In our current, never-ending, mission to increase productivity and be successful whilst also being emotionally self-aware, it’s easy to forget a very important factor that all of these goals rely on- being physically healthy.
We talk a fair bit on this blog about how mental health isn’t recognised as much, or in as much detail, as it should be. The same thing can happen with physical health. We can see physical health as some abstract distant thing that is awarded or removed by fate, rather than something that we need to actively invest in.
Please note here, physical health is not climbing Everest every weekend or benching 200 kg; that’s fitness, and extreme fitness at that. I’m talking about physical health and what that means to you and the body that you have; if it’s fully-abled or not. I’m not talking about COVID and how to avoid it/ improve your immunity (although a generally improved level of health will assist in that department). Instead we’re looking at making decisions in your everyday life that will benefit your long-term health.
I think we’re all a little guilty of letting our physical health take a backseat from time to time and we do it for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes we feel alright and think that nothing needs to change, sometimes we CONVINCE ourselves that things are alright because maybe we’re scared of the doctors (me) or the dentist (me) or scared of needing medical care (also me). Other times, the rest of life just gets in the way and before we know it, it’s been months since we last thought about our bodies in any way other than having sick pecks, washboard abs or wondering if our bums would look good in those Tik Tok leggings.
We’ll search for tips on motivation, how to get promoted in work, how to maintain strong relationships, how to grow self-confidence and self-love, how to combat depression etc. We do all of this while forgetting that we need to be around to see the end result of that hard work and taking care of our bodies, to the best of our ability, is imperative to allowing that. Being more in control of our health allows us to quell those health anxieties, avoid long-term complications and actually get to know our bodies. Physical care is an act of self-love.
There are lots of ways that we can improve our physical health and the steps you take will be different from other people’s. Below are some ideas that may help, if you have any others let me know!
1. Move More
Whether this is increasing your daily step goals by a couple thousand, adding a 10 minute YouTube workout to your day, going for a morning walk or just upping the housework- moving your body helps your body. You fire up muscles, get the blood moving and get your organs pumping. Plus, if you’re upping your walking game and doing a little more exploring, you might be surprised by what’s right on your doorstep!
2. Research Nutrition
Upping your knowledge on the things that you’re putting into your body is crucial. This isn’t about losing weight, but about making sure that you’re receiving all of the nutrients that you need to function. A really good resource for nutrition can be found in the BOSH! cookbook. Not only do they give awesome recipes, to ensure that you’re getting everything you need, but they also have a nutrition section, where they lay out foods that you can find to up your intake. For example, you can increase fibre (important for digestion and gut biome production) by eating beans, baked potatoes, berries or even popcorn!
The cookbook also gives a bonus perk to the veggies and vegans of the world who are tired of the age-old, cliché: ‘how do you get your protein?’ To name a few sources: chickpeas, lentils, tofu, kidney beans, brown rice, soba noodles, nuts, broccoli, mushrooms, potatoes, spinach, sweetcorn, dark chocolate and hummus!
3. Take the Vitamins You Need!
It’s likely that you’re going to be deficient in one or more vitamins. If you’re in a country like the UK or your work is based inside (or you’re stuck inside because of some sort of restriction) one vitamin that you’re almost certainly going to be deficient in is vitamin D. It’s important for bone, teeth and muscle maintenance and has been recommended by the UK government as a result of COVID-19. While the National Institution for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) found no relevant evidence to support the view that vitamin D prevents COVID, they did see a link between low vitamin D and ‘more severe outcomes from COVID-19’. For more information on this research click here!
On the other hand, you don’t want to overdo the vitamins; so make sure that you know which ones you need, rather than running to the nearest supermarket and stocking up on loads of multi-vitamins.
For veggies and vegans I’d really recommend Vegums. They’re a vegan (obvs) eco-friendly business that provide vegan-tailored vitamins that taste amazing! I use their multi-vitamin selection of B12 (the one vitamin that we plant-based eaters really struggle to acquire naturally) alongside B6, D2, folic acid, selenium and iodine. I’ve been using them for over a month and I find it easy to take them everyday because they’re like a sweet!
They also have iron supplements as well as fish-free omega 3 (try saying this sentence after a few drinks!). If you’re interested, you can find the site here.
4. Follow Informative Social Media
Scrolling is in most of our natures. So why not swap out some of those random meme pages that are now basically ad pages with some more informative ones. I’d recommend @Foundmyfitness and @Nutritionfacts for the sciencey stuff as well as @veganbrownting for some plant-based food inspiration!
5. Go for Check ups
Go for check ups, even if you don’t want to. Avoidance never solves anything and you’re never too busy to take care of your body. So book in for that smear, that scan, that GP appointment, x-ray or blood test.
This is a lesson that I’m still learning and it’s one that I’ve battled for a while. As I’ve mentioned, I’m not a big fan of the doctors and after a couple of bad experiences, I also have a pretty bad needle phobia to contend with, which means that I’ve been putting off check ups because I HATE blood tests!
It took me longer than I’d like to admit to realise how dangerous this was! I know that avoiding situations out of fear just makes the matter worse. I had some stern words with myself and finally got in touch with the doctor. I’m going for a blood test this week and I’m terrified, but it needs to be done. It isn’t the first and, as much as I wish it, it won’t be the last- wish me luck!
6. Remember that Health Includes Dental Health
Making appointments includes the dentist too!
7. Peel Away Bad Habits
This one takes some doing, I know. It takes self-awareness and a lot of honesty to identify what your bad habits are for yourself, even if other people may have told you already. Once you’ve identified these bad habits, be they over-eating sugary foods, smoking, drinking or even refusing to take rest days- it’s a matter of deciding how you’re going to stop it.
The usual phrase we hear is ‘kicking the habit’, but I much prefer the idea of peeling them away. Kicking something is aggressive, it’s instantaneous and it doesn’t seem as long term. Peeling away, on the other hand, acknowledges the attachment that we have with our bad habits and how it’s going to take some time to separate them from ourselves. You get to decide the process you take on removing the bad habit so make sure to keep that balance of kindness, without enabling negative behaviour!
Seemingly simple but extremely important when avoiding strain. Stretching is a good way of waking up your body after a big sleep, loosening it up before exercise or after a long day of work; it can even to strengthen certain parts of your body that may be weaker due to damage or lack of use. Consistent stretching will do your body wonders.
We need sleep to survive. We also need sleep to moderate our metabolisms, regenerate damaged tissue and to mentally process the day. Even if you struggle to sleep, we can all make decisions that can improve our quality of sleep. The main goal is 7-8 hours, but if you’re nowhere near that, for whatever reason, set another goal. It can be getting into bed an extra hour or two earlier and trying to avoid stimulation and distractions. Avoiding light before bed, specifically light from screens, is a big one; so maybe invest in an eye mask or blackout curtains, say goodbye to your phone and swap out a Netflix show before bed with a book or journal.
As a kid I would combat my ‘no-sleep jitters’ by telling myself that even if I didn’t get to sleep for the whole time, that I’m still in bed, resting my body. I still believe that to this day! Even if you don’t manage to get 7 hours of sleep, if you at least carve that time out and avoid those anti-boredom temptations, you’ve had 7 hours of rest with sleep mixed in!
A successful and motivated life needs you to be at your healthiest. There’s only so much you can control when it comes to health, so try and control those things as best as you can! Do you have any more ideas or tips on keeping healthy? Let me know in the comments!
Stay Positive (and healthy!)