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“I want to get healthy” – I’m sure we’ve all said this many times in our lives but when we do, most of the time our minds fixate on weight loss. We enter diet and exercise mode believing that health is about our size and fitness levels, when in fact, being healthy encompasses so much more. Here are five things that you can do, for your health, and not a single one of them is about weight loss.
- 1 Journal/Blog/Vlog
- 2 Declutter
- 3 Schedule Time Away From Your Screens
- 4 Get Out Into Nature
- 5 Last, But By All Means Not Least…Sleep
- 6 It’s Time To Work On Your Health
Being able to reflect on aspects of your life is a valuable life skill. In some jobs you are asked to reflect on a piece of training or CPD you’ve completed, asked to reflect on a task or when something doesn’t go to plan, you may plan what you could do better.
Taking the time to go over your day or week gives you the chance to see what went well, where your strengths lie, what you’ve accomplished, and give yourself the praise you deserve. It is also an opportunity to think about where things might have gone wrong, analyse what you could have done better, and set yourself into action to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Documenting this reflection is an extremely therapeutic tool that allows you to process your thoughts and feelings, something that is encouraged within areas such as counselling and CBT.
There are different ways to implement this reflective practice with journalling being the most popular way. All you need is a basic notebook and a pen to get started, however, many people find using *a book specifically designed for journaling to be much more motivating than a standard notebook. Reflecting in this way is very personal and a great self-care practice.
Alternatively, if handwriting isn’t your strong point you can turn to the world of blogging. When I first started blogging (over a decade ago) it was originally a way to get my thoughts and feelings out of my head so I could process them. My very first “blog” was a baby diary that started when trying to conceive my son and was on a popular parenting website. This then moved to Blogger where I have started (and ended) many blogs but each one was what I needed at the time, as a way of dealing with what was going on in my life. What I like about blogging is that you can keep it to yourself, using privacy settings, or you can share with the world by simply sharing your link. Your thoughts and how you’re dealing with them can go on to help other people who feel the same way as you.
Vlogging is great for those who struggle to write down what they’re thinking or feeling. Actually talking out your thoughts can be much more beneficial to some people and they’re easy to watch back at a later date, should you need to. Similar to blogging, these videos can be kept utterly private, either stored on your PC or uploaded to YouTube with it set to private, or you can share these with the world if you think your own personal journey may allow you connect with someone else.
A messy environment often leads to a messy mind. When everything around you is out of place then it may lead to feelings of depression, anxiety and disorganisation. Take some time to go through your things and remove any items you no longer want or need. You can even get all “Marie Kondo” on them by asking yourself “do I really need this, is it bring anything of value to my life” and if it isn’t, find it a new home. Gifting unwanted and still usable items to charity is a great way to let some positivity into your life, or watch out for discounted listing days on eBay to make a bit of extra cash. Things you can sell or donate include
- Food – check your local food bank for what they need
While you’re removing unwanted items, take the time to give your house a good spring clean. When your health and mood is low, it’s common to neglect things like the housework so giving it a good cleaning is a great way to dust off the cobwebs, make the house feel organised and it also allows you to move your body in a healthy way.
Schedule Time Away From Your Screens
As I write this post we’re in the middle of a pandemic that has seen screen usage rocket. We’ve now gone from working and learning in face-to-face environments to being sat in front of a screen on Zoom all day. We’ve moved from getting up, getting dressed and moving to another place for work and study to just rolling out of bed and into a team call. Then spending the rest of the evening sat watching Netflix, which has reported twice as many views since lockdown started, and chatting with our Facebook friends all in the name of “just making it through the day”.
All this screen time is not only taking its toll on our physical health as we’re much more sedentary than we were a year ago but is also damaging our mental health and eyesight. A third of people who have said to have increased their screen time have also reported issues with their sight. It is recommended that for every 20 minutes you spend in front of your screen that you look at something 20ft away for at least 20 seconds. So, ensure you take plenty of breaks if you HAVE to be in front of a screen for the day.
