Six Free Ways to Improve Your Health

These days, it can take three weeks to get an appointment with your doctor, so being more responsible for your own health is not just an option, it’s a necessity.
As a health professional, I have helped many people improve their health and wellbeing with nutrition and fitness advice. I admire anyone who takes their health seriously and doesn’t rely on pills and potions from the doctor to cure what ails them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some quack who thinks that the broken bone poking through your leg will heal if you rub a kale leaf over it, there are times when a medical professional is necessary, but most of the conditions I refer to on this blog are ones we can all take steps to avoid.

The more we help ourselves deal with general conditions, the less time we spend at the doctors leaving them time to deal with those who really need their skills. I’m going to take you through some of the things I do to improve my chances of staying healthy and then I’ll give you some small challenges to get you on the road to long-term wellness.

SO WHAT ARE THE SIX THINGS YOU SHOULD BE DOING TO STAY HEALTHY?

  1. Eat well – Good nutrition
  2. Meditate
  3. Get outside every day
  4. Exercise
  5. Try Intermittent Fasting
  6. Appreciate everything positive in your life

If you look at the list, there isn’t anything on there that costs any more money or will take up your whole day- so there is no excuse for not trying them yourself. Plus, did you notice that five of them are covered if you are growing your own fruit and vegetables? If you can only count three: Good nutrition, exercise, being outside, then I would disagree. Appreciation for your surroundings is never higher than looking at a seed you planted grow into a healthy plant, plus pottering in your garden, or wherever you are growing, is a great form of meditation in my opinion. You don’t need to be cross-legged and chanting omm to meditate, you just need to quiet your mind, think of nothing and leave with a feeling of satisfaction. My sister’s form of meditation is deep breathing whilst cleaning out her horse’s stable -not sure that’s wise but whatever way works for you!

So let’s go through them one at a time and I’ll tell you why I include these things in my life and how you can get started today.

Good Nutrition

This is an obvious one but is still neglected by millions of people. The benefits of eating a balanced diet including a wide range of fruits and vegetables are immense. Over and over again, studies have shown that eating well will reduce your chances of heart conditions; cancer, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure and can help alleviate symptoms of depression, irritable bowel syndrome, eczema, low male fertility … and the list goes on.

Meditation

Just 10 to 20 minutes of quieting your mind each day is an easy, free, way of improving your health. There have now been numerous scientific studies, which have produced statistically significant results in proving the benefits of meditation on stress levels and stress-related illnesses.

… showed clinically and statistically significant improvements in subjective and objective symptoms of anxiety and panic following an 8-week intervention based on mindfulness meditation.

Other studies are producing positive results in the benefits of meditation for:

  • Age-related memory loss
  • Anxiety
  • Addictive behaviours like binge eating
  • A decrease in blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Pain control
  • Positive mindset
  • Improved focus and attention span
  • Problem-solving
  • Self-awareness

There are thousands of guided meditations available on CD or YouTube. You can even download free apps for your phone (See my tips below).

Get outside every day

The benefits of getting outside each day are numerous. Nowadays we buy so many sprays and wipes to eliminate bugs and bacteria that we don’t give our bodies a chance to build up a resistance. It’s no wonder our kids are always sick. The only bugs they get exposure to nowadays are ones that corrupt their video games! A new survey found 74% of children spent less time outside each day than prisoners. I’m sure most dogs get to go outside more than our kids as we make sure we walk them for an hour every day.

So why is it so important? A trip into nature has been shown to increase white blood cells which help to ward off infections especially Upper Respiratory Tract Infections like colds and flu. Being outside also reduces the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
In 2010 the English scientists reported results from a meta-analysis of their own studies that showed just five minutes of green exercise resulted in improvements in self-esteem and mood.
Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin – is another reason to get your butt outside. The sun hitting your skin for 10-15minutes each day provides vitamin D, which has been shown to possess excellent disease-fighting abilities. There is, of course, the issue of overexposure to the sun but this is something you would need to be sensible about. If you’re going to be sunbathing in a thong on a beach in Marbella, then suntan lotion is an obvious choice but a morning or early evening stroll for 15 minutes could charge your body with enough vitamin D for the day.
NOTE: Skin colour and age affect Vitamin D production. Dark-skinned individuals can have about half the levels of the vitamin compared with white-skinned people and those over 65 generate a fourth less than people in their 20s.

