You’ve probably heard a lot about eating healthily and the importance of being ‘healthy’ but do you know what it actually means or where to start? I realised that I didn’t know until a little while ago when I started to research deeper into the subject. I realised that it was a lot more than just about food and involved many aspects of life.This post is more of a summary (a longish one!) of the components of healthy, rather than trying to be a guide to being healthy. I’ve added further reading links as well, just in case something takes your fancy.
The Importance of the H Word.
As you carry on reading, you’ll see that healthy is much like the term ‘sustainability’, it doesn’t have one solution, instead it has a number of components, to help shape your lifestyle rather than one element of it. It is the crux of being happy and content in life and starts with you being able to respect and appreciate yourself, or as some like to term it mastering ‘self-love’. It’s also much like sustainability in that, we all know it’s important and something which should be striven for, yet it’s often marred by negative press or negative comments, such as ‘you really are the health police aren’t you!?’.
In a world where you’re ever increasingly connected to the outside and far flung countries, even when wrapped up in duvets sipping tea on the sofa, it’s getting more important to ensure that the engine that you’re running on, is on good fuel. Not just fuel to get you through the one day but to get you through life, to allow you to do whatever you want to do for as long as you want to be doing it.
What’s the point in waiting for retirement if all you can manage to do is lift the teapot?
The components of healthy go hand in hand and although are based on the notion of ‘self-love’, they are a circular thing which depend on one another. Without one working, the others are probably not working as well as they could.
As well as being important for you, to allow you to enjoy your life to the fullest, I think if we all strive to be healthy, we would actually probably help to create a more sustainable and pleasant world to live in. We’d see a reduction in our love of processed foods which would perhaps lead to less food wastage; we maybe wouldn’t watch television or use the internet as much, thus reducing energy consumption; we maybe would converse more with each other thereby helping us to learn and better ourselves. It’s all very romantic, but if we did concentrate on being healthy, I don’t think we’d just see the benefits in ourselves, I think eventually bigger payoffs would happen.
So go on then, what is this healthy thing anyway!?
When I asked myself that question a while back, I immediately went for the ‘eating healthy foods’ option. But as I’ve started to understand the topic more (through reading more like-minded blogs and articles and watching the odd documentary), I’ve realised that being healthy is much more than just what we put in our mouths.
The way in which we fuel ourselves through food is just one aspect of it and instead, I perceive healthy to be formed of the following essential components: 1) healthy eating, 2) healthy mind, and 3) healthy relationships. And if we focus on these essential areas, not just one of them, we will start to feel happier and more satisfied in our lives.
1) Healthy Eating
An easy’ish place to start.
You are what you eat (and drink) and the quicker this fact is recognised, the faster you are likely to want to change your eating habits.
In this 9-5 city-based world, you are now so far removed from your natural environment that it is hard to imagine how Farm Gatherer you would have obtained food those many moons ago, let alone Hunter Gatherer you from a time before. Even closer to home, it’s getting harder to find time to walk to the local market to touch, prod, smell and occasionally try before buying fresh local fruit and veg. Society has lost its way with food, lost trust in it and its strong connection with where it originates.
Food is your fuel, and you definitely cannot run on sugar. As life expectancy increases, it is getting more important for you to consume the right nutrients and micro-nutrients to protect yourself in your older years. Don’t be fooled into trusting big food companies to produce commodities which will help you on your way to a healthy diet, because obviously their goal is profit and not to help.
By choosing natural, seasonal and local produce with a broad spectrum of colours and occasional superfoods, you will be on the right path. Not only to a potentially smaller waistline but to a happier gut, fresher looking skin and radiant hair. It’s no lie, nature and natural are the only products which truly nurture and nourish you.
If you kick start your day well, by drinking a freshly made juice or smoothie, you’re giving yourself the correct message to continue throughout the day. Making sure you’re fuelled with a good filling breakfast will keep you going for longer in the morning, making that mid-morning danish pastry look a lot less appetising. That box of almonds to nibble on will keep a smile on your face until lunch time, when you’ll have a superfood salad with smoked sustainably caught mackerel. The train journey home will be that much easier when you keep in your thoughts that veg stir-fry you’ll whip up in no time. And then to put a smile on your face, a slice of that homemade healthy banana bread.
All of this is so simple to put together, to make and to eat, it’s a wonder why pre-packaged meals which contain so many additives, emulsifiers and other stuff we can’t pronounce are so often seen as the easier alternative.
Tell me, have you heard of an Aspartame flower?!
By eating healthily, you’re fuelling your body with what it needs to keep that smile on your face, your organs happy and disease free, and to keep you raring to go for another day.
