Times may be tough, but that doesn’t mean you need to neglect your health. In fact, being on a budget has the potential to make you healthier than ever! Here’s the secret that Big Pharma and the medical establishment don’t want you to know: many of the most powerful forms of healing are inexpensive or free. Here are a few ideas for getting healthy on a budget:
1. Learn Qigong (Chi Kung)
OK, this is a blog about Qigong and Tai Chi, so you can’t really blame me for putting this at the top of the list. In my mind, there is nothing better that you can do for your health than practicing Qigong. Look at the incredible results that my students get. Of course, you have to find a good teacher, but it’s totally worth it.
Once you learn Qigong, you can effectively manage your health for the rest of your life. The cost? Negligible. Qigong will quickly pay for itself. And if you’re committed, it’s easy to find ways to afford classes that won’t cost you an extra dime.
Until my book is finished (I’m shooting for Christmas 2012), you can start with my teacher’s books. You’ll need to learn face-to-face at some point, but his books will help you get started, and they’ll inspire you as well.
2. Practice Gratitude
Meditation is great, but unless you have a good teacher, you’d probably get better results if you would simply practice gratitude for 5-10 minutes a day instead. A study at UC Davis showed that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, higher energy levels. Additionally, the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, was more likely to help others, exercised more regularly, and made more progress toward personal goals.
In my classes, I often teach a simple gratitude visualization. You can try it yourself:
- Stand upright.
- Relax from head to toe. (Try my free audio lesson if you don’t know how.)
- Think of something or someone that sparks a feeling of gratitude.
- Feel the gratitude in your body and breathe gratefully.
If you don’t feel it, then you’re not doing it right. It doesn’t matter what you use to spark the feeling. What are you grateful for? A pair of shoes? A TV show? A food or beverage? Start there.
3. Practice Forgiveness
Even the Mayo Clinic recognizes the connection between health and forgiveness. If you cling to resentment and anger, then you are affecting your energy, your biochemistry, and your health. In other words, you’re just hurting yourself with that stuff.
It is critical to understand that forgiving someone doesn’t mean that you condone what they did. That’s not what forgiveness means. We can forgive someone and still hold them responsible. In fact, if they weren’t responsible, you probably wouldn’t need to forgive them in the first place.
In my experience, the best way to practice forgiveness is to do it in a state of meditation. Try my free audio lesson if you want to see what that’s like. Once you’re in a meditative state, it’s easier to let go.
It also helps if you take baby steps. Don’t try to forgive 100% in one session. Just do 1%. That’s enough for today.
Also, the person that you may need to forgive most may be yourself. I’ve seen this in a lot of students. They don’t feel much when asked to forgive others, but the moment I tell them to forgive themselves, they break down in tears. You may be one of them.
If Americans would simply walk outdoors for 30 minutes a day, we would save billions in health care costs. Dr. Mike Evans asked a great question in a video that went viral a while back: Can you limit your sitting and sleeping to just 23.5 hours per day?
If you think that you should go running, think again. It turns out that walking may be healthier than running. This is consistent with ancient Chinese philosophy, which says that elevating your heart rate too high for too long is bad for your health. Sprinting briefly is okay, but only if it is followed by a period of recovery and relaxation. This follows the Chinese principle of Yin and Yang harmony.
My wife and I walk our dog, Sgt. Pepper, for 20-30 minutes every morning (in addition to our regular Tai Chi and Qigong practice). Obviously, I’m a dog lover, so I recommend getting a dog. Or if you have a dog — walk him or her more!
Look for opportunities to walk instead of avoiding them. I’ve seen people circling around the parking lot looking for a spot closer to the gym. I’m not joking. Here’s a better idea: Get in the habit of parking as far away as possible. If you live in Florida like I do, this means you can also find more shady spots, which is always nice.
5. Eat Real Food
What is real food? I like this joke: Buy organic food, or as your grandmother called it, food.
