Many people have their routines and rituals each day. Sometimes they work for a lot of people, and sometimes they work uniquely for an individual. Here are the essential “5 A Day” daily habits that could keep you happy and healthy for the rest of your life:
1. Drink Water – Hydration is probably one of the most important health factors.
The British Nutrition Foundation recommends that women drink 1.6 liters of water per day, and men drink 2 liters. This needs to be increased if you are exercising or on a hot day when your body is losing water through sweating to keep you cool. We can get hydration from most things we drink, but we get the greatest effect when drinking plain old water. Although it’s not plain – water contains many minerals essential for health, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. We recommend drinking bottled water only and not tap water, which contains many additives that can be detrimental to health, such as chlorine and fluoride. Most quality bottled waters show the mineral content on the label and the source, but some bottled waters do not, and these are best avoided.
On the other side, you can be over hydrated, which can be as problematic and detrimental to your health as being dehydrated. The best indicator for hydration is the color of your urine – if you are drinking sufficient water, then it will be a pale yellow color; if you are dehydrated, then it will be a dark mustard yellow; if you are drinking too much water, then it will become almost clear.
Personally, I drink, on average, between 2 and 3 liters per day, sometimes a little more. I start my day with a 500ml bottle of water consumed within 10 minutes of waking up. This replaces the water lost overnight, whilst we are asleep and wakes the body up. This is followed by a mug (around 250ml) of hot water with a tablespoon of honey, and a teaspoon of cinnamon in it, which those who have read my previous blogs will know has a range of benefits, not least of which is thought to be regulation of the metabolism. A little later on, I will have a further mug of hot water with a slice of lemon and ginger in it. Great for the digestive system, it also helps clear the sinuses and therefore aids breathing. We are now up to a liter.
At this point, I will usually go for a run (although not every day is the same), and when I return, I down a 500ml bottle of water – if I do not run, then I do not have this 500ml. Once showered, I will grab another mug of hot water with lemon and ginger before heading off to do other work. I drink another 500ml bottle of water while cooking dinner and top it off with another during the evening – I don’t really drink tea, coffee, or alcohol and do not drink processed drinks (fruit juices and fizzy drinks) at all. I do also have juice pretty much every day. Still, water from fruit and vegetables is additional to what you should be drinking every day – water from fruit and vegetables makes up 20% of your total water intake, the British Nutrition Foundation claims. Hence, the other 80% is the water you drink.
If I am working, I carry bottles of water in my car and drink it whilst I am in my car to ensure that I always stay hydrated as I do not always get a drink whilst at a booking. Obviously, what I have described in this section is an average day – some days I drink less and others maybe a little more. I check my pH levels once a week and the color of my urine each time I go to the toilet, and this allows me to ensure that I am not over or under hydrating my body and also allows me to adjust my water intake as necessary to maintain a healthy level of hydration.
2. Exercise – Regular exercise is essential to maintaining health and happiness, and just like hydration, you can exercise and exercise. It is not healthy to exercise too much unless you are an athlete and under professional health monitoring guidance. Under exercising is also detrimental to health and can result in all sorts of health issues, including diabetes and obesity, which, in extreme cases, can lead to death. The NHS recommends that to maintain health at a stable rate; we should do 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week (that’s walking quickly or cycling) and strength exercises on two or more days a week (that is, exercises that work all of your muscles, such as sit-ups and press-ups). Swimming, circuit training, and aerobics classes like Body Pump and Boxercise combine both of these in one activity.
Regular exercise will ensure that you burn off any excess calories that you may have consumed and may be sitting around waiting to turn into fat and ensure that your organs continue to work healthily. Regular exercise also helps you maintain your strength and agility and help you improve your quality of life. In addition to the physical health benefits, regular exercise also benefits your mental health – a simple 20-30 minute walk each day in the fresh air can make you a happier person, as you are outside taking in the sights and sounds, breathing in the fresh air and having an opportunity to clear your mind. Exercise is also known to make the body release hormones, called endorphins, such as oxytocin and serotonin, otherwise known as “the feel-good hormones.” This is why it is known to combat things like depression and stress.
The level of exercise stated by the NHS is required to maintain a “normal” state of health and body shape. If you want to lose weight or tone up your muscles, you need to do more than that, around double what is prescribed by the NHS.
I give credit for my physical and mental health to my exercise regime, especially my running – this is something I only started in January 2015, thanks to my Personal Trainer at the time, but has revolutionized my physical and mental well-being. I currently do circuit training in the form of a boot camp type class on a Saturday and Wednesday at my local gym. These classes last for an hour and are an all body, all organ work out being both aerobic and strength training. I then also do a 40-50 minute run 3-4 times a week, after which I do strength exercises in the form of press-ups, sit-ups, and triceps dips (at least).
Following this has improved my physical appearance, helped me lose weight, and allowed me to grow my self-esteem and confidence. This, in turn, has improved my mental health and happiness – I am now at a point where stress is sporadic, and if I do get stressed, it is on a deficient level and lasts a short time; I have no worries, like running and exercise in general allow me to free my mind of the day’s worries and return afterward with a fresh and clear mind; I am constantly positive and happy, regardless of the situation – I feel great constantly, and this means that negativity really cannot find a place to stay. Keeping yourself in this place regularly and consistently is the way to ensure a positive, healthy, and happy outlook.
