Good living is well said to be a holistic endeavour. It’s not just what you eat, the exercise you take or even the positive thinking you indulge in. Instead, it is a series of small steps and consistency, and remembering that, especially when we are finding it most difficult to maintain, is the key. We do not have to stop completely or start relentlessly. Rather we just need to be good to ourselves. Here are my 5 tips to stay healthy.
You are what you eat
A little thought about what you eat, and how you cook it, is all you need. Educate yourself about what different foods do for you and how you can make little changes to improve your overall nutrition. Sensible portions, less processed or fried food and a more balanced mix of fresh stuff is all you need. These days most people are aware that crisps are bad, fruit is good. But if you investigate things like the food pyramid and the Mediterranean diet, just a bit (Google search will do it) you’ll find out what foods can really make a difference. For example, I discovered bananas are happy food and now I swear by 2 a day. And it really does work. It´s all common sense, and by putting a few ideas together it makes it easier to adapt and stick to. What you think might be small changes really do have big results when they become part of your lifestyle.
Stay hydrated – with something natural
The amount of people who are overweight and confess to drinking loads and loads of sugary, fizzy drinks is astonishing. Processed sugar is worse for you than just about anything. A regular soda is about 1/3 sugar, and diet drinks are full of all sorts of chemical substitutes.
My wife was a big fan of a certain fizzy cola drink which famously comes in a red and white can. She always knew it wasn’t good for her but she justified drinking it as a trade-off with her otherwise healthy living. She didn’t seem to be negatively affected by the drink, but nonetheless suspected it was worth giving cutting it out a try.
This year she decided to give it up for lent and swap it for water and fruit juices. Setting it as a personal 40-day challenge seemed to make it easier for her than saying ‘never again’. Witnessing the benefits to her health - better skin, sleep, and feeling less up and down in energy and mood, she has now gone 3 months without it and has kicked the craving. Try it yourself. Find one thing to cut out – sugar from tea, energy drinks or any unnatural drinks. If you drink 10 cups of tea a day try exchanging 5 of those for a decaffeinated version. Start it for a limited time, and see what it develops into.
Get your heart beating faster
Committing to an exercise routine would be the best course of action but how many times have we all done that and run out of time or interest. A gym membership does not guarantee you do a single stroke of exercise. Here is an easy alternative that absolutely anyone can do: -
Get your heart pumping and get your breath going 3 times a day. That’s it! You can choose however you want to do it. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, but make sure you do it quickly enough to get you breathing deeply. Do as many star jumps, running on the spot, lift some weights of some kind (some tins of food serve for this if you don’t have any dumb bells) – each just until you feel you have got your blood pumping. It does not have to be uncomfortable. We are probably only taking 30-120 seconds each time, but doing it 3 times a day every day will show benefits.
Float your boat
Do something that stimulates your interest and makes you concentrate. Practice an instrument, paint or colour in a picture, do some arts and crafts, learn something new – anything you like, and just because you want to. Participate in a group – playing games or competing in a quiz.
It’s ironic that, during the lockdown we have all been going through, the benefits of the creative arts subjects that have long been undervalued in school has become apparent. Awaken the child in you. Make something, change something, do something that didn’t exist before. Value your creative side. The more you practice, the better you will get. It will give you great sense of satisfaction and keep you entertained.
Mind your mind
Maybe the most important take home from all this is be kind to yourself. We all too often put pressure on ourselves. Sometimes we push ourselves in ways we would not push others. We value interpersonal skills, but forget that first and foremost we need to know ourselves.
You might take up some kind of meditation such as Mindfulness. You could just take time to speak to a good friend and chew the fat over a coffee.
Take time to listen to yourself. Take your mental well-being temperature. If you are feeling down, acknowledge that it is normal from time to time. In fact a little wallowing in your melancholy is good for you. However, very importantly - if you, as a result of this introspective analysis, detect that you are not coping so well – reach out and speak to someone.
This might just be that coffee with a good friend we mentioned above. But if it feels like something deeper, darker and more permanent contact a professional. Start with the family doctor through public or private healthcare if you are not sure who else to ask. Your mental health is as important. Value yourself. You are worth it.
All of this is about little steps to maintain your health. Your activities do not need to be extreme. A little of each one of my 5 tips to stay healthy regularly will keep you on the right track. The more you look after yourself the better you will feel and the more steps you will start to add. It’s simple and it should be easy.
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