There are two times of the year when people commonly review their health: New Years Eve, and the end of winter, when you start removing the layers of clothing and look at what is hiding underneath. “Being Healthy” has a few different meanings according to your current state of health and your desired point to achieve. In general, healthy means feeling full of energy, maintaining a weight appropriate to your lifestyle and age, and being free of illness and disease.
The following steps can help you to achieve better health, and this list allows you to select one or two each month, as a personal challenge. Remember that if you introduce a new habit and do it every day for 120 days, it becomes your new normal, making it easy to be more healthy!
1) Find an exercise which you enjoy
Lots of people hate the gym, but it might be a matter of finding the right class, or getting a program created which suits you. Consider taking a friend or two along with you, as this will make you all attend more regularly.
And it doesn’t have to be a gym class – you could go for a walk for an hour, find a new Pilates or yoga class, take up aerial silks at a circus school! It’s about finding a way to make exercise something which you actually want to do.
2) Commit to doing exercise five times per week
Studies have shown that exercising nearly every day shows the greatest effect on long term health, but before you decide this is too much, remember that going for a walk in your lunch break counts as exercise! Aim to have three cardio sessions (think sweating and raised heart rate) per week, and the rest can be a stretch or core workout, and then a simple walk keeps it up to date.
You can introduce regular walking into daily life by walking part or all the way to work, taking the stairs, walking to the shop instead of driving. It is possible to track your steps, so set yourself a daily challenge!
It is important when starting out, not to overdo it or wear yourself out. Pick times and that you can stick to without getting discouraged. Starting with shorter sessions to build up your fitness are great, and changing your routine every 3-4 months to take advantage of changes of season and your fitness will help keep it interesting.
3) Make a Rainbow on Your Plate
Filling your plate with as many different colours of salad and vegetables means that you are getting the broadest spectrum of vitamins and minerals from your food. Try to eat as many different kinds of fruit, salads and vegetables as you can, and source your produce from local organic markets where possible.
4) Cook at Home More Often
Cooking your own meals means that you know exactly what is in your food, and the most natural and lacking in processed ingredients your meals contain, the more healthy you will feel. Make enough to have left overs and take these to work for lunch the next day – saves money and you are eating a healthy and nutritious meal.
5) Drink More Water
We need water to survive. We need to intake between 2-3 litres per day – easier than it sounds if you break it down to around 6-8 cups of water and sufficient high water content fruit, salad and vegetables.
Have a cup of water as soon as you wake up, another when you get to work, then refill each time you go to the bathroom. Drinking water with a squeeze of lemon can make you consciously drink more water.
Whilst coffee has a few health benefits, aim for no more than 2 cups per day. Soft drinks have no health benefits and should be avoided on a regular basis.
6) Remind Yourself What You Are Grateful For, Every Day
Gratitude diaries are a powerful tool, or just sitting with your family at dinner asking each person “What Went Well?” (WWW) to allow everyone the chance to find something to be grateful for in their day. Gratitude allows us to see that life is good and to appreciate what we have, rather than focussing on negative issues.
7) Practice a Form of Stress Relief Every Day
We all suffer from stress at some stage, and learning how to manage it is very powerful. Breathing techniques, meditation, exercise, yoga, listening to music, dancing: these are all good methods of stress management, find one which works for you effectively.
Meditation is a common option, and it often regarded as being too difficult, but like any exercise, you need to practice it daily to build up the ability to derive benefit from the practice. Start with just 2 mins every morning, focussing on breath or a word, or using an App, and build up from there.
8) Volunteer and Spend Time Helping Others
Giving money to charity imparts longer lasting sensation of wellness than spending money on yourself. If you don’t have money to give regularly, give time. Volunteer at a fundraiser, offer your services to a local charity. The act of giving allows us to remember how lucky we are, but also offers greatly to our sense of fulfilment.
9) Get More Sunlight
Direct sunlight on our skin increases production of vitamin D, which helps with immunity, bone strength and a variety of other benefits. Being out in direct light also sets our circadian rhythm, which benefits sleep quality and metabolism. Spend time outside before 10am and after 3pm (less during summer), and allow a few minutes in the sun without sunscreen or cover.
10) Limit Watching TV and Screens at Night
If you are trying to improve sleep, remove electronics out of your bedroom and read books, listen to music, practice journaling, or meditation. Review your late night lighting to avoid blue light from televisions and screens, which causes the suppression of melatonin, which affects sleep patterns.
11) Establish Regular Contact with People
Touch is so important but many people don’t have access to people close enough to feel safe to hug or have contact with, and even those of us with loved ones nearby don’t always remember to hug regularly.
Touch accesses the release of oxytocin, a hormone which helps with our ability to relax. It also offsets the production of cortisol, a hormone which is produced in response to stress. Touch also helps to maintain a strong immune system.
Make time every day to hug your kids. Set aside enough time every morning to hug your partner, and your friends whenever you see them. Pat your dog and stroke your cat. Or book a massage every month! If you are not comfortable hugging, allow gentle touch by placing your hand on the shoulder of someone whom you trust.
12) Make Sure You Are Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep is essential for healthy body and mind, and without restful natural sleep, we cannot repair the rigours of daily life. Most of us need at least seven to eight hours. To get the most from sleep, it helps to go to sleep at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. Routine allows the mind and body to rest, recover and wake naturally.
To improve your daily enjoyment of life and journey towards better health, pick one or two goals and implement them into your daily life. Allow yourself to focus on small changes but apply them regularly. Good luck with your move into better health!