10 steps to a healthier you; physically and mentally.

After an extremely difficult year, mental and physical health has never been so important, nor more recognised. Hallelujah, it’s the 21st century and finally, it’s becoming more normal to speak openly about mental health and stigmas are finally being broken down. 

We strive to be more ‘healthy’ but what does health actually mean?

Health; noun

  1. the state of being free from illness or injury.
  2. a person's mental or physical condition.


It can easily be forgotten that our bodies are not machines and they require lots of care and rest. When both our mind and body are healthy, we generally feel better, which makes life more enjoyable as we are able to achieve better results, be more productive, be more in the moment and thus happier.  

We don’t become healthier overnight, implementing new habits takes time. Here are a few simple steps to help you make changes to your lifestyle which may help you feel healthier and happier:

1. Maintain a healthy diet

Food is our body’s fuel. We can enjoy a healthier lifestyle by focusing our attention on our meals. Aim to eat 3 main meals a day; the focus should be on whole foods rather than processed foods. Focus on the fruit and veg and high protein, followed by slow-releasing carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice, pasta. A balanced diet is key to maintain our energy levels, limit insulin dips/spikes, and improve your mood. Cooking fresh can also be a very mindful activity, and sharing food enhances our enjoyment of eating. 

2.Drink plenty of H20! 

Our body requires around 2 litres of water every day (around 8-10 glasses). Our brains are made out of 70% water, which means drinking sufficient amounts helps enhance our cellular function. Drinking adequate quantities of water can help with a variety of things such as headache relief, metabolism and regulatory improvement, joint pain reduction and higher flexibility, and an improvement in mood. Innvest in a water bottle and be mindful of how much you are drinking, keep water at your bedside and drink a pint before leaving the house in the morning. If you find it more satiating you can add squash to your water for more flavour if it makes you more likely to drink it.

3. EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE! 

Just 30 minutes a day of exercise can make you feel better, give you more energy, and improve your sleep quality. Exercise can also be helpful in reducing negative thoughts and increasing serotonin, a “feel-good” hormone produced by our brains. Another added benefit of daily exercise is it can slow down signs of ageing! It is a very important to exercise that includes both cardio and strength training. Cardio will keep your heart healthy, allow you to feel fitter, it’s great for weight loss and boosts natural energy. You can combine the outdoors and exercising such as running, cycling and make it a social activity with friends!

Strength training, most importantly, protect bone health and improves muscle mass. Muscle mass naturally decreases with age, so it’s great to start young and create a lifetime habit. You feel stronger, more energised and increased muscle mass helps you appear more ‘toned’.

4.Get Outdoors!

Fresh air, sun, trees. Nature is a magical thing, and according to some studies, can have strong healing powers — such as improving mood (by reducing stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline), boosting the immune system, leading to better focus and giving you a better nights sleep. Getting outdoors early can help anchor your circadian rhythm and make you feel more awake, and therefore more likely to be productive. Aim to get outside before/during/after work to break up your day and give your mind a break. 

5.Improve your sleeping habits

Most adults need between 6 and 9 hours of sleep every night. By working out what time you need to wake up, you can set a regular bedtime schedule. Ie, if you know you want to wake up at 6 am, aim to get into bed at 9 pm, no phone in the bedroom, journal, read a book etc to be asleep by 10 pm for a guaranteed 8 hours sleep. Keep regular sleeping hours, this programmes your body clock to get used to a set routine. It is also important to try and wake up at the same time every day. While it may seem like a good idea to try to catch up on sleep after a bad night, doing so on a regular basis can also disrupt your sleep routine.

Your bedroom should be a relaxing environment. Experts claim there's a strong association in people's minds between sleep and the bedroom. However, certain things weaken that association, such as TVs and other electronic gadgets, light, noise, and a bad mattress. Keep your bedroom just for sleep and sex; unlike most physical activity, sex makes us sleepy. This has evolved in humans over thousands of years. Your bedroom ideally needs to be dark, quiet, tidy and be kept at a temperature of between 18C and 24C. If your bedroom is too light/noisy you can invest in earplugs and an eye mask. 

6.Reduce Screen Time

Spending time on our phones, laptops and tablets constantly can be detrimental to our health. Unsurprisingly it’s incredibly bad for your well-being in many ways. Physically, it’s bad for your eyes and body and prevents you from being active, but it’s also incredibly mentally draining in a way you might not even realise at the time. Social Media can draw you into self-loathing, comparison circles and can result in more harm than good when unknowingly scrolling. It also prevents us from socialising in person and using social skills when with our friends and family. You can improve this by: putting time limits on apps, setting phone restrictions ie, putting your phone away on charge in another room from 8pm and not pik it up until 8am the next day, never having your phone at the table or in the bedroom. Have a book ready for when you know you sit and scroll, or learn to meditate - there are useful apps you can use as audio but not for scrolling! 

7.Socialise with friends & family

Humans are social animals, we are not meant to be solitary. Being part of a community correlates strongly with longevity and health as we get older. Socialising comes with many cognitive benefits as well; interacting with others helps stimulate our brains, improving both our emotional health as well as our brain health. We can enjoy the many benefits of socialising by looking for a club to join, volunteering for a good cause, or simply making it a point to see your friends more often.

8.Avoid drugs and alcohol

This point might appear redundant. However, it’s essential to understand that using psychoactive substances isn’t a valid coping mechanism. Briefly, drugs force-release “happiness” hormones. After a while, the brain has to replenish the reserves by taking resources from other tissues, contributing to depression, emotional instability, and physical illnesses. Alcohol should be consumed in moderation, and be mindful of how it makes you feel the next day - by all means, have a few drinks with dinner and have a great time every now and then! 

9.Meditate & Mindfulness 

In a world of constant notifications and ‘go go go’, we need to find a way to ‘switch off". There are thousands of studies that have shown mindfulness meditation can positively impact mental and physical health. Whether it’s by reducing stress, improving sleep, increasing focus, or improving relationships, research shows mindfulness works. While the research on mindfulness, especially digital mindfulness programs, is still growing, there is evidence to support the use of mindfulness training for many outcomes. [Headspace 2021]

  1. Challenge Yourself

Our brains are extremely complicated organs and require stimulation and sometimes shocking to keep us occupied, if you are a very mundane routine you will soon get bored as you know what's constantly coming next. Try a new hobby, book a weekend away, explore a new area, get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself! Write a journal documenting your adventure as it enhances your memory and experience.  

Remember you don’t need to make all of these changes all at once, be mindful of these and choose one to focus on, when you are happy you’ve improved one, begin another. Small steps and habit building will lead to longer-lasting success and change. 

Written by Amy Gomer @amyrosannaruns

 

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