Health comes from an equal focus on all aspects of wellness, including body, mind and spirit. Here are some great ways to ensure that you always feel your best.
1. Drink more water
Most of us don’t drink enough water for optimum health. Drinking water will boost your health in many ways: improving digestion, avoiding constipation, and controlling
metabolism, blood pressure and weight. By drinking more water you can also replace beverages that are not good for your health, such as soft drinks and alcohol. High-sugar, high-kilojoule drinks make it harder to lose weight and contribute very little in the way of nutrition. Carbonated drinks are also thought to trigger bloating and gas.
Your body loses water every day through any visit to the bathroom, as water vapour through your breath and through perspiration. To replace this lost fluid, a helpful daily guide is to consume 30 millilitres of water for every kilogram of body weight. For example, a 70-kilogram person would need to drink 2100 millilitres of water a day, which is a little more than two litres.
2. Have a laugh
Laughter provides a wide range of health benefits that are the complete opposite of stress. Physically, it increases the level of oxygen in your blood, boosts your immune system, releases catecholamines, which have anti-inflammatory properties, and promotes a rush of endorphins that act as natural pain killers. Mentally, laughter elevates mood, builds resilience, boosts your ability to cope with stress and improves your interpersonal relationships when you share a laugh with others.
Here are some tips that can add humour and laughter to your life:
- Spend time with people who are fun to be around and who always make you laugh.
- Watch a humorous television show or YouTube clip, or rent a funny movie.
- Join a laughter therapy group or workshop.
- Visit a zoo!
3. Eat more plant foods
Switching to a plant-based diet can add a number of benefits to your health. Plant foods provide a rich source of fibre, vitamins and minerals that help with weight management, digestive function and cardiovascular health. Fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs are especially rich in antioxidants—nutrients that fight cell damage in the body and may even help to prevent the development of lifestyle cancers.
Try the following suggestions to increase your consumption of plant-based foods:
- Get your protein intake from plant sources. Foods such as nuts, seeds, legumes and tofu are high in protein and are good alternatives to animal proteins.
- Include plenty of vegetables in your diet to fill in the gap left by cutting back on meat. This also boosts your consumption of fibre and antioxidants.
- Experiment. Try new vegetarian recipes, adopt meatless Mondays or challenge yourself to a seven-day vegetarian diet to see what impact it has on your health.
4. Sit less
People who sit for more than six hours a day face a higher risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease. Time spent sitting is also linked with other unhealthy behaviours, such as excessive use of caffeine and increased consumption of junk foods.
A structured exercise program on its own cannot compensate for all the damage that prolonged sitting causes.
While regular exercise is still important, look for additional ways to spend less time in a seat, such as:
- Stand while talking on the phone.
- Walk over to the office of a colleague instead of emailing.
- Go for a short walk during your lunch break.
- Use the stairs. Don’t use an elevator or escalator.
- Get off a train or bus before your stop and walk the rest of the way.
- Park your car some distance from your destination and walk.
- Perform two or three stretching exercises after every hour of prolonged sitting.
5. Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep is vital for your wellbeing. Sleep gives your body time for physical and spiritual rejuvenation. It’s often underestimated for its role in good health and longevity. It can prevent a variety of ailments, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and mental health problems.
Adopting good sleep habits gives you the best possible chance of having sleep that refreshes and energises you.
Some suggestions include:
- Establish a routine by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. Try to avoid long sleep-ins on the weekend.
- Have a presleep ritual, such as dimming the lights, having a bath or shower, reading or listening to quiet music. Deep breathing can also help to wind you down.
- Make sure your room is quiet, dark and cool.
- Spend some of the early daylight hours in the sunshine, which can help to synchronise your body clock.
6. Have faith
People of faith often score better on measures of wellness and overall health, including longevity and cardiovascular benefits. Spirituality also has a positive effect on mental health. Because of its focus on love, hope, generosity and trust, spirituality helps to prevent stressrelated illness. Religion gives you a value system to live by. It also provides a social network that allows you to spend time with people who live by your values and beliefs. The sense of gratitude associated with religion and the ability to live in harmony with what you believe also leads to greater happiness in life.
So be active in your religion and make time for your faith. Reflect on what you have, not what you don’t have, and give generously to those who have less. Read your Bible often, pray daily and meet regularly with other fellow travellers.
7. Make time for relaxation
Relaxation gives you a break from life’s stresses. You have a choice: rest quietly or engage in some pleasant recreation. Relaxation isn’t sleep. Genuine relaxation allows your body to release tension and leads to physical and emotional changes that are the opposite of the stress response. Relaxation can strengthen your physical and emotional reserves, helping you to cope with future stress.
By pushing the pause button and relaxing for even a few moments, you can reboot your energy levels and rejuvenate your body.
Following is a list of suggestions that can help you to relax:
- For a few minutes each day, turn off the phone, breathe deeply and give yourself a few moments of silence.
- Immerse yourself in a warm bath or spa to help loosen tense muscles.
- Go for a light massage, which will help to improve circulation.
8. Listen to music
You can influence the state of your mood through music, which can help you to relax, motivate or uplift you, depending on the setting and your choice of tunes. Studies have shown that listening to and playing music can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that music is a helpful treatment for depression.
Here’s how to use music to help set the tone for your life:
- Use music with an uplifting tempo to elevate your mood, foster a positive outlook and even improve how you perform during exercise.
- Use slow tunes or even classical music to help you unwind and destress.
- Create a number of different playlists on your smart phone or iPod. Be sure to keep the volume down when exercising on or near a road for safety reasons.
9. Spend time outdoors
Spend time outdoors Spending leisure time outdoors and connecting with nature provides a range of health benefits that are both physical and mental. The exposure to natural daylight, fresh air and pleasant surroundings has a calming effect, helping to relieve stress. It will add variety and motivation to your exercise routine.
Here are some suggestions for maximising the fun and safety of the time you spend outdoors:
- For relaxation: The natural environment includes many different types of green space to walk, stretch or just relax in, such as urban parks, open countryside, forests, national parks, beaches, lakes and wildlife reserves. Get to know what’s in your area and take advantage of it.
- For exercise: There are many outdoor activities you can incorporate into your lifestyle, such as hiking, running, cycling, and water sports
such as swimming and kayaking. Be sun safe and take along enough water to stay hydrated.
10. Move more
It has been said that if the benefits of exercise could be bottled into a tablet, it would be the most heavily prescribed medication in the world. We need to be active on a regular basis to prevent weight gain, promote heart health, maintain bone density and keep diabetes at bay. What’s more, exercise delivers benefits that are immediate, such as elevated energy levels and improved self-esteem.
Different types of exercises help you achieve different variables of fitness. Incorporate the following tips to ensure your fitness regime is effective and well balanced:
For stamina: Get your heart and breathing rate up three to four times a week with activities such as paddling, cycling, aerobics classes or running.
- For suppleness: Stretch after each workout to prevent muscle tightness, soreness and injury.
- For strength: Move your muscles against resistance at least two to three times a week, lifting dumbbells or with weight exercises.
So there you have it. Ten great habits for ultimate health. If you find it difficult to implement all 10 habits at the same time, keep at it and soon you’ll be incorporating all of them to boost your wellbeing.