Louis Copeland The Thread
15 Easy Changes You Can Make To Live A Healthier Lifestyle
Unless you have the discipline of a Trappist monk and the virtuosity of Gwyneth Paltrow, adhering to rigid healthy living ‘rules’ one hundred per cent of the time is downright…
Feb 15, 2018
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Unless you have the discipline of a Trappist monk and the virtuosity of Gwyneth Paltrow, adhering to rigid healthy living ‘rules’ one hundred per cent of the time is downright impossible. We’re all aware that we should get eight hours’ shut-eye, limit our alcohol intake and load up on fresh fruit and veg. And yet — whether due to lifestyle reasons, financial circumstances or a plain shortage of willpower — we often come up short.

But healthy living needn’t be complicated; it shouldn’t compromise on our social lives nor involve a complete life overhaul. And, mercifully, it needn’t. Introducing a series of small (and easily implementable) tweaks can have a significant cumulative effect and help make a positive difference to your health and wellbeing in the long-term.

The following 15 tweaks won’t turn you into Hugh Jackman overnight. They will, however, boost your wellbeing with all the benefits that follow.


15 Easy Changes You Can Make To Live A Healthier Lifestyle

1. QUIT REFINED SUGAR
2. DRINK MORE WATER
3. MAKE TIME FOR A SMILE
4. REDUCE STRESS LEVELS
5. CUT BACK ON SOCIAL MEDIA
6. POWER OFF AT NIGHT
7. GET CLOSE TO NATURE
8. MAKE SMART SUBSTITUTIONS
9. TREAT YOURSELF
10. GET UP, STAND UP
11. AVOID 'FAKE' SMELLS
12. EMBRACE FLOWER POWER / GO GREEN
13. EAT A WHOLESOME DIET
14. MAKE TIME FOR DOWNTIME
15. AIM FOR SLEEP CONSISTENCY


15 Easy Changes You Can Make To Live A Healthier Lifestyle

1. QUIT REFINED SUGAR

In addition to promoting weight gain and tooth decay, sugar is believed to exacerbate everything from heart disease and high blood pressure to the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes.

It’s also highly addictive – the more sugar you consume, the more you crave it. And that’s why it’s a good idea to wean yourself off the sweet stuff.

A word of warning: it’s not easy, it takes discipline and will possibly involve the odd headache. But, genuinely, it’s well worth the effort

As your taste buds acclimatise, they’ll soon find the sugar rush caused by, say, cakes and confectionary too sweet to enjoy. It’s a win-win situation that should see you shed a few pounds and boost your health in the process.

2. DRINK MORE WATER

While there may be some confusion as to the precise amount of water that we should drink on a daily basis, there’s no doubt that we feel better when we boost our intake.

Humans are 55-75% water so, if we’re not drinking enough, we tend to feel sluggish and lethargic. Being hydrated, however, can boost energy levels, improve concentration and even prevent headaches. It also helps to keep everything flowing and flushed, as it should be.

Even if it’s not always possible to reach the famous eight glasses a day quota, even drinking a large glass of water before each meal is a great start and will also help reduce the likelihood of overeating.

3. MAKE TIME FOR A SMILE

While the prospect of having to force a grin when the chips are down might not sound too enticing, studies have shown the benefit of smiling – whether it’s genuine or not.

Regardless of how you’re feeling, researchers have found that it’s worth making the effort to smile as it works in a positive feedback loop with your emotions. In other words, if you say you’re happy, you eventually will become happy.

4. REDUCE STRESS LEVELS

With modern life more hectic and pressured than ever, it’s no surprise that we need to do what we can to manage – and, ideally, reduce – stress.

As every health care professional will attest, high levels of stress are to be avoided at all costs. Not only can stress undermine and negate any efforts made towards a healthier lifestyle, it can also unbalance hormones and cause a surge in cortisol (the principal hormone secreted by the adrenal glands).

Thankfully, there’s no shortage of things that can be done to help alleviate stress levels. A simple walk outdoors or a chat with friends can help greatly, for example.

Alternatively, channel your inner Zen and consider downloading a meditation app - meditating for as little as 10 minutes a day can help increase mindfulness, which, in turn, can lead to greater productivity.

Breathing exercises are another simple yet effective way to help manage stress. Conscious breathing — which can be learned in minutes thanks to a number of free online tutorials — can help to stabilise hormones and stress levels, not to mention boost digestion.

5. CUT BACK ON SOCIAL MEDIA

While it’s often fun to see what your friends have been up to, and to share your own updates, social media can be something of a curse as well as a blessing. Research suggests those who spend more than two hours per day on social media are more likely to report poor mental health, including psychological distress (symptoms of anxiety and depression).

Whether it’s ‘checking in’ and sharing status updates on Facebook, flicking through multiple Instagram posts or regularly checking news feeds, all of this compulsive use of the internet and smartphone apps can isolate you for hours, causing you to neglect other aspects of your life, from real-world relationships to social pursuits and hobbies.

Furthermore, a growing body of research has found a link between excessive use of social media sites and depression, with the University of Houston putting this down to us worrying that others may be doing better than us.

When you clock up more hours on social media than actually interacting face-to-face with genuine friends, then there’s a high chance that it’s time to reassess your technology use.

