Making the decision to live a healthier lifestyle should start by addressing mental and emotional health. The mind and body are so intricately connected, and mind-body pathways are powerful mechanisms that can both damage and heal, says health expert Dr Linda Friedland.
Start by making the mental decision to take charge of your physical body, self-image and relationships. Then nurture yourself to achieve emotional wellbeing – to do this you need to be open and honest about how you’re feeling and deal with anxiety, depression, anger and resentment, and seek help if necessary. Here are a few key strategies to developing a positive attitude.
Give peace a chance
Meditation is a great way to stay mentally buoyant. But why meditate? Simply put: Stress, anxiety and tension are associated with a shallow and irregular breathing pattern that starves the body of oxygen and energy, and ultimately leads to disease. Once you’re able to focus your breath, you’ll start to experience the benefits. “Meditation is like exercising a muscle,” says Richard Rosen, author of The Yoga of Breath (Shambhala). Eventually your mind learns to stop wandering, which is a calming, peaceful and healing experience, and with each workout, your practice gets stronger. Soon you’ll carry the sense of calm and positivity gained from meditation into the rest of your day, making everything more satisfying. First it’s a chore, eventually it’s a pleasure.
All you need is love
Love yourself inside and out. When you love yourself enough, looking after yourself becomes a priority.
You can learn to love yourself by changing unhelpful habits. For a start, stop basing your estimation of yourself on the external world, which measures worth by appearance, finances, status, connections, social standing, technology and other external factors. If you use these as a means to determine your worth, you’ll find you never quite measure up.
Instead, make a point of appreciating your talents, creativity, brilliance, and all the big and small things that make you who you are. Accept that you are not perfect, and love yourself anyway. Author, researcher and expert in mental health online, Dr John Grohol, makes the point that perfection is simply unattainable for any of us. “Let it go. You’re never going to be perfect,” he says. “You’re never going to have the perfect body, the perfect life, the perfect relationship, the perfect children, or the perfect home. We revel in the idea of perfection, because we see so much of it in the media. But that is simply an artificial creation of society. It doesn’t exist.” Instead, says Grohol, grab a hold of your accomplishments as you achieve them, and see mistakes for what they are – opportunities for learning and growth.
Cultivate a positive outlook by living a full life: expand your interests, participate in activities you enjoy, take an interest in the people and the world around you, and work on that which is truly valuable, like giving and receiving love, showing kindness and empathy, and reaching out to those less fortunate.
The happy diet
“When it comes to diet, focus on what makes you feel good,” says dietitian Pippa Mullins. “Ideal weight does not equal happiness.” Instead of following silly regimes, adopt prudent principles that will nourish your body within an appropriate kilojoule restriction. Opt for a nutrient-dense diet as opposed to a kilojoule-restricted one. Include mood-boosting foods such as fresh fruit, nuts, avocado, salmon, spinach, asparagus, wholegrain fibre, low-fat dairy, and lean protein, to give you a balance of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and essential fats. You should aim to include a moderate intake of dark, cocoa-rich chocolate in this list, because life’s more fun with chocolate!
Even if you eat a healthy diet, the right supplements can maximise your health:
Take a multivitamin. It’s important to think beyond one-a-day for optimal health. Find a formula with a suggested dosage of two tablets, three times a day. Speak to your Clicks pharmacist about this.
Take a purified fish oil supplement. Fish oil, and the omega-3 fatty acids it contains, should be on your daily supplement line-up. Omega-3s promote mental health, improve your blood lipid profile, and are excellent anti-inflammatories. To know whether your fish-oil supplement is a good one, give it the sniff test: if it smells rancid, don’t take it. Brands to try: Clicks, Creeds, Solgar, Solal, Viridian, and Vital – all available in Clicks stores.