It seems everywhere we look nowadays, the latest fad is there. But so many come with an expense, and with so many of us short of a disposable income, how can we improve our health without taking a hit on our bank balance?
I am old fashioned when it comes to good health, and usually turn my nose up and anything too technical before I even hear the spiel because I know it’s not necessary to live a healthy and balanced life. I am here to give you 18 free ways you can improve your whole health, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically. Happiness is proven to improve a persons health in the long term, and so we must harness that when taking stock of what we can do to make ourselves healthier people.
Catch Up With Friends
There are increasing studies that show people who have good social connections (whether a few of many) are happier in general. Catching up with friends gives us a sense of belonging. They support us through our good times and our bad, and are often there to offer some (often hard to take) advice on how we can live our best lives. Knowing we are not alone is a big part of surviving difficult experiences, it makes us feel normal. If a friend we see is happy, it is likely that we will be too. Happiness is contagious, and by surrounding ourselves with happy, loving friends, we are more likely to feel happy on a day to day basis. The evidence out there suggests many women live longer due to the emotional relationships they share with their friends. So call a friend now, and arrange a cuppa and catch up.
Watch a Comedy
Arguably one of the best feelings in the world is a good old belly laugh! Whether watching funny films makes you giggle inside or roar with laughter, it is simply enough to take a crappy day to a pretty good one. But, there really is a science behind laughing and how it benefits our health. Firstly, it reduces the release of stress hormones. This can in turn improve your immune system too! Brucey bonus right? It is also proven to lower blood pressure which in turn is going to reduce your risk of stroke and heart attack. Laughing releases endorphins that help the body relax, and relieve pain too. If that wasn’t enough, it is a genuine workout for your abs. As your muscles contract and expand they tone in the same way they would when working out. (cue everyone laughing at every opportunity purely for abs of steel!)
Map Out A Country Walk
The health benefits of walking are endless. Increased energy, Vitamin D boosted, improved metabolism, stronger heart, toned legs and bums to name just a few! But what makes walking outdoors more beneficial than walking on the treadmill? Studies have now shown that a being out in nature, embracing the fresh air and your surroundings can be just as effective as antidepressants in mild to moderate cases. The act of walking outdoors encourages the release of endorphins which will as you have read above, reduce stress and anxiety. It is also a mindful activity. So often in today’s chaotic life, we may go from place to place never really taking a second to stop and look around us. Often it takes for something tragic to happen for us to truly appreciate the world we live in and all we can enjoy, but by going on a walk and looking at the scenes around you, you are training your mind to absorb your surroundings, and reap the benefits energetically of all that surrounds you. This gives us a physical, mental and spiritual kick in all in one go! I recommend looking for new walks in your local area to keep it interesting.
Unlike many other ‘latest fads’ meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, as it is known to improve inner peace and bring a sense of calm. Stress accounts for a significantly high number of visits to the doctors, with even doctors themselves seeking new ways to relieve stress for themselves. The rest you receive from meditation, is known as the body experiencing a ‘relaxation response’. The level of rest is known to be of better quality than sleep if done correctly, and builds up the more meditation is practiced. Meditation somehow allows you to become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, but less attached to them. Regular meditation can help you to make well informed decisions about the path that is right for you, and you will learn to trust your instinct, or gut feeling about what you need. Over time this significantly reduces stress and anxiety, as you build up a level of trust within yourself, and the knowledge you have all that you need from within. In the same way it is healthy for us to connect to nature, it is imperative we also connect with ourselves.
Get An Early Night
Sleep actually benefits your heart, weight, mind and more. It is an integral cog in the wheel of whole health, and so many people fail to see this part. Whilst you sleep, your mind experiences something called ‘consolidation’. It experiences a process to remember the things you have learned that day, and over time, improves your memory. Sleeping can improve your physical health in many ways, such as reduced inflammation. There are studies which show people who get less sleep (6 or fewer hours per night), are more at risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and premature ageing…yes beauty sleep is a real thing! Losing weight also becomes more difficult when sleep deprived. The metabolism and sleep are controlled by the same part of the brain, so by losing too much sleep, you will also be slowing that metabolism down making it increasingly more difficult to lose weight.
