Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been focusing hard on not only eating better, but feeling better, both physically and mentally. I’ve made some good strides towards eating healthier the past 4-5 years, but there are areas in my life that could definitely use some improvement, including getting into better shape physically and mentally. Our mind, body and spirit are intertwined, so optimizing each of these parts is essential in order for me to function at my very best. As a devoted wife and busy mom of four, I want to be able to have the energy to take care of my family for many more years to come.
In January, I put together a plan to help get myself on track physically and mentally. I spent time evaluating my lifestyle – identifying both supportive and diminishing factors of my health. I looked at my mental attitude, physical activity, dietary habits, family relationships, work relationships and social relationships to identify areas in my life that I need to improve on as well as areas that I need to relieve or shed my life of.
Today, I’d like to share 6 Easy Tips for Improving Physical and Mental Health:
1. EAT CLEAN
- Eat real, whole foods, and cut back on processed foods (eliminate products made with white sugar, white flour, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats).
- Eat brain-boosting foods (read my 3-part series on Brain-Boosting Foods)
- Eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables that are naturally rich in antioxidants (think red, orange, yellow,purple, green, blue).
- Choose high quality lean proteins like beans/legumes, poultry, omega-3 rich fish and eggs, shellfish,nuts/seeds and lean meats.
- Buy chemical-free (hormone-free, antibiotic-free, organic) products whenever possible.
- Stay hydrated by drinking 6-8 glasses of water throughout the day (I drink water first thing in the morning, at breakfast, mid-morning, at lunch, in the afternoon, at dinner, and after I work out). Herbal teas are also a good source of fluids.
- Cook more – It’s cheaper than eating out, you’ll eat higher quality and better food, it’s fun and you’ll know exactly what goes into your food. Plus, it’s a great way to show your family how much you love them.
2. EXERCISE REGULARLY
I have to admit that exercising on a regular basis is the weakest point in my health and wellness journey. My biggest problem has been finding something I enjoy and the lack of consistency. But, when I exercise, I have more energy, I sleep better, and I’m less stressed.
- Do something you find fun – Recently, I rediscovered workout videos that I love doing – they’re a mix of cardio, strength training, abdominal work, walking and pilates. Whether it’s running, weight lifting, spinning or walking, find something you have fun doing.
- Come up with your own S.M.A.R.T. Fitness Plan that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic andTimely. My S.M.A.R.T. Plan targets working out 5 days a week for at least 30-45 minutes each day, including cardio and strength training.
- Track your progress – I keep track of my daily workout on a weekly chart and use a Jawbone UP24 (my husband gave me one for Christmas) to make sure I get in enough steps each day.
- Workout when it works for you – I discovered that I prefer working out after dinner, when all my work and chores are done for the day.
3. SLEEP 7-8 HOURS A NIGHT
I’m a night owl by nature which can be a problem when you have to wake up early with your kids. Until I started tracking my sleep using my Jawbone UP24, I didn’t realize that I was only getting a little over 6 hours of sleep a night. Some people can function on that, but for me, I do best when I have 7-8 hours of sleep a day. Even if I’m in bed by 11:00PM and wake up at 6:00AM, that doesn’t mean I’m getting 7 hours of sleep. It takes me a while to fall asleep, and if I wake up in the middle of the night, that also cuts into my sleep, so effectively, I might only get 6 ½ hours of sleep. So, now I try to hop into bed half an hour earlier to make sure I get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.
4. THINK POSITIVE
Our frame of mind has a huge impact on our stress levels and our health. By nature, I’m more of pessimist, but I’ve found a few things that have helped improve my mental state of mind.
- Start the day off on a positive note. I find reading inspirational quotes or doing my Bible study homework first thing in the morning helps puts my day into perspective. Wearing my “Choose to be happy” band is a great reminder throughout the day to stay positive.
- Listen to relaxing or inspirational music. I have the radio channel in my car set to KLOVE for when I’m running errands (sometimes I even sing along). Find music that you enjoy and find relaxing or inspirational.
- Focus on your blessings. Every night when we sit down to dinner we thank God for the many blessings He’s given our family. This helps put our day into perspective no matter how good or bad it was.
- Reframe situations by looking at a problem from a different angle. By flipping the way you view a problem on its side, it’s possible to find something positive in almost any situation. Read this post to see how I was able to reframe a recent disaster when a pipe burst in our house into seeing it in a positive light.
5. GIVE MORE THAN YOU EXPECT TO RECEIVE
They say giving is better than receiving, and I’m a firm believer in this. Even a small gesture on our part can make a positive (and sometimes big) difference in someone’s day. Personally, I enjoy cooking for cancer patients in my church and community, and have found this experience especially rewarding. It doesn’t take a lot of effort on my part, yet it can mean the difference between a cancer patient eating and not eating. Read this post on how I was inspired by helping a friend with cancer.
- Verbalize your thankfulness each day, whether it’s thanking the person bagging your groceries, or thanking God for the many blessings He’s given you and your family.
- Help someone in need. Recently, our women’s group had “Casserole Day” where we stocked up our church freezer with casseroles for families in need. Whether it’s volunteering at the local food pantry, or checking in on a friend, a little effort can go a long way, and the intangible rewards you will reap are immeasurable.
6. EMBRACE SUPPORTIVE RELATIONSHIPS
Over the years, I’ve learned which family, work and social relationships have been supportive to my health as well as which ones were dragging me down or emotionally draining. Like all of you, I don’t have a lot of free time, so I choose to spend my time nurturing relationships with people that are positive influences in my life and inspire me to be better – people that have my best interests at heart.
Dr. Kim Phuong.