Optimal health is not a destination we arrive at, then kick back forevermore with a jug of sangria; it’s a path we forge every day through the decisions we make. There are, of course, health impacts that we can do nothing about – some conditions are inherited or otherwise unavoidable, and accidents can alter the course of our lives – but for most of us, there are things that we can do that help us feel better, and live happier lives. We just need to work out what those things are, and then find ways to make them happen, but it all starts with being motivated enough to walk this path, and curious enough to ask the right questions.
What is a Healthy Lifestyle?
A healthy lifestyle is not categorized by the absence of illness or disease; it is more about our total physical, mental and social well-being. It is a way of living that is personal to each of us but at its core it makes us feel as good as we can in ourselves.
What Are 10 Benefits of Being Healthy?
It’s a good question. We know we should be healthy but we rarely stop to ask ourselves why! These are our top ten picks, but there are, of course, plenty more.
With five of the top ten causes of death in America being associated with our lifestyle choices, there is much we can do to prevent disease – particularly heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. In fact, the advice for preventing all these diseases and more is very similar. We’ll come to that shortly!
Some of the things that are bad for us are also expensive financially. Smoking, for example, is expensive and so is buying meat. If we walk or cycle wherever possible, we can reduce our transport costs. And if these things keep us well, we can reduce the expense of buying over-the-counter medicines, too.
It’s no great surprise that the healthiest people tend to live longest, so for those who love life and want to get the most out of it, making healthy choices is essential. This can mean making changes to our diet and exercise regime, but it can also mean engaging with our communities, cherishing friendships and taking time to volunteer.
Is Good For The Environment
Through the pandemic and the climate crisis, we have seen very clearly that what is good for us is also good for the planet. When we make healthy plant-based food choices, for example, we reduce our impact on the Earth. When we walk or cycle, we cut emissions. When we find happiness in ourselves we don’t need to keep buying “stuff” that ends up in landfill. We are very much part of a wider ecosystem, and care for one means care for all.
More Life-force Energy
You know that feeling where everything just feels right? When we are optimally healthy – and this will be different for everyone – we can get a sense of deep wellbeing. It comes from being rested, not stressed or anxious, and feeling good in ourselves and about the world. When it happens, we can even feel life coursing through our veins!
Diet, stress and exercise all play a key part in our cognitive functions, so whether it is a memory boost you are after or preventing degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, there are lifestyle choices we can make that will give us the best chance.
Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
This is part of a virtuous circle: when we feel good, we sleep better; and when we sleep better, we feel good! So, all we have to do now is to work out how to break into this positive cycle and reap the benefits!
Clears Up Bad Skin
We may feel as though we have been cursed with bad skin, but for many people the problem is in their diet, not their genes. One recent study connected both sugar and dairy to higher rates of acne, so when we cut out these foods, we may find a host of health benefits, and one of those could be glowing skin.
With all of these other benefits, it’s easy to see why good health can also lead to increased happiness. If we are exhausted, stressed, sick and anxious, happiness can feel a world away but small actions can lead to big results over time.
Taking Control of Your Life
Making decisions that lead to positive outcomes is empowering! So, when we decide to make changes that benefit our health, and then act on them, we can get a huge sense of achievement. Our self-esteem improves and we can feel as though we are not at the mercy of the world, after all, but we are taking control of our own lives.
Which Benefit of a Healthy Lifestyle Best Applies to Teens?
The benefits apply to everyone, but since chronic diseases tend to show in later life, teens may find that the biggest benefits relate to their sense of self-esteem, which is, of course, tied in with all other benefits, too! Exercise releases endorphins which make us feel good about ourselves. Eating healthily gives us the energy boost that helps us keep doing the things we love, while also reducing the chances of poor skin and digestion. And sleeping well means we can focus at school and have plenty of energy left for activities and socializing. All these things are connected.
How to Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle?
