Press the reset button for 2019 with Kim Barnouin’s tips for improving your mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing.
What is being healthy? People tend to think of it as either a lack of physical illness or, perhaps, a toned stomach. But there is so much more to being truly healthy. Illness is inevitable, but if your health is well-rounded, you can keep going even when you’re ill.
What is well-rounded health? Well, physical health is definitely a key component, but it’s important not to lose sight of spiritual and mental health as well. A positive outlook and a happy heart contributes to your physical health as well as making life worth living.
It’s also worth remembering that health is a continuous journey, not a final destination. Focusing on how you feel in the present and forming good habits for the future is the best strategy for a strong body, mind and spirit. Here’s how to get the right balance…
1. Eat a plant-based diet, drink water
Eating a plant-based diet provides huge benefits to your health. Fruit and vegetables contain large amounts of nutrients essential for physical health, including vitamins, minerals, protein and fibre. They also tend to be naturally low in calories yet can be quite filling, which is perfect if you’re trying to lose weight.
Current high-carb/high-sugar diets lead to all kinds of health problems, from diabetes to IBS. Animal-based protein comes at the expense of a huge, amoral farming industry. Not only does this cruelty bleed into our consciousness, mass-produced meat has also been linked to heart disease and cancer.
Drinking plenty of water can also help your body flush out toxins while hydrating your skin, muscles, and organs. The body can often mistake thirst for hunger, so drinking plenty of water can also keep hunger at bay in between mealtimes.
2. Move more, rest well
Studies have found that 80% of UK adults do not get enough exercise and that sitting for long periods can be just as bad for your health as being obese. Even more worryingly, 91% of children in the UK also don’t get enough exercise, setting them up for unhealthy habits later in life.
The NHS recommends that adults get two-and-a-half hours of moderate physical exercise each week as well as some strength training. That doesn’t mean going for long runs every day, but simply a brisk walk for 30 minutes fives times a week. Young people (aged 5-18) need twice that amount.
But it’s just as important to get a good rest. Too much screen time tricks our brains into staying awake longer, while long commutes and stressful jobs have us working longer hours. Without the proper amount of time to rest and sleep, our bodies cannot fully repair, which in turn leads to less exercise, creating a downward spiral that can be hard to break.
3. Spend time in nature
Taking some time out in a natural environment (rather than just an urban setting) can do wonders for your health, in some rather unexpected ways. For instance, did you know that spending time in nature has been linked to better eyesight? Or that your creative problem-solving ability improves by up to 50% after immersing yourself in nature? Spending time in a forest has even been shown to increase the production of anti-cancer proteins!
In addition to all of these astounding effects, being out in nature can reduce stress and inflammation, providing similar benefits to meditation.
4. Shake things up
Although there is comfort in routine, doing the same thing day-in, day-out can suck all the fun out of life. The body is great at adapting to new environments, developing and growing to meet new challenges. Doing the same thing over and over leads to a type of atrophy: your workout routine loses its impact, your memory declines and you cease to grow as a person.
Trying something new shakes us out of our mundane routine, grows our confidence and keeps things fresh. It doesn’t have to be expensive, simply reading a book can improve memory, concentration and emotional intelligence.
5. Nurture your support network
Connecting with others is essential for our mental health. Studies show that loneliness has the same risk factors for our physical health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and is worse than obesity or physical inactivity. As more people live alone, it is important to nurture your social circle and share time with friends and family.
As well as combating the negative effects of social isolation, having a good support network can be a lifesaver in times of need. Whether it’s a sofa to stay on or someone to talk to, friends and family can get you through tough times.
If you are having a tough time at the moment and don’t have anyone to talk to, give the Samaritans a call for free on 116 123 or talk to your GP about local counselling services.
Some meditate to reduce stress and anxiety, others to feel re-energised and reinvigorated. Whatever your reason, studies have shown that regular meditation is great for both mental and physical health.
For instance, meditation has been shown to reduce inflammation, increase anti-oxidant production and counteract age-related cognitive decline. Decreasing stress can also have great health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, reducing headaches, improving skin disorders and IBS, and lowering the risk of depression.
Mindfulness meditation is popular and there are lots of meditation apps and guided meditations on YouTube. They can fit to any length of time you have available and can be done anywhere – so why not transform your morning commute or lunch break into a healthy habit?
Kim Barnouin is the author of the New York Times best-selling book Skinny Bitch and founder of the Skinny Bitch approach to weight loss which is based around 3 key pillars: nutrition, exercise and effective supplementation. Skinny Bitch offers a range of weight loss programmes, recipes and food products. Follow at instagram.com/skinnybitchofficial.