Intermittent Fasting

According to many scientific research studies, periods of fasting can improve biomarkers of diseases like breast cancer; diabetes, cardiovascular disease, brain disease and obesity-related conditions. We have all heard of the 5:2 diet where you eat normally for five days and fast on around 600 calories for the other two, which was born from scientific study explored by journalist and medic, Dr Michael Mosely. In Mosley’s original report, he visited science labs and people who have been using intermittent fasting for years and was so impressed with their stories of extraordinary health he began a fasting regime himself.

The 5:2 diet was his way of making the health benefits of intermittent fasting more achievable for us lesser mortals who don’t live in the woods practising yoga but are more likely to be living in the city attempting a downfacing dog in a sweaty class once a week.

I have always been an advocate of eating only when you’re hungry, especially if you’re not an athlete in training. I have never been an early morning eater so I don’t. On most days, I have my last meal at about 7.30pm and I don’t eat again until the next day at noon. This works really well for me and my lifestyle. There are no set days for me to eat, or not eat. If I wake up hungry I’ll have breakfast; this is a lifestyle, not a diet so I listen to what my body needs. Right now that’s coffee. Yes, I do have one or two cups of good coffee with organic milk and 2 glasses of water each morning. My Lavazza coffee machine makes getting up early and not eating for sixteen hours much more bearable.

Gratitude and a Positive Attitude

When I wake in the morning, no matter what I have to do that day, I appreciate my lovely bed, my pillow and the fact that I’m still breathing.
I head to the kitchen and inhale the aroma of my coffee brewing before performing my short stretching routine then I go into the garden to feed the birds who are always waiting at the bird-feeding station. Then I smile – wouldn’t you?
Even before I meditate, I feel gratitude for this brand new day.

Now it’s your turn

Try making some changes to improve your life over the next week or two. If you are one of my tribe of healthy growers then you’re ahead of the curve and may just need some inspiration to improve on what you already do.
Here are some things for you to try. Get yourself a notebook, use a separate page for each task and write down what you did. Feel free to share your progress below.

NUTRITION-Learn one new recipe this week involving a vegetable you wouldn’t normally eat and then another new one next week and keep them on your menu for a while before choosing another one. Basing your main meal on vegetables a few times a week could even save you money. Don’t forget to try Kale chips.

MEDITATION – Why not download a free app on your phone or find 10 minutes in your day to clear your mind and just concentrate on your breathing. You may want to start with a guided meditation, there are plenty on YouTube. I subscribe to Boho Beautiful and listen to Abraham Hicks, but find what suits you. Mindvalley is also another one on YouTube I would recommend.

GET OUTSIDE EVERY DAY – This can mean taking a walk in your lunch break or walking to the shops instead of driving. Aim to be outside for about 30 minutes per day increasing it to one hour a day over the next month. This doesn’t have to be all in one go if you can’t manage it during the week. If you have a watch that monitors your steps, then give yourself a goal for OUTDOOR STEPS of maybe 4,000 and see how you get on. The benefits you’ll feel will make the effort worthwhile.

EXERCISE – This can also be included in the last challenge just by increasing the number of steps you take each day. You don’t need to join a gym; get the dog off your sofa and walk him for an extra 20 minutes. He’ll reward you by not pooing in your slippers!

wpid-IMAG1586_1.jpg
My Stand-up desk

You could also fit in exercise whilst doing other things, like talking on the phone. I have a short routine of stretching and warming up whilst waiting for my coffee to brew and another when I’m cleaning my teeth. For those of you stuck behind a desk most of the day, maybe you could ask for a stand-up desk.

INTERMITTENT FASTING – For two days this week, eat within an 8-hour period, giving yourself 16 hours of fasting. This is an easier way of fasting as you will be asleep for half of it. This could mean moving your breakfast to 10am and finishing your dinner by 6pm – find what suits your lifestyle. I usually have a dash of milk in my coffee each morning so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t survive without your morning beverage but keep away from the lattes and drink a glass of water for each coffee you consume.

GRATITUDE – Every morning this week I want you to spend just one minute being grateful for the abundance in your life. If you wake up in a bad mood, keep it general – I’m grateful I woke up this morning – my bed is lovely and warm – the earth is still spinning in its orbit. Then say this:

‘This is me in my new day, which is full of possibilities.’

Feel free to let me know how you get on or contact me with any questions you have. Remember, happiness is a choice-choose it.

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