Some people think that organic food is expensive. I think disease is expensive. Some people think that $3.99/pound for tomatoes is expensive, but are happy to pay $399/month for prescription meds. I’m not one of those people.
Here are some simple tips to help you find real food:
- Real food is the stuff that was recently alive, in the ground, or on a tree.
- Real food is found in the the outer aisles of the grocery store, not in the middle isles.
- Real food will spoil in weeks even if you put it in the fridge; it certainly won’t last months if you don’t.
- Real food usually doesn’t have a label at all.
- If it has a label, real food contains stuff that you can pronounce.
My wife and I spend a lot of money at the grocery store and farmer’s markets. That’s where our priorities lie. When we shop, we do a loop around the outer aisles of the supermarket. We hardly get any items from the middle. If you want to save a ton of money, then go to a local farmer’s market. The food will be much cheaper and much fresher. Also, by supporting local farmers, you are helping to save the world and taking a stance against Big Agriculture like Monsanto.
6. Get Acupuncture
Is acupuncture expensive? Again, it depends on your perspective. Average the total cost of prescription meds — including doctor visits, health insurance, blood tests, and the prescription itself. Is it higher or lower than the weekly cost of acupuncture?
Now consider that most prescription meds just manage disease indefinitely. Big Pharma isn’t interested in curing you. They are interested in keeping you medicated. Lipitor is the best selling drug in the history of…well…history. Pfizer wants to keep selling it.
Of course, I’m biased because my wife is an acupuncturist (and an awesome one at that). But I’ve seen the results that she gets, and they’re absolutely amazing. She gets to the bottom of pain and illness. This is a key feature of Chinese Medicine (of which Qigong is a branch). You have to get to the root of the problem, and not just treat symptoms. My wife does this — without nasty side effects — for $50 a visit. Expensive, or a bargain? You decide.
7. Stop Drinking Soda!
Let’s just cut through all the denial and admit it — you’re addicted. And please don’t try to argue that Diet Coke is okay because it doesn’t have sugar. Soda is bad, with our without sugar.
My wife has to deal with addicted patients all the time. It’s amazing how many patients will clutch to their soda consumption with a death grip, all the while denying that they’re addicted. Meanwhile, phosphoric acid interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium, neutralizes the acid in your stomach, and causes kidney stones; heavy doses of sugar wreak havoc on your insulin levels; aspartame is a neuro-toxin that has 92 associated health side effects including brain tumors, birth defects, and seizures.
Just stop. I haven’t had a soda in years, just like I haven’t smoked a cigarette in years. Once you make the decision to quit, it’s no big deal. You’ll break the addiction in a matter of weeks. If you need something bubbly, try Perrier.
In case you didn’t get the memo, laughter is good for your health. “The old saying that ‘laughter is the best medicine,’ definitely appears to be true when it comes to protecting your heart,” says Michael Miller, M.D., director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Although Western medicine is still baffled why laughter is good for the heart, Chinese medicine explained it 5000 years ago. The explanation is that laughter is a form of energy, and this energy is associated with the heart. Duh.
Laughter has been shown to be good for a variety of things. It relaxes the entire body, stimulates the diaphragm and the internal organs, boosts the immune system, reduces stress, and relieves pain. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, which promote a sense of well being.
So watch some comedies, read some funny books (I’m a fan of Dave Barry), or watch some stand-up comedy. Get your laugh on, and get healthier.
Many Americans are chronically sleep deprived. As a society, we drink too much caffeine, eat too much sugar, and watch too much TV. How often do you stay up late doing absolutely nothing productive? Was it really necessary to watch the late show last night?
One of the best things that you can do for yourself and your health is to get more sleep. And it’s not just the quantity, but the quality that matters. Do you wake up feeling rested?
Practicing Qigong works wonders on sleep quality. Students regularly tell me that they sleep better than they have in years, even decades, after learning Qigong. A good habit that anyone can try, even if you haven’t learned Qigong yet, is to do the 2-Minute Drill before bed. Actually, you can even do it while lying in bed. The rhythmic movement and breathing puts many people to sleep like a baby. Try it, and see if it works for you.
