Good habits for great health

Ever wondered what health professionals do to stay healthy? We chatted to a few to find out.

17 April 2014
by Annie Brookstone

We are, so the saying goes, creatures of habit. Why not make this work to your advantage by introducing a few health boosting, happiness-growing, potentially life-changing habits? You know those people who always have a sparkle in their eye and a spring in their step? Here are some of things that they do every day (hint: you should try them too)…

Walk it off

“The thing that I do that makes me feel really happy is walking with my dogs. Whenever I need to process stuff, I don’t go to a therapist. I phone my daughter or I climb the mountain, and normally by the time I get to the top I have a good idea of what to do. The exercise causes a release in endorphins and greater synch between left and right hemispheres,” says Cape Town life coach, Lily Masson.

Research from the Michigan State University confirms that people who walk their dogs are 34 percent more likely to meet expected levels of physical activity than those who don’t – even better when you’re walking them up a mountain – and it’s well established that exercise is a great mood booster.

Have a healthy breakfast

Debbie Faure, a Somerset West-based health product consultant, says that for her the key to feeling great all day every day is getting off to the right start from the moment she wakes up. “I always have a healthy breakfast and practise yoga or go for a walk each morning. I also say three positive affirmations at the start of every day, for example: ‘I am happy’ or ‘I choose to be happy today’, ‘I am calm’ and ‘I am strong’.”

The research supports the importance of starting the day with a healthy meal: according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition skipping breakfast is associated with a higher diabetes risk in women, while, a study in the journal Circulation showed that eating breakfast was associated with a lower incidence of heart disease in men between ages 45 and 82.

Floss

Dr Michelle Pentecost, a Cape Town GP, says that her daily habits for health are simple but proven to be effective. “Floss,” she advises. “There’s plenty of literature on the link between flossing and decreasing your risk of heart disease. Not to mention the smile benefits.” (Need to take better care of your teeth? At Clicks we’ve got all your oral hygiene needs covered. From toothpaste and mouthwash to floss and a wide array of toothbrushes, you’ll find what you are looking for in Clicks stores.)

End on a calm note

We’ve heard about how important it is to start the day right, but Dr Pentecost also recommends a healthy habit to end it: “Turn off electronics a few hours before bed,” she advises. “The benefits of good sleep are now considered as important as exercise and good nutrition, so any habits that encourage good sleep will improve health – quitting caffeine at lunch time, optimising conditions in the bedroom for sleep and so on.” And for those who simply can’t turn their PCs off at night-time, you can download an app called f.lux that adjusts the colour temperature of the monitor display according to the time of day so that your body’s secretion of melatonin (the sleep hormone) isn’t disrupted by the bright screen.

Be grateful

Finally, and this is a habit that all the healthiest people swear by, practise gratitude. , “There’s a whole host of research showing the benefits of gratitude for mental health, the immune system and blood pressure,” says Dr Pentecost. And when you’re thankful for each day, it’s easy to feel like you’re on top of the world.