For me, health is everything, as when we feel strong and clear, so much is possible.
It is not always possible to prevent illness though, but the lifestyle choices that we make can have a significant impact on both our physical and mental wellbeing. Ahead of the new year, I’d like to look at some steps we can take to improve our overall health. There are ways to condition the body and reduce our risk of developing illnesses and picking up bugs – especially with a lot of flying, focusing on our diet, avoiding toxic substances and exercising more. All will prove incredibly beneficial, and of course, this is also a ‘note to self’.
Relook at your diet
Take a look at your diet and make sure the foods that you are eating are balanced and nutritionally rich. Eating well should not always be about losing weight, although you might want to consider reducing your calorie intake slightly if you are carrying a few extra pounds. Your body relies heavily on the food that you put into it to provide it with all the nutrients and energy that it needs. Increase your consumption of foods containing fibre and whole grains, minerals and vitamins, as well as plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, and water. From my perspective, as almost entirely plant-based, with the occasional yoghurt and egg for breakfast, I’d like to advocate for eating less meat, it’s good for you – and it’s even better for the environment.
Drink more water
Staying hydrated is essential. Very few of us drink enough water and this can make us feel sluggish and lethargic, as well as leaving us prone to mental confusion and lack of clarity. Aim to drink around eight glasses of water a day, more so if you are physically active or it is hot. Try to avoid single-use plastic bottles, and opt rather for a reusable water bottle.
Exercise helps both physically and mentally. If you generally lead a sedentary lifestyle, start slowly and gently – a brisk walk during your lunch break, or going swimming are good ways to kick start an exercise routine, before building up to something more intensive. Many people find that setting themselves a goal or a target can help, such as being able to run 5km or doing a sponsored walk for charity. Others find that having an exercise buddy – or in my case, two dogs, is a great motivational tool. We find it easier to let ourselves down, but leaving the beloved dogs without a walk is not going to happen. Travel can be demanding work, and a good fitness level makes it easier and you can include hikes and cycling tours, without worrying about how you’ll cope.
Give up the bad habits
Habits such as smoking and drinking too much alcohol can harm your health, as you know. Giving up either is a lot easier said than done, but there are plenty of initiatives and things to help you do this. Nicotine patches and gum can help you with smoking. It is important to remember that seeking help for anything like this is not a sign of weakness and will benefit your health significantly. I’ve personally never smoked, but my drive is to cut out sweets and chocolate, I’ve already cut out sugar in coffee and take no soft drinks, and can feel a difference for it.
Look after your mental health
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, so it is important not to neglect it. If you are struggling with stress, anxiety or depression because of work or personal issues, talk to a sympathetic manager or colleague and see if you can reduce your workload or responsibilities until you feel stronger. Many people find meditation techniques, such as yoga and deep breathing exercises, to reduce their feeling of stress and anxiety. I for one start every day with a 30-40 minute combo. Social media can be very triggering if you are suffering from low self-esteem or a lack of confidence, as the pressure to look good and live your ‘very best life’ is all too common on there. If you feel like it is having a significant negative impact on your life, delete the apps off your cell phone and step away for a while. Or go for a hike in the mountains somewhere off the grid, and recharge perspectives.
Make sure you get enough sleep
We rarely get enough sleep, and when we do sleep, it is often not good enough quality. With us, all living such busy lives, finding the time to wind down and sleep is harder than ever, but it is more important than ever. Where possible, try to avoid looking at a mobile phone, tablet or TV screen for at least an hour before bed, and relax in a warm bath with a warm, soothing tea. Love the sound of this, and am trying harder. Make sure the room that you are sleeping in is not too hot but not too cold, and as dark as possible. By following a good night-time routine, you are much more likely to find yourself having a restful nights sleep, leaving you feeling refreshed and ready to face the day when you wake up. Aim for 7-8 hours, and monitor it to help know that you are indeed keeping the promise to yourself.
Putting these into practice will no doubt lead to a positive impact on our health. Here’s a challenge to you to match my promise to self to start the new year on the right foot with a strong focus on health and well-being. And in my case, with yoga daily.