“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.” ~Aristotle.
The team at Al-Shifah Clinic have devised a comprehensive guide containing 17 tips (in no particular order) to make this year a purposeful and productive one….
After-all, when you are not feeling your best you will not be able to go out and give it your best! In order to take on the world your emotional, physical and mental health needs to be optimal.
“Let your food be your medicine & your medicine be your food”~Hippocrates
When eating a balanced diet your body receives the fuel that is required to manage your energy level. Eating several small to medium sized portions through out the day at regular intervals will sustain blood sugar levels. Therefore eliminating drops in blood sugar levels (hypoglyceamia) and maintaining energy levels as well as helping to maintain body weight.
On the other hand, irregular meals can raise blood sugar levels which increase fat storage. Five servings of fruit and vegetables should be incorporated into your daily diet and one (fist sized portion) serving of protein (lean meat, chicken or fish).
A study published by Population Health management in 2012, found that by eating an un healthy diet it puts you at a 66% increased risk of being unproductive. Another study in the Journal of Occupational Health and Environmental Medicine found that unhealthy diets represented the highest risks for low productivity out of 19 possible risk factors, including lack of exercise and chronic pain.
2. Adequate Sleep – Sleep provides an opportunity for the body to repair and rejuvenate itself.
In several studies of humans and animals it has been discovered that sleep plays a critical role in many of the major restorative functions in the body like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis and growth hormone with release occurring mostly or in some cases, ONLY during sleep. Adequate sleep is also imperative to immune function, metabolism, memory, learning and other vital functions.
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3. Exercise – We need to keep moving to stay healthy, everything in this universe is moving, even the blood in your veins.. Regular exercise is imperative to sustain a healthy lifestyle. The benefits of regular exercise are many, some of which may include; reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and even some cancers.
The fruits of following a regular exercise regime enables weight control, strengthening of bones and muscles and improvement in moods and mental health. James Blumenthal,PhD, a clinical psychologist at Duke University found “There’s good epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people. And people who were active and stopped tend to be more depressed than those who maintain or initiate an exercise program.”
It is suspected that exercise alleviates chronic depression by increasing serotonin (the neurotransmitter targeted by antidepressants) or brain derived neurotrophic factor (which supports the growth of neutrons) and may aid in normalising sleep patterns.
4. Water – Our bodies are made up of approximately 60% of water and is essential for cellular homeostasis and life. Water is therefore, quantitatively the most important nutrient. When our bodies do not contain sufficient water, water is taken from intracellular compartments causing cells to shrink. This shrinkage is detected by two types of brain sensors, one controlling drinking and the other controlling the excretion of urine by sending a message to the kidneys mainly via the antidiuretic hormone vasopressin to produce a smaller volume of more concentrated urine which causes a greater cost in energy and more wear on their tissues.
Consequently, Kidney functions are carried out optimally with an abundant supply of water. Levels of water with in the body can influence cognition, mild levels of dehydration can produce disruptions in mood and cognitive functioning, such as alertness and short term memory. In addition to regulating fluid balance, the kidneys require water for the filtration of waste from the blood stream and excretion via urine. Kaiser Permanente nephrologist Steven Guest, MD, agrees: “Fluid losses occur continuously, from skin evaporation, breathing, urine, and stool, and these losses must be replaced daily for good health,” he says.
Additional benefits of adequate water intake include but are not limited to:
- Increased metabolic rate – therefore making you feel full
- Transports oxygen and other essential nutrients to cells via blood.
- Boosts Energy – dehydration makes you feel tired and lethargic.
- Lowers Stress levels – brain tissue is made up of 70 – 80% of water, if dehydrated your body and mind are under stress.
- Lubricates joints and prevents muscle cramping.
- Glowing skin – water hydrates skin cells and plumps them up. Additionally, flushing out impurities and improving circulation and blood flow to the skin.
- Constipation – dehydration leads to a dry colon making it difficult to pass waste.
- Digestion – Adequate water intake helps dissolve waste particles and helps them pass easily through the digestive tract.
- Maintaining body temperature.
- Regulating blood pressure.
5. Meditation – Over many centuries meditation has been successfully used as a medium to restore peace and tranquility to the lives of many in an ever bustling world. However, in recent times scientists have conducted research on the effects of meditation, providing evidence regarding the benefits of mindful meditation.
Some of which include;
- Alterations in brain structure – associated with sensory, cognitive and emotional processing.
- Cultivating positive emotions, retaining emotional stability and engaging in mindful behaviour.
- Increase in grey matter.
