The concept of healthy living is one that most of us have an awkward relationship with.
On the one hand, we really want to focus on health, be happier, live a full and rewarding life, and just generally do the right thing.
On the other hand, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the things we should be doing that contribute to a healthy lifestyle. After all, this guide contains over 20 different things you can do to contribute towards a healthier life - yikes!
At Jersey Girl Organics, one of our core values is the health and wellbeing of our customers. This value drives nearly all our decisions, big and small. It’s one of the reasons we made the shift to organic farming, as well as why we choose to produce A2 milk.
Since health is something so vital and central to our business, we thought it made sense to start covering this in our blog. So, here’s our simple guide to healthy living, looking at the major aspects in life in which we can all take action to improve our health and wellbeing.
Before we jump into each section in more detail, let’s start with some general tips.
When making any change, especially one that may require us to break a habit, it can be helpful to start small and break the big task down into smaller ones. For example, if your goal is to run a marathon, you don’t start by training to run 42km, you start by simply running every day. Once you build the habit of running, and your body has gotten used to this daily exercise, you then move onto a more advanced training program designed to get you up to the marathon distance.
The same goes for making lifestyle changes. This guide is full of tips and advice, and on the surface may seem like a lot to take in. So just pick a few of the easier changes and focus on building those habits. Once you’ve got those down, add a few more.
By taking this approach you are giving yourself the best chance to succeed - small wins add up to big changes over time.
Focus on consistency
Much like starting out small, the key to making change is consistency. There is a lot of research out there on the benefits of consistency over intensity, meaning that it’s better to do something small every day than it is to do one big thing every week.
When we take big action, such as starting a new workout program that requires 5 days in the gym, we find a lot of early excitement and motivation. However, this quickly fades once we realise that our bodies cannot handle this workload and we quickly revert back into bad habits.
By taking small steps every day we overcome this and start building up our resilience through regular action.
Keep a habit journal
A habit journal is basically a way to track what actions you are taking every day. It’s a visual reminder of how well we are making progress towards a goal or outcome.
A habit journal can be as simple as marking a calendar every time you exercise, or every day that you eat healthily. It can also be as complex as a table that tracks all your habits and has a space to mark off each day that passes.
Choose whole foods over processed
The first piece of advice is perhaps the most important - eat real food that isn’t in a packet. Whole food like fruit, vegetables and pieces of meat from the deli section of your supermarket are packed with nutrients and are low on sugar and sodium. You’ll also find they help you feel fuller for longer, which can help your wallet and waistline.
Cut out sugary drinks
Swap that bottle of diet soda for a glass of water, or an infused water if you like a bit of flavour. A great idea is to cut up pieces of fruit into small pieces and let them infuse in a water bottle overnight, giving you a delicious, nutritious way to rehydrate in the morning.
Eat more fish
Add nuts and seeds to your diet
Sometimes referred to as ‘superfoods’ certain seeds like flaxseed and chia have huge nutritional benefits and are so versatile that you can have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nuts are packed full of protein and good fats, making them an excellent snack alternative.
Eat more plants
Nearly all of us can do with adding more vegetables and fruits to our diet and cutting back on our meat consumption. When we ‘eat the rainbow’, that is we eat foods of all different colours, we increase the micronutrients we take in, as different foods have different nutrient profiles. The easiest way to do this is to bump up our fruit and veg intake.
Drink more water
This one sounds simple, but most of us rarely drink enough water during the day. The health benefits of water include increased performance, improved brain function and aiding in weight loss.
Cut back on alcohol
Not only does alcohol have zero nutritional benefits, but the impact of drinking can also carry over to other aspects of our lives. How often has a hangover prevented you from achieving what you set out to achieve that day? How many times have you purchased take away food because you were drunk?
When hungry, go for more protein
When we adopt a new diet, especially one that restricts our calorie intake, we often feel like we aren’t satiated. When this happens, we usually end up snacking or going back for a second serve of the meal. Next time this happens to you, reach for a source of protein such as meat, nuts or legumes. Protein-based foods help us feel full, and can be difficult for our body to turn into fat.
Use smaller plates
A simple way to curb the amount of food you eat is to use a smaller plate. Even if you load the plate to the edge, because you’ve used a smaller one you’ll end up eating less food. This trick also works on a psychological level where we feel full once the plate is empty - if there is still food we tend to keep eating, even if our body is telling us to stop.
The speed at which we eat has an impact on our ability to digest, and also affects how much we eat. The signal that travels from our stomach to our brain to tell us we are full takes a little while to kick-in, so if we eat quickly we tend to overeat. By eating slowly our stomach will have time to process the incoming food and tell the brain when it is full before we make ourselves sick.
The number of times we chew our food before we swallow can impact how our body handles the food. Some studies have indicated that 32 times per mouthful is the right number of chews, and the benefits of chewing more include helping nutrients make their way into our bloodstream faster. By chewing we also avoid negative consequences such as bloating, heartburn and acid reflux.
Avoid doing other activities while eating
When it comes time to enjoy a meal, enjoy it! Try to avoid doing other activities like reading, watching TV or scrolling through social media. Use this time to connect with family and friends, or as an opportunity to enjoy your own company and check-in with yourself.
Turn off screens 1 hour before bedtime
The blue light emitted by our electronic devices has been shown to disrupt our circadian rhythms, and can block the production of melatonin, the chemical responsible for sleep. To combat this, it’s generally recommended to turn off devices around an hour before bed to give our bodies a chance to unwind and our brains to start powering down.
Turn off bright lights 30-45 minutes before bed
Similarly, bright lights can also impact our sleep patterns. For most of human history we’ve slept by moonlight, with the natural setting of the sun an indicator to our bodies that sleep is coming. With the invention of lightbulbs, most of us keep our homes illuminated well into the night. This level of brightness affects our ability to sleep. Much like turning off our mobiles, laptops and TVs, turning down bright lights before sleep is a good way to power down for the night.
Cool your bedroom
Sleeping in a cold bedroom has been shown to lead to a better nights’ sleep, and helps us fall asleep faster. Try opening a window, turning on the AC or investing in cooling sheets to help bring the temperature down and increase the quality of sleep.
Keep pets on the floor
Anyone that has a furry friend knows how great it can be to pull them in for a cuddle at night, but inviting them into bed can lead to a disturbed night of rest.
Do some journaling
When our thoughts run wild at night it can be pretty difficult to drift off to dreamland. One way to prevent this is to take some time to do some journaling. By getting all your thoughts out of your head and on to paper you can help calm the storm.
Aim for at least 45 minutes a day
Whether it’s walking to work, heading to the gym, or working in a physically demanding job, staying active is one of the keys to a healthy life. Aim for 45 minutes of mild activity every day.
Find a workout style you enjoy
Like anything in life, we tend to do the things we enjoy. Even if something is difficult, if we enjoy doing it we will likely keep at it. This is especially true of working out. If you enjoy lifting weights, then lift weights. If a workout class is more your thing, do for that option. Don’t be afraid to mix it up every now and then to see what you do and don’t like.
Place an emphasis on simply showing up
Like focusing on consistency, when it comes to working out and exercise, simply showing up and putting the work in is half the battle. It’s better to show up every day, even if you don’t feel like it, and have 5 average workouts a week than it is to only workout when you feel like it and have 1 awesome workout.
Focus on flexibility
Flexible muscles can move through its entire range of motion, leading to increased performance in activity. Not only this, but maintaining a level of flexibility as we get older usually correlates with an improved quality of life.
Practice meditation and mindfulness
It’s just as important to look after our mental wellbeing as it is to work on our physical health. Meditation has a range of benefits, and has been proven to aid in stress management and can help reduce the risk of disease such as depression and heart disease. Daily meditation and mindfulness takes only 10 minutes, but the benefits last all day.
Practice morning gratitude
Morning gratitude is a simple yet powerful way to take stock of the things you are grateful for in your life. Each morning, before you start your day, write down three things you are grateful for and why. It could be as simple as being grateful for coffee, or something more involved like gratitude for a staff member's extra effort the day before on a big project. Morning gratitude can help put things in perspective.
Speak openly with friends and family
Prioritising mental health usually requires us to be open and honest about our mental state with those closest to us. Don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings, especially in times of trouble and despair.
Avoid negativity within yourself
Being overly critical of yourself is a burden most of us carry for no reason. While it’s important to reflect on yourself, your behaviour and actions, it’s important to make a distinction between being negative and objective. This is especially true when we’ve let ourselves down, such as overeating or when we are hungover. It’s ok to feel guilt, but don’t let it drag you down longer than it needs to.
Avoid negativity surrounding you
Having a circle of friends and connections that have a positive impact on your life can go a long way to boosting your mental state. Not only this, but connecting with people you admire can provide motivational boosts to help you achieve your goals. If someone you know becomes a negative influence, consider removing them from your life.
Now Do It!
Making a plan to live healthier is only half the battle, you need to take action every day to achieve your goals. Thankfully, all the tips in this guide can be easily implemented and will lead you to long term success - make 2021 the healthiest year yet!