12 ways to feel healthier

Health boosting lifestyle changes

Check out the following top 12 ways to make you feel more healthier. If you follow these tips you'll surely get back to feeling good — or even start feeling better than you ever have before!

Get closer to nature

A growing band of scientists known as ‘ecopsychologists’ believe that we have an innate need to be close to the natural world on a daily basis in order to safeguard our physical and mental well-being. For example, in a classic study, hospital patients who looked out onto ‘green’ spaces healed faster, and needed fewer painkillers than those who looked out onto a brick wall. Also, outdoor environments — particularly those near running water or high up — also have more negative ions in the air, which help to energize us. And you don’t need to live in the country to inject some greenery and fresh air into your day: simply gardening, taking a walk in the park, watching the birds at the birdfeeder or sitting by a river will also help you get your daily dose from Mother Nature.

Eat more fruit ‘n’ veg

Eating more fruit and vegetables is one of the simplest things you can do to enhance your health. Despite the well-publicized eat more campaigns, a recent Nutrition and Diet Survey found that although fruit and veg consumption has increased, the average is still less than three portions per day. So, make an effort to have at least one portion of fruit and veg with every meal, and then throw in two other fruit or veg snacks throughout the day. Also try not to have the same old things all the time. A good rule of thumb is to go for different coloured fruit and veg when you can, rather than having all fruit and veg of one color. For example, you could try having red grapes instead of green, Romaine lettuce instead of iceberg, or pink grapefruit instead of white. And bear in mind that all your portions don’t have to be fresh — so you can eat dried, canned or frozen fruit or vegetables as part of your regular ‘five a day’ as well.

Stretch more

If you find yourself grunting or sighing heavily as you get out of the car or armchair, and strain yourself when trying to get your arms into a jacket or do up your bra, then it’s time to get flexible! Your flexibility begins to deteriorate from your 20s onwards as connective tissues stiffen, muscles shorten and joints become drier — but becoming as stiff as a board isn’t inevitable. Some gentle daily stretching and mobilizing — such as doing some circling, bending and extending movements — will help keep you mobile. Or, if you still neglect daily stretching, you should make it an absolute rule to stretch after every workout. After a period of prolonged contraction, muscles can take up to two hours to be restored to their resting length — but just a few minutes of stretching will enable this to happen much more quickly.

Slow your pace of life down

If your life is just one big rush, stop a minute — or at least slow down! You are missing out on many of the best things life has to offer by always ‘doing’ and never ‘being’. Stopping and smelling the roses is not about living at a snail’s pace, and it’s not about turning Luddite or heading for the hills to live in a log cabin; it’s about balance. So, instead of tearing out of the door to get to the station on time, get up a little earlier to give yourself time to savor a cup of tea, or meander home through the park instead of rushing home to shove in another load of laundry.

Get more sleep

According to the Sleep Council, roughly a third of the whole population don’t get enough sleep. Not only does that mean we spend the daytime feeling tired and lacking in energy, it also means we function below par — both physically and mentally. While there’s no fixed amount that works for everyone, experts believe we need somewhere between seven and nine hours sleep per night — so make sure you get an amount similar to this. Also, the most important thing as far as regular sleep patterns are concerned is getting up at the same time every day — even if you haven’t gone to bed at the same hour.

Stop eating junk food

The evidence that ‘we are what we eat’ is now incontrovertible. That doesn’t mean you need to start examining your stools, but it does mean that you need to think twice before you open your mouth and pop in yet more highly-refined, processed foods full of artificial flavorings, colourings and preservatives! Nutrition scientists have demonstrated that eating oily fish can help to maintain mental function; that high-fiber foods improve energy levels; and that fruit and vegetables help to support the immune system. No such findings have been discovered about fries, Danish pastries, carbonated drinks and pies! So, get in the habit of reading food labels and try to restrict your intake of processed foods to a minimum. Also, beware of trans fatty acids — a particularly harmful type of fat that is often present in junk food and refined packaged products.

Respect the sun

The sun on your skin feels good, but it’s essential to protect yourself from its harmful ultraviolet rays. Think UVA for aging and UVB for burning — you need a sunscreen that protects against both. Men in particular are guilty of neglecting sunscreen, thereby putting themselves at risk not just of developing skin cancer but also of burning and premature aging of the skin. Avoid sitting in the sun between 11am and 3pm, when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are at their strongest, and get into the habit of regularly applying sunscreen with a protection factor of at least 15. You don’t have to be lying on a beach to do damage, either; even just walking around the city is enough to have a detrimental affect. And if you notice any changes to moles or any new moles appearing on your skin, then don’t hesitate to see your doctor, as they may indicate you have skin cancer — which is far more treatable when caught early.

Have more sex

Sex relieves stress and tension, makes you feel good, enhances circulation, helps you sleep and boosts your immune system. Plus, according to Dr. David Weeks, a clinical neuropsychologist at Scotland’s Royal Edinburgh Hospital, it also keeps you young. Weeks conducted a study of 3,500 people ranging in age from 18 to 102, and concluded that sex actually slows the aging process. Also, other UK research on a thousand men found that those who had at least two orgasms a week had half the death rate of those who indulged less than once a month. So what are you waiting for? But remember to protect yourself — sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise, particularly among young people.

Be more active

The US National Institute of Health says that exercise is the most effective anti-aging pill ever discovered — and yet 56 per cent of men and 70 per cent of women aged 16 to 54 fail to reach the recommended levels of physical activity in order to gain health benefits. Also, while 10,000 steps per day is the golden rule — sufficient to reduce your risk of heart disease, aid weight loss and improve musculoskeletal health — a report in the journal Sports Medicine found that less than 5,000 is more typical for the average Westerner. So, start looking for opportunities to be more active on a daily basis — for example, think twice before you get in the car or wait at the bus stop! You could also consider investing in a pedometer to keep track of your steps.

Watch your alcohol units

Excess drinking has become so much part of our culture that many of us barely notice we are doing it. Yet research shows that many adults drink over the recommended number of units per week, with some consuming a staggering (quite literally!) three times the weekly limit. Drinking too much can increase your risk of heart problems, stroke, obesity and some cancers, and also makes you vulnerable to accidents and danger. However, if you stick to the recommended amount per week — and don’t drink it all at the same time! — you can enjoy alcohol without harming your health.

Work your brain

The brain isn’t a muscle, but the old ‘use it or lose it’ adage still applies. By the time you reach 45, your brain will be losing 50,000 cells a day from the cerebral cortex — but keeping your mind stimulated can help to preserve your cognitive function. So, whether it’s doing a crossword, a Sudoku puzzle, a memory game or a quiz, or doing something more challenging such as learning a new language, always continue to pitch your brain against fresh challenges. You could even follow Winston Churchill’s example by learning one new word every day!

Drink enough water

A recent survey found that men were more likely to be dehydrated when entering the gym than women — but in fact most of us, active or not, could do with drinking a little more water on a daily basis. Allowing yourself to become even slightly dehydrated (known as ‘hypohydration’) will mean that you’ll become sluggish, will have impaired mental function and will have an increased risk of constipation. So keep a bottle of water handy — on your desk, in your bag or in the car — and you’ll be surprised how often you take a sip from it. Contrary to popular belief, thirst is a very good indicator of needing to take fluids on board! The daily recommended fluid intake is two liters per day, but some of this can come from other liquids such as soft drinks, fruit juice, tea and coffee.

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