I'm on the home stretch of my Masters in Nutrition. So I think and talk and write about food A LOT! And who wouldn't, because food is AWESOME!
But I think it's important to acknowledge that our health and wellbeing is impacted by so much more than the food we eat.
In the area where I live, I'm seeing far too many people OBSESSING over every molecule of food they eat, and neglecting so many other important areas of their lives.
So here is my list of things to think about, when you think about your wellbeing:
- Healthy Movement
- Relationships, Community & Connection
- Happiness & Joy
- Meaning & Purpose
1. Healthy Movement
Rather than use the word exercise, I like to talk about healthy movement. There are two sides to the healthy movement coin.
The first is the exercise bit. Trust me dahlinks, I've searched for loopholes. Exercise is not my favourite thing. But there's no way around it - to be healthy you have to move your body, and you have to do it consistently! I wrote about the health benefits of exercise, and my top tips to make it a consistent part of your week HERE.
The second, and often overlooked aspect, is minimising your sedentary time. The research in this area is still evolving, but it is clear that extended periods of sitting are not good for our health. So we need to make an effort to identify those times when we are sitting for extended periods and work out ways to break it up - or even better, to find alternatives! I encourage my clients and friends to catch up with me over a walk in the park or along the beach instead of sitting in meeting rooms or cafes. And I have also invested in a treadmill desk - and I LOVE it! Check out this TED Ed video on the health risks of sitting, and put your thinking cap on to brainstorm ways you can break up and minimise your sedentary time each day:
Sleep deprivation is extremely damaging to our health. It is linked with weight gain, impaired cognition, depressed mood, hypertension and so much more. So investing time and effort into getting a good night's sleep is a no-brainer!
Check out this TED Ed video on the harms of sleep deprivation:
I used to think that stress was just something you felt. I had no idea that it could impact you on a physiological level, with potentially devastating health consequences. These days I know better and I'm vigilant about identifying and eliminating unnecessary sources of stress, and I have also invested many years developing a suite of effective strategies to minimise the impact of stress on my physical and emotional wellbeing, and increase my resilience.
Check out this excellent TED Ed video on how stress impacts your body:
And this one on how it impacts your brain:
Now you are aware how damaging stress can be, why not block out some time to brainstorm all of the ways you can eliminate unnecessary stressors from your life, and ways you can minimise the impact of the ones you can't eliminate.
4. Relationships, Community & Connection
Your health is impacted by love and friendship, and also community and connection to others around you. Put simply, relationships and connection to others are good for our health, happiness and longevity! And sadly, loneliness impacts health, cognition and lifespan too. It's not about having large number of friends and family, but about the quality of the relationships you have.
Check out this AMAZING TED Talk on the 75 year Harvard Study on Adult Development, and the lessons about the importance of relationships the researchers discovered :
And now that you are aware of the importance of relationships, community and connection, make a plan to build and strengthen relationships with your loved ones, and to find your "tribe" of people you can connect with!
5. Happiness & Joy
Sometimes I think we walk around with blinkers on, oblivious to the tiny moments of beauty and joy around us. And I also think we let our life "happen" to us, instead of actively scheduling time with friends and loved ones, and wonderful experiences into our lives.
I will be writing a lot more about happiness in future, but for now I want you to understand that it is like a muscle that can be exercised and built, and one which can have a positive impact not only on our emotional wellbeing but also on your physical health!
And here's an interesting TED Ed video on happiness and its effect on our health:
6. Meaning & Purpose
Some researchers warn us against the relentless pursuit of happiness and joy, and encourage us to also focus on meaning and purpose. There are often things in our lives that don't always make us blissfully happy. In fact, they can be a source of stress. But when they are meaningful to us, they can actually enhance our sense of emotional wellbeing. Think of parents, of activists advocating for a cause they are passionate about, or someone serving as carer for a loved one.
Now, take a little time to think: what gives your life meaning and purpose?
Here is a great video on the benefits of life's challenges: