Being healthy is more than simply working out and eating your veggies. There are some less obvious ‒ but critical ‒ factors that can affect your overall well-being.
The obvious …
1. Whole Foods
The more variety of whole, unprocessed foods you eat, the more nutrients you are feeding your body. Even better, challenge yourself to consume at least six servings of vegetables daily. You will notice a profound effect on your skin, your weight and your mood. Seven servings might sound daunting, but if you add two cups of spinach to your morning smoothie, have a beet and arugula salad with chicken at lunch and for dinner, have a vegetable stir-fry with a plant-based protein like chickpeas or black beans, before you know it, you’ll hit this number.
Think about your digestive health. Do you experience bloating or symptoms of an upset stomach? With poor digestion, you can’t absorb the nutrients from your food, and without the nutrients from your food, it’s much harder to properly recover after exercise. Common digestive culprits: gluten, corn, wheat and cow’s milk products. If you are someone with digestive concerns, you should ask your physician to help you to try eliminating some or all these foods and then adding foods back in slowly, to see if there is an impact on how you feel. A physician will be the best resource for helping you narrow down whether your poor digestion is due to food allergens.
One of the simplest yet most often overlooked recommendations is to increase your water intake. The amount depends on body weight, though as a general rule, you can aim for 2-3 liters daily. A great way to do this is to get a 500ml reusable glass water bottle, and put four elastic bands on it. Every time you drink one bottle, remove an elastic band. By the time the day is over, you should have removed all four bands.
The not-as-obvious …
How do you feel when you wake up in the morning? Do you get that dreaded afternoon slump where you start to crave anything and everything? Being healthy means having good, steady energy all day long, and one way you can is to eat protein (animal or plant-based) at each meal. This helps keep your blood sugar stable.
A second factor in your energy level may actually be caffeine. While caffeine can provide short-term alertness and a quick boost of energy, too much can interfere with sleep and actually result in an energy crash in the longer term. Switch your coffee intake for green tea. This will give you more sustainable energy.
An optimistic outlook provides a higher quality of life than for those who have a pessimistic outlook. A great technique to improve your mindset is to use a gratitude journal. Simply make a reminder each day to record three things you are grateful for. The more specific you are, the better.
The drive to be healthy can sometimes cause people to overwork their bodies. A healthy person lets his or her body recover from stress, a sleep deficit and excessive exercise.
Doing more is not always better, and studies show that performance, particularly at an athletic level, can be greatly decreased without adequate sleep. Aim to get a minimum of eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. To boost your quality of sleep, shut off all blue light one hour before bed.
The often ignored …
You might not think of your relationships as affecting your overall health, but studies have shown negative relationships to be closely related to an increase in heart disease. On the flipside, relationships that provide positive social connections are beneficial to longevity. Take stock of your relationships and ensure you’re putting your best interest at heart and surrounding yourself with people who provide you with happiness.
While in the short term, acute stress can boost performance, chronic stress is linked with a plethora of health problems. If you feel you’re in a stressful situation, take two minutes to try “square” breathing. Take one deep belly breath in for four seconds or beats, hold your breath for four seconds, exhale for four seconds and hold for four seconds. Repeat this six to eight times.
9. Sitting Too Much
When it comes to weight loss, sitting is not your friend. If you have a standing desk available to you, use it. If you don’t, try stacking books or a box with books on your desk and place your laptop on top so that it’s elevated. This will allow you to do some work standing that would otherwise be done sitting down.
A variety of small factors contribute to your overall energy and well-being. Don’t forget the less-common things that affect your health and try to make the small decisions each day to improve it.