At Elm Rd, we want to help you be truly well. We don’t just want to write you a prescription when you’re sick; we want to encourage you to nourish all aspects of your health so you can enjoy a healthy lifestyle.
What Does it Mean to Have a Healthy Life?
The World Health Organisation says, ‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’ It’s about being fully well, rather than just not being sick.
Good health is a resource that helps us live a full life. But it doesn’t happen by itself. In the developed world, many of us work in sedentary jobs, drive everywhere, eat a lot of processed food and struggle against stress. That means it takes a deliberate effort to nurture healthy lifestyle habits.
But it’s worth it. Some of the biggest health issues in our society, like cancer, diabetes and heart disease, are connected to our lifestyles. While we can’t really control our genetic or environmental risk factors for some illnesses, we can modify our lifestyles to increase our chances of enjoying long-lasting healthy life.
Healthy Lifestyle Habits
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend a balanced diet across the five food groups of proteins, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables and dairy. That means eating:
- A colourful rainbow of vegetables and legumes
- Wholegrain or high fibre cereal foods such as pasta, rice, breads, cereals, noodles, couscous and oats
- Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds
- Milk, yogurt and cheese or their alternatives.
Eating a balanced diet helps nourish your body, give you consistent energy, and manage your weight. Filling up on healthy foods makes it less likely that you’ll turn to calorie-laden but low-nutrition junk food.
If you drink alcohol, limit it to no more than two standard drinks per day. Cut down on sugary drinks and, instead, drink more water.
While you sleep, your body is busy storing memories, growing muscle, repairing tissue and performing many other tasks that are vital for your long-term health.
Ongoing poor sleep contributes to a range of health problems including chronic diseases and mental health difficulties. Even after a couple of nights of disturbed rest you might struggle to concentrate properly or react quickly. And you’ll probably be quite grumpy too!
Tips for sleeping better:
- Go to bed at roughly the same time each night and avoid long lie-ins or daytime naps
- Spend an hour or so relaxing before bed with a bath or a good book
- Avoid substances like caffeine, tobacco and alcohol in the hours before bed.
- Don’t use screens late a night as their blue light disturbs your body’s circadian rhythms.
- Try to keep your bedroom for sex and sleep only — taking your laptop to bed to finish off work isn’t a good idea.
Being more active during the day also helps you sleep at night but there are many other benefits. Exercise increases your fitness, lowers your stress levels, improves your mood and helps you maintain a healthy weight. It can be great fun too.
You might enjoy a team sport or a gym session. But if that’s not for you, there are plenty of everyday ways to increase your activity levels. You could:
- Use a fitness app to exercise in your living room
- Do some vigorous housework
- Take the stairs
- Park further away from work or get off the bus a few stops earlier so you have to walk more
- Meet a friend for a walk around the park before getting coffee.
These are all ways of building physical activity into your daily routine. You’ll be surprised how all those little changes add up.
Australians experience quite a bit of stress. In 2015, the Australian Psychological Society conducted a survey on stress and wellbeing. Of the 1521 respondents, 35 percent reported a significant level of distress and 26 percent reported above normal anxiety symptoms. Money worries were the biggest cause of worry, followed by family relationships and health.
It’s likely that you’re going to experience some stress in life. Here are some healthy ways of managing it:
- Pay attention to what triggers your sense of stress. Is it your workload, the kids arguing or another bill arriving? Once you identify the trigger, you’re better able to find a way to deal with the issue, whether that’s talking to your boss, learning new parenting strategies or seeing a financial counsellor.
- Follow the tips above for eating well, sleeping well and being more active. Those things all help to manage stress. For example, a healthy diet helps stabilise your blood sugars and reduces pressure on your adrenal glands.
- Teach your body to relax by breathing deeply and slowly and deliberately relaxing your muscles. You’ll be surprised by how much better you feel when stop breathing so rapidly and relax your tense shoulders.
- Do something enjoyable. It’s tempting to veg in front of Netflix but there’s deeper refreshment in doing something creative or social.
- Talk to someone about how you’re feeling. That could be a friend or relative or your GP. At Elm Rd, we take stress seriously.
Help For Healthy Living
Interestingly, many people in the Australian Psychological Society’s survey said that trying to live healthily caused them stress. Something always seemed to get in the way of trying to form healthy habits and it was hard to make lasting changes. So, if you find all this difficult, you’re not alone.
That’s why we’d love you to talk to us. We want to help you live a long and healthy life. Your GP can help you in many ways, including referring you to dieticians and psychologists for further support.