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Six Simple Strategies To Live A Healthier And Happier Life

Updated: Feb 7, 2021

Many people want to make some changes to their lifestyle in order to become healthier and happier. There are so many things you can do to work towards this and below I have set out six things you can do to start making a positive change in your life to feel both healthier and happier. You may want to just pick one of these things, a selection or go for all six; the choice is yours.

I have only touched on these things basically to give you an idea and provide a starting block. I will later be exploring each of these aspects of a healthy lifestyle in more depth, so keep a look out on the Health Hub for future articles.

To download a FREE 'Start Small, Aim Big' Lifestyle Change Checklist, click HERE.

1. Eat More Vegetables

Do you manage to eat your 'five a day'? If not, this may be a good general goal to start with and aim to make the majority of your 'five' a day vegetables rather than fruit. If you are managing this then try to eat more, or specifically more vegetables.

There is a huge amount of evidence to show the benefits of plant-based foods on health, particularly due to the amount of antioxidants, polyphenols and phytochemicals found in many different varieties. This is why an array  of different fruits and vegetables in your diet is key. If you like to read and have a thirst for evidence-based information then I can highly recommend the book 'How Not To Die' by Michael Gregor, MD.

Another top tip; aim to eat the rainbow. It's great to be adding more vegetables to your diet, but your next goal is to make the colours of the vegetables on your plate as varied as possible in order to gain the maximum benefit from your increased plant consumption.

An additional factor people worry about is fresh vs. frozen or organic vs. non-organic. Many people get stressed due to the higher price of organic food compared to the non-organic varieties. Whatever you choose to buy, if it's fresh then wash all your fruit and vegetables well. Aim to increase your consumption whether it's organic or not, or if it comes out of the freezer rather than the fridge or pantry. If you've not already done so, maybe try and visit your local market to see what's available there as not only will you likely be supporting local producers, often there's some great deals to be had.  Eating more healthily doesn't have to break the bank. Start with what's available and what you can afford, so long as you make a start.

Finally, focus on eating mindfully. Wherever possible, aim to eat in a relaxed environment, without technology and distractions, where you can really concentrate on your food and enjoy every mouthful. You can check out my short article on mindful eating for a little more information about how you can go about this.

2. Prioritise Sleep

Sleep is arguably the most important thing to consider when it comes to your health. If you are always sleeping badly or for only short periods of time, it can have a significant affect on your health and increase your risk of developing chronic disease, being overweight, pain levels, being more stressed and overall reducing your life expectancy.

There are some simple, positive changes you can make in order to improve your sleep hygiene. The first thing is to get yourself in to a routine. Set yourself a time to go to bed every day and then also get up at the same time every day, even on the weekend. Aim to give yourself at least an eight hour window in which to actually sleep. Optimal sleep times do vary from person to person, but studies suggest that an average of seven to eight hours sleep a night is optimal.

In the hour before you go to bed, try to eliminate your use of technology such as laptops, computers, tablets, and your phone. Instead try to listen to some music or something relaxing, read a book or have a bath. Also, don't do work in your bedroom and if possible, don't have screens in your bedroom e.g a TV. Aim to keep your bedroom as purely a place for rest and sleep.

Try not to eat too late as this can impact on your sleep and work on reducing your afternoon and evening caffeine consumption. Ideally aim not to consume any caffeinated products after midday, and remember, green tea has a lot of caffeine in it.

It's hard to make all of these changes all at once, so if you feel it's too much, start with picking just one thing you feel you can change and work on that, for example switching your afternoon cup of tea to a non-caffeinated equivalent. Once this change is established then start to work on another aspect.

3. Be Mindful

There's a lot of information out there about mindfulness now, in particular 'mindful meditation'.  The really positive thing to know is that there's a lot of scientific studies which clearly show the benefits of mindfulness, especially for those suffering with chronic pain and associated anxiety and depression.

