There is seemingly endless information at our fingertips about how to live a healthier lifestyle. It can be easy to get confused about what advice to follow and where to start. Much of the advice offered is completely valid, but the one thing that it is not, is personal.
In order to take steps towards improving your health you must first consider your own personal situation. This involves taking a look at the various areas of your life and choosing one at a time to focus on. Within that area you’ll ideally focus on just one small, positive change at a time.
Small changes are important because you must be able to integrate them into your lifestyle on a long term basis. They are easier to implement and sustain than big changes because they’ll require less adjustment from your current situation. Small changes equate to big results in the long term!
So where to start? It’s important to recognise that there’s more to optimal health than just exercise and nutrition. These are two of the big players and are the areas that are most often focused on. They are certainly both very important. However, there are instances where you may find that focusing in a different area will then have a knock on positive effect to your exercise and nutrition habits. You’ll be able to improve on them without focusing on them directly.
Let’s explore some of the components of holistic health other than nutrition and exercise. Within each one I’ll explain some ways that they interact with and affect other areas of your health. From there it is my hope that you’ll identify an action point to take you closer to your own personal health and fitness goals.
How stressed out are you on a day to day basis? Perhaps you are exercising regularly and maybe you are even eating really well but you’re not getting the results you’re after? High stress on a chronic (long term) basis can affect other components of your health such as:
- Cause you to store extra belly fat, no matter how much exercise you are doing. This is due to the action of the hormone cortisol
- Add to cravings for high sugar foods. The body will be looking for glucose to burn when you are in a high-stress state
- Create problems with digestion. You need to be in a state of relaxation for effective digestion to occur
These are just a few examples. If you feel like you’re living a high-stress life, perhaps this could be the next step you take towards improving your health. Here are some examples of what you could do:
- Find some ways to incorporate rest and relaxation into your day. You could do some yoga or meditation. Perhaps there are creative activities that will help you to relax, such as painting, writing or drawing. Or maybe you simply need to find time to take a relaxing bath, sit and savour a cup of tea or switch off from all your devices for a while.
- If you have bloating or indigestion that you believe might be a result of stress, make meal times a priority. Ensure you sit down, relax, and are mindful of chewing properly and eating slowly.
Sleep and stress are very closely linked. If you are a person who experiences high stress levels, you may find you also have trouble sleeping. This is an example of how you can start to see how the different components of holistic health are related. If you work on your stress levels, your sleep will likely improve as a knock on effect.
If you improve your quality of sleep, this can have a positive effect on your exercise and nutrition choices. You’ll probably be aware of how you can feel after a poor night’s sleep. Poor food choices are more likely because your body will be crying out for a ‘feel-better-quick fix’. Your energy levels will probably be lower so you might not feel like exercising. If you do exercise, it’s likely you won’t perform as well.
If you feel like sleep is an area you should personally focus on, try these tips to get you started:
- Switch off all devices at least an hour before going to bed. No devices in the bedroom. If you need to use the alarm from your phone to wake up in the morning, make sure it’s switched to flight mode
- Avoid caffeine after midday if you have any sleep problems at all. Caffeine stays around in your body for a long time and some people are very sensitive to it
- Try some natural remedies to help your body sleep better. There are a number of these to choose from. A few examples are chamomile tea, lavender essential oil, and magnesium oil.
It can be very easy to sabotage your exercise and nutrition habits, simply by the way you think and the self-talk you use. Try to become aware of any self-sabotaging thoughts you have, and think of ways to re-frame them for a more positive result.
Here is an example of a self-sabotaging thought that can end up affecting your actions. If you think this might be an area of weakness for you, the first step is becoming aware, and then thinking of a new thought to take its place.
“I’ve totally ruined all my hard work by having that piece of cake. I might as well give up for the rest of the week and start again on Monday”.
Reframe to something like this:
“It’s so good to be able to have a piece of cake sometimes and that forms part of my overall plan for a balanced and enjoyable life. I’m going to make sure I get plenty of vegetables in for dinner tonight and have a really good workout tomorrow”.
Or if it wasn’t part of your plan:
“I’ve made some choices today that weren’t so healthy but that’s ok and I’m not going to be hard on myself about it. I’m going to get a good night’s sleep tonight so that I can make healthy choices more easily tomorrow. I’m also going to set my alarm and get up for a morning workout to help me feel really positive for the day ahead”.
Other areas to consider
This was an introduction to adopting a holistic health model. A couple of other areas that you might want to consider as priorities are:
- Relationships and support. Think about whether the people in your life are helping or hindering you from achieving your health and fitness goals.
- Planning and preparation. Is your inability to manage yourself and to plan ahead for healthy eating and regular exercise holding you back?
Identify the area that stands out the most for you. Then choose one small action point that you can implement within that area. This can be the next positive step towards better health, fitness and happiness.
About the Author: Elly McGuinness
Elly is a holistic health practitioner, online fitness coach and author
Elly works holistically with clients to address a number of health aspects. These include movement, healthy eating, stress, sleep, thoughts and your relationships.
She believes that food is medicine. ‘Prevention’ is very important, and each person requires an individual approach.
Learn more about the Elly and her holistic fitness philosophy here
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