When it comes to our health, we focus a lot on diet and exercise, very important factors of course! And it can be difficult to conquer these two alone in the world we live in today, with so much time pressure and all the processed nasty foods we are surrounded with, without adding anything else into the mix, but full health is about much more than just these two factors. But don’t worry!! The good news is, while you are busy trying to tweak your diet and fit that exercise into your already busy schedule, there are many little things you can be doing, daily habits that don’t take long, that can really impact your health and can even have a bearing on your eating and movement too.
Take a person who is eating really healthy and exercising 5 times a week, but still not feeling at optimal health. What other factors are at play? Stress, connection, relaxation, purpose, so many other elements you may not even think of have such a great impact on our health both physical and mental. Stress plays such a big part in our lives these days, our lives are busier than ever, rushing and racing and jam-packed schedules have become the norm. Sometimes the simplest change in your lifestyle can make all the difference, something really small that you may not even relate to ‘being healthy’ can have huge effect. Here are some tips on small changes that can bring big health benefits.
We can all get caught up in the rat-race, trying to squeeze everything in, feeling there aren’t enough hours in the day. We can have a day so filled with things to do; work, family, social commitments, exercise, there is no time left to ‘just be’. Sometimes just rethinking the day and thinking ‘I don’t HAVE to do that today’ about one thing on the list, can take the pressure off and allow a little time for ourselves. We can all get caught up in the ‘I have to do’ or ‘I should do’ mentality, which is a stress on us whether we realise it or not. A little flexibility can go a long way. Every now and again simply deciding to leave the housework or the gym and have a cuppa with a friend or a leisurely mindful stroll instead, can be just what the doctor ordered.
When it comes to exercise, the likes of yoga or pilates are great exercise which give good results but are done in a slow relaxing way, great for body and mind. Many of us are exercising to lose weight, so the overall goal is to get ourselves healthier, but the process done in a certain way e.g. racing to the gym and putting our bodies through a gruelling workout every day, can be a major stressor on the body, and end up having the opposite effect on your health than you were aiming for. You may find that a regular yoga or pilates class could give as good results, so good for the whole body, stretching and toning and reducing your stress levels at the same time. Even if you just switched one workout in the week for this slower paced one it really is a win-win for body and mind!
Something you can easily do at home is to do a few simple stretches, when you find a quiet moment or even before you get out of bed in the morning or last thing at night, so good and nourishing for the body, increasing flexibility and releasing tension!
Interaction with other people is so important for our wellbeing. Making time to spend quality time with your loved ones is so good for the soul and is a wonderful stress reducer. A great conversation with a colleague or a good old laugh with a friend reduces cortisol levels and shifts your body into parasympathetic mode.
The type of people we surround ourselves with can make a great difference. Negative people can bring you right down and increase your stress levels. Spending time with upbeat friends with things in common or shared interests can give a great feeling of connection and bonding. There’s no better health boost than surrounding yourself with positive people, who make you laugh! A good rule of thumb – ‘spend time with people who give you a buzz’!
We can often feel too tired to socialise, but it’s worth making the effort to get out and meet friends. It needn’t involve alcohol or a late night, even a cuppa or a meal, just the chance to have that time to sit, talk and laugh. Laughter is the best medicine!
Many of us don’t put enough emphasis on relaxation. Whether it’s lack of time or feeling like we should be doing something else or even that we don’t deserve it, whatever the reason we all fall down in this area. We need to take some time doing nothing just relaxing to recharge the batteries and give our bodies a rest from our hectic lives. Simply sitting and reading a book, watching a movie, taking in a show or a good comedian, going to a spa or simply taking a nap. That physical ‘allowing yourself’ is a major thing, just listening to your body and giving it the break it needs. Be good to yourself!
Getting enough sleep is paramount for good health. Lack of sleep can have a effect on our mood, stress levels, energy levels and even on what we eat. When we are tired chemicals are released making us crave carbs/sugar, making it more of a struggle to eat healthy. When we are asleep is the time when the body does it repairing and regenerating. And the brain needs that time too, it actually shrinks at night and clears out plaque, so important for our health, the build up of this plaque in the brain has been associated with Alzheimers disease. 7-8 hours sleep is optimal, staying up too late or not getting enough hours of sleep can play havoc with our circadian rhythym, our internal clock, which regulates our 24 hour cycle of biological processes. Thats why everything seems better after a good sleep!
Ikigai is a Japanese concept meaning “a reason for being”, it is very similar to the French phrase ‘raison d’etre’. Everyone, has an ikigai but finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Such a search is regarded as being very important, since it is believed that discovery of one’s ikigai brings satisfaction and meaning of life.
Finding our reason for being is not something that happens over night, but in small baby steps over months or years. A good start is simply listening to your body and following your heart every now and again, not always doing what you should be doing but what you would like to do. Taking up a new hobby, doing something spontaneous, or trying something you have always wanted to do. Take that time to allow you to be ‘you’, it will do wonders for your health, both mental and physical.
Setting goals is another way to instil some purpose into our lives. Goal setting is a powerful technique that gets you to visualise the end result and commit to that goal, the results are astounding in terms of productivity and achievement. Achieving ones goals can really boost confidence and self esteem, which is going to help our overall health.
An attitude of gratitude is a serious health booster. A good mantra is ‘talk more about your blessings than your problems’, this promotes positivity in yourself and those around you and the end result is a happier healthier you! A simple tip is – each night at bedtime take a minute to write down three things you are grateful for that happened today and also three things you aim to achieve tomorrow. It doesn’t matter how small! You will actually wake up in a better, more positive and motivated mood.
If you were to start one new thing today, let it be 5 mins of mindfulness or meditation. You will be amazed at how 5 mins (or even just 1 minute! Whatever you can manage) of uninterrupted sitting in silence, breathing, can change your whole mood and demeanour for the rest of the day. Stress levels decrease and the body is returned to parasympathetic nervous system, which means less stress hormones being released, which is going to have a huge impact on our physical health also, aswell as mental health.
So we must look at the full picture in order to achieve complete healthy. Nourishing the body with the appropriate food and movement and also nurturing ourselves with all of the above.