Do you live a healthy lifestyle? Do you follow a healthy diet? Do you drink enough water and eat enough fresh, wholesome food? How often do you exercise, meditate or do yoga? Do you get your seven to eight hours of sleep each night? Are you content with the people you surround yourself with?
Most people want to be happy and lead a healthier lifestyle. Now, to some, this may seem the easiest thing to achieve. But, for others, it might feel like a task that requires much more dedication and sacrifice than they’re willing to concede.
The truth is, no matter how difficult it might appear, making changes to improve your lifestyle doesn’t always have to cost a lot of money or take up much of your time. You can start off by slowly and comfortably making small improvements here and there, and gradually increase the pace once you feel more confident in yourself and the life you want to live.
To live a healthy life, means to take care of the body, mind and soul. It’s not only important to exercise and eat healthy, but also to maintain a positive mental state and healthy self-image.
Of course, physical activity and a nourishing diet does help maintain a more balanced state of mind, but what else can we do to make sure that we’re really maximising our ability to live a happy, healthy lifestyle?
After a few months and possibly years of interest and research into the subject of health and wellbeing, and through self-testing, I’ve composed a list of 15 factors that I believe – and can personally attest to – are the secrets to achieving a happier, more sustainable way of life. You may choose to adopt these simultaneously or pick out the ones that you think are the most relevant to your own personal journey.
1. Drink plenty of water and eat fruits and vegetables which have high water content
Did you know that water makes up two-thirds of the body? Water plays an integral part in your vitality and bodily functions, including a detoxifier, carrier of nutrients, regulator of temperature and energiser. We lose a great deal of water during the day due to various factors, so it’s important to constantly keep hydrated. If you’re not really a water-drinker, you can obtain some of your water reserves through the foods you eat. There are many fruits and vegetables that contain water, for instance cucumber, apples, watermelon, most berries, bananas, lettuce and leafy greens, celery and broccoli. Or, you can choose to infuse herbal or fruit teas into a jug or bottle of water and keep cool in the fridge as an alternative to plain water. My personal favourites are Peach & Mango iced tea and Cranberry & Apple tea from Healtheries.
2. Make sure you have at least seven (ideally eight) hours of sleep every night
Many people don’t get enough sleep, and this can cause a plethora of issues. Sleep deprivation can include metabolic imbalance, increased appetite, obesity, a compromised immune system, tiredness, moodiness, anxiety and depression. Research suggests that optimal levels of sleep are linked with the reduced risk of chronic illness and improved longevity, so it’s important to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night. There are some strategies that can help with sleep, such as going to bed early, turning off all electronic devices at least half an hour before bedtime to allow the mind to switch off and relax, sleep meditation, lavender oil, as well as some natural herbal sleep supplements that you can get from the pharmacy or health shops.
3. Listen to your body! When it’s telling you to stop, then stop!
You may have come across the saying: "take good care of your body, and your body will take care of you". It’s true. It’s vital to take good care of your body, so you should listen to it when it’s telling you it needs to stop. You will know when your body has had enough, for example, when your stomach is full from eating and you feel like you can’t fit another piece of food in your mouth, then stop eating. Or, stop pushing yourself when your body feels exhausted. Go on a holiday when you feel run down and in need of a break. Go for a walk when your eyes hurt from sitting too long in front of your computer screen. Whatever your body is trying to tell you, there’s a reason, so listen.
4. Be childlike every once in a while
Life doesn’t have to be so serious all the time. In fact, how boring would life be if we didn’t let the child in each of us come out every so often? Do things that make you smile, make you laugh. It might be playing board games with the family, tug-of-war with your dog, hopping on a swing in the park, or simply watching silly cat videos on YouTube. It is believed that smiling and laughing can improve your mood because of the release of feel-good endorphins in the brain. So, take the time to be carefree, you’ll be amazed how happy it can make you.
5. “Go primal”
I’m talking about going back to caveman times, where a diet consisted only of what was produced by Mother Nature. We should be eating foods that we’ve evolved and adapted to eat over thousands of years. A diet which consists of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, poultry and eggs. Cutting out processed, oily, sugary, caffeinated or trigger foods and drinks, and adopting a cleaner eating regime, rapidly reduces the risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, has proven to enhance fertility, and has a positive effect on our physical and mental wellbeing. Eating lots of bright coloured superfoods which contain antioxidants, are important to removing free radicals which damage cells in the body.
6. Be mindful in everything you do
Actively practice mindfulness. Be aware of everything that surrounds you. Take the time to enjoy the pleasures in life and use each of your senses in the process. Take a cup of tea for example: notice how the hot water you’re pouring into your cup sounds as it hits the tea bag, breathe in the smell of it (the steam, the aroma of tea), slowly take a sip and savour the taste of it, take note of how warm it feels on your tongue, the touch of the warm cup in your hands, and observe the colour of it. Cut out the distractions and merely focus on the small pleasures we tend to take for granted every day.
7. Make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D
It’s a fact that when skin is exposed to sunlight when the sun is high in the sky, the body produces Vitamin D. Vitamin D offers a wide range of health benefits, including an improved immune system, and reduces the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and certain types of cancer. Whilst being in the sun for too long can have a contradicting effect, such as burnt skin and skin cancer, it’s important that we do get out in the sunshine and fresh air for short periods of time during the day, to ensure optimal health. Although, it’s still wise to take precautions, protecting your face, chest and neck from harmful sunrays.
