depth tune ups. We need frequency because:
1) our bodies like consistency and beneficial effects are more and more evident with time and repetition
2) developing habits takes practice. Brushing our teeth daily is better than once a week, is better than once a month, is better than not at all!
Here are some examples my clients have created:
Environment: Sweeping, doing laundry, and cleaning the kitchen once a week. Going through the closet and getting rid of old clothes and papers twice a year.
Sleep: Turning off the TV 2 hours before bed and going to bed by 9:30 every week night. Not setting alarm in the morning on the weekends.
Resiliency: Thinking of 3 things you are grateful for before falling asleep. Getting a massage every 2 months.
We must practice lifestyle hygiene in all 7 core areas of health in order to promote wellness and mitigate symptoms.
If you’re living with autoimmune disease, we are especially sensitive to the effects of our daily habits.
When implementing lifestyle hygiene, I’ve heard my clients say things like:
“I feel so much more organized and less stressed!”
“I have less pain when I sleep better”
“When I meditate in the morning, I’m much more clear throughout the day and feel more capable of handling challenges”
For me, the realization that stress played such an enormous role in my disease has made me learn which daily lifestyle hygiene practices I need to do to keep my symptoms at bay. If I neglect my daily gratitude, relaxation time, or don’t dance for awhile, my body will tell (scream) at me!
So, how are you doing in each of the 7 core areas? How satisfied are you with your lifestyle hygiene? What comes to mind? Let’s expand our concept of “hygiene” to more than just brushing our teeth and washing our hands! (but for sure keep doing those things! :)).