Ten steps to good health

Try to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables.

Try to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables.

1. Eat healthily. Try to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables. When doing your grocery shop stock up on healthy snacks, such as rice cakes, celery, cucumber and low-fat cheese. Try to incorporate wholemeal foods, bread and pasta and low fat yoghurt into your diet, too. Avoid sugary and fried foods and salt as much as possible. Grill, bake, microwave but steer away from frying. Watch out for the hidden fats in creams and sauces as well.

2. Drink lots of water. Aim to drink at least eight glasses a day. To calculate exactly how much you should be drinking, divide your weight in pounds by two. This is how many ounces per day you need before exercising. The body is 75 per cent water and 25 per cent solid matter and needs water to stay well hydrated and operate at its best. By drinking this regularly your body will function more efficiently and you may even avoid health problems. Increased water consumption has been shown to relieve migraines, high blood cholesterol, rheumatoid arthritis pain, allergies and high blood pressure. It’s good for the brain too, studies have shown with prolonged dehydration, brain cells actually begin to shrink.

3. Establish a healthy drinking plan. If you tend to imbibe a bit at the weekends or on special occasions try to eat a good meal either before you go out or during the evening. Food considerably slows down the rate at which the body absorbs alcohol. Avoid salty snacks, they’ll only make you thirstier. Add a low calorie mixer or soda water to white wine or spirits to make your drink last longer. Alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Set yourself a safe drinking limit and adhere to it. Ignore pressure from drinking partners to take more. Start and end your day with water. Your body loses it while you sleep so drink it before bed and again when you wake up. Remember, alcohol acts as a diuretic and can cause you to lose water through increased urination. If you are weight watching, remember that lager and cider have more calories than spirits.

4. Sleep tight. If you tend to burn the candle at both ends aim to get a few early nights so you will have enough energy to take you through the weekends. This equally applies to people who need to get up early for work or have a lot of commitments which eat into their time. A good night’s shut-eye will recharge your batteries and give your body’s repair system a chance to get working. If you do not get enough sleep, your body will not get a chance to keep itself healthy. You’ll be glad you did when you are bright eyed in the morning and ready to face the world with a smile.

5. Give your stomach a break. Overdoing the food? Lent may be a perfect time for you to reassess your diet and break free from the lure of treats, even until Easter. Remember, smaller portions and regularly spaced meals put less strain on your tummy. Try not to eat too late at night, cut down on slow-to-digest fatty foods, such as pastry, meat and chocolate and eat as much fibre as possible. Try not to lie down after eating a big meal, sitting up will help to keep heartburn at bay. Pacing yourself is a good idea if you plan to party. Indigestion is aggravated by smoking, alcohol, pregnancy and being overweight so if you fall into any of those categories, be especially careful.

6. Try to relax. Are you working yourself into the ground? If so, it’s time to build some stress busting, unwinding measures into your life. Take at least 10 minutes a day to unwind. Close your eyes and shut out all thoughts, concentrate solely on relaxing every part of you. Take a deep breath, when stressed people take short breaths. Listen to your favourite music or have a detoxifying soak in the bath. Aromatherapy oils help revive you after a long day. They can be burned in a burner which fills the room with fragrance. Treating yourself to a massage, facial, manicure or pedicure is another ideal way of relaxing.

7. Get outdoors. Most of us spend too much time lounging around and not exercising enough. Try to get outdoors, even for a short walk, most days. A regular exercise routine, even a walk around town, is all that’s needed. Twenty minutes, three to four times a week is ideal. If the temptation of the TV/scintillating company inside is too great remind yourself that people who exercise regularly have raised levels of infection fighting cells in their blood. So, as well as staying trim, you will be helping your body’s defence system and of course you could use the walk to get in a bit of window shopping! Remember, fresh air will help clear your lungs, give you an appetite and add a healthy hue to your complexion.

8. Reduce stress. Learn to identify what makes you stressed and how it affects your mind and body. Examine your life and make changes, if necessary. Anticipate stressful situations and confront them rather than avoid them. Do not allow your problems to multiply and do not take on new challenges if you already feel overburdened.

The most common forms of stress are work pressures, ill health and family problems. However, while finding the cause of your stress and eliminating it is the ideal way to solve your problem it it not always that easy to remedy an issue that may have built up over years.

Situations over which we have no control can cause the greatest stress. Some stressful situations cannot be changed so all you can do is change your attitude to them and try to relax more.

9. Avail of support. Do not play the martyr, doing everything yourself to the point of exhaustion. If you are feeling overwhelmed at work it may be possible to get your colleagues to take on some of your duties. Check with your boss to see if this is feasible.

Get partners, children or family to help out at home. Whether it is household chores, babysitting or doing the weekly shop getting someone else to share the load will ease the pressure on you.

10. Connect with people. Social supports are necessary for all of us. Cultivate at least one close confidante in whom you can confide and some friends you can go to the cinema or sports events with, or enjoy a good chat over coffee.


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