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Tips to a Healthier & Happier You
Do you think pursuing a healthy lifestyle means you have to radically change your diet, give up your favourite foods and exercise all the time? Think again. Everyone can make significant improvements to their health and wellbeing just by making simple changes to their daily routine. Little changes such as those in our list add up to some huge benefits to your overall health and happiness.
Here are 10 tips to a healthier and happier you that you can start today:
Current medical guidance is to aim for at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day however we prefer the 30 different varieties per month target. The real benefit from fruit and vegetables comes from the sheer breadth of nutrients and minerals they can provide and eating the same 5 fruit and vegetables each day severely limits this. Instead, try to buy seasonal fruit and veg which not only means it is at its most nutritious, but also encourages you to eat differently through the seasons (personally we love trying new ingredients and discovering new recipes). Another handy tip is to mix your colours. Similarly-coloured fruit and vegetables often contain similar nutrients so try to mix these up as much as possible to ensure your body is getting maximum benefit
Yes, we all know this. But hands-up who honestly does? As we lead busier and more stressful lives, the opportunities to exercise daily are not what they once were. Case in point: how many of us have spent not insubstantial sums of money on gym memberships and can then count how many times you went on your fingers? I know I have. If getting regular daily exercise is a problem then your health will suffer, no matter how well you eat. Think about ways you can insert exercise into your daily routine, taking the stairs instead of the lift at work is an excellent example. Some of the team here park their car at the edge of the city centre or take public transport so they have to walk a mile to and from the office each day. Current thinking is that sedentary lifestyles – not just couch potatoes but those sitting at desks in offices all day – are particularly damaging to our health. So if you find yourself sitting for long periods of time, try to get on your feet at least once per hour and get your heart going. Walk instead of driving to the shops, even walking home from the pub counts (but stay safe, take a taxi if you’re on your own)!
Personally we feel there is far too much focus on the so-called fad diets at the moment and not enough common sense advice. Look, calories make us fat, it’s as simple as that. Too many calories – no matter what form they are consumed in – makes us overweight and will eventually damage our health. The problem with fad diets is they are often so unnatural to us that there is literally no hope whatsoever that the diet can be sustained over any length of time or else they restrict our diets to such an extent that despite losing weight, we’re also depriving our bodies of essential vitamins and minerals. Current guidelines are to consume appx 2500 calories per day for men and 2000 for women but, as per point 2 above, many of us lead extremely sedentary lifestyles nowadays so even consuming 2000 – 2500 calories can be more than our bodies need. Instead of starting your meal plan or idea with a type of fatty protein, start with vegetables and work from there. If you can fill half your plate with vegetables then not only is it easier to eat fewer of the less-healthy foods but you will still have a large, delicious, filling meal to eat as well as significantly increasing your chances of eating 30 different fruit and vegetables per month – that’s a win-win-win!
Of course it’s not just about food. I’m sure we’ve all felt tired, run-down, even unhappy at some point in our lives despite eating well and getting some exercise. Usually this is a direct result of stress, worry, overwork and/or a lack of sleep. Whilst some of these can be tackled directly, often they can’t so it’s increasingly important to find ways to keep good mental health as well as physical health. Stress in itself isn’t a bad thing, in fact too little stress can also be unhealthy. Relentless stress and worry however, can take a serious toll on our overall health and wellbeing. Mindfulness is spoken about an awful lot at the moment and can easily be incorporated into our daily lives. Telling ourselves 5 things we are grateful for when we wake up each morning or ensuring we reward ourselves when we complete a major task or achieve something are all simple but proven methods of staying happy and positive which is a straightforward and manageable route to maintaining great mental health.
Now, this might sound a little like turkeys voting for Christmas but we really mean it! The health supplements and vitaminsyou buy in local and online health storescan be vital to ensure your body is getting the correct amount and variety of essential nutrients however they are exactly that: supplements. Designed to supplement your existing diet, when needed. There are other ways to supplements your existing diet though and they’re not that difficult. Simply switching lettuce for spinach in your sandwich, chopping some fruit or adding seeds and nutsto your breakfast cereal, yoghurt, smoothie, salad or stir fry are quick and easy but, above all, delicious ways to supplement your diet with healthy foods.
