The choices you make every day have a significant impact on your health, wealth and happiness. They can also influence whether you develop illnesses and conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes. Most people know what they need to do to enjoy a healthier and happier life, but for whatever reason, there are still many people who haven’t done anything about it.
Admittedly, changing ingrained habits such as driving rather than walking and eating unhealthy snacks often get in the way of any lifestyle changes; however, it is possible if you really want to do it. Your health and happiness aren’t going to wait while you weigh up your options. Now’s the time to do something about it.
- Adopt a Healthy and Nutritious Diet
Making a few simple changes to your diet can have huge benefits. You’ll be pleased to learn that eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to make any radical changes or give up all your favourite foods. Sometimes, it can be as easy as switching from white bread to whole-wheat bread, taking skimmed rather than whole milk with your tea, or adding a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to your morning yoghurt. Lots of little changes can add up to big health benefits.
Switching from refined grain products to whole grains benefits your body in many different ways. It lengthens your lifespan, helps to control your weight and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancer, and heart disease.
Did you realise that mayonnaise is one of the worst condiment choices you can make because it’s high in calories, fat grams, and omega-6 fatty acids? Choose to spread mustard on your sandwiches instead, and you’ll trim the calories, fat, saturated fat and omega-6 fatty acids from your daily allowance.
Do you enjoy a daily frothy coffee from the coffee shop across the road from where you work? When the weather warms up, do you trade your latte for an iced or blended coffee drink? If you order your coffee treat with skimmed milk rather than whole you’re keeping the good quality protein, calcium and vitamin B-12 but ditching some of the calories and fat.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but what do you eat for yours? Many of the cereals you find on the supermarket shelves, especially those aimed at children, are laden with unhealthy sugar. Swapping for a breakfast cereal that’s high in fibre and low in sugar will have a big effect on your health.
- Get Sufficient Sleep
Your body gets the time it needs to recover when you’re sleeping. Night time is when your mind processes everything you’ve had to deal with during the day and relaxes to the max. Get a good night’s sleep and your stress hormones are lowered, which is vital if you want to be healthy and happy. When the level of stress hormones is high, it can result in worrying more, feeling anxious, down or depressed. Inflammation also increases and this can lead to all kinds of uncomfortable conditions. Your immune system gets much weaker and the risk of getting ill increases.
What can you do to get more sleep? Going to bed and getting up at the same time helps to support your body’s natural circadian rhythm. Eating more fresh food with less sugar and high carbs helps to regulate your hormone production which is something you need for a good night’s sleep. Relaxing during the day and reducing your stress levels is also going to help you get a better night’s sleep because you won’t be lying awake over-thinking and worrying.
- Focus on the Here and Now
There are many benefits to living in the present; so stop for a moment and analyse your thoughts. Do you find your mind wanders, planning for the future or reliving the past? A recent study by two Harvard psychologists has uncovered the fact that we spend at least half our time thinking about something other than our immediate surroundings. That’s an awful lot of time wasted. It’s far better to be present and savour the simple moments of life. It also helps to calm you down when you’re feeling stressed and helps you stay focused. Ultimately, practising mindfulness also allows you to become happier and more joyful. If you want to stop thinking too much about the future and live in the present, there are things you can do.
Meditating, listening to your breathing, using your senses, enjoying spending time with people, appreciating the little things, and paying attention to all five of your senses are things you can try if you want to bring mindfulness into your life.
- Exercise Your Body and Mind
Regular exercise is not only beneficial for your body. Studies indicate that it can also promote cognitive health. Physical activity, whatever kind it might be, can alleviate anxiety and depression and improve memory. If you struggle with getting out of bed in the morning to head to the gym, you might be more motivated when you realise that exercise not only tones your body, it tunes up your brain too. The benefits of exercise include improving your heart health, slowing age-related losses of muscle mass, bone density, joint lubrication, and flexibility. Regular exercise is associated with improvements in immune system health, making you less likely to catch a cold. Next time you’re feeling lethargic, rather than having a lie-down or reaching for a coffee, try some form of exercise instead because it can boost your energy levels. Your skin also benefits from regular exercise because blood flow is given a boost and your body’s response to oxidative stress is stimulated.
There are also many mental and emotional benefits of exercise. It can have beneficial effects on stress and anxiety levels, leaving you feeling calmer and more relaxed. This could be because exercise stimulates your body to release serotonin and norepinephrine, both of which moderate your brain’s response to stress. If you’re physically active, it can improve your mood and feelings of happiness. Another reason to exercise is that it releases brain chemicals that support memory, focus and mental concentration.
