An idiot's survival guide for staying mostly whole in the concrete jungle.
Everyone want's a piece of the Big Apple but the (tamed) elephant in the room is that gotham city ain't exactly your latest pristine-aired blue zone.
If slow-paced living off the land in a secluded alpine forrest is your jam, then don't get off at this stop. Research suggests that urbanites are more likely to develop asthma, allergies, and mood- or sleep disorders than their rural counterparts. The neon-lit brighter side, however is that compared to the country kids, us city dwellers are at a lower risk of becoming obese, committing suicide, or dying of a car accident (wait what?!) and we're likely to have a better quality of life when we're old. Bingo!
Until then, we're happy to take our kale-juice-to-go with a side of smog.
If you, like me, are valcro-strapped to the beating pulse of world's best ever city but also give a shit about your health, then namastay-right here, I've got your back.
7 anti-urban health hacks to bullet-proof your knackered body and overstimulated mind:
1. Go ape-shit on antioxidants.
It's hardly a newsflash that the city air on our skin and lungs is densely polluted, and our food and water supply is laden with hidden toxins.
Your allies against these grossly harmful chemicals are free-radical busting antioxidants, found most abundantly in: fresh berries, green tea, black coffee, red wine, walnuts, pecans, dark chocolate, dried apples/plums/apricots, curly kale, chillies, prunes, herbs and spices especially dried ground clove, dried mint leaves, garlic and thyme. (I know what you're thinking and the answer is No, getting drunk on Petite Sirah and binge-eating Lindt 80% cacao is not the solution to your toxic environment)
2. Spring clean your sleep hygiene.
Let's be real, we SUCK at sleep. Between uninterrupted noise pollution, lack of black-out darkness and consequent insufficient melatonin, LED exposure from our smart devices, late nights out, over-consumption of coffee and booze, and the never-ending anxiety dialogue going on in our heads, proper sleep don't stand a chance! The latest research on the harmful effects of sleep shortage on our physical and mental health is alarming ;) It's time to wake-up and get disciplined about bedtime. For real.
3. Forage for your gut flora.
There are 10 times more bacteria in your intestines than there are cells in your entire body! And you can't live without them. But stress, sugar and drugs (Aspirin, Advil, Antibiotics) are crowding them out. These friendly germs you host do everything from food break-down, vitamin synthesis, toxin elimination to immune system regulation. So if you want fewer allergies and infections, clearer skin, better digestion, and apparently even a leaner bod then feed your flora already.
Their favourites are fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso, kefir, kombucha. Also increase soluble fibre (ever heard of inulin or butyrate?) in foods like Jerusalem artichoke, butter (opt for grass-fed or ghee), garlic, lentils. And consider speaking to your health practitioner about a good quality, high-strain probiotic supplement.
4. Drop it like it's hot.
Back in the day we used to dance around fires to the sick beat of a hyde-drum every night. Now we binge-watch Broad City alone on the couch. Go dancing. Often. Shake your tail feather like your health depends on it. Because it does.
5. Hunt stillness.
The flood of emerging research on the far-reaching benefits of mediation is astounding. Mindfulness-based stress reduction is finally going mainstream and if you could do with a little less depression, more creativity, concentration and compassion, a lower risk of heart disease and a better memory, then step on the brakes for just 5 minutes a day and train your mind to shut the f*ck up. Try an App like Headspace to get you stated. Or just shut your eyes and focus your attention on the movement of your stomach as you in- and exhale.
5. Eat leaves.
Just eat more green leaves. Don't make me tell you again why. They neutralise the acidity and toxicity in our bodies. Add seaweed to the mix - it's an even better detoxifier. Get creative with your greens. Try bok choy and wild egyptian curly kale (that's not a thing but you get my drift. Experiment.)
6. Get your park on
A 25-minute walk in a city park is all it takes to recover from urban attention fatigue. Scottish scientists found that when city rat- racers stroll into green leafy parks, their thoughts become attentive, expansive and meditative as their brain waves patterns relax
7. When life gives you lemons from the farmer's market, make lemonade and drink it on the subway and at work.
Get a big glass bottle and chuck 3 slices of lemons and water in it. Drink from it throughout the day. The urban liver is a hard-working, thirsty liver. Give it detoxifying lemon water (the potent stuff is in th peal so chuck it all in there). Your skin will thank you too.