Simple living. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? We get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday craziness that we forget that some of the simplest things in life can make us happy - and in this case, make us healthier, too. As the New Year is almost knocking at out door, making a few changes to your everyday routine can improve your overall health and wellbeing. Now, don’t try all these at once or you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. The secret to living a healthier life is to start small and then go big (or go home - #soz couldn’t resist!). Here are 7 simple ways to live healthier and happier, folks.
Cut out sugar (where possible)
You can have your cake, and eat it too. Just in moderation. But, if you make a note in 2019 to learn about the effects of sugar on your body - then you’ll probably want to wean off the sweet stuff. Sugar these days is in almost everything - from your morning OJ to your powder chai latte, to the “sugar-free” yoghurt you have at lunch. Sure, it’s hard to completely quit sugar, but you can at least try and minimise your daily dose and be conscious of what you put in your mouth. Avoid artificial sugars like the plague - and remember that treats (like cake!) are not meant to be eaten everyday.
Choose life, choose H2O
“I’m on a diet, I’ll just have diet coke.” NO, NEVER. STOP RIGHT NOW. We know those cravings for some flavour, but dude, always choose water over any sugar-free soft drink. And if you’re under the impression that “diet” beverages don’t affect the scales, erm, think again. A study done by the University of North Carolina revealed that people who replaces their regular soft drinks with its diet version had a stronger appetite for breads and desserts than those who chose water. For an extra kick add some citrus, mint and/or berries. Moral of the story: choose life, choose H2O.
Prepare veggie snacks
Midday munchies can get the best of us, especially if someone has brought cake to the office (don’t you just love those days?). By preparing some simple snacks everyday can help you stay fuller for longer and help you avoid those sugar-loaded sweets. Cut up carrots, celery, cucumbers, multi-coloured capsicum into veggies sticks and store them in a container with your favourite dip (hummus, tzatziki, eggplant). You can pick and choose from a variety of delicious veg to chew on and for maximum flavour, choose veggies according to their season.
Engage your mind
Fun fact: Our brain weighs about 1.3 kilos. But, after the age of 20, we lose about a gram of brain mass per year. In neuron terms, that means we lose about 190,000 neurons per day! Stress, lack of sleep and a poor diet can actually damage brain cells, but there are ways to create new ones and sharpen your mind. Eating a healthy diet (think vitamins and mineral-rich foods), exercise, green tea, sunlight and even cognitive stimulation, which is basically keeping your brain engaged: learn new skills, interact with other people, travel, try new things and stepping outside of your comfort zone - can actually generate new brain cells.
Not convinced yet? Listen to Doctor Sandrine Thuret, a neuroscientist at King’s College London’s Ted Talk. Dr Thuret explains that until the 1990s people thought that adults couldn’t generate new brain cells, but now we know that they do! She also explain how. Hint: running!
Always choose wholefoods
When it comes to eating right, look for wholefoods. Wholefoods are unrefined and unprocessed foods, and they work wonders for your body! Not only does your body break down wholefoods much easier than processed foods, but they’re also low in GI making you feel more energised and fuller for longer. Not to mention, they don’t contain any nasty chemicals or preservatives. As the queen of French home cooking Julia Child once said, “You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients.” Fresh ingredients are the key to healthy eating. Try farmer’s markets or specialty grocers for the best produce. Oh, and always shop what’s in season for maximum flavour and nutrients.
When in doubt, dark chocolate
We’re just going to come right out and say it - dark chocolate is the fking best! Dark chocolate can boost blood circulation in your brain, lower blood pressure and even support heart health. It also can help grow new brain neurons, this is because dark chocolate, like blueberries, contains flavonoids. But that’s not all peeps, dark chocolate is also an instant mood booster! Chocolate is a source of tryptophan, an amino acid precursor to serotonin, the neurotransmitter of happiness and positive mood. Be sure the cocoa content is at least 70 percent, and don’t over indulge - the recommended daily intake is 14 grams.
30 minutes a day
We’ve said it before. Exercise is the best thing you can do for your body. And the best part is that you get to choose what and how to do it. Walking, running, cycling, yoga, pilates, whatever makes you happy. Just 30 minutes of exercise a few times a week can instantly boost your overall mood and it’s one of the secrets to a good and longer life. So get those endorphins pumping and get active, STAT!