Studies have shown that napping is good for your heart, can help improve your mood, can increase your concentration, and it can even help with jet lag. Personally, I nap every day. But I typically teach in the evenings, so I’m lucky in to have that freedom.
If you work 9-5, it’s not easy to squeeze in a nap. So start with the weekends. Nap on Saturdays and Sundays. Or, if you can arrange your schedule so that you can take a siesta in the middle of the day, even better.
Another trick is an exercise called Nourishing the Spirit. While sitting in a chair, do the head-to-toe relaxation (listen to free audio lesson if you don’t know it). Keep your back straight, and don’t lean back in the chair. Then finish with the closing sequence. It’s not as good as a nap, but it works surprisingly well. Try it.
These days, everyone is talking about Vitamin D. Suddenly, it’s the wonder cure. Research shows that Vitamin D can help regulate the immune system, reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis, maintain brain function later in life, maintain a healthy body weight, ease symptoms of asthma, reduce the risk of arthritis, and reduce the risk of cancer. Holy Wonder Drug, Batman!
Now if only there were a way to get this wonder drug Vitamin D for free. Wouldn’t that be something!
Humans were meant to get lots of sunlight, both direct and indirect. Our distant ancestors spent most of their time outdoors. Even our great grandparents spent more time outside. It’s only in the past few decades that humans have gotten so little sunlight. Thanks to a lot of misinformation, many people are even afraid of the sunlight.
Let me clearly state my opinion: sunlight is good for you. What about all this talk about skin cancer? Well, since I believe that cancer is, first and foremost, a deficiency of the immune system, the sun is irrelevant. A healthy immune system will have no problem dealing with the sun. And of course, getting sun is part of a healthy immune system.
Here are some tips to help you get sun in a healthy way. First of all, don’t get burned. Not ever. Our ancestors didn’t get burned because they were outside all of the time. Getting sunburned is to be avoided at all costs.
Second — and this one is weird — try not to wash yourself with soap for 48 hours after getting sun. Okay, that’s not going to happen, so instead, only use soap on your armpits and your unmentionables. Vitamin D3 is an oil-soluble hormone formed when sunlight hits your skin. If you wash your skin with soap, then the Vitamin D won’t penetrate the bloodstream, and you won’t get the benefits.
A note to those practicing Tai Chi and Qigong: don’t practice in direct sunlight unless it’s at dawn. When you practice Tai Chi and Qigong, your body is in a heightened meditative state. When we’re in this state, the energy from the sun can be too strong for us, disturbing our energy system.
We live in the information age, and there is a lot of it out there. Of course, some of it is bad, but some of it is also good. If you look hard enough, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
I found my beloved teacher, Grandmaster Wong, by reading dozens of books. Eventually, I found his book, The Art of Chi Kung. It was so compelling that I traveled to Malaysia to learn from him. Learning from him was the best decision of my life, and it all started with a book.
A word of advice. Whether you realize it or not, the current medical establishment is dominated by Big Pharma. As I hinted earlier, they are not interested in prevention. Why? Because prevention would cut their profits.
Do you honestly think that Pfizer, with billions in annual Lipitor revenue, is going to give that up easily? Or are they going to try to stifle the competition? That’s what they did in Europe when they outlawed hundreds of herbal remedies. Yep, natural herbs are illegal, but dangerous prescriptions drugs like statins are perfectly legal.
When doing your research, don’t be surprised if the monied interests try to divert you away from simple and cheap healing modalities. If Big Pharma can’t patent it, they will try to crush it. The information is out there, but you have to think critically when examining it.
I am fiercely independent. I like to take things into my own hands. Taking my health into my own hands was one of the best things I ever did. I hope that this article will help you realize that you don’t need a lot of money to be healthy. What you need most is a desire to change, and the discipline to follow through.