Herbs work, but they work best if we do a little work, too! In order for us to receive the most benefit from the herbs we use, we need to focus on right living – on developing a lifestyle that allows us to grow into our best health. Herbs work their best work within the framework of a lifestyle that promotes health. But beyond being a part of a healthy lifestyle, sometimes we look up and realize that herbs have become our lifestyle – and that our lives are all the more rich and beautiful because of them! Sleep, nourishment, motion, and pace are four areas of our lifestyles that often need a little attention – herbal and otherwise – in order for us to be our best.
One of the most often neglected aspects of our lifestyles is sleep. For so many people, sleep is scarce and hard to get. Herbs can work to help us sleep. But for most of us, making sure we set aside time for enough sleep is the real challenge: we need to safeguard our sleep.
How many of us shortchange ourselves on sleep for the sake of others? Think of it this way: you need sleep in order to be your best for others. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, or apologized for. A child that gets up and down constantly at night and wakes us has their own sleep problems that need to be addressed, and a night owl spouse on a different work schedule should still be understanding of our schedule. If you live with roommates, set quiet hours. Sometimes, environmental factors can’t be helped: loss of sleep from living in a rough neighborhood by yourself; an apartment next to the train tracks. In all of these cases, though, the best place to start is to go to the root of the problem.
Create white noise to cover the train, make changes like an alarm system or better deadbolts to make yourself and your home or apartment as safe as possible, and negotiate your relationships to give yourself the sleep you need. Once those things are worked out, incorporate herbs for better sleep- and be creative! Rather than take a few capsules and call it a night, nurture yourself. A lavender and rose petal bath, a valerian and mint cordial night cap, or an herbal dream pillow are wonderful ways to unwind and send yourself towards sleep with herbs.
And then there is nourishment. Food is an uncomfortable topic for many people, and yet it shouldn’t be – there are so many ways to nourish our bodies. No two people are the same, and there is not one set of dietary choices that works best for all people. The important thing is to discard the guilt and listen to your body. Focus on what makes you feel physically nourished!
Remember that moderation makes room for all things, and try not to polarize mealtimes by making an enemy of some foods and idealizing others. We all need compassion and mindfulness at mealtimes. Carbohydrates and proteins and fats (the so called macro nutrients) all work together. An imbalance of one of them can leave us wanting, tired, and undernourished. Too many foods that are low in fiber, minerals, and vitamins can leave us depleted even though we meet our body’s caloric needs. If you find yourself often grumpy or anxious, often sick, or feeling run down, be sure to look at your food first!
How can you better nourish yourself? Herbally speaking, we can incorporate the use of bitters like yellow dock or angelica before meals to promote our body’s most efficient digestion.
Our bodies thrive on movement. Increased circulation is beneficial for our immunity and our regularity, so find a way to move that makes you happy. It doesn’t have to be a tough workout and you don’t need a personal trainer to motivate you. Let curiosity motivate you – take a walk and wonder “what’s just around this corner?” Find a park or an interesting part of town and explore. Window shopping or noticing unusual architecture also make for fun walks. Gentle stretches like yoga or steady movement like tai chi are just as valid as a heart pumping kick boxing work out. Perhaps you prefer moving to music? Even if you wouldn’t be caught dancing in public, a personal dance party can get your heart rate up and give you a healthy glow. Move in ways that make you happy.
Perhaps the most important foundation for health we can give ourselves is pace. Slow down, be mindful. Some stress may be good for us, but too much leaves us in a constant fight or flight that drains our energy, frazzles our nerves, and packs a punch emotionally. Carve out a few minutes a day to simply sit and observe part of the natural world around us, take time to play with a pet, or try a more formal type of meditation. Herbs are excellent companions for a few quiet moments! Nervine herbs that support the health of our nervous system like holy basil, linden, rose, and lavender make lovely teas that can be enjoyed hot or iced, sweetened with a little honey or stevia.
Herbs as a Lifestyle
But herbs themselves often become the lifestyle. Whether it’s moments taken to enjoy a cup of our favorite tea, kitchen herbs growing on a sunny windowsill, a cabinet stocked full of lovingly made syrups, extracts, and salves, herbal baths for health and pampering, or dream pillows filled with soothing lavender and hops on each bed to give sweet dreams to those we cherish – herbs have a way of becoming intertwined with every aspect of what we do and enriching our daily lives in so many amazing ways. As we create lifestyles that incorporate herbs and allow us to grow into our best health, it shouldn’t surprise us at all if herbs become our lifestyle.
If you are creating your own herbal lifestyle, come join us in The Herbarium or one of our online learning courses! You will be able to network with other herbal lifestyle enthusiasts around the world in our forums and grow your herbal lifestyle by leaps and bounds with our high-quality courses and in-depth articles.