With the colder weather approaching, many people take time not only to spring clean their homes but also their lives. By this, I mean that people choose to get rid of bad habits and undertake a concerted effort to introduce new, better habits.
The problem most encounter, however, is that many of these decisions – such as fad diets, impulse gym memberships and going tee-total – are too stringent and sudden to have any staying power, so the full benefits are never experienced.
Instead, you should aim for small, manageable steps – maybe only one or two at a time – to start getting your lifestyle back to where you want it.
Below are some easy ways you can start implementing straight away to help improve your health, happiness and overall wellbeing.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep is a vital part of your routine, as it’s during those hours of rest that your body does most of its repair work. Sleep also helps to regulate your hormones and energy levels. A good rule of thumb is 8 hours a day, but you should make sure you get as much sleep as you need to feel well-rested – even if that means giving up TV time.
- Drink plenty of water. Not only will it keep you hydrated, allowing all the cells in your body to function at maximum efficiency, but it also flushes out any toxins in your body. 8 glasses of water a day is the usual recommendation, but remember that this can include tea and coffee. Aim to drink at least 1 litre (4 standard glasses) of actual water (before meals is a good time, as it fills you up and stops you overeating) and the other litre will usually be accounted for by other drinks.
- Eat fresh. The goal here is to include at least one fresh fruit or vegetable with every meal, as fresh fruits provide the most nutritional benefits. Try adding mixed berries to your porridge or cereal, add salad to your sandwich, and cook evening meal sides like broccoli, peas or cabbage from fresh, rather than relying on pre-packaged, prepared or frozen alternatives.
- Make time for friends and family. Our social interactions are often overlooked as being an enjoyable but not strictly necessary aspect of life. I disagree. Your social interactions are what help to shape your character, develop a full range of emotion and also help you cope with the daily pressures of life. Taking time every day to talk to those your love, discuss your problems, and also have a laugh, all contribute to your overall emotional and mental wellbeing. An easy way to ensure you get some quality time is to eat as a family every night – with the rule that no-one talks about work or school during the meal. Instead, focus on enjoyable activities and plans for the future, or simply engage in good-natured banter.
- Take time to unwind. Whenever suits you best, be it morning, afternoon or evening, set aside 10-20 minutes to meditate, practise yoga, or otherwise ‘switch off’ from what is going on around you. Taking time to reflect on what has happened, or is due to happen, during your day is a good way to manage stressful situations and give yourself a better perspective on events. It can also help you sleep, and lower blood pressure.
- Exercise regularly. 30 minutes of physical activity five times a week is the recommendation. This can be anything from walking, running or cycling to gym workouts, sports or yoga. Not only is exercise good for maintaining a healthy weight, it also boosts energy, increases flexibility and reduces stress. Furthermore, exercise taken before a meal wards off some hunger pangs, so you’re less likely to overeat.
- Keep up to date with check-ups. Whether it’s the doctor or dentist, make sure you have regular annual check-ups. There’s no excuse for letting one appointment a year fall by the wayside, and these once-overs could spot potential problems before they become bigger issues. Depending on age, make sure you also attend any recommended scans, and if you’re concerned about your health in any way then make an appointment to discuss the matter with your GP as soon as possible.
- Everything in moderation. Most of us like a drink now and again, a chocolate binge or the odd takeaway. The issues only arise when these things become not just occasional treats but regular weekly or even daily features of life. The weekly alcohol limit for adults is now 14 units for both men and women – that’s the equivalent of seven standard glasses of red wine, or four and a half pints of beer. Similarly, the daily recommended allowance for fat is 70g for an adult – which a portion of chip-shop chips and a slice of cream cake will fulfil.
- Quit smoking. This is probably the most difficult lifestyle change to make, but the links between smoking and cancers, respiratory problems and other health issues are unavoidable. If going cold turkey is out of the question, try switching to e-cigarettes, which still give you a nicotine hit to satisfy your craving without subjecting your body to the 4,000+ chemicals found in standard tobacco.
- Stay positive. It’s easy, when life hands you not just one lemon but a tree’s worth, to get disheartened and negative. Instead, focus on the things you can change, discuss your options with different people, and don’t be afraid to ask for, or accept, help.
Implement just a couple of these tips at a time, and build up until you’re regularly including all of them in your daily routine to create a healthy lifestyle that’s not only beneficial but sustainable and enjoyable too.