- Hungry for Change Documentary
- How to choose healthier ‘Free From’ foods
- Tips on eating mindfully to beat the urge
2) Healthy Mind
Coming back to the whole 9-5 thing, in reality I know you probably do a lot more than 9-5. You probably spend more time than you’d like in the office or travelling to and from meetings. It’s likely that you have a family too, so on top of work commitments, you have family duties to tend to.
Although you might love being hectic, it is so important that you take time out and schedule in time for yourself.
Being able to achieve and maintain a healthy mind is key to the success of maintaining a healthy lifestyle overall. Although difficult, to help you in your day to day life, you must try to learn to deal with pent up stress and frustration logically rather than by panicking. This will enable you to have more room in your mind to appreciate yourself, the food you’re eating and the world you live in.
A key way to help you achieve a healthy mind is by being mindful. This is something which is becoming more and more talked about and is a key driver in helping those suffering from depression or anxiety. More and more high-profile and successful people are practising and talking about mindfulness and meditation, it’s beginning to make me wonder what I’m missing out on!
To be mindful means to pay attention to the present moment without passing judgement. To be aware and attuned to your thoughts and feelings helping you to manage them better rather than being overwhelmed. Those who practise mindfulness have said that it increases their appreciation of their surroundings, their attention and concentration.
It’s important to find time within a day to concentrate on you. Be it your journey to work, before your housemate comes home, or when you walk back from dropping the kids at school. If you don’t get time to be still, thoughtful and reflective, it’s easy to think that life is whizzing by and that you’re unable to catch it. However, this feeling can be stopped by spending quiet time with yourself, to mediate, to be calm and think of the positives in your life and then imagine your goals for that day (nice small, achievable ones!). By visualising what you want to do, you’ll find it a much easier task to complete.
I think laughter and exercise play a vital role in keeping us fuelled and to keep our minds healthy.When you’re happy, which often comes after you’ve seen friends or are pleased with yourself for running that extra mile or lifting that little bit more in the gym, you feel more inclined to eat healthily and feel so much more motivated to do well in other areas of your life. This then helps you to love yourself more, be more productive in work or in your day-to-day life and probably increases your willingness to learn new things.
All of this is very well, but how do I make time for myself and for the things I love, I hear you say. My favourite lady, Ella Woodward, was asked this question at a talk in Oxford and she just said that if you want to do it that badly, you’ll make time. She loves her daily exercise so much that she refuses to let a meeting get scheduled in the same slot.
- More on Meditation and Mindfulness
- Habits which will help you achieve more in life
- How to get better sleep
- How to get more headspace
3) Healthy Relationships
You are a social animal at heart and so it’s important that you surround yourself with family, friends and new people. People who will not only help you to have fun, love and learn but also those who you can rely on and talk openly to and who will support you in times of need. Research has shown that strong relationships and social support help us to lead happy, long and healthy lives, helping to reduce mental and physical health risks.
I found it particularly hard after graduating from university to adjust to leading a quieter social life. One which wasn’t spontaneous and filled with friends. This was made worse by watching people continue with their lives via social media, something the university-habit taught us to look at during boring times, but something which ultimately emphasises feelings of loneliness.
When our social involvement becomes weakened and we become more isolated, evidence suggests that we are more likely to suffer from depression, low immunity and higher blood pressure. All helping to create an environment which we are less likely to love and appreciate, and more likely to begin to fuel with the wrong foods.
This is why it’s so important that you actively seek out opportunities to socialise and meet people. If you’ve moved away from friends, why not sign up to a local club which interests you. Peter and I have recently signed up to a really social small gym and feel so much better for it, not just from the physical side of things but through meeting like-minded, fun and caring people. Why not choose a hobby you love and want to carry on with and try to find a group to join. Go a couple of times…give it a chance, it takes a while for things to click, but when they do, it’ll be worth it. You’ll realise you’re walking around with a bigger smile on your face or that you feel a weight has been lifted from your mind, just through the act of socialising, laughing and talking.
To Sum Up!
There is much evidence to suggest that by being mindful to ‘healthy’, you will become a happier, more satisfied person who appreciates themselves more and who feels in control of their mind, relationships and body.
Don’t get me wrong, none of the above are fast fixes and I am most definitely not saying that when you feel satisfied in all three, you’ll be set for life. No no, it’s a circular thing, an ever evolving wheel where the balance changes just as quickly and as often as the wind. But it’s about being able to get rid of the leaves you don’t want, focusing on those you want to keep and finding ways to nurture them, and realising when the system is looking more like soggy cornflakes than beautiful green individual shapes.
Watch this space for more posts on how to eat and live healthily. I would absolutely adore to hear your thoughts on this post – good or bad!!