It’s a gorgeous spring day in Indiana.
The sun is shining. The birds are chirping. There’s a nippy breeze, but nothing a light jacket can’t tame.
I’m on a quest to add healthier habits to my daily routine. One is to drink more water. I recently heard that most of us live in a state of chronic dehydration. Dehydration can show up as sluggishness, mental fatigue, generalized headaches, dry skin, and just an overall feeling of fogginess. I’ve read countless articles about the benefits of proper hydration for both the mind and body. The problem is, the more water you drink, the more trips to the bathroom. Time after time I told myself how annoying and time-consuming it was to have to go to the bathroom all the time. So, I’d average maybe one or two glasses a day.
I was aghast when a friend who’s a fitness enthusiast suggested I should be drinking about a gallon of water a day.
“A gallon?!” I tried to picture myself chugging a milk gallon of water. It seemed impossible.
My friend sent me a picture of a huge tumbler that she decked out with inspirational quotes and pictures of her favorite actors (her “on-screen husbands”). She fills it with water twice. When it’s empty the second time, she knows she’s reached her goal. The inspirational quotes and cute pics make her smile each time she reaches for a drink. If she gets tired of just plain water, she’ll add special things like strawberries and mint leaves or cucumbers for a refreshing twist.
Proper hydration is not just drinking more of the good stuff. It’s also reducing or eliminating the bad stuff, like coffee or soda. When I was still at the law firm, a young attorney walked into the break room one day while I was grabbing a cup of coffee. She was an avid runner and knew I was, too (at least back then), so when she pointed out that I’d need to drink two glasses of water for every cup of coffee just to bring my hydration level back to my status quo, I listened. I had only one episode of true dehydration in my life, but that lone incident was enough to make me anal about staying hydrated back then. I can still feel the extreme nausea and the piercing headache, the pounding in my head as my blood thickened, trying to slog it’s way through my body. It’s like anyone who’s ever experienced food poisoning — they don’t ever want to feel that way again.
Fast forward to present. I haven’t run in years. My old race shirts betray just how long it’s been. The t-shirt from my lone marathon is from 2004. It reminds me my hydration game has been off for years.
My two to three cups of coffee a day (with 1/3 cup sugar per cup) is also probably not helping.
I am challenging myself to drink the 64 ounces of water a day, and to wean myself down to only one cup of coffee a day (with only 1 teaspoon of sugar). I did my challenge haphazardly this week, but I will start tomorrow in earnest.
I’m also trying to get outside for at least 20 minutes a day. Days will go by and I’ll realize that 95% of that time was spent inside. I actually enjoy being outside in nature. I draw energy from it. What I don’t necessarily enjoy is being outside in the residential neighborhood. Don’t get me wrong. I love my neighbors. They’re really great. I’m just pretty private. But today it was so beautiful that I put on my coat, queued up a great podcast episode on my phone and walked around the neighborhood for 20 minutes.
I’ve also heard that exercise and just being out in the sun helps with depression symptoms, so taking a walk on this sunny day gave me a 2-for-1 boost.
Twenty minutes a day sounds like a tiny goal, especially since I used to be an avid runner. But baby steps, right? Right now I don’t have plans to start running again, but I would like to build up my strength. Eventually I’d like to try Zumba or barre or pilates or yoga or kickboxing or Pound classes at the YMCA. I’m pretty out of shape right now, though, so short walks are a great way to start building up some stamina.
If you haven’t been outside for awhile, try just a 5 minute walk. I’ve found that the getting out there or the just starting part is the hardest.
Once I actually get going, momentum builds pretty quickly.
I take time to breathe deep and just listen to the birds.
Legend has it if you see a cardinal, a loved one is watching over you. I’m not great with bird calls, but I can hear a cardinal from a mile away.
And when I do, I scan the treetops until I’ve spotted the brilliant flash of red.
He’s usually alone, perched high in a tree, waiting for me to notice he’s there.
Photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters via Unsplash