- Immune Functions – Decreases inflammation at the cellular level.
- Reduction of stress and an active control of modulation of neurogenic inflammation
6. Seclusion “Me time” – A wise person once told me “You need to take care of the caretaker”.
You will not be able to care for anyone if you do not care for yourself as-well. Taking some time out to be by yourself and shed the many masks we wear in public is essential. Giving us the opportunity to revitalise our minds, introspect without any external distractions, contemplating over the course of our lives at this present moment in time. This maybe by gardening, indulging in a bubble bath or going for a stroll in the park, everyones preferences are varied.
7. Spending Time in Nature – One of the main advantages of spending time in nature is the opportunity to Earth yourself by absorbing electrons, that have antioxidant-like properties, which in itself has many advantages.
Several studies have been conducted illustrating the many behavioural, psychological and emotional health benefits associated with time spent in nature. Other than the obvious advantage of vitamin D exposure which may help decrease the risk of osteoporosis, alzheimers, auto immune disorders, multiple sclerosis, heart disease and maintaining a healthy immune system. Natural sunlight is also known as the best optometrist. A study in 2007 found that people who spent two hours per day outdoors were four times less likely to be nearsighted than those who spent less than an hour outdoors daily.
8. Reading – “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ~ Dr Seuss.
Not only does reading make you more intelligent. Regular reading increases your vocabulary and articulation skills., develops your ability to focus and increases your concentration span. Just as regular exercise improves your bodily functions, similarly regular reading improves memory functions by giving your brain a good work out.
It can also increase your brain power because reading is neurobiologically more intricate and challenging than the mere processing of images or speech.
“Parts of the brain that have evolved for other functions — such as vision, language, and associative learning—connect in a specific neural circuit for reading, which is very challenging,” says Ken Pugh, PhD, president and director of research of Haskins Laboratories, which is devoted to the science of language and affiliated with Yale.
As we age our memory and cognitive function starts to decline, however studies have found that the ageing process of the brain can be slowed down in avid readers, keeping their minds acuter for longer. Reports have demonstrated that frequent brain exercise was able to lower mental decline by up to 32%. Reading is also a great way to relax and wind, so why not pick up a book today!
9. Set Goals – Having Goals help us to perform better and feel better by increasing motivation. Our brains are wired to love rewards, no matter what they maybe. Have you ever experienced the satisfaction of crossing off something on your to-do list even though it maybe as trivial as cleaning the car?
“People often set them just for the burst of optimism they get when they vow to make a change”, says Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist at Stanford University. At least three in five Australians reported that strategies related to goal setting, planning and rewarding successes had helped them to maintain a healthy lifestyle; over the past 12 months.
10. Get Organised -“Your home should be your sanctuary, your buffer against the world.” Says Leeds a professional organiser with 20 years of experience.
Clutter and chaos can leave you feeling not in control, unfocused, uneasy, irritable and overwhelmed, while impairing your ability to think creatively. Causing you to waste time looking for displaced items adding to your frustration, to name but a few. The reason for this maybe explained by data uncovered through research Using MRIs and other diagnostic tools, that excess things in your environment effects your brain’s ability to concentrate and process information. Neuroscientists at Princeton University confirmed this hypothesis when observing performance in an organised setting as opposed to a disorganised setting. The results outlined that physical clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention, leading to decreased performances and increased levels of stress.
Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter, psychologist and author of High Octane Women, states that clutter robs you of mental energy, bombarding your mind with excessive stimuli (visual, olfactory, tactile) causing your senses to be overloaded and have to work overtime on stimuli that is neither necessary nor important, therefore ruining focus and concentration by drawing away from what is important. We can therefore draw on the conclusion that order feels good because it is easier for our brains to process.
A study was conducted by the UCLA Center on Everyday Lives and Families exploring the relationship between 32 families and the numerous items in their homes. The study determined that there is a strong correlation between clutter and your mood. Women, in particular seem to be more affected by the presence of clutter with increased levels of cortisol. According to the CEFL investigation, the amount of stress experienced at home is directly proportional to the amount of possessions. By getting organised you increase your energy levels, motivation, creativity, focus, job satisfaction and time spent on important tasks. While, reducing stress levels. A survey conducted by the National Sleep foundation found that by being organised can also improve the quality of your sleep.
11. De- Clutter – “It’s typical to feel a sense of serenity after the process of decluttering.”~Marie Kondo, author of ‘The Life-Changing magic of tidying’.
Do you find yourself saving things for a rainy day or holding on to things because of its sentimental value?
