There are a great many things that you could do today that have the potential to improve your health: taking vitamin supplements, practicing better hand hygiene, swapping a heavy shoulder bag for an ergonomic rucksack to name but a few.
But who has the time to optimize every aspect of their health, every day? Not me. So I have come up with a short list of things that most of the healthy people I know seem to have in common, and that you and I can put into practice relatively easily, hopefully with maximum effect!
Healthy habit number 1: drink more water. Drinking just one glass of water can make an instant difference, helping you to feel refreshed, cleansed and rehydrated.
Over the longer term, drinking more water can improve your digestion and flush out toxins, giving you clearer skin. So this one change alone can make you look and feel instantly healthier.
Healthy habit number 2: eat better. I know from bitter experience (i.e. Christmas 2011) that eating too many indulgent treats and not enough fresh fruit and veg is not only bad for your waistline but also for your body as a whole.
I don’t think it is pure coincidence that spending the best part of a month gorging on mince pies and chocolate truffles was closely followed by a lack-lustre complexion, sluggish digestion and fatigue. Fast forward a couple of weeks with a New Year resolution to eat more fresh food, and I was a new woman. Self-help from the fresh produce aisle – easy!
Healthy habit number 3: exercise. I’m not talking about just taking the stairs instead of the lift once a week, or getting off the bus one stop earlier. I’m talking proper, ‘sweat ‘til you drop’ exercise that leaves you gasping for air and wanting to douse yourself in cold water.
Really pushing yourself to the max (within the sensible realms of your own ability, obviously) gives an instant boost to your mental wellbeing and self-confidence, treats your muscles, joints and cardiovascular system to the workout they need to stay in shape, and gives your skin a glow that will make you the picture of health. Remember to get a health check before embarking on any new exercise program, though and take extra care if you’re one of those people for whom exercise is a migraine trigger.
Healthy habit number 4: de-stress. While they are often brimming with get-up-and-go, healthy people also tend to have a general aura of calm about them, almost as though the very idea of knowing they are in great shape takes some of the stress out of their day. Of course, being healthy doesn’t mean that you don’t suffer the same daily difficulties as anyone else, but somehow being in good shape can make you feel more in control and better able to deal with whatever comes your way.
Just as importantly, knowing how to handle stress is a great skill that can help you avoid the negative effects of being under pressure, such as headaches, anxiety, raised blood pressure and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Healthy habit number 5: Make fitness a priority. For me, this is the biggest change to make, because it can mean a complete shift of mindset if fitness was not previously a priority in your life.
If you are not naturally the type of person to visit the gym or practice yoga every morning, then this habit will take some cultivating, but once established, it has the potential to make the biggest difference to your health and your life. So book fitness into your diary every day and keep that appointment!