Article in Body and Soul
These five areas of our life are known to have the greatest impact on our health, so get these “right” and the rest will take care of itself.
1. The Right Rest
We’re a nation of insomniacs, with studies showing that up to one-third of Australians suffer from sleep difficulties. This puts us at risk of high blood pressure, extreme fatigue, depression, type 2 diabetes, reduced mental concentration and weight gain. Often the triggers are anxiety and overstimulation. The secret to achieving the optimum 7-9 hours of sleep per night is to protect it.
Prioritise sleep over your to-do list and practise good sleep hygiene: switch off light stimulation from computers, phones, TVs and lighting 30 minutes before bed; keep your room cool, dark, and quiet; and minimise your caffeine and alcohol intake. You can also try melatonin, a natural, non-addictive sleep medication that can be prescribed by your GP.
2. The Right Thoughts
We live in a world full of negativity and criticism. But there’s usually no-one more negative or critical about us than ourselves.
Behavioural science reveals that negative thinking and self-criticism locks us in a state of being unable to change our behaviours, and this can perpetuate unhealthy habits.
To break free of these unhealthy habits we need to first change our thinking. Start by being kind to yourself. Accept that everything doesn’t have to be perfect, just good enough – good enough to have the health, energy and vitality you desire for your life, and no-one else’s.
3. The Right Activity
Our bodies are made to move. Not only does exercise improve fitness, it also improves mood, reduces cholesterol levels, increases bone strength, boosts self-esteem and helps to control sugar cravings. You don’t have to do hours of exercise to reap these health benefits – just 30 minutes a day on most days.
4. The Right Fluid
Water comprises about 60 per cent of our body and is therefore essential for life. However, many of us don’t drink enough and instead live in a state of mild to moderate dehydration without even realising it.
Symptoms include headaches, fatigue, dark under-eye circles, muscle cramps, constipation, dry mouth and dizziness. If we hold off on drinking water until we have these symptoms or feel thirsty it’s likely that we’re very dehydrated.
A better approach is to be proactive with our water drinking and have 1-2 glasses every few hours. I recommend aiming for one litre for every 25kg of body weight. So, for example, if you weigh 75kg, you need to drink three litres of water a day. Keep in mind that alcohol, coffee, and energy drinks dehydrate you further, so add an extra glass of water for every one of these drinks that you consume.
5. The Right Fuel
A good way to think of food is as fuel, and if we want to be firing on all cylinders, we should aim to eat by the 80/20 rule. That is, 80 per cent of our diet should be unprocessed, unrefined wholefoods such as fruit, veg, wholegrains and lean meat. The other 20 per cent can be anything else.
(Superfoods such as chia seeds, goji berries and acai will only be 1 per cent benefit to your diet; the other 99 per cent benefit is from the simple, natural foods mentioned above.)
This is what balanced eating looks like and it’s more sustainable than aiming to eat perfectly all the time.