Often, when I say 'mindful meditation' and such-like, people automatically conjure up images of sitting cross-legged with a small statue of Buddha and some candles or  incense sticks smouldering away. Now don't get me wrong, this can be a relaxing pose and surrounding for some, but in actuality, you can practice mindful meditation whoever you are, wherever you are, in the way that you want to. Who wants to sit cross-legged if your knees feel like they're about to explode anyway?

The other thing to remember is that you don't need to find a huge amount of time in your day to slot in a mindfulness session. Start with just 5-10 minutes if that's realistic for you, and don't expect to get the hang of it or be an expert from the get-go, because it takes practice.

Personally I find basic mindful breathing exercises help a lot to get going, and can be done in a short time frame if you're fitting it into your busy schedule. All you have to do it ideally find somewhere quiet if available, although it can be done anywhere, get into a comfortable, relaxed position if possible, e.g. a comfy chair with feet flat on the floor or lying down somewhere, and concentrate on your breathing. Close your eyes and just breathe normally.

If you're like me, thoughts will pop in to your head, but this is ok. Acknowledge them and let them pass. Then bring your mind back to focus on your breath as you gently breathe in and out. Acknowledge that you've had the thought, whatever it may be, and then gradually re-focus on the breath, how it feels in your chest and the journey of the breath all the way in and all the way back out.

Practice for as long as you feel able and then open your eyes. Aim to build this practice in on a daily basis to improve your mindful meditation skills. If you can, try to build this in to the start of your day as part of your morning routine. 

Another thing to do is focus more on different aspects of little things you do in the day, like making your first cup of tea in the morning, having that lovely warm shower to wake you up or eating your breakfast. Practice taking in different aspects of these activities like the sensations, the smells, the temperatures, the sounds and anything else you may experience.

There are so many different mindful practices out there, and a lot of apps, websites, books and other things you can use now. I quite like Headspace myself, but there's plenty of other options out there, so get exploring. 

4. Keep a gratitude journal

It's easy to focus on the negatives in life and let these swirl around in your head, especially at the end of a long day at work, after being stuck in a long line of traffic trying to get home or when your joints have been nagging at you all day, especially if you've been sat down for hours on end staring at a screen.

Keeping a gratitude journal can really help to change your mindset and elicit positive thought patterns, especially if you start making it a habit. If you like you can start with just writing down one thing you are grateful for at the end of the day, ideally before you go to sleep so you shut your eyes with positive thoughts in your head. I also try to smile while I am doing this exercise. In addition to something I am grateful for, I write down something that went well during the day.

These things don't have to be momentous, they can be the smallest details of the day, the smallest things that you are thankful for which make your day go better, or make you feel happier about living the life you have.

If you can, build up to writing down three things every day before you go to sleep in your journal, as well as why you're grateful or why something went well. Keep it near to your bed so it's not a chore, and preferably make sure it's pen to paper rather than tapping it in to your phone. There's something really satisfying and reinforcing about putting pen to paper. Why not give it a try? 

5. Drink more water

I think that many people are aware that approximately 60% of our bodies are made up of water, and actually approximately 80% of our muscles are made up of water. This is a key reason why making sure you are drinking enough water is so important.

Generally the standard advice is to drink at least six to eight glasses of water a day (1.2 litres), so aim for this. If you're not one for drinking water then start of basically and maybe try to make it a little more interesting. Add some natural fruit flavouring to the water or try some different herbal or fruit teas, especially in the winter. Remember that green tea has a lot of caffeine in it though, so try to only drink this earlier in the day, preferably before noon. Personally, I've actually got so used to drinking water that I really enjoy it, and sometimes I use a fruit infuser water bottle just for some added zing, which works great. Many free food tracker apps include how many glasses of water you drink during the day, so this can be an easy and useful way of keeping track of what you've been drinking. You may also want to set yourself reminders, especially if you're often very busy and find time passes by very quickly, and before you know it it's 5pm and your mouth is dry.

