Author: Meghana S Nair
With widespread awareness of the health implications resulting from being overweight and obese, becoming more health-conscious is everyone’s personal agenda nowadays. But the key lies in being disciplined to maintain a balanced lifestyle that requires simple everyday wellness habits that adds up to a healthy vibrant life where they see improvement in their health, appearance, activity and energy.
Health-consciousness is an attitude in which one has an awareness of the healthiness of one’s diet and lifestyle. Our generation is more proactive and health-conscious than our parents and grandparents. But there are very few among us who have mastered the art of well-being by adopting a healthier lifestyle right from the way they eat to how they take care of their bodies in general.
A healthy diet and adequate exercise reduce the possibility of developing health problems and enable you to cope effectively with the challenges of life. Regardless of how young or old you are or your background, it is essential to strive for good health and make healthier decisions that have a positive impact on your life which in turn contributes to your physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Sometimes it takes a while before changes become new habits or behavior. Our old habits not only die-hard but also hold us back from doing something and that’s why getting rid of these habits can be tough. It’s important to understand that a habit is not a need. And the first step towards changing any behavior is to evaluate your current habits. The second step is to make plans based on what works best for you. The third step is to act on your plan and make the changes you set out to achieve. By the time you stick with these changes and reach the final step, your changes would have become a normal part of your daily routine.
Here are a few specific habits that contribute to healthy living which you should consider adopting:
Your food choices affect your overall health — how you feel today, tomorrow, and in the future. A healthy and balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy weight and a BMI (Body Mass Index), which reduce your risk of chronic diseases and promote your overall health.
When it comes to healthy eating, both quality and quantity are of utmost importance. It’s good to be mindful of what we eat and how much we eat because even for people at a healthy weight, a poor diet is associated with major health risks that can cause illness and even death. From reducing the amount of salt and sugar intake to adding more vegetables and fruits to our diet. From never skipping your breakfast to drinking enough amount of water every day. From drinking your coffee black to replacing fried food with baked or roasted stuff. From having one or two cheat meal days per week instead of completely giving up on junk food to cooking at home more often instead of eating fast food regularly. The little consistent changes we make to our diet can add up to make a big difference.
All health-conscious people seem to engage themselves in some kind of physical activity or exercise. Some people prefer intense gym workouts whereas others prefer a session of playing their favourite sport. And some regularly keep themselves active by making it part of their daily routine. It could be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking or cycling to work instead of driving and turning household chores into simple workout sessions.
When you engage yourself in physical activity, you burn more calories based on how intense is the activity. Also when you exercise, your body releases hormones called endorphins, which are secreted within the brain and nervous system. Endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body that may leave you feeling happier, more relaxed with improved sleep and less anxious or depressed. You may also feel better about your appearance and yourself when you exercise regularly, which can boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem. Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. Even small amounts of exercise and physical activity are great ways to prevent excess weight gain, boost your energy and combat health conditions.
Healthy living involves more than physical health, it also includes emotional or mental health. Mental health is a broad arena which includes stress, anxiety disorders, depression, anger issues and many more. It impacts almost every area of our life including how you sleep and eat, your education and career, your relationships, health, and concentration. Mental health deserves real conditioning and taking care of, just like the entire body.
Sleep is crucial to our wellbeing as it helps the brain to flush out toxins that build up during waking hours while resetting and restoring nerve networks so that they can function fully when we wake. The relationship between sleep and mood is complex because a lack of sleep can have a major impact on our mood, energy level, motivation, concentration, memory and quality of life.
Stress is often unavoidable as it is part of our life whether we like it or not. Stress causes your body to release the stress hormone called cortisol, as well as adrenaline, which influences your blood pressure, heart rate, eating habits, sleep patterns, blood sugar levels, fat metabolism and your ability to fight off illness. Stressful life experiences may even increase your risk for an anxiety disorder and depression. But knowing what triggers your stress and practising good coping skills is the key to maintaining good mental health. Relaxation exercises like meditation, deep breathing and simply focusing on cultivating mindfulness for 20 to 30 minutes each day, can actually change the way your brain processes emotions and steadily improve your ability to tolerate frustration, control your temper, manage anxiety and depression. If mental illness is left untreated, it can lead to many other complications in one’s personal and professional life.
Sometimes taking care of your body is not just about what you give it; it is also about what you keep away from it. Individuals suffering from mental illness often, also have comorbid disorders, such as excessive alcohol consumption, usage of tobacco and drug abuse or other addictions.
Many of us drink alcohol to relax and socialise. Some people who are fighting depression often use alcohol as a depressant to deal with fear or loneliness and also to numb the pain of their depression, but the effect is only temporary. When the drink wears off, they feel worse because of the way alcohol withdrawal symptoms affect their brain and the rest of the body. Over time, excessive alcohol consumption can affect both your physical health and mental health. You will eventually develop chronic diseases and other serious health problems including high blood pressure and liver damage. Alcohol can be part of a healthy lifestyle if you drink in moderation and also exercise and have a good diet. This keeps your systems clean and your organs healthy.
While drinking can be a threat to your health, smoking is certainly worse. Almost half of the people with mental illness are smokers. Unlike alcohol at low or moderate levels, there is no benefit to tobacco use at any level. When you smoke, you inhale a variety of toxins that can injure cells, causing both lung cancer and artery damage. Tobacco use is the most important preventable illness and cause of death.
Quitting smoking is difficult to accomplish as tobacco contains nicotine, which is addictive and can lead to dependence, especially in people who have depression or anxiety. Quitting smoking is a big move towards better health and it requires a serious life-long commitment. It’s undoubtedly one of the best things you will do for your health as your body repairs itself quickly. The health benefits are almost immediate because your lungs and cardiovascular system begin repairing themselves and within a month, your lungs will work better and you should feel more energetic. Quitting smoking not only reduces the threat of lung cancer or heart disease but it also improves your sense of taste and smell and gives you better endurance. You will also reap confidence-boosting rewards like fresher breath, younger-looking skin, and an end to that unpleasant tobacco smell on your clothes.
Healthy living to most people means both physical and mental health are in balance or functioning well together in a person. This being a major reason for people to become more health-conscious, they have made their health a top priority in life apart from family, friends and work. It only takes a constant effort of making a habit by feeding brain and body with good things, positivity and healthy food. Sometimes you don’t really have to get to the extreme of being health-conscious by giving up on a lot of things. Adopting simple habits like healthy eating, regular physical activity and taking care of your body will equally add up to your overall health and well-being. It will increase your life expectancy where your immune system will get better and you will not only suffer far less from diseases but also have much more energy to do the things you love.
It’s important to achieve work-life balance when it comes to achieving peak mental health and subsequent physical health. Focusing on your coping skills will reduce stress and anxiety where your mood will improve and you will have much more happiness and excitement in your life. You will have a better appearance which will boost your self-esteem and confidence, it will indirectly make others to respect you more. When you are so full of life, people around you will see you as their role model and will be inspired to adopt a healthier lifestyle too. You will also be setting a good example to your children to develop healthy habits early in life which will bring lifelong benefits.