10 behaviours that can improve your health and wellbeing
Let me start by saying this: health is not a moral obligation, nor is it achievable for everyone. Health looks different for each individual, and it is valued differently by each individual.
Health outcomes are largely determined by so-called social 'determinants of health' (external aspects of our life such as the environment you live in, discrimination, racism, housing, job security, access, socio-economic background, etc.) as well as by your genetic blueprint.
Having said all that, there are things you can do to make yourself feel happier and healthier, and you will be surprised to hear that none of them involve having to lose weight! If you would like to read more about health and issues with weight loss, check out my previous blogs!
Everyone likes a list of things they can do to be healthier, and paying more attention to these 10 points can help to support your health and wellbeing:
1. Hydration – We are made up of about 75% water, so water is an element that is needed for most bodily processes. Drinking enough water is important for so many things:
- Regulating blood pressure and heart rate
- Flushing bacteria out of your body
- Transporting nutrients to your cells
- Aiding digestion
- Regulating body temperature
- Preventing constipation
- Helping concentration and focus
- Preventing headaches
The list is not exhaustive! There is no absolute and exact number of glasses you should drink per day, everyone is different and needs different amounts based on their activity levels, environmental influence or general lifestyle. You will do well starting with 5-6 glasses a day, and then adjusting accordingly!
2. Movement – Moving your body has so many health benefits: from stress busting, joint and muscle strengthening, to improving heart health, chronic illness, mental health and general wellbeing. It can help you sleep better, feel better and keep your blood sugar levels in check.
It is important to find a way of moving your body that you enjoy and that you don’t do just for weight-loss or aesthetic reasons. It doesn’t have to be a certain kind of exercise or particularly intense, if that’s not your jam. It’s all about finding something that makes you feel great!
3. Gentle nutrition – This is one of the principles of intuitive eating but one that is often put on the back-burner while you learn to focus on your body’s signals and reframing your beliefs around food and health.
It can easily be made into a set of rules, which then turns into just another diet. When you come to nutrition from a place of permission and not restriction, you can start exploring how different foods make you feel.
Adding rather than cutting out is my biggest piece of advice when it comes to nutrition. See how adding more fruit and vegetables, fibre-rich foods, pulses, nuts and seeds make you feel. As yourself” Can you add more plant-based options into your diet? Can you make sure you feed yourself enough? Can you eat your food in a more mindful way? Can you make your meals and snacks satisfying and enjoyable? If you have been restricting play foods such as cakes, biscuits, ice cream, etc., try adding those back into your life without judgement and with a neutral attitude (check my food neutrality blog for more on this topic)
4. Sleep – Getting enough good quality sleep is another amazing health booster.
Lack of sleep has been associated with low mood, anxiety and depression, hormonal, blood sugar and blood pressure imbalances, reduced immune functioning, let alone general irritability and apathy.
You can read up on good sleep hygiene by asking Dr Google about it, but a few tips to make sure you get a good night’s kip are:
- turn the screens off at least 1-2 hours before bed (in particular phones, computer and tablet screens – even when you use a blue-light reducing setting or screen!)
- read a book, do some deep breathing or relaxation exercises
- have a hot bath
- use essential oils that calm you down
- or have a small cup of warm milk or a soothing herbal tea.