In extreme conditions, a human can survive 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food.
Our bodies are incredible machines capable of much more than we give them credit for. But just like any machine, it needs to be taken care of. There are 5 basic needs our bodies require to survive:
Oxygen in one of the most essential human needs. Our bodies need a consistent supply of it to function properly. Without access to oxygen, you can experience a condition know as cerebral hypoxia which affects our brains. As little as 5 min without air can result in brain damage, and after 15 minutes, the brain damage can be so severe that most people will not recover. This is the body's greatest need.
Apart form air, water is the most essential element to life. Our bodies are made up of 70% water, and as we live we deplete our body's resources, which is why it is so important to stay hydrated. The dehydration process begins when the body is unable to maintain hydration balance. A 2.5% loss in water volume in a person leads to a 25% reduction in blood volume. This means the blood gets thicker and the heart has to work harder to pump nutrients throughout the body. This lower blood volume also reduces flow to the extremities, leading to numbness in the fingers and toes. At this point, the blood is too thick to make its way through the small capillaries in the brain, this makes it impossible to concentrate or focus for any period of time.
The body can survive quite a while without food. At first it uses up energy found in its fat and glycogen reserves. Once the fat reserves are used up, the body will begin breaking down the musculature into proteins for energy. Muscles break down quickly, within one week. Once this process has completed the body has no more internal energy sources to draw from and dies. Most people who suffer from starvation don't die directly from it. At this stage, the body is very susceptible to infectious diseases, and it is the infections that end up killing them.
A shelter, which could include appropriate clothing, has the purpose of protecting you from the elements, keeping your body at a consistent temperature. The biggest concern with being exposed to the elements is water loss. Cold temperatures and wind can strip away valuable moisture just as quickly as high temperatures can cause sweat related loss. When we are unable to maintain a constant temperature, we run the risk of hypothermia or heat stroke. With hypothermia, the body loses the ability to control internal temperatures. With heat stroke, the central nervous system starts to break down and the brain overheats and dies.
Sleep deprivation has long been underestimated as a necessity for survival, but a severe lack of sleep can be detrimental to your health and your life. Problems can range from decreased body temperature to cognitive impairment and hallucination. Although the mechanisms of sleep are not well understood, the side effects of a lack of sleep are. Headaches can begin as soon as 24 hours after missing sleep. 72 hours in, memory is impaired and reality becomes distorted. At this point driving becomes very dangerous. After 96 hours without sleep, cognition is markedly impaired. After 144 hours, hallucinations begin, you are unable to concentrate or preform tasks. This lack of clear thinking can be life threatening.
How to thrive?
I don't know about you, but I don't just want to survive. I want to thrive, live every moment to the fullest, and be in excellent health. This body is the only one you get, so how can you use these elements to live a life of excellence?
Air - Make sure that you get outside. Breath as much fresh air as possible. Get moving, go hiking. Allow fresh oxygen in, let it circulate through your body, keeping you fresh and healthy.
Water - Drink as much fresh, clean, healthy remineralized and alkaline water as your body needs. The nutrient rich water will not only hydrate you, but will raise your body's pH level, giving it more energy to keep you healthy. This is one of the best things you can do for your health.
Food - Make sure you are eating fresh, good, wholesome foods that are rich in nutrients. Try to eat 80% alkaline and only 20% acidic foods. Balance is key. And make food a family affair. Turn off the TV and get talking. It's an opportunity for engagement.
Shelter - Your home is supposed to be your safe haven. Make it as comfortable as possible. Fill it with things and people you love. Keep it clean. It is your place of safety; it should feel that way too.
Sleep - Allow yourself to rest. We live in a high paced society and sometimes sleep isn't as much a priority as it should be. Make sure that you are allowing your body to recuperate from the day so that when you wake up in the morning, you are ready for more.
A lot of these things are choices. You have the power to choose the quality of your life. Sometimes we don't have control of the big issues. But as Emily Dickinson once said, "If you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves."
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