Lifestyle factors like exercise, diet and sleep are associated with improved well-being and can influence our mental health.
Have you noticed that going for a swim, dancing or playing a game of tennis makes you feel great? We now know there’s a strong link between exercise and improved mood. This happens as ‘feel good’ chemicals called endorphins are released from the brain.
Benefits of exercise:-
There are many proven benefits to building in regular exercise into your day. Many studies now show that exercise can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Regular exercise could also involve developing or improving a skill (say volleying in tennis or striking a goal in soccer). Mastering new skills helps build self-esteem and being in team sports can help us make new friends, increase life satisfaction and improve our mood.
There are also numerous health benefits in terms of weight management, cardiovascular health and fitness. More research is being undertaken into how physical exercise can buffer age-related cognitive decline.
Exercise can also:
– boost your energy
– build self-confidence and feelings of accomplishment
– help you be more sociable (and working out in groups is
often better than doing it alone)
– help you get better sleep
– help reduce stress
– distract you from your worries and negative thought
– boost creativity and productivity
– boost memory
– help you relax after a hard day at work
– get you outside and away from distractions and screens.
Getting more exercise;
Try being active every day for at least 30 minutes, even if it’s doing some housework, walking to the shops or gardening. Things you can try to build more exercise into your life:
- Mix it up: If you vary the type of exercise and place
where you do it, you’ll stave off boredom, try using music
- Play a team sport: It feels more like playing and less like
- Try a stand-up desk or walking meetings at work.
- Get out at lunch and walk if you have a desk job, even if
it’s for 15 minutes.
- Plan a walk with your partner or friends somewhere
interesting or beautiful each week, rather than watching
- Volunteer for a group like Meals on Wheels where you’re
moving all the time and helping others.
Good nutrition is important for our health and wellbeing. Maintaining a healthy diet with plenty of fresh food, limited processed foods, and prebiotic and probiotic foods, has a major contribution to good health.
What can I try?
Nutritionists recommend diets with lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and with few processed foods or added sugars. Everyday try to:
- limit processed foods (most things that come in a box or
- eat fresh fruit and vegetables every day. Make veggies
the biggest portion on your plate
- improve your gut health by adding more prebiotic foods
like oats, bananas, watermelon, chickpeas, lentils,
garlic, onion, beetroot, and fennel
- add more probiotic foods each day like yoghurt, kefir,
sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi
- increase fibre from natural foods
- increase foods that fight inflammation like berries,
tomatoes, turmeric, ginger
- increase your intake of omega 3 fatty acids. Eat oily fish
a couple of times a week. Flax and chia seeds are also
good sources of omega 3.
Sleep needs vary across our ages and lifestyles. Good quality sleep and regular sleep patterns are crucial to our wellbeing. Recommended sleep times
Primary school aged children: 9 to 11 hours
Teenagers: 8 to 10 hours
Adults: 7 to 9 hours
Older adults: may need less sleep of 7 to 8 hours.
Getting a good night’s sleep;
There are lots of things you can try, such as:
- making your bedroom an environment that’s a haven
removed from the stresses of the day and as dark as
- keeping regular times for going to bed and getting up
- getting some sunlight during the day
- trying a calming bedtime routine. Have a warm bath,
drink warm milk or herbal teas
- using lavender oil to promote a sense of calm
- taking away all electronic gadgets like phones, TVs and
- meditating last thing at night or writing in a gratitude
- reviewing your day over a couple of minutes like a show-
reel and then letting it all go as you prepare for sleep.
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.
Seligman, Martin E.P. (2011) Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being.
Seligman, Martin E.P. (2002). Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment.