Looking after your wellbeing simply means enabling yourself to feel healthy and happy as much as possible. It means you can fully participate in your life, and have the energy and resources to be there for others when they need you.
Self-care is the foundation for wellbeing, but with busy lives, lots of commitments and the continual pressure of day to day life, making time to ensure your wellbeing can be difficult. So with that in mind, we’ve put together this handy guide on what you can do to maintain and improve your physical and mental wellbeing.
The guide features simple suggestions for bringing more self-care into your lifestyle, and ways in which you can make yourself a priority for a change.
The three keys to physical wellbeing are simple: healthy sleep patterns, a healthy diet and getting enough exercise. By starting out with a focus on physical self care you are also laying the groundwork for good mental health. So let’s look at these three factors in more detail.
Getting a good night’s sleep
Lack of sleep can make you grumpy and unproductive, but if it becomes a habit it ups your risk of developing chronic illness, raising the risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. It can also impact your immune system leaving you vulnerable to colds and flu. Most adults need eight hours a night to function.
If you have trouble sleeping, the first step is to identify the possible cause.
You can take a self-assessment quiz to see whether you might have a sleep problem. Insomnia can be caused by many different lifestyle factors: stress, an uncomfortable place to sleep, too much caffeine, mental health conditions such as depression, and physical health conditions particularly those involving chronic pain.
The blue light emitted by phone and laptop screens has also been found to impede healthy sleep by suppressing the release of the sleep hormone melatonin.
To get more sleep, try your best to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Resting quietly, listening to calm music or having a warm bath before trying to sleep can help you wind down from the day. Turning off all devices an hour or so before bed helps too.
Eating a healthy diet
When you’re stressed out, often food is the first thing to drop off the list of concerns. It’s hard to balance your lifestyle with healthy eating habits, especially when comfort and convenience foods are so readily available.
A healthy diet should include lots of fruit and vegetables, protein, carbohydrates especially from wholegrains and some fats. Sugars are a non essential part of the diet, but don’t worry about occasional indulgence. Moderation is the key here.
Another key part of a healthy diet is to make sure you’re getting enough water. The NHS advises drinking about 1.2 litres (6-8 glasses) of water or other fluids daily to avoid getting dehydrated. Plain water, or diluted fruit juice or squash is the best option, as tea, coffee and fizzy drinks contain caffeine.
Getting enough exercise
If you work at a desk, drive during your commute and sit down to the TV during dinner, chances are you don’t get much exercise in your daily routine. Sitting all day and a sedentary lifestyle can be bad for your health.
In fact, high levels of physical inactivity has been described as the modern world’s “silent killer” by the Department of Health. Continual long spells of sitting is thought to slow down the metabolism, impacting on blood sugar, pressure and body fat distribution.
Getting moving with just a simple stroll outdoors can be the first step towards a new lifestyle! Regularly doing some form of physical activity can dramatically lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, depression and dementia as well as some forms of cancer.
Exercise can also give you a mood-lifting boost– try going for a short run after a stressful day as a way to calm down. You might find it helps more than sitting and relaxing.
It’s thought that exercise stimulates the release of serotonin in the brain, enabling happy emotions. If you have depression, exercise may also help by distracting you from negative thoughts, providing opportunity to meet and socialise with people, and upping your self confidence.
Keeping your inner life running smoothly can be a tricky task, but the basics of mental and emotional self-care are a good starting point. Mental wellbeing is about feeling confident in yourself and engaged in the world, as well as having satisfying relationships and being able to express your emotions and cope with stress and change.
Meet a friend
Putting time into creating positive relationships is one of the best steps towards mental wellbeing. Making time to connect and relax with friends and family is vital, especially when you’re stressed and busy.
It will give you opportunities to talk about your troubles and find support.Take five minutes to message an old friend, sign up for a new group to meet some new people, or make conversation with a stranger.
Spend time with yourself
We’ve talked about the importance of taking care of your physical wellbeing by spending time ensuring you’re well-nourished, rested and well exercised.
But it’s equally valuable to spend time on your mental health by relaxing and concentrating on experiencing the here and now.
Try out a simple way to stay grounded:
- Take a long bath
- Go for a walk without your phone and look at your surroundings
- Try out meditation
- Listen to your favourite music without multitasking
Learn something new
Picking up new skills or areas of interest is a great way to keep your mind sharp at any age, and can help you become more self confident. If you’ve always wanted to learn to play guitar or dance, go for it!
The worst that can happen is you discover you don’t like it- and you have the satisfaction of crossing it off the list of things you’ve never tried.
Start a creative project
A manageable creative project can get you engaged and passionate about something and give you a satisfying sense of productivity when it’s finished. Nurturing your creativity can also make you happier, by giving you an emotional outlet and helping you focus on the here and now.
If you already have a creative lifestyle, try stepping out of your usual field and giving a new medium a go. Ideas for a short, satisfying creative project might include
- Composing a haiku
- Sketching a self portrait
- Colouring in a picture
- Taking a series of photos of friends and family
Maintaining your wellbeing can seem like a lot to manage on top of the rest of what life throws at you, but it’s actually the key to coping. If you can keep your mental and physical health a priority even when circumstances get tough, you’ll be resilient enough to ride out change and come out the other side.
Take the time to look after your body and mind and you’ll be prepared for anything.
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