Now that 2019 is well underway, how are your New Year’s resolutions holding up? If they included getting fitter and being healthier, how much exercise have you achieved? If you’ve stuck to your plan, congratulations, but if you’re one of the 80% who don’t, what can you do to make your goals easier to attain? Here are our top tips for a sustainably healthy 2019.
1. It’s all in the mind
Striking the right mental balance is key to a healthy life. Too much stress, working long hours and neglecting your self can all tip the balance the wrong way. Take a good look at your daily schedule and routine and be honest about how much time you actually spend on you.
That doesn’t count time travelling to work or doing the household chores when you’re alone in the house, but proper time devoted to nothing else apart from you.
This could include meditation, quiet reflection and contemplation and mindfulness. You may need to start out small, allowing 10 minutes at the start or end of each day to consider what’s to come or what you’ve achieved or reflect on those things you have to be thankful for.
Simply taking time out of your day or routine can really help ease your mind. It’s crucial to take breaks – working through your lunchbreak is a total no-no. You need that time to think about things other than work and knowing you have scheduled breaks makes it easier to complete tasks throughout the day. Taking in some green, natural space lifts the soul instantly and you can spend a few minutes looking closely at your surroundings and noticing things that would otherwise pass you by. Try it, it’s refreshing!
Gentle exercise, such as a yoga class, can provide time for inward reflection as you have to go at the same pace as everyone else. As you hold each pose, consider how it makes you feel – there’s instant mindfulness.
2. You are what you eat
We hear it a lot but it’s absolutely true. You are what you eat. What you put into your body fuels you through the day. If you don’t put enough in, you won’t get enough out and too much of the wrong thing is just as harmful. Take a look at what you usually eat and your energy levels through the day.
Do you reach for the biscuits at 11am or after lunch? Perhaps you find yourself jolting awake at night, heart pounding. These are indications of sugar lows and can be avoided by making sure you eat foods that give slow-release energy through the day – they’ll keep you feeling fuller for longer, maintain your energy levels and stop those sugar crashes.
Back to balance. Don’t go for extremes, cutting out whole food groups – we need fats, carbohydrates and some sugar but it’s from where we source them that counts. A bowl of porridge with some berries for breakfast will keep you on a much more even energy keel than sugary coated flakes.
You don’t need starchy foods like pasta and bread to get carbohydrates, lots of vegetables are carb-rich. And you don’t need to eat meat every day in order to meet your protein quota. Try having some meat-free days every week or eat a plant-based or raw food diet for two days a week – you don’t have to go the whole (vegan) hog to reap some benefit.
Probably the most important routine you can establish is to drink lots of water. Eight glasses, or two litres, a day will keep you hydrated, help rid your body of toxins and keep your brain alert. Dehydration affects so many parts of your body and therefore has a huge knock-on effect on your wellbeing and daily effectiveness. Two litres might sound like a lot but spread through the day and it’s easily done. If you’re exercising as well, remember to top up even more.
3. Exercise equals energy
We can’t stress enough the difference exercise can make to every aspect of your life. Although it might sound counter-intuitive, exercising does give you more energy. Which will help you work, rest and play better. It burns fat, releases incredible feel-good endorphins, can be very sociable and generally inspires you to look after yourself more.
No one is suggesting you go out and run a marathon! Start small with achievable and manageable steps. Add some walking days to your commute if you can or incorporate a walk into your journey. See if you can find 10 minutes before you go to work to do some exercises and build from there.
There are umpteen resources online with ideas. But once you start feeling the benefits, you will want to continue to build – remember to keep a balance though, and don’t go overboard.
4. Sleep deep
You will know people who get by on a few hours’ sleep a night. Our body clocks and circadian rhythms are highly individual but, on the whole, we need a good quality chunk of sleep every night. Sleep is vital for the body and brain to switch off and properly relax and recover from the day’s exertions. It’s not just physical, mental rest is crucial too. Your brain will still be busy processing and it will struggle to do that if you’re not resting.
Try and establish a bedtime and morning routine that you can stick to – go to bed at the same time each night. You will soon learn the optimum amount of sleep you need. Those days when you feel alive, full of energy and eager to get started are the ones to aim for.
Your diet plays a massive part in your quality of sleep – if you eat lots of sugary foods during the day, your body will still expect an intake of sugar during the night and will wake you up expectantly. So watch out for that. And exercise undoubtedly helps you sleep better because you will be physically tired.
5. Don’t forget to breathe
Might sound silly because it’s a reflex action, but how you breathe can make a difference. Breathing from the chest only allows short, shallow intakes whereas breathing from the stomach gives you a deeper breath. If you’ve ever panicked about something, you will remember those short, ragged breaths which send you into even more of a panic. Taking long, deep breaths will bring calm and more oxygen to the brain.
Also the stretch on the diaphragm literally triggers the more relaxing part of the nervous system to slow heart rate and aid digestion. It’s also considered part of the core which stabilises the spine and it acts as a pump to help blood and lymphatic fluid from the legs under low pressure back to the heart so takes the strain off the cardiovascular system.
Only by trying different methods will you know what works for you and how you can maintain a manageable healthy lifestyle. It’s too easy to revert to old habits and takes a real effort to change your routine. But it will be worth it and you will quickly notice a difference for the better. Remember to keep a balance and good luck!