The New Year is often a time to re-evaluate your overall health and take steps to exercise and eat right. We can reset our routines, find a better balance, and nurture our well-being. Below are some practical and accessible ways to boost your well-being this year:
1) Let food be thy medicine – this phase, spoken by Hippocrates around 400 BC, is as relevant today as it was back then. Considered one of the founding fathers of Western medicine, Hippocrates was strongly aware of the health benefits of good food and the negative health consequences associated with overeating. Today, our access to nutritious food can be distorted by economics and an increasing supply of convenient, but low-nutrition and ultra-processed foods. Hippocrates recommended lentils1 and other legumes, such as peas. Legumes are a great source of fibre, protein, vitamins, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and phosphorous. They are easy to incorporate into any meal and can be bought dry (then soaked and cooked), canned (ready to eat), or frozen.
2) Lifestyle and exercise – Hippocrates also believed in applying lifestyle measures to help the sick, and it is well-known today that an active lifestyle and regular exercise will help to keep you healthy and prevent disease. Hippocrates was a big proponent of walking – he recommended after-dinner walks to aid digestion and reduce belly fat, and early morning walks to relax the bowels and leave your head light and bright 2. Today, our free time may be limited, and our work and lifestyles may leave us sedentary, but a walk a day can help lift our mood and keep our bodies healthy.
3) De-cluttering and purifying – have you heard of Osoji or Swedish Death Cleaning? The new year presents a great time to consciously go through your belongings and tidy your environment to be cleaner, fresher, more organised and spacious. Not only will this make your area more functional, cleansed and aesthetically pleasing, but the very act of de-cluttering and spring cleaning can be therapeutic - offering both spiritual and physical benefits.
4) Relaxation and rest – a well-balanced lifestyle and good health depends on getting the right amount of rest, while relaxation helps us to de-stress, refocus and rejuvenate. The relationship between sleep and overall physical health is well-documented 3 . During sleep your body can repair, restore energy, and undertake important processes to help support normal immune function. While sleep deprivation, or not enough sleep, can impact brain development and increase the risk of disease and ill-health 4. Having a good bedtime routine, getting 7-9 hours of sleep (for adults), and putting aside some time for relaxation – whether that be reading a book, meditating, or doing some yoga – will help to boost your well-being.
5) Social time, friends, and family – the health benefits of having a good chin wag with friends, family or a neighbour should not be understated. Going to a local community gathering or participating in a regular group activity or class not only presents the opportunity to develop new skills and meet new people but also helps to alleviate stress and anxiety. A recent media release from The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) highlights the importance of ‘social prescribing’ as a preventative health measure, whereby patients are connected to social activities as part of their management and treatment plan. Setting aside a time each week to catch up with friends, or undertake a social activity, will help to maintain your well-being, mood, and mental health.
6) Return to nature and vitamin D – getting out into nature can rejuvenate your senses, putting you in touch with the physical natural world – its trees and plants, animals and birdsong, oceans, and mountains. While it is not always possible to travel far from home and escape the daily grind, we can try to take some time out in nature, even in the garden or local park, where we can lift our spirits, exercise our eyes by looking into the distance, fill our lungs with fresh air, and get some much-needed vitamin D from the natural sunlight. Vitamin D is important for healthy bones and a strong immune system. Read more about the health benefits of gardening here.
Sources:1 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_and_diet_in_ancient_medicine2 - https://pubs.sciepub.com/ajssm/4/4/6/3 - https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-health4 - https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2021/04/good-sleep-good-health