Ah, the million-dollar question! We know we want to be healthier but what can we do practically and sustainably to help us achieve it? These are our tips …
Too often exercise is made to sound like a punishment but it should never be that. Ask yourself: What movement brings me joy, and makes me feel good about myself? It could be hiking alone, dancing with your partner, skating with your family, or running up big hills in the wind and the rain. Whatever it is that you look forward to doing, do that.
Get a Healthy Diet
Again, this is not punishment! A healthy diet should taste good as well as do good, and there should be no sense of deprivation. At first, you may need to break some old bad habits so you can get rid of the foods that are harming you, but fill out your plate with tasty plant-based foods – lots of colors, flavors, and textures – and you will soon love eating this way because it changes how you feel. Eating a whole food plant-based diet is not about deprivation; it still leaves room for the occasional treat.
This is the Holy Grail for many of us. Our lives are often so busy, crammed with tasks we must do, that we are not able to switch off and get the sleep we desperately need to feel good and function well. Eating healthily and exercising regularly can have a big impact on the quality of our sleep, and we recommend experimenting to find the right pre-bedtime routine for you. This can include: turning off screens early; cutting caffeine; meditating to help quiet a busy mind; taking a warm bath; doing gentle yoga; journaling to get your thoughts out of your head; and reading.
Take Care of Your Health
Be mindful of your health. It’s a precious gift, so don’t take it for granted. One thing we have learned from the coronavirus pandemic is that underlying health conditions can make us all more vulnerable to infections. Taking steps to protect our health can be as simple as washing our hands more regularly, eating more fruits and vegetables, and going for a 20-minute walk after work. A few small, achievable steps can have a big impact on our lives.
Avoid Alcohol, Drugs and Unsafe Practices
There are some things that are inherently risky, both for our physical and mental health, and alcohol overuse and drugs fall squarely into that category. This does not mean that they will be a problem for everyone, but they do significantly increase the risks.
Do What You Love
If we each get to live just this one life, why would we waste it doing things we hate? In many cases, we can enhance our lives and make ourselves happier by making small changes, such as meeting new people, taking a class, trying a new sport, or visiting old friends. These can all put a pep in our step and make us happy to be alive again. Whatever it is you love doing, do more of it.
Get Rid of Bad Energy
This is about how we speak to and treat ourselves, and how we let others do the same. For many of us, “bad energy” comes from within. A voice in our heads may speak to us in a way we would never speak to others, so what can we do to change its narrative? Working on our self esteem is important, and we may benefit from meditation and mindfulness, exercising more, or setting ourselves a new challenge.
As for the bad energy directed at us by others, we may need to examine how things got to be this way and whether it can be repaired. Can we break a toxic cycle by being compassionate while still standing up for ourselves? Sometimes the best thing may be to put some emotional or physical distance between you and whatever or whoever it is that is causing the problem.
Don’t Skip Doctors Appointments
If there is something that is worrying you, please see a doctor. It may turn out to be nothing and you can stop stressing about it, or it may be something and you can take action on it. Either way, your health will only improve by seeking professional medical advice. In the US, there are many diverse reasons for not scheduling or for canceling appointments, such as cost, time constraints and access. We understand it’s not always easy, but if you need help and you can access it, please take it.
Are Vegans Healthier Than Meat Eaters?
There are many diseases and conditions that vegans suffer from less than meat eaters, including some of the leading causes of death: heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Apart from eating a plant-based diet, there are other things that reduce the risk of experiencing these: exercising, reducing stress, avoiding cigarettes, sleeping well, and finding joy in your life. Does that advice sound familiar?!
Research consistently shows that vegans suffer less from many serious diseases and conditions than meat-eaters, which makes choosing a whole food plant-based diet an excellent way to kick-start our journey towards great health. In the short term it can boost our energy, improve our digestion, clear up our skin, and help us sleep better. And in time, the benefits can grow and grow. Marry this great way of eating with other lifestyle changes, such as finding an exercise you love, joining a community of like-minded people, and developing a healthy sleeping pattern, and life can be sweet indeed.