Exercise is one of the most underused antidepressants known to mango and does it today; you won’t regret it. Start (with a walk and some basic exercises) and work your way up. You will feel unstoppable, and when you feel that way, you are that way. You can achieve ANYTHING!!!
3. Eat Nuts – Yes, eat nuts. Nuts are great for your health (especially the happiness center – the brain) and your heart; they are jam-packed full of nutrients and essential Omega fatty acids. They are especially rich in Omega-3, Vitamin E, essential fiber and antioxidants, and unsaturated fats. We aren’t talking about dry roasted, honey roasted, or salted nuts but raw unprocessed nuts, preferably straight from the shell. As most of us are not lucky enough to have nut trees growing in our gardens, the second-best option is organic, untreated nuts available in every supermarket.
I eat nuts daily, and if I want a real treat, then I will mix them with a little dried fruit – cranberries, goji berries, sultanas, raisins, apricot pieces, etc. As little as 10 grams of nuts a day can be enough to lower your risk of heart disease and other illnesses. Still, people who eat a lot of nuts might have an even lower risk of mortality and developing chronic diseases, including respiratory disease, neurodegenerative disease, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
One 2010 study notes that “by their unique composition, nuts are likely to impact health outcomes beneficially. Epidemiologic studies have associated nut consumption with a reduced incidence of coronary heart disease and gallstones in both genders and diabetes in women,” and “studies consistently show that nut intake has a cholesterol-lowering effect.”
Nuts taste great too, and different nuts have different effects; for instance, almonds are calcium-rich. Therefore if you avoid dairy (as I do), then these can be a great way to get your required daily intake; the skins of whole almonds also contain heart-protecting flavonoids; brazils are selenium-rich, great for a healthy immune system and to aid thyroid function (just 3 or 4 brazils a day is enough to get all of the selenium you need); walnuts are what I call the “happy nut” and have been shown to help in cases of mild depression, they are also rich in antioxidants so are useful in the fight against cancer as we as having heart healing and cholesterol-lowering properties.
4. Eat Chocolate – Can being healthy and happy really get any better?! If you like your milk chocolate, then I’m sorry. We are talking PLAIN chocolate ONLY, I’m afraid – the darker (higher percentage cocoa content), the better. Also, we will not be gorging on it – everything in moderation (a 100g bar of dark chocolate = 600 calories)! It has to be the best health supplement around! I find that I look forward to my little bit of chocolate every day (I favor Green & Blacks), the trouble is sometimes I forget to have it, and I can’t make up for it the next day.
There are a few proven health benefits to eating dark chocolate:
• It’s nutritious – loaded with minerals (iron, copper, magnesium, and manganese mainly) and has a high soluble fiber content (around 10% of it is soluble fiber)
• It is rich in antioxidants (polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins), which fight disease-causing free radicals. When tested, cacao and dark chocolate were shown to have more antioxidants than fruits such as blueberries and acai berries
• It may improve blood flow and lower blood pressure mildly – all great for feeling happier as well as being great for the health of your heart and arteries
• It lowers bad cholesterol levels in the blood
• Due to the above, it can help to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease
• Can improve blood flow to the skin and protect it against sun-induced damage
• The flavonols in dark chocolate are shown to increase blood flow to the brain, thus improving brain function and capacity in the short term
• Increases happiness – some of the naturally occurring chemicals in dark chocolate, combine with our own naturally present endorphins (like serotonin and dopamine) to produce feelings of euphoria and excitement (similar to falling in love) when we eat it and our bodies process it
Recommended “dose” – 3 squares (15-20g) per day. You can split it over the course of the day, taking one square 3 times a day, or take it all at once. I tend to take my dosage at once in the late evening, VERY slowly and deliberately. [Exceeding this dosage is greedy and could lead to you putting on weight! So as tempting as it is, please do not do it.]
DO NOT substitute the dark chocolate with milk chocolate because you do not like dark chocolate – milk chocolate is a completely different animal and contains higher fat and sugar levels than dark chocolate. The cocoa content in milk chocolate is drastically lower and therefore, so are the essential health providing ingredients that we find in high content dark chocolate. I.e., Milk chocolate is NOT a healthy option.
5. Meditate – Last but by no means least, meditation. Some people combine this with deep breathing or yoga, or both for a more intense experience. Meditation is a deep form of relaxation, and Harvard scientists have completed a study that showed that long term practitioners of such techniques had far more “disease-fighting genes” that were active compared to those who did not practice them at all. If you are not a “long term practitioner,” then do not fear – the scientists found that when the control group (who had never practiced such techniques) began to practice deep relaxation methods, “After two months, their bodies began to change: the genes that help fight inflammation, kill diseased cells and protect the body from cancer all began to switch on.” So basically, it’s never too late to start!
Health benefits of meditation and deep relaxation include: increased immunity, emotional balance, increased fertility, relief from IBS, lowers blood pressure, anti-inflammatory properties, calmness; with all of these comes an increased sense of inner peace when we find inner peace, and we find true consistent happiness. I meditate for at least 10-15 minutes a day – that’s right; it doesn’t have to be a long time – sometimes a lot of a lot longer. If you are new to meditation, then I would recommend you find guided meditations via YouTube(there are plenty of them to choose from), take yourself away from everything where there are no distractions, press play, close your eyes, relax and prepare to feel transformed.
There you have it, my 5 a day… 5 daily habits that could keep you happy and healthy. I know that since I combined these 5 and started to practice them daily, I have never been in a better place, both mentally and physically. My life has been transformed, and I hope that yours will be too.