These days there’s no shortage of information out there telling you how to look after your health. The trouble is, when you delve in and try to dissect it all, you often encounter mixed messages.
From superfoods to fad diets, there’s no end to the magic bullet shortcuts available. And while many will do good things for your health, if you’re not getting the basics right, you’re undermining the benefits.
We all know deep down what we need to do to live a long, happy and healthy life – it’s sticking to it that’s the hard part. So, in this article, we’ll share three key healthy habits plus some tips to help you integrate them into your daily routine.
Eat a Balanced Diet
You’ve likely heard the quote ‘Let food be thy medicine,’ and if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Our bodies and minds are fuelled by what we eat, and they run best when we choose a balanced diet of nutritious foods. A key point is that everybody is different, so there is no ‘one size fits all’ diet that will suit us all. However, in general, limiting your intake of processed foods, and eating a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, lean meats and healthy fats is a good start. Remember, if you have any underlying dietary concerns, it’s a good idea to see your GP or a nutritionist for specific advice.
Tip: Cooking can be a great skill to learn at any age – and when you create a meal from scratch using fresh unprocessed foods, you’ll feel better for it. Search through the cookbooks on your shelf (or visit the library to borrow something new) and set yourself a challenge to learn one healthy recipe each week. Choose to cook with ingredients that appeal to your taste buds and you’re sure to discover some meals you love. As you add to your repertoire, your diet will improve, and you’ll learn a new and rewarding skill at the same time.
Our bodies were made to move, so too much time on the couch is not ideal. Exercise is not only important for our physical health though – it also has a positive impact on our mood and stress levels. It’s generally recommended that we aim for 30 minutes of exercise each day. And while this may seem a lot, exercise can come in many forms. Lots of everyday activities that get you moving can count towards your daily target. The key point is to find something you enjoy so you look forward to it. You should always listen to your body and if you have any health concerns or limitations, talk to your doctor or physio before you start anything new.
Tip: A daily walk is a relaxing and enjoyable way to exercise, and it has the added bonus of getting you outside. But to keep things interesting and exercise different muscles, don’t be afraid to mix it up. Find creative ways to reach your daily target of 30 minutes. Some ideas include gardening, dancing, cycling (an exercise bike is a good all-weather option), weights, yoga or tai chi. The possibilities are endless, so try a range of activities and stick with your favourites. You can even use a diary or put a whiteboard up to track your daily progress and stay motivated.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is one of those things we can take for granted, but it is such an important aspect of maintaining good health. Our brains and bodies need enough quality sleep to refresh and repair, and without it, our health can suffer in both the short and longer term. A fuzzy brain is just the beginning – a weakened immune system and a higher risk of weight gain, diabetes and heart disease have also been linked to a prolonged lack of shut-eye. The Sleep Health Foundation recommends seven to nine hours for adults aged 26–64 years, and seven to eight hours for those aged 65 plus. Some people may need more, or less, so take note of your optimum amount and stick to it.
Tip: Whether you like to stay up late and read, or binge-watch your favourite shows on Netflix, it can be easy for the odd late night to turn into a regular habit. If you enjoy a sleep in this may be okay, but otherwise you could try setting a bedtime alarm to avoid staying up too late. Set it for half an hour or an hour before you want to be asleep, to give yourself time to get ready for bed and unwind. Preferably switch off screens after this time too – if you read a book or practice meditation or relaxation instead, you’re far more likely to have a restful sleep.
Three Bonus Tips
Of course, there are lots of other things you can do to improve your health daily. Once you’ve included the above three habits into your routine, you may like to look at incorporating these too:
- Laugh often: It’s not only enjoyable, laughing more will also lift your mood and improve your health. Spend time with people that make you laugh or watch a funny show or a comedian on YouTube. When you look for things that make you smile, you’ll start to see them everywhere.
- Limit bad habits: Being healthy doesn’t mean you have to exclude sweet treats, takeaway and booze – but limiting it to an occasional treat is highly recommended. You’ll feel better and enjoy it more too. However, if you’re a smoker, you’re best to give it up as soon as possible. It won’t be easy, but your body will thank you for it. Seek support if you need it.
- Calm your mind: Mindfulness and meditation are big these days and with good reason. There are plenty of advocates for the benefits it can bring, and there is also a growing body of research to back them up. Spending as little as five minutes a day focused on your breath and just observing can make a difference to your stress levels and state of mind. Try starting (or ending) your day just sitting or laying down quietly and observing your breath for a few minutes and see how you feel.
Keep it Simple and Be Consistent
At the end of the day, you’re in charge of your health and every day you have the opportunity to make a positive impact. By eating, exercising and sleeping well, you give your body what it needs to thrive.
Maintaining good habits shouldn’t be a chore – find ways to make it easy and enjoyable and you’re far more likely to keep it up. If you have an off day here or there, don’t beat yourself up and don’t over complicate things by trying to do too much. Keep it simple and consistent and you’ll reap the rewards.
Over to You
Do you have a tip that has helped you make healthy habits a part of your daily routine? We’d love you to share by posting a comment below.