When considering a healthier lifestyle, it’s important to think about what is going on inside your body and not just the outside (inner beauty reflects outer beauty). Many of us get to summer and decide that we need to lose weight in order to achieve that perfect beach body (you don’t). Have you heard that mantra, to get beach bod all you need is a your bod, a swimsuit, and a beach?
For fast results we resort to crash diets and typically embark on the latest celebrity endorsed exercise regime that promises quick results. Did you know denying yourself food can have a dramatic effect on your body? It panics thinking that there is a famine ensuing and your metabolism actually slows down. This means as soon as you return from your two weeks in the sun and eat normally again, the weight piles back on – yikes!
Becoming healthier means adopting a healthier lifestyle in the long term. Quick fixes just don’t work. There is so much more to becoming healthier than getting a six pack, you need to consider the whole package, or the bigger picture if you will. There is a strong connection between the body and mind, which the western culture seems to have forgotten about. Health is harmony between the mind and body. Your mind needs to be in the right place in order to achieve fitness goals. If your mind isn’t in it, your body won’t be either! Do you agree?
Suffering from a mental health problem can happen to any of us and society is at long last dispelling the stigmas attached to mental health. Chemical imbalances in the body can cause certain mental health conditions, which can be easily treated with medication (no shame). The most important thing is to seek medical help if you feel or other people have noticed a deterioration in your mental health.
Your mental health is influenced just as much as your general health by issues such as a lack of sleep or poor diet. There are ways of promoting good mental health and making small changes to your lifestyle can have a huge effect.
- Regular exercise
- Talking about your feelings
- Good diet
- Sensible alcohol intake
- Seek help when needed
- Go on holiday/vacation
- Get a hobby
- Socialize with friends
Maintaining good mental health involves similar lifestyle changes needed to improve your overall general health.
Health screenings and checkups
Before embarking on any new health regimen it is a good idea to consult your physician or local clinic for routine health check ups. This will flag any potentially serious health concerns and how to best treat them. There are certain screening checks that are recommended at certain stages during your life and some of these are identified below.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a main contributing factor to stroke and heart disease. As you age your blood pressure can naturally rise and if this cannot be controlled by diet and exercise, it may be necessary to take medication.
Raised blood pressure can be caused by poor lifestyle choices, obesity, or it may be hereditary. It is essential to get medical advice and if high blood pressure is diagnosed, regular checkups will be required to ensure no adjustments to the medication is required. After the age of 40 it is recommended that you should have your blood pressure checked on an annual basis.
Heart disease is on the rise, so it is important to know how to assist someone who is suffering from a heart attack. It is possible to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and gain a cpr certification online, which will provide you with the essential skills necessary to give vital life support to someone in the crucial first minutes of a heart attack.
You can get your cholesterol checked with a simple blood test. A high level of cholesterol within the blood gives an accurate pointer as to whether the person is likely to suffer from a stroke or heart attack in the future. Cholesterol is affected by lifestyle and hereditary factors. Medication can be prescribed if lifestyle changes don’t provide a good enough effect. Fish oil is also a great additive to your diet to help combat high cholesterol (again, always check with your doctor first). Cholesterol should be checked every five years after the age of 20.
A mammogram screens for breast cancer. After the age of 40 women will be invited to attend a mammogram screening every year. Between the ages of 45-54, yearly screenings are advised. Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening. If you have a family history of breast cancer you will be invited to attend more frequently. Mammograms can detect the tiniest of microscopic changes within the breast, meaning that early treatment can be given. The earlier the treatment the higher the success rate.
A cervical screening test (smear test) detects abnormal cells on the cervix. An abnormal result doesn’t necessarily mean cancer, but does warrant further investigation. Abnormal cells can be easily removed, which lowers the chance of cancer. It’s important not to delay your cervical screening test as early detection of cancer cells means a cure is more likely.
From the age of 21 years to 65 years all women should be invited for a cervical screening test. The frequency of testing depends on a variety of factors. Cervical cancer is rare for women under the age of 25 years, although it isn’t unheard of. It is important to remember women who have been vaccinated against HPV should still follow these guidelines.
Most people know how to eat a healthy, there is a huge amount of information available guiding people on how to eat a well balanced diet. The main issue with making healthy choices is lack of motivation. Make small changes to your eating habits, as they are more likely to become second nature. The old adage of “you are what you eat” is true and not just an old wives tale. If you eat foods that are considered healthy, you will automatically feel healthier – and look healthier!
Try to develop a healthier mindset, create a vision of how you would like to look and feel and you will be more likely to achieve your goals. What you eat can often be a reflection of your mental health. If you are bored you are likely to overeat to pass the time (I’m a huge snacker), if you’re stressed you may turn to comforting foods such as chocolate (or ice cream!). Try to tackle the source of the problem and you will start to feel healthier.
Try to avoid processed foods, sugar, alcohol, caffeine and unhealthy fats. Include in your diet fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grain foods, protein and keep hydrated with plenty of water. I’ll never give up my morning coffee, but I’ve limited my coffee intake to two cups max in the morning. I used to have over four or five cups a day – seriously running off of fumes.
To achieve optimal health you need to consider combining a healthy diet with a form of exercise. Plunging into an active regime, sometimes isn’t sustainable you are better off making small subtle changes or discover an activity that you love. Try to be more active in your lifestyle. Walk to the shops instead of drive and take the stairs instead of the lift. Exercising in the outdoors, even if it’s a short walk around the block, does wonders for your mental health too. Daylight is a great mood booster and exercise releases “feel good” endorphins.
If you suffer from any health conditions which may affect your ability to exercise, it’s worth getting advice from your medical practitioner. If motivation is hampouring your progress you could hire a personal trainer or enrol in a gym.
Sleep is essential to our overall health and wellbeing, sleep is the body’s opportunity to regenerate. Our physical and mental health can suffer hugely if we don’t get enough sleep. Ever get that foggy brain feeling when you’re sleep deprived? It’s a real thing! Some people suffer from insomnia, which leaves you in a constant state of exhaustion. Medical advice should be sought in these cases. There are certain medical conditions which can cause us to feel tired even if we are getting a good amount of sleep. If you are sleeping well, but still waking up tired you may be suffering from anemia or sleep apnea, seek advice from a medical practitioner for better insight. The solution may be taking a small supplement in order to feel better. Too little sleep can affect our ability to function in daily life; it can cause depression, irritability and can even affect immunity. Ever get sick when you’re exhausted? It’s because your body is exhausted too!
Steps to promote good sleep include:
- Avoiding tea and coffee
- Calming bedtime routine
- Reducing stress
- A healthy diet
- Avoiding alcohol
- Lowering distractions
- Avoiding “screen time” before bed
- Regular bedtime and waking time
Attempt to get outside into natural daylight every day. This is especially important during the winter, when daylight hours are restricted. Daylight allows our bodies to be aware of the distinction between night and day. Natural lighting lowers the body’s naturally want to sleep. Artificial lighting doesn’t have the same effect, although it is possible to buy “daylight” bulbs now, which may help.
If everything you try appears to have no effect, visit your medical practitioner for advice.
Try to see your new regime as a total lifestyle change and soon enough the changes you make will become habit and you won’t have to plan them as much as you do at the beginning. Be consistent and keep the vision of what you would like to achieve at the forefront of your mind. If you start to lack motivation, try to create a group of supportive people around you. You could join a local running/walking group, join a gym or go to a healthy eating class. If everyone is trying to achieve the same vision, you will be able to motivate and support each other!