As we begin a new year and say goodbye to one that has been difficult for many of us, now can be a good opportunity to reflect on how we might better certain areas of our lives. A New Year doesn’t mean turning your life upside-down, but it can be motivating to consider which small changes might create healthy, positive impacts on our lifestyles during the current lockdown.
Here are some tips for small changes that have positive benefits on physical and mental health, and can lead to a healthier lifestyle this new year.
- Make time for simple exercise -
Not only is exercise good for keeping your body healthy and strong, but the physical benefits it has can help to significantly lift your mood. Exercise reduces the body’s stress hormones and increases the production of endorphins – the body’s natural painkillers! Try going on short walks, doing exercise that you enjoy (e.g. yoga) or if you’re feeling motivated, following some online workout videos.
- Eat a balanced diet -
Eating a balanced diet is important for keeping us fit and healthy, which can also contribute to having a better mood as well. A balanced diet means eating a wide variety of foods with good nutritional value – services like Change4Life and the NHS 5 A Day scheme have some great tips on getting to know what makes a healthy diet.
- Drink more water -
Our bodies are made up of about 60% water, so it’s no wonder that being dehydrated can affect us both physically and mentally. Research has shown that being dehydrated can affect memory, mood and physical pain like headaches and digestive problems. It’s recommended to drink between 6-8 cups of water per day – and if you don’t like the taste of water, sparkling water or adding a slice of lemon can be a great alternative.
- Get enough sleep -
In our busy lives, we can sometimes forget how important it is to rest. It’s recommended that adults get between 6-9 hours of sleep per night, so try and make time in the evenings to get a good night’s sleep. If you struggle with falling or staying asleep, here are some tips from the NHS website to tackle it.
- Breathe -
It’s easy to underestimate the effect that breathing can have on our body, but it is a great tool for helping to manage daily stress. Taking a few moments per day to focus on deep breathing, particularly when you’re stressed, can help to elevate your mood and reduce anxiety. There are various apps, videos and advice online that can guide you through helpful breathing techniques, including this video from Every Mind Matters.
- Make time to reach out to your support network -
With every responsibility seeming like the top priority, it’s important that we take time out from our busy lives to connect with the people closest to us. Having a good support network made of friends, family or even colleagues is important for mental wellbeing, helping us to deal with stress and feelings of loneliness. Making a note to meet, call or video chat with someone can be a good way of remembering to catch up.
- Focus on your personal interests -
Remember that you deserve rest and to take breaks for yourself when you need them. Spend more time on activities you personally enjoy, which can be anything from playing an instrument, doing a sport or even just reading a book.
- Practice mindfulness -
Mindfulness is a technique that simply refers to paying more attention to what’s happening in the present moment. It can help you to cope with difficult thoughts, stress and to generally become more self-aware about how you’re feeling. Mind has lots of mindfulness exercises for you to try out, from mindful movement (walking or running) to colouring and drawing.
- Cut down on screen time -
The Internet can be a great tool, but it’s important to create a balance between being online and offline to make the most of what’s around you. You might notice some signs that you might need to take a break from screens, such as if you’re feeling disconnected from others or if it’s causing additional anxiety. If you’re struggling to switch off from the online world, here are some tips from Mind to try out.
- Spend time in nature –
It’s a well-known fact that spending time in nature has been found to help with stress and mental health. Whether it’s taking a walk in a nearby nature park, or trying your green thumb at gardening yourself – try and move from the screen to a greener space.