As well as regular breaks from computer screens, plan out activities that take you away from all screens and give your body a break. There are lots of enjoyable activities you can focus your attention on a couple of times a week, or even just an hour a day. Such as:
- Board games
- Going for a walk
These activities will not only give you a much-needed screen break but also improve the health of other parts of your body such as your fitness or mental health.
Get Out Into Nature
As humans, we were never meant to be locked away in buildings for every second of the day. The simple fact that one of the most important vitamins we need, vitamin D, is synthesised by exposure to the sun proves this. This is why making time to actually venture outside is so important, here in the UK the Prime Minister even recommended a daily walk to encourage us to stay healthy. Simply being outside for most people allows lifts their mood and going for a short, brisk walk allows the body to flood with endorphins – chemicals in the body that relieve stress and pain.
When the weather allows it, try and work outside. Charge up your laptop and spend an hour working in your garden, from a park bench, or an outside seating area at a local cafe. The fresh air in your lungs and sunshine on your skin will do more for your health than you can imagine.
If working outside is not an option, try and schedule even 30 minutes into your day. Go for a walk, jog, or bike ride. Find a hobby that can be done outside such as photography, all you need is your phone and some creativity. If the weather allows you could do some drawing or fire up your old Pokemon Go app (you know you played it) and get hunting some pocket monsters. The important thing is being outdoors, and if the sun is shining, allow it on your skin!
Note: you need short bursts of unprotected exposure to get the health benefits from the sun…however, do not allow yourself to burn! If you’re going to be in the sun for prolonged periods of time please use sunscreen.
Last, But By All Means Not Least…Sleep
I cannot express how important sleep is for your health and good sleep at that. Sleep has been found to benefit everything from concentration to lowering your risk of heart disease. The average adult should be looking at getting around seven hours of sleep a night but everyone is different so see what works best for you. And yes, it is perfectly possible to sleep too much which will see you feeling terrible the next day.
Getting yourself into a good sleep routine is probably one of the most important things on this post so here are some tips to help you:
Switch off your devices!
Give your eyes and brain a rest from blue light – ideally turning everything off around two hours before bed…which you could link it in with the “Scheduling Time Away From Your Screen” part of this post. However, if two hours is not doable then any time is a benefit.
Caffeine is a stimulant and is more likely to have the opposite effect you want as you near bedtime. Try limiting caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee and Coca Cola before bed, preferably six hours before. Instead, switch for herbal or fruit teas such as camomile or blends specifically created to relax you.
Try a glass of warm milk
Now, this isn’t fully rooted in evidence-based science however, there is some evidence that certain compounds in milk (tryptophan and melatonin) can aid in relaxing the body and provide a soothing effect; exactly what you want before bed. Studies have yet to prove if warm or cold milk works best but it’s thought that the warmth also adds to helping the body feel relaxed and the satiating effects of the milk provide the happy “full feeling” effect you get after a good meal – such as Christmas dinner. Sending you off to the land of nod.
This flower is known to have soothing effects and is used in many sleep remedies. You can buy it in sprays, body creams and bath products, which for many allow them to relax and drift off into a good nights sleep.
Optimise your bedroom for sleep…and sex!
The only activities you should really do in your bedroom is sleeping and having sex. Your bedroom should be optimised for sleeping so anything that could distract you, shouldn’t be in there. This includes televisions, games consoles, and anything with bright LEDs that might prevent you from falling asleep, disturb you while you sleep, or wake you up. A good pair of blackout curtains or a blind is also beneficially as we’re biologically programmed to sleep when it is dark. You can also set your room temperature to something that allows for a comfortable nights sleep, 20°C is often described as optimal but this is down to preference. Finally, invest in a good quality bed, mattress, pillow (or set of), duvet and sheets. The largest portion of your day is spent on your bed, asleep, so buy the best you can afford.
It’s Time To Work On Your Health
The focus of your health needs to shift away from just weight loss and this post is showing you just a few things you can do to help yourself. These five suggestions can help you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally healthier which leads to a better you.