HIIT Training, or High Intensity Interval Training describes a workout that alternates between short explosive bursts of exercise followed by short periods of rest or less intense activity. Often workouts are no more than 15-30 minutes, yet their results are often incredible. One of my favourite things about HIIT is that you can do it without any equipment and there are a wide range of exercises you can do to keep it interesting. It is also a workout that fits into a busy schedule. You can fit one in on your lunch break, wake up half an hour early, or do one once the kids are in bed from your own front room. Research shows you can achieve better results from a 15 minute HIIT than you can running for an hour on the treadmill. The reason for this is, not only are you burning calories, but intense bursts encourage your body to start breaking down fat. The exercises you undertake will also help develop lean muscle in the areas you want it, thus creating a beautiful cycle of fat burning and body toning….and what’s more? The nature of HIIT workout means that your body continues to burn fat after working out….even in your sleep! Anything I can do for free that allows me to burn fat in my sleep is always going in my self love bucket!
Get Your H20
It is recommended that as adults we consume between 2-3 litres of water a day. But how many of us actually achieve that? I know so many women who try dieting and feel like they just can’t lose any weight, but when I ask how much water they drink, the answer is often 1 glass or day, or worse, they drink none! The truth is, our bodies are 60-70% water so it goes without saying that we need replenishing and keeping hydrated in order to function well. Firstly, it will improve your performance. If you are trying to get fit, dehydration will ruin your workout. It can prevent your body from regulating the right temperature, and this with leave you experiencing fatigue and lack of motivation, thus suffering physically and mentally during your workouts. This could cause you to have a mental block against exercise if occurring too often, leaving you with the feeling that ‘it will just never get easier’. Dehydration is also known to be the cause of many headaches and migraines. Our brain is like a sponge, and needs to be ‘well oiled’ in order to continue working efficiently. Drinking plenty of water also has a positive effect on your metabolic rate. All these factors play a big part in the overall picture, so sleep well, workout hard and drink your water. I’ve said it a thousand times before, there is no miracle out there with the golden answer. You know what being healthy means, and it won’t cost you money, so stick it out and do what’s best for your body.
The thing I celebrate most about gratitude, is that it is above and beyond our life circumstances. Not only are we to focus on what we are thankful for in our lives, but we should practice expressing gratitude towards others who support us. It is an act that requires us to focus our attention on what is right, as an activity in itself. So many of us call ourselves grateful, but are we really practicing gratitude? We so often take things for granted that we receive on a daily basis…like all the above. The privilege to sleep in a bed, clean running water from a tap in our home, a physically able body that can move and perform exercises that will benefit us, a safe environment to walk out of our front door and enjoy the surroundings. The list goes on, but these simple pleasures are denied to so many, and without practicing gratitude as a conscious effort, we will not appreciate these things until they are taken away from us. Often first world problems can get the better of us in a world that is driven to constantly want more, and this can lead to low mood, stress and a breakdown in relationships. Mentally, spiritually and emotionally it does us more good than we know to say thank you everyday.
Listen To Music
Music seems to have a way of helping us experience the ebbs and flows of life as we need to! Sometimes we can’t put into words how we feel, and suddenly, a genius artist pops out of nowhere and it’s like they are literally speaking our mind. ‘YES!’ we internally scream as we realise exactly what’s been going through our mind. On another note, music can help your mindset too. The right track will motivate you to push harder in your workout, or focus better at your desk. Sometimes music just allows us to feel calm in the space we are in. But the melody we choose to listen to is directly connected to how we are feeling or want to feel, and can allow us to embrace that moment wholeheartedly; something I’ve always promoted as good for your emotional and mental health. My jam is Madness ‘Baggy Trousers’. The is nothing in this world that song can’t fix for me.
How many times have you driven from A to B and when you arrived thought, ‘How on earth did I get here?’. We all do it. We spend so much of our life rushing around, it can be really healthy for us to take some time to look around (not to mention make you a safer driver!). When driving it is so easy to get lost in all the ‘to do’s’ in your head, and lose sight of everything around you. Try and focus on everything you see next time you make a journey.
Have A Bath
Baths are just amazing in my opinion. I know some people view them as sitting in a pool of your own filth, but these people perhaps just need to wash a little more often! Baths can really help with muscle pain. Not to be taken with acute injuries, but a great relaxant if you are experiencing aches and pains. You can add Himalayan salts to cleanse your body energetically as well as draw out any toxins too. Having a warm bath before bed can often make it easier to get a good nights sleep and will also help relive any skins conditions (which may be affecting you emotionally). Perhaps the best part of having a bath is that you have to lock the door and take time to yourself to relax. Often of great need at the end of a long day.
Spent Time With Your Pets
There is something about the unconditional love we receive from our pets. Stroking your pets is known to release a relaxation hormone that helps relieve stress and anxiety and playing with our pets is known to elevate the amount of serotonin and dopamine released making us feel really happy. Animals, in particular, dogs, are really in tune with how we feel, and can sense a low mood. How often have you felt crappy and noticed your dog glued to your side? They are completely devoted to keeping us safe and making us happy, and this selfless loving nature within them can help us combat many things. Owning a pet can also help with loneliness, something that can make life really difficult. Having that regular company and responsibility gives us a sense of purpose, thus increasing our overall well being.