Drinking enough water, or at least fluids, is important for so many of your bodily functions as well as your joints and discs in your spine. It helps your body with temperature regulation, getting rid of toxins, creating saliva, brain function, digestion, regulate appetite and much, much more! Water not only comes from physically drinking it, but can also come from the foods you consume especially fruit and vegetables; yet another reason to increase your fruit and vegetable consumption every day. Try to drink regularly and don't just wait until you feel thirsty, as by that point you're already starting to become dehydrated. If you're out in the sun, exercising or enjoying a hot bath be sure that you are hydrating yourself adequately as these things can make you sweat and lose water even quicker than normal.  

Lastly...water is free. Well, at least it comes out of a tap and in the grand scheme of things is generally very, very cheap. It costs significantly less than buying drinks off the shelf, plus it doesn't contain sugar and other added ingredients that your body could do without. Win-Win!

6. Get Active

Did you know that even after the age of 30, inactive people can lose 3-5% of their muscle mass per decade! That's a massive amount from a relatively young age, and if you remain inactive it can affect many thinks a lot earlier on, like your balance for example. Exercise also has a positive effect on mental health as well as helping to prevent many other chronic diseases.

Often, when I discuss 'exercise' with someone their mind immediately conjures up an image of a gym, however there are so many more forms of exercise you can do other than going to a gym. It's important to find something you enjoy so that you're more likely to want to keep it going. Better still, get a friend, family member, your partner or spouse involved as a little bit of added motivation. Maybe you'd like to start yoga, Tai Chi, seated Tai Chi, aqua aerobics, pilates, dancing, aerobics...the list goes on. You don't even have to go to a class (ok, maybe aqua aerobics you'll have to) as many exercises and activities these days are available online, or you can buy a DVD. In the UK, the NHS (National Health Service) offer free online fitness videos with various different types of exercises which you can use in their online Fitness Studio.  

You could take up walking and build this up or start working on doing the 'Couch to 5k' if you like the thought of jogging, or get yourself a bicycle, especially if you have good local cycle paths, or alternatively an exercise bike. As an aside, getting out in nature has been found to also help with mental health and stress, so if some of your activity can be outside in 'green space', all the better.  

Whatever you choose, aim to build up to 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week, or if you're used to doing exercise you can aim for 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week. Try to do something on a daily basis and work on some strengthening exercises on at least two days in the week in addition to your other activity. You don't necessarily need any special equipment and there's plenty of bodyweight exercises you can do, or others with simple exercise bands or stability balls which are very inexpensive. If you do purchase exercise bands I personally like the 'Theraband' brand as I find they are better quality and less prone to snapping, although you still have to look after them and make sure they have no nicks in them or other damage and follow the manufacturers instructions.  

Generally I don't recommend high-impact, high intensity activity for those with osteoarthritis as many find it can be somewhat painful and doesn't help with pacing through the week. Therefore aim for the 150 minutes moderate intensity exercise spread throughout the week, just in 10 minute sessions if needed, and within comfortable limits. Remember, aching from new exercise is normal, but not being able to walk for two days afterwards means you've done too much and you need to reduce the amount you are doing to a more tolerable level for yourself. Don't forget the two strength sessions as well. This is particularly important to help support your joints. I will be writing more about 'pacing' activity in the future, so keep an eye out for that.

In the mean time, keep moving, get active and feel your body smile inside! 

Final Message

Whatever change you feel you could make now, the key is to make a start. You can choose one thing, a couple of things or something from each of the six topics; the choice is yours. You can also set yourself some goals to help you really get stuck in and on the path to positive lifestyle change. Good luck and stick with it!

To download a FREE 'Start Small, Aim Big' Lifestyle Change Checklist, click HERE.

Contact me at for further information. 

Please note: This article is intended to be for educational purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice or replace professional assessment or personalised advice.

I do not hold responsibility for the information on any links to external websites within this article and information within these links/websites may change at any time or no longer be accessible. Any website pages/links added are also for education purposes only.

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