Similar to the ‘eat 30 different typesof fruit & vegetable per month’ instead of the usual ‘eat 5 portions of fruit and veg per day’; it is best to eat the broadest range of food types and groups as possible. We know that eating oily fish is good for us but did you know different types of oily fish have different health benefits? Try switching starchy carbs for peas or beansonce or twice per week. Quinoa and cous couscan be a tasty and healthy alternative to pastaand even dairy products cheese and yoghurt have tremendous health benefits if consumed in sensible amounts. Our advice: be adventurous and don’t limit yourself! Try something new each week. If you like it then try and incorporate it into your regular meals.
This one is easy. Excessive saturated fat is badand sugar is the devil. There is some argument ragingabout just how bad saturated fat is, as some – particularly in dairy – appear to have positive health benefits, however the simple advice is don’t overdo it and avoid processed foods heavy in saturated fat like the plague. For most of us it’s impossible to avoid sugar altogether (I’m happy to confess I’m an absolutechocoholic!) however think about how much and how often you consume this. I stopped having sugar in my coffee and tea years ago so I could eat more chocolate without feeling too guilty. Also eating more whole foods – any food that is natural and unrefined – while cutting out processed foods and ready meals will immediately slash your sugar intake by a huge amount.
As well as regularly taking stock of your life, grounding yourself in the present and reminding yourself to feel grateful, having a goal to aim for is incrediblyimportant to good mental health. Let’s face it, humans are goal-orientated animals and being allowed to drift with no clear direction in mind – while valuable as a short-term recharge – is not conducive to long term mental wellbeing. Try to always have something to look forward to or work towards. The usual examples include planning a holiday for later in the year, learning a new skill or completing a side project (at home or at work) but a goal could be literally anything – the loftier the goal the better, why limit yourself! A couple of us here are passionate mountain climbers so usually have an ongoing goal of climbing higher mountains, more mountains in one day or climbing in different countries and continents (Rocky Mountains 2019 here we come!). Who wants to sound sophisticated and speak French? There are multiple incredible free ‘learn a language’ apps available for your smartphone. What about combining this with some of our previous tips and aim to try a new ingredient each week or learn a different cuisine this year? Any goal is a worthy goal, the most important thing is that it stretches you so that you are taken out of your comfort zone, forced to learn something new and ultimately, feel a huge sense of achievement when the goal is reached.
The curse of the modern world strikes again! I freely admit there are times when I barely set foot outside for days at a time. I’m not proud of it, but whether it be because I’m working extremely long hours and then driving straight home, taking shelter indoors (running scared) from the brutal Scottish winters, or just because the internet is so damn convenient that I can have literally anything brought to my door and have almost unlimited entertainment at my fingertips (thank you, Spotify & Netflix), getting outside regularly can be tricky. It’s not just about the physical health benefits of exercise, oh no. Being outside – and in particular, in the countryside, near trees or water– has significant, proven effects on your mental health and overall wellbeing. It helps to relieve stress and anxiety, mitigates the symptoms of depression, makes us happier and helps us to sleep and rest properly. This, combined with the fact that we’re likely to be more active when we’re outside, means you should do everything possible to get outside on a daily basis and head for the country or green spaces whenever you can (sorry, Spotify & Netflix).
Last but not least, the wonder that is wholegrain. This is another simple tip but far too many people still eat refined grains. The health benefits of wholegrain are multiple and significant: as whole grains are packed with protein, fibre, B Vitamins and minerals such as iron, copper, zinc and magnesium, a diet high in whole grain significantly reduces the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and cancer. Diets high in fibre also help with feeling full after meals and are absolutely adored by the bacteria in your gut. Switching to whole grain is as simple as choosing whole grain versions of breakfast cereal, bread,rice, freekeh, cous cous,quinoa, corn or pasta. They’re all delicious (far tastier than the refined versions) and the health benefits are not to be ignored.
So there you go, 10 extremely simple and realistic tips for living a healthier, happier and longer life. We hope you can enjoy the benefits of at least some of these and let us know your own tips for simple healthy living!