Online searches for self-care have increased by more than 250% since 2020. The pandemic triggered a surge in searches linked to healthy living and reducing the risk of common health problems. Taking good care of your body and mind is essential for optimum health and well-being. In this guide, we’ll outline some simple steps you can take to lay the foundations for a healthier lifestyle.
Most of us will automatically think about losing or gaining weight when the word ‘diet’ crops up in conversation. Changing your diet will impact body weight, but crucially, it can also supercharge your health. When you think about what you eat, or you plan menus or write lists for the grocery store, concentrate on nutrition. It’s so important to consider what you’re putting into your body and how it’s going to benefit you. A slim or muscular body is often seen as a sign of good health, but this is not always the case. A healthy diet should be balanced and it should provide the body with the fuel and nutrients it needs to thrive. If you are trying to lose weight, avoid fad diets that reduce calorie intake dramatically or eliminate entire food groups. These diets may result in rapid weight loss, but they can be detrimental to your health and they are usually unsustainable. Aim to follow a healthy eating plan, which is calorie-controlled.
It’s not always easy to keep on top of nutrition, especially if you’re busy. If you find it hard to make time for cooking at the end of a long day at work, try batch cooking, look for easy, quick recipes, or sign up for a food delivery service, which offers nutritious, balanced meals. It’s also a great idea to follow some very simple nutrition rules, such as eating five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, limiting your intake of sugar and salt and swapping white pasta, bread and rice for whole grains. If you’re not sure if your diet is healthy, or you want to make improvements, try using a food diary app. This will highlight shortfalls and excesses to enhance nutrition.
Hitting sleep targets
How much sleep do you get on an average night? More than 30% of US adults get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night. Sleep is critical for good mental and physical health. If you don’t get enough sleep, you may be more susceptible to illnesses and infections, your energy levels will be low, you may experience mood swings and you might struggle to concentrate at work. A lack of sleep can also exacerbate symptoms of stress and anxiety and increase the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
If you only sleep for a few hours a night, or you’re prone to sleepless nights, it’s beneficial to take action. The first change to make is to adjust your evening routine. Start getting into the habit of taking time to relax and getting into bed at the same time each day. If you have a set bedtime, and your alarm goes off in the morning at the same time, your body clock will adapt. Give yourself 7-8 hours to rest. Before you go to bed, unwind. Read, have a bath, watch TV or listen to music. Don’t check work emails, scroll through social media or stay up late drinking coffee or gaming.
The next step is to create a soothing, tranquil sleep environment. Start with your bed. You should feel comfortable when you climb under the sheets. If you have back pain, or you can’t get comfortable, and your mattress is old and worn, it’s worth using a mattress finder to discover new products that will help you to sleep better and reduce the risk of aches and pains. Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet and use colors that have a calming effect. Neutrals, monochrome and shades of blue, purple and green are good examples. Design a cozy, inviting space with throws and blankets, set a thermostat to regulate the temperature and keep devices and gadgets out of the bedroom.
Self-help techniques can be hugely beneficial for people who experience sleep troubles, but they don’t always solve chronic or severe problems. If you’ve made changes to your sleep routine and environment, and you still suffer from insomnia, seek advice from your doctor.
Regular exercise is one of the most powerful natural tonics for better health and well-being. Being active reduces the risk of heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, dementia, high blood pressure and some types of cancer. It can also lower stress levels and enhance mental health. When you move your body, it releases endorphins and the levels of dopamine and serotonin in your brain increase to trigger a natural high.
Health experts recommend doing 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. If you’re not hitting this target, there are some very simple ways to move more. You could join a sports team or club, take out a gym membership, set yourself a daily steps target or devote more time to hobbies, such as playing golf or tennis, cycling, hiking, kayaking, climbing or swimming. Even if you’re short on time, you can benefit from being more active. If you’ve got half an hour, go for a walk in the fresh air, do a yoga, HIIT or spin class, work out at home, go for a run or get your bike out. Try to incorporate exercise into your daily routine, be open to trying different activities, get your partner or friends involved, and have fun.
Studies suggest that we are more interested in self-care than ever. If you’re on a mission to improve your health, it’s important to understand the fundamentals and lay the foundations. Focus on nutrition and try to ensure that your diet is healthy and balanced. Hit daily sleep targets and use self-help techniques to improve sleep quality. Move more and try to make time for daily exercise. Don’t be afraid to seek advice or help if you’re worried about your health or you want to make changes.