It can be really overwhelming knowing where to start. We see lots of people rush into their wellness journey and try and swap everything about their current lifestyle all at once.
It might work for a week or three but for most people it’s unsustainable. We burn out, feel defeated and revert to old habits because it’s all too hard.
Here we’ve compiled a list of small, but significant, changes you can implement first.
Obviously changing a few things up won’t suddenly make you able to run a half marathon but you will sleep better, feel more energized, increase your longevity and just feel incrementally better. This is what total health is about after all isn’t it?
Let’s get stuck in.
Ironically the first suggestion is not actually to do more of anything, but to do less. Sleep plays an important role in our physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and strokes.
In our modern day lives it is not uncommon to get less than 6 hours sleep a night. We are chronically underslept and over-rushed. If you do nothing else sleep.
Choose water instead of juice or soft drinks.
Water or herbal teas should be your go to for hydration. Juices and soft drink are full of sugar, spike your blood sugar levels and offer nothing by way of nutrition. The sugar and caffeine found in some fizzy drinks also dehydrate you further.
Dehydration can lead to dizziness, lethargy, headaches and hunger. So next time you are hungry and it’s only been 2 hours since you last ate, reach for your water bottle.
A good rule of thumb is to aim for 2L per day plus one glass of water for every caffeinated drink you consume. Herbal teas without caffeine count towards your total, so if you’re not a fan of plain old water find a brew you love and get sipping.
Deep belly breathing
Doctor Libby Weaver talks about using deep belly breathing to calm yourself down and to help your body function optimally. When we are in a place of stress our fight or flight nervous system is activated. Our bodies cannot focus on rest or digestion if we are sending signals to run away from danger.
Breathing can really help you digest your meal and is a wonderful tool to battle insomnia.
Sit on a cushion or in bed cross legged with a straight back. Get comfortable so not too rigid. Place your hands on your belly and breathe deeply. Feel your breath push your hands out with every inhalation and retract as you exhale.
To begin with just aim for one minute twice a day. Build up to 5-10 minutes.
Also, try this
Put yourself in a stress free zone
This follows on from deep belly breathing. It’s the same principle to reduce stress and to place your body into rest and digest mode, but entering your stress free zone can include any activity that you enjoy.
If you love walking, going for a short walk can help you find your stress free zone. Similarly another person will love meditation, while others need movement to calm down. It’s entirely personal. Commit to five minutes a day of doing something you enjoy.
15 minutes of outdoors time a day
We sit in our cars, our offices and our houses. We are usually only ever outside to walk from one location to our car to drive to our next location. Not only could being outside include some physical activity - think a walk, swim or bike ride - but being in the sun for 15 minutes a day will help build our vitamin D stores.
Vitamin D is vital for stress management, assisting with anxiety or depression and for building our immunity. This is especially important for the summer months. Get outside when you can to help build your store for battling colds in winter.
Obviously some days are going to lend themselves to outdoor excursions more than others. But as a general principle, sit outside in nature more.
Add leafy greens to as many meals as possible.
This is pretty much enough said. But, if we change nothing else about our diets we can add some dense nutrition in. Leafy green vegetables have more nutrition per calorie than any other food. Greens make up a significant source vitamins A, C, E and K as well as several B vitamins. They are rich sources of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium. They are rich in fibre, extremely low in fat and carbohydrates and provide an excellent source of protein.
Leafy green vegetables include Spinach, Silverbeet, Herbs, Beetroot leaves, Lettuce, Kale, Collard Greens and Asian Greens. Eating more green full stop is a great idea though, so be sure to include broccoli, cabbage, courgette, cucumber, celery… the list goes on.
To start with the idea of physical activity can be daunting. If you have not been active regularly till now finding time to commit to an exercise regime can seem scary and hard. However, the latest research says that real risk to our health from a lack of physical activity is actually not committing to daily, hour-long workouts, but our sedentary lifestyles.
People who sit, at a desk or on the couch for instance, for longer than six hours per day have a markedly increased risk of obesity, heart disease, type two diabetes and kidney failure.
So, if you can’t get a standing desk at work try walking for five minutes of every hour. Get up go for a quick 5 minute walk and get back into it. Take the stairs over the elevator and if you have meetings at your workplace, suggest a walking catch up instead.
Chew your food
Digestion begins at the mouth. If you suffer from IBS, bloating, constipation, flatulence, stomach pain or diarrhoea a simple thing to start doing is to chew your food more.
A meal really should take 20 minutes from start to finish. Not that 5 minute episode we frequently do standing at the bench or at our desks with our mobile phones scrolling through instagram.
Sit down at a real table with a real knife and fork and eat real food with no distractions. Initially 10 minutes might seem like an age but consciously chew your food
Human connection is huge part of our collective experience. Intimacy could literally mean sex - and this is a wonderful way to raise your heart rate, release some endorphins and generally feel satisfied - but intimacy could be cuddling your children, siblings or parent. It could mean a catch up with a close friend, it could be cuddles with a pet.
We’ve become increasingly adept at communicating and connecting via social mediums and forgotten the physical and tangible elements of this crucial aspect of what it means to be human.
In Ayurvedic medicine there is also a strong emphasis on self touch. Giving yourself a gentle massage or using a dry body brush before a bath or shower is another way to include some intimacy. The idea is that it helps blood flow from the heart around your body; self-love starts at the heart.
Laughter is the best medicine. Sometimes this whole getting healthy thing is very serious business.
Often it can be helpful to just be a bit silly. Jump in the ocean fully clothed with your kids. Reconnect with loved ones at a funny movie. Watch Seinfeld reruns. It’s mindless but that’s the point. We don’t always have to be actively chasing our pre-prescribed goals. Sometimes just being and laughing in the moment can make the whole process seem less arduous and the those goals a little more manageable.