If you go around asking people about their health aspirations, very few will report that they like being unhealthy and want to carry on with the same lazy, non-productive lifestyle. Most of us have 1-2 problems that affect our health goals i.e. being overweight, smoking problem or drinking tendencies. Either of these issues or a combination of them can become a hurdle in achieving positive change. Sometimes instead of undergoing a mega transformation, the small things can add up and make a significant difference. However, the right direction is required to align the small efforts and achieve the desired results.
Taking small steps is conducive to developing long-term habits and maintaining them. Huge transformative efforts usually fizz out in a few months, leaving us back at square one. We’ll be discussing a series of steps that can lead to mental and physical wellbeing for people belonging to all walks of life.
A combination of meditation, regular exercise, and breathing techniques will work wonders for you. However, sometimes all you need is to take out a few minutes and unwind yourself. This may involve playing with a pet, sitting in a swing, gardening, reading books or just soaking in the hot tub. This might seem simplistic advice, but if we don’t follow it our stress levels can increase leading to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, depression, migraines, obesity, etc.
Just like exercise, consistency is the key and medical experts recommend that even 10 minutes of de-stressing yourself can lead to mental and physical improvement. Taking the simple option of deep breathing, the slowing down process leads to chemicals released in our body thereby improving the immune function and relieving stress. It also lowers the resting heart rate and this leads to an improved state as compared to people with high resting heart rates.
Getting the right amount of sleep
When someone discusses the ideal amount of sleep, 7-8 hours is a commonly touted figure. This might seem difficult for those people dealing with a hectic workload and/or significant commute time. However, ignoring this sound advice can increase the risk of stroke or heart attack. This can even occur despite the fact that you exercise regularly and have a good physique. Sleep deprivation can be cured by small changes like retiring to bed 15-20 minutes before the normal bedtime.
Posture and ergonomics
For most of us, the modern workplace involves sitting in front of a computer/laptop all day. Incorrect posture is a major reason for back pain, neck strain, eye strain, and other injuries. Let’s begin with a simple correction; first, straighten your back, tuck in your tummy and place your feet flat on the floor. This is the ideal sitting position and we can adjust our seat to ensure the computer screen is at eye level to avoid unnecessary strain.
Too many hours sitting at the work table are detrimental and we should establish a routine of getting up, stretching ourselves, walking around and then coming back to the seat. This also improves productivity apart from delivering physical benefits.
If we are really motivated to improve ergonomics, then we can utilize a standing desk instead of the normal desk. This will strengthen the lower body and result in gradual calorie loss. It’s more of a lifestyle change, but the benefits are worth pursuing.
Positive mental exertion
Dementia associated with Alzheimer’s disease is a regular occurrence in elders. In order to reduce the risk of this disease, a research at Rush university identified that activities challenging mental faculties like crossword puzzles, reading, chess and scrabble etc. elicit a positive effect on the brain. Apart from games and reading, engaging in social activities also lowers the risk of dementia.
Improving your diet
The popular phrase ‘you are what you eat,’ holds countless life lessons in its grasp. The ideal BMI means that you escape many diseases and simultaneously improve mental health. Some ways in which dietary changes can be achieved are:
- Opt for whole-grain options as compared to the usual rice, white bread, crackers, and pasta.
- Go for lean portions of meat and prioritize mutton over beef. Instead of using skin-on turkey or chicken, use the skinless version of these meats.
- Focus on a five-day meal to achieve satiety and remove food cravings. Fruits, dry fruits and veggies should be consumed especially at midday and evening times.
- Don’t spoil your diet by munching on snacks. Be proactive and keep healthy foods like hummus, carrots or fruits ready for such occasions. Candy bars, cookies, and potato chips are a huge no-no.
- Substitute one sugary drink daily with a glass of water. This substitution means a 100 calorie loss/day and amounts to a 10-pound weight loss per annum. The removal of sugar intake leads to several health benefits and a positive outlook.
Leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, and broccoli give a mega boost to your metabolism. Consuming them in snacks and before regular meals fill your stomach because of the water and fiber content. Additionally, opt for yogurt (ideally the Greek low-fat version) instead of mayonnaise/sauces.
The combination of these dietary changes will leave a lasting impression on your health and enable you to achieve greater physical activity and avoid contracting diseases. Organic foods should be coveted instead of processed foods at all times.
Just a small hint for a once in a while cheat meal; if you feel the urge to visit a burger joint don’t order the complete meal. Swap the carbonated drink with a water bottle and consume a double-patty burger instead of the French fries. Deep frying is a cancer to your diet, even if you use healthy options like olive oil (the oil loses its nutritional properties if it’s heated above the smoke point).
Being overweight leads to a combination of diseases like stroke, heart diseases and some forms of cancer. If an individual pushes the boundary towards obesity then these risks multiply and the modern lifestyle ensures that this happens very easily.
Till this point, we deliberately avoided any discussion of physical exertion. This is because there a myriad of excuses that stop us from exercising and achieving a healthy version of ourselves. However, if we have followed points 1-5, we are in a better state of mind for appreciating the usefulness of physical exercise and our mental wellbeing is geared to benefit from exercise.
The small change in physical activity may be symbolized by taking the stairs in office buildings, apartments, etc. Ideally, 10,000 steps should be taken on a daily basis and this activity exercises your lungs, gets the blood pumping and exerts muscles in the lower body. There are numerous apps that monitor daily steps taken and whether you are achieving daily/weekly goals.
Sometimes taking the first step is very hard and at other times continuing positive activities seems like a chore. If we have a clear vision regarding our health, then we have already bought-in to the mentioned activities. Additionally, it’s great to engage a life partner or close friend for pursuing this simple plan. The increased support means you have a greater chance to improve yourself and the efforts aren’t derailed that easily. Ultimately it’s you to decide how your life is lived and according to which priorities.