8. Take regular walks
In today’s society, we constantly find ourselves spending more and more time each day sitting at a desk in front of our computer screens. But, sitting for long periods of time can be extremely unhealthy for both the body and mind. Walking is a low-impact aerobic exercise which is proven to have phenomenal benefits such as mood-enhancing effects (by increased endorphins), anti-anxiety results and can decrease the chances of chronic illnesses. Take a few minutes out of your day to get up and walk around the office, or go for a walk outside during your lunch break. Removing yourself from the busyness and stresses of your daily responsibilities for short bursts of time can also have positive outcomes on your concentration levels, refreshing and rejuvenating your creative mind.
9. Engage in exercise which requires resistance
Cardio training is all well and good for enhancing fitness and endurance and increasing your life span, but it’s important that you mix up your routine with exercises that help strengthen the body and develop muscle mass. As we get older, our muscle mass decreases, often causing issues and weaknesses later down the track, so it’s good to maintain a healthy muscle mass to reduce these hindrances. You can easily incorporate squats, lunges, sit-ups, press-ups and light weights into your work out. But, if you really want to challenge yourself, try out some Les Mils group fitness classes (my personal favourites are BodyPump and BodyCombat), or you can go a step further and do high-intensity interval training (HIIT) classes, like Grit, which involve short, intense bursts of physical activity and followed by short interval recovery periods. This type of exercise increases metabolism, burns fat faster, improves heart function and fitness levels, builds muscle mass, and tones and strengthens the body.
10. Practice meditation, breathing exercises and yoga
Meditation is an ancient method of relaxation, originating from India, whereby people sit in a posed position and focus their minds in silence (or with chanting) for a period to clear the mind of stress, find peace and tranquillity, and to reach a higher level of consciousness. It’s a great technique to calm the soul and quieten the mind. An app which I’d recommend is Headspace, a guided practice for mindfulness and self-meditation, to help you de-stress and sleep better. Abdominal breathing exercises, which are a series of deep, slow breathes, are also an effective way of energising the body and mind. This method can be used for various reasons, such as weight loss, detoxification, mental clarity, pain relief and relaxation. Yoga is another method which focusses on the body, mind and spirit, awakening self-awareness and enhancing clarity of mind. The benefits of yoga span from improving body functions to building strength and flexibility. These are all techniques which can help you manage stress and anxiety more productively, so that your health and wellbeing aren’t being impaired.
11. Do more in your spare time, with friends and family
To live a fulfilling life, you need to learn to live for the now! Balance work and life. Enjoy the moments and the people you share your life and happiness with. Maintaining a healthy social life is an integral part of living a long and healthy one, not to mention it broadens your perspective and outlook on the world. It’s quite easy to get caught up in the busy and trivial activities in life which force us to lose track of what’s truly important to us. You work hard during the week, so why not enjoy the moments we so often take for granted. Reconnect with the people you love and care about, and spend as much quality time as you can with them. After all, life is short and was not meant to be lived in isolation.
12. Be grateful and appreciative for every day you live
Instead of appreciating what we do have in life, we often tend to focus our energies on the things we don’t have. If you complain about the things that you don’t have and wish you did have, you’ll more than likely live a very unsettled, unhappy and jealous life. Guaranteed, if you shift your attention to the things that you are grateful for, you’ll feel a lot better about your life, be more optimistic, and you’ll probably find that you’ll be more willing to help others and practice acts of kindness. One way of demonstrating your appreciations, is by physically writing a gratitude list. List the things that you’re grateful for every day before bedtime and then reflect on them. You’ll be surprised at how this simple task can help shift your mood and attitude into a more positive space. There’s a very true saying that goes: “Be thankful for what you have. Your life, no matter how bad you think it is, is someone else’s fairy tale,” – Wale Ayeni.
13. Develop your mind
Keep learning and developing your knowledge! Remember, learning doesn’t end with school. It’s something that you need to continually work to improve and enhance. Make a conscious effort to learn something new every day. This could include researching something that interests you, reading different books to what you’d usually read, enrolling in a tertiary qualification, or following blogs and influential public figures who can offer a lot of knowledge on various topics and subject matter. Whatever you choose to do, always embrace a growth mindset. Challenge yourself to new learnings and focus on continually improving and growing your intelligence and perspective.
14. Rid negative people from your life and cleanse your mind of negativity
Surrounding yourself with negativity can be detrimental to your health and wellbeing, especially if you’re someone who already struggles with mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Purge yourself of any negative thoughts that pop into your head, you need to nurture a positive state of mind. Remind yourself that you are a good person, a happy person and that you don’t deserve to put up with negative energy. The same goes for negative people in your life. Remove yourself from those toxic people around you – it could be a friend or colleague who’s constantly criticising, taking advantage of your kind nature or making you feel worthless. You don’t need to contend with those who care less about your happiness and wellbeing, they aren’t worth your angst or your time. Instead, find likeminded people to hang out with, those who make you feel good about yourself and who fill your life with joy, happiness and support. They’re the ones who are worth living for.
15. Declutter the spaces around you
Take a few minutes each day or a few hours each week (perhaps on a weekend) to declutter a space that you spend most of your time. It could be spending a couple moments at the end of each work day clearing the space on your desk, throwing out any rubbish, filing all important documents and wiping down and tidying up, ready for the next day. Or perhaps you haven’t done a proper home Spring clean in a while? Declutter your drawers and cupboards of anything you no longer use or need, and neatly pack everything back in an orderly manner. You could even get stuck into your garden at the end of Winter, when it’s warming up and everything’s beginning to blossom. Pull out weeds and plants that didn’t make it through the cold Winter months, and replace them with new, fresh seedlings and colourful flowers and plants that’ll bring life to your home. You’ll be amazed at how good and accomplished you’ll start to feel once your life has been decluttered and refreshed.