Clean Your Environment
I am someone who finds keeping things clean and organised really boring. There are so many things I would rather do, and often do, to avoid having to get organised. However, I am the first to feel a massive surge of overwhelm as soon as things become disorganised and messy. You could call me my own worst enemy! As I’ve got older, and healthier, I have realised the importance of having a good working and living environment (so much so that I tackled the dishes at midnight last night knowing I would thank myself for it in the morning, and I SO did!). To me, having a messy environment breeds a messy mind. How can we possible promote a well oiled machine when it comes to our body when our environment is like an old broken down truck? You will also find you get things done quicker. As soon as that document at work is required, no sooner have you found it, passed it on and filed a spare copy in case someone needs it again. Cleaning the kitchen before you hit the hay means waking up to a clean kitchen leaving time to prepare a healthy and nutritious breakfast (and sometimes wash it all up) before skipping out the door to tackle the day. If you live in chaos, chances are your health will follow the same route. Be realistic (we all have the shit drawer that anything without a home usually ends up) but keep clutter to a minimum and create systems that work for you and enable you to keep your home and work organised and clean. Tidy mind achieved!
Much like meditation, colouring in requires you to focus on something other than your thoughts momentarily. This is a great thing to do if you have a very over active brain that struggles to switch off. Often meditation uses counting to help release our mind from our racing thoughts, and focusing on colouring shapes and patterns can have the same effect. Colouring is not just for kids guys!
Engage In An Act of Kindness
If you are the type of person who is constantly self criticising, being kind to others can help raise our self esteem and prove to us we are good, kind and loving people and that will improve our general well being. It is good practice to remind yourself when you reach out to help others, what you would say to a friend who did the same. You would tell them they are lovely. So why can’t you tell yourself the same thing? This doesn’t mean we undertake acts of kindness selfishly, because naturally you will feel compelled to help some people because of their particular circumstance, but nonetheless, it is not arrogant to tell yourself internally that it makes you a good human to take care of others. The world needs more kindness, and you can never have enough, so make your mark and recognise your own loveliness.
Walk Instead of using cars/buses/lifts
Pretty obvious right? But how many of us jump in the car for 2 minutes, or opt for the lift out of sheer laziness. Every extra step you take in your day raises that heart rate and improves you physical endurance. Take it. On that note, there are some amazing HIIT workouts you can do using your stairs at home. Stairs for the win!
Let Go Of What You Can’t Control.
‘My boobs are so small’
‘I hate getting old’
‘My childhood was so awful’
Undoubtedly, the level of these comments can vary, and some of them need professional intervention to heal. But on the whole, letting go is really important in order to live in good health. From the perspective of body image alone, if you complain about things that will never change, no amount of dieting or exercise is ever going to make you happy. You can not change the shape of your body, and the features you were born with so work on accepting them, and creating a healthy lifestyle around them. Most of us are lucky enough to live without any significant physical abnormalities, and should therefore, as I’ve suggested above, express gratitude for that. Other fears such as ageing, a difficult past or pending illness are of course much more varying in intensity, however ultimately, they are things out of our control. What we need to try and do is focus on the things we can control. Ageing is a process we all experience so focus on living the best life you can with the time that you have. A difficult past can haunt us if we allow it to, but perhaps we can try and focus on how we refuse to allow that experience to control the kind of future we want to have, and use our experience to help others live well too. As illness begins to take over our body, perhaps we can celebrate all of the things we can still enjoy, and look at the elements of our illness we can slow down by focusing on our happiness and our health. Fear ultimately brings on stress and stress can have an absolutely detrimental affect on our health. If you are struggling to let go of the things you can not control, reach out and ask for help with this. Whether it is through friends or by visiting your doctor, know that this release will inevitably allow you to find well being.
Make A Weekly Budget Check In
Finally, if cash is tight, make some time to create a simple spreadsheet consisting of your weekly income and expenses. This will give you an element of control over your financial situation, and allow you to take a look at where you could make possible savings if you want to. You never know, you may find a few extra pennies you didn’t realise you could enjoy to expand your health activities to some emotional treats! For those running a business, or planning to, take a look at my blog post on managing your mental health in business. By being on top of our finances we can set clear goals and objectives to get to where we want to be.
Happy healthy living lean beans. Have a great week.