6. POWER OFF AT NIGHT

The phenomenon of smartphone addiction shows no signs of abating, but we can learn to control our handset, rather than letting it control us.

Short of rationing our phone use, consider ‘retiring’ your phone at least one hour before bedtime. Not only will this go some way to reducing a social media habit, but it will also help to promote a good night’s shut-eye — the blue light that LED screens give off can slow or halt the production of melatonin, the hormone that sends signals to our brain that it's time for bed.

7. GET CLOSE TO NATURE

While the Irish climate isn’t exactly conducive to embracing the great outdoors, spending time outside has multiple health benefits. In addition to the sunlight exposure (yes, even in winter), stepping outside for even 15 minutes a day has been linked to improved mental health.

And the benefits can be enjoyed even if you’re stuck indoors. Research has show that even looking at photos or images of nature can bring about increases in positivity, happiness and emotional stability.

8. MAKE SMART SUBSTITUTIONS

Moving towards a healthier diet is easy if it’s done via a series of small steps, rather than in one complete overhaul. Making smart ‘subs’ is one of the simplest methods and involves replacing unhealthy options with smarter alternatives that don’t involve a compromise on taste.

When it comes to coffee, for example, instead of milk and sugar, try adding a few sprinkles of cinnamon for a flavoursome kick. It has fewer calories and packs a host of health benefits, too. The sweet spice contains antioxidants, which boost the immune system and may even improve brain function. It has also been shown to help reduce triglycerides (fat in the blood), LDL (i.e., bad) cholesterol and blood sugar.

9. TREAT YOURSELF

We’re not saying throw caution to the window and splash out on that long-lusted-after 911 Turbo, or binge out on a family-sized bar of chocolate whenever the mood takes you – but being nice to yourself is grossly under-rated.

Whether it’s booking a massage, buying a new shirt for the weekend or simply taking a taxi, rather than a bus, when it’s pouring down, treating yourself releases happy hormones (endorphins) in the brain that can lower blood pressure and help boost immunity.

10. GET UP, STAND UP

With many of us working ‘desk jobs’, it’s easy to spend the vast majority of the day seated. And that’s not such a good thing.

Research continues to show that prolonged periods of sitting can heighten the risk of obesity, poor posture and chronic pain, so, whenever possible, take time to get up and move about in the workplace. Even a couple of minutes’ non-seated activity an hour can have a significant beneficial effect.

11. AVOID 'FAKE' SMELLS

One of the easiest and most effective changes you can make to promote a healthier lifestyle is to avoid ‘fake smells’, such as scented candles and air fresheners.

While their scent may be pleasant, they are not without their drawbacks. The majority of room fresheners and scented candles are loaded with a group of chemicals known as phthalates, which are added to synthetic fragrances to make them last longer. The downside? Phthalates are considered air and water pollutants and have been shown to disrupt our hormone levels.

To steer clear of phthalates, look for eco-friendly products, or those that don’t list ‘fragrance’ as an ingredient. If scents are included, make sure that they are essential oils, or labelled as ‘no synthetic fragrance’ or ‘phthalate-free’.

12. EMBRACE FLOWER POWER / GO GREEN

Whether it’s the workplace or the home, every interior will benefit from a little flower power.

Plants act like mini ventilation systems, filtering out indoor-air pollutants, including VOCs (volatile organic compounds), carbon dioxide, fine particulate matter and ozone, as well as reducing airborne dust levels.

Place one on your television cabinet or your work desk, and you’ll be breathing in purer air. Research suggests that the power of plants can even result in increased creativity and productivity, and help to reduce stress levels.

When picking your plants, opt for leafy varieties such as a spider plant, peace lily or Boston fern - the more foliage, the greater a plant’s detox powers.

13. EAT A WHOLESOME DIET

The old adage ‘you are what you eat’ holds true, so it’s important to know what you’re eating and where it comes from.

Buying whole foods that are in-season will always be your best option when it comes to optimum health, so when food shopping, look for fresh and natural instead of boxed and bagged or packaged and processed.

Selecting the whole food option rather than the (admittedly convenient) ready meal instantly eliminate all sources of unwanted salt, sugar and fat, as well the host of the artificial ingredients that might add flavour but most certainly reduce nutritional value.

14. MAKE TIME FOR DOWNTIME

A little pressure is no harm now and then, obviously, but when stress becomes chronic, it can bring about a catalogue of detrimental effects, including sleep problems, depression and even heart disease.

In today’s ultra-competitive environment, consistently long working hours may be par for the course, but it shouldn’t be to the detriment of your health. And that’s why it’s crucial, for your happiness and wellbeing, to factor in downtime whenever possible.

Relaxation may be seen as indulgence when, in fact, it should be viewed as a necessity. So don’t burn the candle at both ends. Be sure to prioritise sufficient downtime – whether it be a weekend walk, a yoga class or simply a coffee with friends.

15. AIM FOR SLEEP CONSISTENCY

With sleep deprivation a growing concern, many of us fret about whether we clock up the requisite number of hours’ shut-eye. But while this is obviously important, some sleep experts say we should prioritise aiming for consistency in our sleeping schedule.

Our bodies thrive on routine, so going to bed at roughly the same time every night should help you get to sleep faster – and, ideally, wake refreshed.

Looking for more tips and advice? Check out the How-To and Style sections to keep up with the latest trends and improve your style game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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