Every day you make dozens of decisions that affect your health, happiness and longevity. Some of them you realise you're making – like that extra slice of naughty-but-nice cake – and some of them you do out of habit, on a level well beneath your conscious mind. Here are 6 decisions that, if taken, provide the key to unlocking a healthier, happier you.
1. The Right Breakfast
Breakfast has long been coined as the most important meal of the day. This is somewhat correct – you can improve its veracity by saying that the moment you 'break fast’ is the most critical meal of the day.
Overnight your body releases growth hormones, which are largely responsible for cellular recovery and fat loss. The moment you introduce carbohydrates into your system, you neutralise your growth hormones with insulin. This is one of the major reasons behind the popularity of intermittent fasting, which works on the protocol of a 16-hour fasting period followed by 8 hours of feast. That may sound extreme but actually it isn't. All you have to do is consume your first meal later than usual (e.g. 10am) and then eat your dinner earlier (e.g. 6pm). Lunch can stay at 2pm (or earlier/later depending on your personal preferences).
Even if you don't decide to stick to that, you still have some important decisions to make regarding your breakfast. Many people make the mistake of consuming several types of high G.I carbs (e.g. fruit juices, cereals and breads) - far from ideal as it creates an insulin spike, which encourages your body to store excess energy as fat. Instead, breakfast should consist of a high protein intake, moderate fat content and low, slow digesting carbs. For example, eggs, avocado, nuts, oatmeal and lean meats.
2. Making Time To Meditate
Spending as little as 10 minutes meditating each morning will significantly enhance your ability to relieve stress throughout the day. You’ll be more centered in the moment and emotionally resilient, which will help you react to life’s daily challenges.The effects aren’t purely emotional; you’ll also benefit from a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol and improved immune system function.
3. How You Work
This is one of the most overlooked aspects of health and is only now coming into mainstream consciousness. Sitting down for hours on end leaves us vulnerable to all sorts of health issues, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and lower back and neck pain. For all you Type A’s out there: you can’t undo the negative aspects by killing it once a day in the gym. I’ve experienced it myself. Over a period of six months I worked 10-hour seated days on a new project and, even though I was still training just as hard, I started to experience neck problems for the first time in my life. It took me months to restore balance. Make the decision to stand up and get limber every 30 minutes or so with some bodyweight movements or a walk around the block.
4. What You Eat
In a way, this is the easiest of all the decisions to make. You have to eat; you already eat so all you need to decide is to improve what you eat. Simple, right?!
You probably know by now that you need: 1) a high protein intake that maintains and grows muscle mass; 2) healthy fats for healthy skin, hormones and hair; and 3) slow releasing carbs to provide sustainable energy throughout the day (as discussed with regards to breakfast) but… Do you consider inflammation in your daily meal planning? Eating inflammatory foods (broadly speaking: dairy, gluten, processed meats and sugars) can create a constant immunal response in your body, leaving you feeling stressed and vulnerable to disease. The best decision you can make is to look at what you're eating and how you're feeling. You don't need to embrace an extreme diet; just to consider that there's a close relationship between food and mood, and go from there.
5. Getting To The Gym
Our bodies were designed to move, lift, push and throw. We get stronger as a result of work and weaker the longer we remain idle. Systematically exposing your body to stress through exercise is essential for optimal physical health. Aim to train three to four times per week; building strength training, mobility, flexibility and cardio into your regime. There is some debateregarding the best time of day to train but, in my mind, it doesn’t particularly matter – just so long as you decide to do it at some point during the day.
6. Bed Time
It's the last big decision you make every day but that doesn't mean it's ok to give yourself a pass on this one. 7-8 hours sleep every night is optimal for maintaining your health and avoiding the rapidly ageing effects of sleep deprivation. So – and I know I sound like a nagging mum here – make sure you go to bed on time! It’s also important to cultivate the right sleeping environment to maximise sleep quality. Try to sleep in a dark room, turn off all of your L.E.D lights, open the windows for good airflow and try to stay off of your electronic devices for an hour or so before bed. All easier said than done in today’s age...