Here is my ultimate list of tips on how to lead a healthy and happy life.
Eating clean is a widely used expression these days and it means different things for different people. For me, eating clean means avoiding processed foods and foods which cause a negative reaction in my body, such as bloating and water retention. My body has changed over time and I can’t eat the same things that I ate 20 years ago. I know that I don’t do well with dairy and wheat for example. Eating clean means that I am feeling comfortable and happy in my skin.
Exercise has become an addiction for me. The feel good happy hormones that rush through your body after a workout give me a sense of well being compared to none. Exercise makes me aware of my body, of the things it can do, the strength and fitness that lies within. And there is something for everyone! Maybe you are not a runner, but prefer team sports? Maybe you hate going to the gym, but you like swimming? Maybe you are not into cycling, but love hiking? Preferences also change over time, with improved fitness and strength we often discover new passions. I used to hate cycling, now I’m addicted to spinning. I used to run a lot, but now with my aching knees I prefer hiking. I never was much of a swimmer and I’m still not! Find an exercise that you like and enjoy the endorphin rush!
Sleep is one of the most important elements in a healthy lifestyle. I know that I need my 8 hours minimum or I’m turning into a grumpy dragon mum. Sleep allows our bodies to restore, to fight inflammation, and sleep affects metabolism. Studies show that with lack of sleep the hormones that drive hunger go up.
This is fairly obvious I guess. You are much happier thinking the glass is half full than always consider it half empty. When I tend to negativity I make an effort to do affirmations. You can check out my blog on why this can be very helpful.
Have a SMART Goal
It helps to have goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. If your goal is vague, such as “I want to lose weight”, it is easy to get lost and frustrated as it is hard to see progress and stay motivated. However, saying “I want to avoid sugar and walk at least 30 minutes daily for 4 weeks” makes it easy to keep track and more realistic by having a time limit. And when results show, new goals can be set, with new time frames. You can check out my blog here for more on SMART goals.
Take Small Steps
This relates to setting SMART goals. I often see people having these huge goals with very unrealistic timeframes. This probably is a result of magazine cover headlines and self proclaimed diet, health and fitness experts that promise 10kg weight loss in 10 days or chiseled abs in 2 weeks. Any change is only possible if it is sustainable. And in order to be sustainable, most people need to start slow, and make changes to their lifestyles little by little until they become a new habit.
Allow the Grays
Doris Lessing said “Things are not quite so simple always as black and white.” I think as appealing as it sounds to see the world in black and white, good and bad, right and wrong, it is rarely that easy. The older I get, the more I believe we have to allow the grays. Life happens in the gray areas. Categorizing everything into black and white can put a lot of pressure on ourselves, as we expect perfection from ourselves. Nobody is perfect. I think we would be much happier if we could accept our own imperfections.
Making time to relax is important for our wellbeing and happiness. And I don’t mean just holidays. I mean the daily timeout from our routine where we focus on ourselves. This allows us to lower our stress levels. Chronically elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol can result in high blood sugar, hypertension, increased hunger, belly fat and bone loss. I know how addictive exercise can be, for example, and I find it hard to actually have a rest day. However, it is important to have those rests for the body to recover and grow muscles. When in excess, cortisol is an overall catabolic hormone, which decreases lean body mass and muscle mass.
I believe that being kind makes us happier. I read on Pinterest once that “kindness is like coffee. It awakens your spirit and improves your day”. Kind and positive people support and lift each other up, and don’t drain you with negative energy.
If you follow me on instagram you probably know how much I enjoy nature. I spend the summer months hiking in the mountains which gives me energy for the rest of the year. Enjoying nature lets us relax and bring those cortisol levels down (see above) and also makes us aware of how small we are and how grateful we should be for all this beauty and the gift of life. We tend to take ourselves too seriously and too important most of the time, so I find it very calming when life gets put into perspective.
In the age of social media, online access 24/7 and Netflix it seems old fashioned and outdated to be reading books. However, I don’t believe that reading books can be replaced by any of the others. It’s not only relaxing, it also stimulates the mind and imagination. I also like reading non-fiction books to learn about topics that I’m interested in. Reading improves our language skills such as expanding our vocabulary. This makes us better writers too. Even if you don’t aspire to be the next Charles Dickens, it may help with wording your facebook posts. Focusing on a story enhances our ability to concentrate. We’re so busy watching tv while checking our social media accounts and eating dinner and chatting on Whatsapp all at the same time, we increase stress and reduce productivity. Reading a book on the other hand calms down and relaxes and increased focus and concentration increases productivity.
So these are my top tips for a happy, healthy and balanced lifestyle. Let me know what you think are the most important ones and whether you do anything else to make you feel happy on a daily basis.