If all these benefits have got you feeling a little more motivated, you’re probably wondering what kind of exercise is the best. The official guidelines are at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week and strength exercises on 2 or more day a week. These exercises should work all the major muscles such as legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms. What counts as moderate exercise? A few examples include water aerobics, riding a bike on level ground, pushing a lawn mower, hiking, roller-blading, volleyball or basketball.
If you play golf and are wondering whether it can be considered exercise, you would need to walk the course, carry your own clubs and walk at a brisk rate for it to be of any benefit. Another reason for choosing to play golf is that being outside in the fresh air is always going to be beneficial for your health. If you don’t play golf at the moment, you might want to consider adding it to your exercise routine. If you want to find the best golf driver for your game, Parsons Xtreme Golf can help you find what you need.
- Develop a Good Support System
A support system is a network of people you can rely on. Throughout your life, you’re going to experience ups and downs and to help you cope with this rollercoaster of a ride you need to have people around you who understand and can be depended on during the tough times. There are several benefits to having a good support system such as higher levels of wellbeing, better coping skills, and a longer and healthier life. Research has also shown it can reduce depression and anxiety. Everybody’s support needs are different. Some will need a large support group, while others can manage with a much smaller support network.
Support can come from a range of different people including family, friends, neighbours, the clergy and even your pets. It can also come from a mental health professional. Support groups can also provide emotional support as well as provide education and the opportunity to be with others who have found themselves in a similar situation to yours.
Building a support system can be hard, especially if you’re very young or very busy. A good way to expand your support system is to get involved in the things you are interested in or passionate about. Some ideas to get you started include:
- Joining a book or movie club.
- Getting active in your local community.
- Taking a local class or find a place to volunteer.
- If you’ve got kids, then get to know their friends’ parents or join a parent group such as the PTA.
- Smile and Laugh Often
Smiling and laughing can both have a positive effect on your wellbeing. It’s a sad fact, but you’ll find yourself laughing and smiling much less, the older you get. When you’re a child life seems to be full of laughter and smiles, possibly because you enjoy living in the moment. As adults, we could take the lead from children and make more room in life for smiling and laughter.
Research has shown there are several health benefits contributed to smiling and laughing. As well as improving your health they can have a positive effect on other factors in all areas of your life.
Several physiological changes take place when you smile and laugh, many of which you’re not aware of. For example, endorphins are released when you smile, and these chemicals are responsible for making you feel happy and lower stress levels. Believe it or not, a fake smile works just as well. Your brain interprets the positioning of your facial muscles in the same way and can’t differentiate between fake and real. When endorphins are released, the stress hormone cortisol is reduced which means your negative feelings are reduced.
If you want to smile or laugh more often watch comedy films, TV and theatre shows. Spend time with friends and family who make you feel happy. Find things to smile and laugh about, and you’ll become more aware, in tune and ready to engage with a spontaneous smile or laugh.
- Think Positively
We have a predisposition to negativity, paying more attention to dark emotions such as anger, sadness, pain, and disappointment than positive feelings such as joy, gratitude, and contentment. Bad news tends to stick with us for quite some time, whereas good news fades very quickly. Negativity is addictive, even though positivity is a much nicer way to be feeling. If you spend too little time appreciating your joy and being happy it’s something you’ve chosen to do. Pain is something we’ve learned to feel over time, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be conquered.
Choosing to be happier and think positively is a simple decision to make; however, executing it will be a little more difficult. Focus and dedication are required if you want to rewire your brain with the power of positive thinking.
Meditating has been shown to be an effective way to clear negativity from your life and bring about an emotional and spiritual recovery. Gratitude has also been shown to make you happier because it floods your brain with dopamine. Why not keep a gratitude journal and every night before you go to sleep list everything you were grateful for throughout the day?
- Learn to Handle Your Emotions
It sounds a simple concept when you say it but handling your emotions takes time and practise. There are five common emotions that people feel, and these are anger, fear, excitement, sadness, and jealousy. These are the emotions that many people find hard to control. If you can change the way you react to certain situations, it prevents your emotions from getting out of hand and causing more harm than good.
Relaxation techniques can apply to many situations when you want to control your emotions. Practise deep breathing or meditation when you feel your emotions getting out of hand. Something to remember is that by retraining your brain to think more positive thoughts, you will see some benefits returned to you.