Researchers at Yale established that two areas in the brain linked to pain; the anterior cingulate cortex and insula, lit up in response to discarding items with a sense of attachment. This area of the brain generally is lit when physical pain is felt. The brain therefore interprets the loss of a valued possession as though you have endured physical pain. Detach yourself from possessions after all things are meant to be used and not loved.
Dr Selhub says “Clutter is stressful for the brain, so you’re more likely to resort to coping mechanisms such as choosing comfort foods or over eating than if you spend time in neater surroundings.”
Set yourself free and declutter today!
12. Be present – Be present by having a tech free day and spending quality time with your loved ones.
As awesome as technology is and as much as the team at Al-Shifah Clinic love technology! We recognise the importance of disconnecting our technologies from time to time and connecting to the real world and with the people that truly matter most in our lives. After all, the old adage; “Too much of anything is no good” is applicable as much today as it ever was. Although today’s technologies have allowed us to be ‘closer’ by eliminating geographical distance but it has increased the distance in our personal relationships. Studies showed that; “The Internet is causing people to become socially isolated and cut off from genuine social relationships, as they hunker alone over their terminals or communicate with anonymous strangers through a socially impoverished medium (e.g., Stoll, 1995 ; Turkle, 1996 ). Social disengagement is linked to poor quality of life and receding physical and psychological health.
Furthermore,“Putnam argued that this social disengagement is having major consequences for the social fabric and for individual lives. Greater use of the Internet was associated with declines in participants’ communication with family members in the household, declines in the size of their social circle, and increases in their depression and loneliness.”
13. Gratitude – Research conducted by Harvard proves that gratitude is firmly and frequently linked to greater happiness.
Gratitude aids people in enhancing positive emotions such as optimism and relishing good experiences. Improving health and the ability to handle adversity. Research also found that grateful people felt better about their lives, exercised more frequently with decreased visits to the doctors surgery, in contrast to those that chose to focus on the sources of negativity in their lives. According to a study published in Personality and Individual differences in 2012, grateful people undergo less aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people.
There is always, Always something to be grateful for!
14. Strengthening relationships – Spending quality time with friends and family is essential to human nature and health.
Psychologists Baumeister and Leary suggest “Human beings are fundamentally and pervasively motivated by a need to belong, that is, by a strong desire to form and maintain enduring interpersonal attachments”. Our relationships effect our mental health, behavioural patterns and physical health by keeping the mind active, the body physically active and serotonin levels balanced, also may improve sleep patterns and your over all sense of well being.
15. Smile – Simply by smiling you can use a minimum of 10 facial muscle movements per smile!
When smiling, your body immediately releases endorphins (feel good hormone) and reduces the levels of stress enhancing hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, dopamine and may reduce overall blood pressure, even if it be a forced smile. Thus, altering your mood and can help to reduce stress.
In a German study, researchers used imaging to measure brain activity. Their findings supported Darwin’s Theory that facial feedback modifies the neural processing of emotional content in the brain, in a way that helps us feel better when we smile. Thus, smiling stimulates our brain reward mechanism. British researchers found that one smile can generate the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate.
16. Give Charity – “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” ~Mahatma Ghandhi.
Charitable forms take on many guises, they can be classified as monetary, a helping hand, lending an ear, a shoulder to cry on, a hot meal and many more..
Research suggests that there are direct physiological health benefits of charitable actions. In a 2006 study conducted by Rachel Piferi, Johns Hopkins University and Kathleen Lawler, University of Tennessee, participants who contributed social support to others experienced lower blood pressure levels than those who did not. In another study at the National Institutes of Health in 2006, Jorge Moll and colleagues established that by donating, regions of the brain linked to social connections, pleasure and trust are activated, creating a “warm glow” effect.
17. Saving – Living in a consumerist, materialistic driven world we are incessantly called to buy, buy and buy some more! Alleging that by buying the right stuff, we are going to be happier, healthier, more attractive and successful.
Before making your next purchase ask yourself “Do I really NEED this in my life?” if the answer is no, take the money you would have spent on the item and put it into a savings account. A lot of the stress people experience comes from financial strains which can lead to feelings of inadequacy, or decrease the peace in your life. There seems to be a correlation between impulsive buying/spending and emotional bankruptcy where shopping is used to fill a void in the buyers life, sadly, happiness can not be bought.
Financial issues remain the leading causes of stress amongst Australians, as revealed in the Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey. “ Almost one in seven Australians reported depression and anxiety symptoms in the severe to extremely severe range.”
“Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right!”~Oprah Winfrey