We all know we should eat five portions of fruit and veg, exercise daily, drink two litres of water and get 8 hours of sleep every night.
And while we’d all love to have this kind of motivation, not all of us are the ‘wake-up-at-5am-do-some-yoga-and-drink-a-green-smoothie’ type. Some of us just aren’t built for it.
However, being healthy and happy doesn’t have to be an effort and you don’t have to be a certain ‘type’ of person to maintain a good sense of physical and mental wellbeing.
If you’re more the ‘wake-up-past-my-alarm-and-eat-a-fry-up-for-breakfast’ type of person, here are 18 simple things you can do every day to stay healthy and happy, without sacrificing one ounce of who you are.
1. Drink enough water
All humans should aim to get two litres of water per day or more to allow our bodies to function properly. Water flushes out toxins, prevents headaches, helps joint pain and generally just keeps us alive.
To help get your two litres in every day, drink a large glass of water when you wake up, before and after every meal and before you go to bed.
2. Switch your Barry’s tea for a green tea
We firmly believe that a cup of tea is good for the soul, so we’re not advocating that you give it up completely. However, replacing one regular cup of tea every day with a cup of green tea has a number of health benefits. Not only is it lower calorie but it’s packed with antioxidants that improve brain function, kill bacteria and lower your risk of diseases such as diabetes and certain cancers.
3. Meditate for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes every night
Taking just a few minutes every day to clear your thoughts acts as exercise for your brain. Meditation helps your concentration, it lowers blood pressure, reduces stress and anxiety, it provides a general sense of clarity and can even help your immune system.
Going to a local meditation class is a great way to introduce yourself to the practice if you’re new to the idea. But you can always do it at home too, by just taking some silent time alone and unplugging from the world.
4. Hug Someone
We’re not known for being the most tactile nation – while the French like a kiss on each cheek, we’re more partial to a nod and an awkward handshake. But, if you can bare it, try to hug someone at least once a day. Hugs can instantly boost serotonin levels and oxytocin, which heals feelings of loneliness and anger.
It also relaxes muscles, balances the nervous system and just generally makes you feel a little more loved.
5. Put your phone down for at least an hour
While there’s no doubt that smartphones are pretty much the greatest invention of our modern lives – everything in moderation, right? The vast majority of us spend way too much time on our phones. It’s bad for our eyesight and posture, it can cause headaches and it prevents us from really living and existing in the present moment.
So once you’ve finished reading this, why not put your phone down switch off for a while?
6. Spend time outside
Once our brief Irish ‘summer’ has passed, spending time outside in Ireland can be tough. However, you should try to spend even just few moments outside every day. Being outside not only increases your Vitamin D intake but it can help improve your breathing and help you get a better night’s sleep.
7. Reduce portion sizes
You don’t have to go on a restrictive diet to lose weight, simply cutting your portion sizes can make a significant difference to your daily calorie intake. Ideally every meal should have an equal balance of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables and each serving should be the size of your palm.
Although this might seem like a measly amount, you’ll soon discover that these portion sizes do make you feel sufficiently full.
8. Swap the spuds for salad
There’s no love quite like an Irish person’s love for spuds. And while potatoes are healthy in moderation, eating too many is linked to weight gain. If you’re the kind of person who needs potatoes on your plate for it to feel like a meal, try reducing your intake to just a couple of days per week, swapping your potatoes with a salad instead.
9. Practice Stretching
Whether you do a lot of exercising or not, daily stretching is hugely beneficial for improving your flexibility and blood circulation and for preventing muscle and joint pain in later life.
10. Stop complaining
Although Irish people are known around the world for their great sense of humour, we’re also renowned chronic complainers. Simply start talking about the weather and see what happens…
Unfortunately complaining can be detrimental to your health. Neuroscientific studies have shown that complaining and having negative thoughts leads you to establish a consistently negative outlook on life. When your brain is firing off synapses of anger, you weaken your immune system and raise your blood pressure, increasing your risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes among other ailments.
11. Learn a new skill
You learn something new every day, whether you realise it or not. And actively trying to gain knowledge and learn new skills on a daily basis can really help the health of your brain. It keeps your mind sharper and more agile and challenging yourself on a daily basis can contribute to cognitive vitality as you age.
12. Sleep for 7-8 hours per night
Getting a good, long sleep every night won’t automatically make you immune to every disease on the planet but strong links have been found between insufficient sleep and certain health issues like heart disease, heart attacks and diabetes.
13. Wake up earlier
We’re not all natural early-risers, especially when winter rolls around the dark, cold mornings have us clinging to the bedsheets for as long as possible. Unfortunately, though, getting up early every day is good for you. It’s linked to better performance at work, it helps regulate your diet and helps you sleep better at night.
14. Watch your posture
The vast majority of Irish people work in sedentary jobs, meaning we spend at least 7 hours a day hunched over a desk which is terrible for our posture.
Posture isn’t something most of us pay attention to but sitting up straight is incredibly important. When your bones and muscles are properly aligned, your body doesn’t have to work as hard to carry out its normal functions. Good posture facilitates your breathing and improves your blood circulation and it can help you avoid getting back and neck pain as you age.
15. Try and get 30 minutes of exercise every day
Health professionals recommend that all adults aged 19-64 should get 30 minutes of exercise at least five days per week. We all know that exercise keeps our bodies and minds fit and healthy, but regular exercise can also make you live longer by keeping your body strong enough to fight off illness and disease.
16. Reward yourself
When most of us think of ‘getting healthy’ we shudder at the idea of taking on difficult diets and dragging ourselves out of bed to beat ourselves up at the gym. Of course, this isn’t sustainable long-term; feeling deprived and unhappy is the main factor which prevents us from forming good habits.
To avoid getting fed up and packing in a healthy lifestyle, reward yourself regularly, as healthy people strive for balance rather than perfection. Rewards don’t need to be junk food, it can simply be giving yourself time to do something you enjoy or maybe even buying yourself something nice. Rewards make you feel good and motivate you to keep going.
17. Have more sex
Not that we need to give you an excuse, but sexually active people do tend to be healthier. Those who have sex more have higher levels of certain immune defending antibodies. Fun in the bedroom also lowers your blood pressure and risk of heart attack. And if you’re suffering from a migraine or a sudden ache, orgasms can in fact block pain.
18. Separate your day
Achieving a good work life balance is critical to living a happy and healthy life. For those of us who spend eight hours a day in the office and two hours per day commuting, it can be difficult to do anything but collapse in a heap on the sofa when we reach the front door in the evening.
We all know that stress and burnout can have a detrimental impact on your health and wellbeing so planning a few social activities per week can help you unwind and make you feel more fulfilled.
If you have even just a couple of hours free each evening, put them to use; whether it’s going for coffee with a friend, taking a walk or reading a book. Having personal goals is just as important has having professional ones and taking some time for yourself will help clear your mind, reduce your stress levels and give you a greater sense of achievement.
Irish Life is one of Ireland’s leading financial services companies with over 1 million customers. For over 75 years, we’ve been helping people in Ireland look after their life insurance, pension and investment needs.