By Claire Holmes
Taking control of your physical and mental wellbeing may seem like an impossible challenge. You may be asking yourself: Where do I start? How do I know what is best for me? How do I make the time? Is it going to be expensive?
Those questions are valid, and each individual has their own health goals and aspirations.
Let’s start with one question people often overlook: WHY should I focus on my health?
Being in control of your own health not only gives you a sense of empowerment, but a renewed sense of clarity and conviction. When you have your health under control, both physically and mentally, you feel better, you preform better, and your overall quality of life improves significantly. Small changes may be the difference between enjoying your day or dreading it.
Now I want to focus on HOW? How do I get there?
These tips are not time-consuming, they have no cost to you, and they are easy. WHAT’S the CATCH?…. An overall feeling of wellbeing!
Tip 1: Drink More Water
This may seem oversimplified, or like something you have heard over and over again, but the reason you are noticing a pattern is because it works!
According to the Mayo Clinic, the recommendation of water intake per day is 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) for women and 15.5 cups (3.5 liters) for men.1
The benefits of water include detoxification of the body, mental clarity, physical performance, and even weight loss.
In order to drink more water, you can get a reusable water bottle and make sure it is with you at all times. If you are concerned about reaching your goal or knowing when to drink water, there are motivational water bottles that have time schedules to help you stay on track.
An example of a motivational water bottles can be found at: https://amzn.to/3g3bRM1
Tip 2: Stretch
Whether it is a five minute wake-up stretch or an hour-long yoga class, stretching can have an extremely positive impact on your life.
Stretching can improve mobility, decrease inflammation, prevent injury, and reduce stress.2
Stretching can be a challenge to some people so be kind to yourself, start slowly and remember that feeding your body kind energy and compassion will allow you to increase your ability.
A way of incorporating stretching into your day could be to do a 10-minutes morning wake-up stretch from YouTube. One of my favorites is : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQ2yJhF4zZY.
Tip 3: Breathe
Another easy way to promote physical and mental wellbeing is through breath. Breath control has been used for centuries to help people feel connected and present. The methods could be as simple as being conscious of your inhalation and exhalation, to hours of meditation.
The benefits of breathing include reduced cortisol levels (the hormone responsible for stress responses), improved attention span, and increased oxygen flow to vital cells and organs within your body.3
In order to incorporate breath into your daily schedule, you could start with 5 minutes of deep breathing when you wake up and 5 minutes before you go to bed at night.
A five minute meditation to help channel positivity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inpok4MKVLM
Tip 4: Journal
Journaling is an extremely important tool that can help people deal with emotions, set goals, or have realizations about their lives. I personally use journaling to remind myself what my goals are and how I can achieve them.
The benefits of journaling include anxiety management, goal setting, and creativity. Journaling has also been shown to improve memory and alleviate depression.4,5 Scientists have found a correlation between the ability to express one’s thoughts in writing and increased immunity. This is because journaling has a positive impact on biochemical markers of physical and immune functioning.6
To start journalling, you can get yourself a notebook and take it with you wherever you go. If you are feeling inspired, you can take it out and jot down your thoughts. If you are stressed, then you can open it and write down what is causing that stress. The journal entry is your own, which means it can be anywhere from one word to ten pages.
For more tips on how to start journalling in a way that’s constructive for your mental health, check out: https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-journaling/.
Tip 5: Gratitude
Holding space to be grateful can change your outlook on life. The act of being grateful can improve overall psychological and physical wellbeing:
Gratitude has many benefits, including overall happiness, improved relationships, and increased self-esteem.
Incorporating gratitude practices into your life can be something as simple as saying “thank you” or writing down a list of things you are grateful for. This can be done in any location or at any time of day (even in that new journal of yours!).
Another technique to implement gratitude into your life could be Martin Seligman’s “3 Good Things”: https://www.mindfueldaily.com/livewell/3-good-things-an-exercise-to-boost-happiness/. Participating in this exercise can help highlight the positive in your life. You may even start noticing the moments you want to write about as they happen in real time.
Tip 6: Sleep
Making time for sleep, or improving your sleep practices, could have a significant impact on your daily routine.
The benefits of sleep are extensive and span both mental and physical wellbeing. Quality sleep has been shown to boost mood, balance hormones, increase immunity, promote heart health, and help maintain body weight.7,8
To improve your sleep, it is important to monitor caffeine intake, turn off blue light from electronics, and to silence cell phones. Sleep can also be improved by using breathing techniques or following a consistent schedule.
To get the greatest benefits from these practices, you will need to be consistent. However, when following these tips, remember to be kind and understanding towards yourself. You always want to move towards a place of improvement, but you do not need to be judgmental about the position you are in today. You have the ability to learn and improve (take a page from Carol Dweck’s Growth mindset!). Even if you aren’t where you want to be today, you have the power to get to where you want to be. Start small: implement one of these practices a day.
Example Weekly Schedule:
Monday: Focus on getting in your suggested amount of water
Tuesday: Make some time to stretch
Wednesday: Practice a breathing exercise
Thursday: Write a short journal entry
Friday: Write down three things you are thankful for and turn off your alarm. Your body will love you come late Saturday morning.
You can start with one of these practices a day and see which technique works best for you. Once you’ve landed on a preferred technique, you can try to implement it into your daily routine. The most important thing is that this is your health and your journey! You want it to be sustainable for you.
- How much water do you need to stay healthy? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256. Published October 14, 2020. Accessed June 6, 2021.
- Page P. Current concepts in muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitation. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2012;7(1):109-119.
- Ma X, Yue ZQ, Gong ZQ, et al. The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults. Front Psychol. 2017;8:874. Published 2017 Jun 6. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874
- Maestas, Kacey & Rude, Stephanie. (2012). The Benefits of Expressive Writing on Autobiographical Memory Specificity: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Cognitive Therapy and Research. 36. 234-246. 10.1007/s10608-011-9358-y.
- Ackerman CE. 83 Benefits of Journaling for Depression, Anxiety, and Stress. PositivePsychology.com. https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-journaling/. Published May 19, 2021. Accessed June 15, 2021.
- Baikie KA, Wilhelm K. Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment. 2005;11(5):338-346. doi:10.1192/apt.11.5.338
- The Benefits of Slumber. National Institutes of Health. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2013/04/benefits-slumber. Published April 4, 2018. Accessed June 15, 2021.
- Larsen SC, Horgan G, Mikkelsen MK, et al. Consistent sleep onset and maintenance of body weight after weight loss: An analysis of data from the NoHoW trial. PLoS Med. 2020;17(7):e1003168. Published 2020 Jul 16. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1003168
One of the greatest gifts that I have received in my life was my own discovery of health through nutrition. My background in Environmental Engineering and my career as a Fashion Model have shown me the variety of pathways that affect our health as a whole. The environmental toxins in beauty products, nutrients in food, or the energy in media we consume all have a significant impact on our health. In order to continue my life’s passion and to be able to help others find their health, I have become certified as an Integrative Nutrition Wellness Coach by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and I am entering a masters program in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at Teachers College Columbia University to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. I want to help others find their journey to sustainable health as I have found mine. I use the phrase “sustainable health” because health has to continuously work for you in your everyday life and environment. Perfection is not the goal, it is the journey that matters.