8 habits that can help you stay healthy
Healthy habits to incorporate daily to improve your health and wellbeing.
Exercise Physiologist, Wellness Coach and Lifestyle Medicine Practitioner, Bell Silverthorne talks about the healthy daily habits that can help you improve your physical and mental wellbeing.
It’s free and just about all of us can do this. If you’re really honest, there are probably loads of opportunities for you to incorporate more walking into your life every single day. Whether it’s going for a dedicated walk in the morning or making sure you do a quick lap of the block in your lunch break – whenever you can, use those legs of yours. Run out of milk or bread at home? Can you walk to the nearest shop rather than drive? Walking can also provide a good opportunity to access green spaces which is great for our mental wellbeing. Side note; if you need a good little slogan to keep in mind to rewire that brain of yours, this one’s a pearler – “think of exercise as an opportunity, not an inconvenience.” So, in other words, if you were initially cursing yourself that you didn’t manage to get rockstar car parking at the shops – reframe it to “lucky me, I just scored myself more steps!” Help make that brain of yours step it up!
2. Eat more fruit and vegetables
Five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit are the daily recommended amount for healthy adults. How to do this? PREPARATION. If you don’t buy it at the shops, you won’t have it in the fridge. If you don’t have it in the fridge, you can’t pop this in your lunch. If you don’t pack your lunch, it’s going to be really tricky to try and squeeze in all the goodness once you get home particularly if you’re also trying to balance that out with kids’ homework, walking the dog and putting away the washing. Want to hear a fun fact? Eating lots of different colours of fruit and veg will mean you’re getting lots of excellent nutrients for BDNF – while the acronym brain derived neurotrophic factor is quite the mouthful, put simply, is essentially fertiliser for the brain. BDNF helps you fertilise your brain network, helps grow new neurons and is particularly important for memory and learning centres. In summary, I guess you could say that eating lots of fruit and veg is a no brainer.
3. Stand up throughout the day
You may have heard the phrase ‘sitting is the new smoking.’ It’s true, our bodies aren’t designed to sit for long periods, and instead, they are designed to MOVE. Even if you did a 30-minute run after sitting all day, it still doesn’t offset the damaging metabolic pathways of sitting all day. Being active and going for a run is still excellent for you, but the take-home message here is to move as often as possible. Moving every 20-30 minutes is best. That doesn’t mean you need to walk away all the time and do zero work in your workday, just the act of standing can help. The action of standing up helps utilise your big muscle groups – our big leg muscles and bottom muscles in particular, which kick starts more metabolically healthy pathways in your body. The bonus benefit of moving more is that this also serves as a great reset for your posture, which can often relieve aches and pains you may have from sustained postures. The best posture is your next posture – your new mantra is “I like to move it, move it”.
Breathing sounds so simple, doesn’t it! It’s something we rarely pay attention to, yet we can really make it work for us beyond just keeping us alive. Take time throughout your day to notice your breathing – do you have slow deep breaths, or more shallow, quick breaths? The simple act of bringing your attention to breathing can help calm your mind and manage your stress levels and anxiety.
5. Stretch it out
Incorporating stretching throughout your day improves your flexibility and reduce soreness. You don’t have to spend hours a week stretching. But, try and add it in simple ways to your day. This can be stretching at your desk or in front of the TV while you’re watching your weekly binge on Netflix. Aim to hold each stretch for 30 seconds (it actually feels like an eternity when you stretch correctly like this), and aim to do two repetitions of each stretch, and on both sides of the body. You should aim for a feeling of slight discomfort, and never the point of pain. Channel your inner stretching cat!
6. Add variety to your diet
By adding variety to your meals, you’ll ensure you are getting a range of unique benefits from a wide selection of ingredients. If you are a person who likes tracking things and a challenge– see if you can aim for 40 different plant foods within one week. This includes nuts, seeds, herbs as well as fruit and veg. It’s tricky, but not impossible. The importance of preparation definitely applies again here!
7. Digital detox
It’s import to disconnect from all your devices and screens. Being connected to technology 24/7 can have a negative impact on your mental health and productivity. Distractions galore anyone? Our eyes and brains need a break. Try and disconnect from technology at least for an hour every day. Disconnecting can actually help you reconnect – both with yourself and with others around you too, it helps you feel more centred.
Having a good quality sleep, and long enough sleep affects everything from our memory, mood and performance to our junk food cravings. If you continuously deprive of yourself of an opportunity to sleep properly, other issues inevitably arise – chronic fatigue, susceptibility to illness and more. Set a good night time routine by keeping a consistent sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake time regardless of workdays or weekends. Relax before going to bed by switching off technology at least an hour before and avoid anything that causes too much stress before getting the Zzzz.
Bell Silverthorne is an exercise physiologist, wellness coach and lifestyle medicine practitioner with a passion for every day Australians to be that little bit healthier. Whether it’s sleeping better, exercising more, eating more fruit and veggies each day or doing your best to maintain a good headspace. Bell is a massive advocate of lifestyle medicine – harnessing your everyday lifestyle habits to help prevent, manage or even reverse chronic disease.