By: Tanvi Maharaja
October 21st to October 25th is National Health Education Week.
Some things in life are so fundamental, it seems unnecessary to talk about them. Everyone seems to know how to remain healthy, right? The key factors of health: diet, exercise, sleep, psychosocial wellbeing, and lifestyle choices. The Solid Five! Pretty basic, right? It’s all about eating healthy, getting some exercise in your routine, sleeping enough, having a support system, and staying away from smoking, drugs, alcohol.
If everyone knows what is the right thing to do, why are we, as a society, so prone to illnesses? What is there that we have still not figured out? Of course there are genetic and environmental factors beyond our control that will increase our susceptibility and likelihood of being a victim of certain health conditions. But what about the ones we CAN control? Why can’t we control them?
Well, the answer perhaps, lies in the question. We have no control over them. Maybe, the key is in our determination, or lack thereof. Of course everyone knows that when we are asked at the restaurant if we want an apple or chips along with our meals, we should go for the apple. Do we though? It is so simple, but it is so darn hard! Or those doughnuts in the office break room, it’s just one doughnut!
Exercising self-control is a daunting task if we do not see results right away. In today’s society, where instant gratification is the norm, patience is becoming a scarce virtue. Patience and perseverance, along with education and awareness, are the key to establishing healthy lifestyle habits, and more importantly, keeping them!
How do we get better at this?
Keep a Diary 📖
A notebook, or your favorite app: think My Fitness Pal!
Keep track of the quality and quantity of your meals, self monitor your progress, and reach your goals!
Count Your Steps 👟
Again, technology at your rescue! From watches to phone apps, keeping track of your activity levels is easier than ever!
And remember, sitting is the new smoking (and even that is getting old!)
Think movement, variability in movement, dynamic posture, small tasks through out the day, jumping jacks or push-ups during commercials, keeping exercise equipment in proximity (out of sight out of mind much?), and being fidgety in general! Nature walks and walking the pet, dancing, swimming or yard work – it all counts.
40 Winks 💤
Sleep hygiene is the foundation to good health. Establish a quiet, peaceful environment close to bedtime, have a bedtime routine, stay away from caffeine late in the day, stay away from bright lights, a cooler room is better than warmer but whatever works for you, and hit the bed on time at about the same time everyday.
The term beauty sleep was coined for a reason – beauty inside and out: not only do you look great, but you can function at your optimal best too!
The Buddy System 👥
Have one! Be it for your food choices and grocery shopping, swapping recipes, walking buddy, or a friend to talk to. Having a support system you can count on, and being a supportive friend when needed, are both great ways to strengthen psychosocial bonds. It is a support net that catches you when you go crashing down.
Substance abuse, alcohol, and even smoking are hard habits to break; which is exactly why there are professionals to help people through these trying times. Consult a professional if you cannot figure things out yourself. Help is out there, and very readily available; do not hesitate to reach out. Remember, more people than you could possibly imagine are going through what you are going through, or worse. Get help for yourself, then go out there and extend the kindness by helping at least one other person.
It can be hard when you are going through stuff to keep on a cheerful façade. But do smile when you feel like it, spread a little cheer around- through a sweet smile or a kind word- you never know who needs it. Be appreciative and grateful – it is such a wonderful win-win tool!
If you do not hear from a friend or a family member in a while, talk to them. And don’t just talk, listen. Stay in touch with your friends and family, watch out for signs of depression- reduced interest in life, anything suggestive of turning into a recluse, decreased appetite or sudden increase in diet and/or weight, missing school or work or appointments. Just reach out – it’s that simple, yet can be life-changing for someone.
Let us all try and make a positive change to our lives, the lives of our loved ones, to the people around us, and society at large.