Sep 27, 2012

All Stars Guest Post: Helen from Fennel Books

Hello, without much further talking - the first Philofaxy All Stars Team Guest Post is here!!! :)
Thank you, Helen, for sharing your secrets of how to feel good day in day out, you definitely made me think about my hmmmm... routines! :)

I’m a creature of habit...
... the problem with that is that my habits are not exclusively good ones! Like many people I want to lead a healthy lifestyle which supports my long term health and wellbeing. The problem with that is that work, fun, blogging and other of life’s activities can get in the way and it is really easy to neglect yourself.
I am a great believer in lots of little things can make a big difference. About a year ago I was on an extremely tough and fast schedule project. Everyone was working flat out and then some on topI was snacking instead of eating properly, not exercising or relaxing. I became exhausted. One weekend, when I became so tired and grumpy I couldn’t even be bothered to read, normally an activity I would do at any opportunity, I decided something had to change. I made a list of health and wellbeing activities and decided to pick one each week to work on rather than one huge change. Over a period of a few months I worked out what really works for me to help keep me on an even keel. So, in no particular order, here are my top five wellbeing habits...
1.      Exercise. I know, it can be a bit dull, but it’s important. We all know it keeps blood pressure down and general vitality up. I am not one for slogging away at it in the gym, it just isn’t for me, although I know a lot of folks really enjoy it. I do a mixture of exercise, depending on how I am feeling on the day, but each week I make sure I do two cardio sessions and two weights sessions. I do two further sessions of whatever takes my fancy. Sometimes it is yoga or pilates, or a nice swim.  With all my sessions I do a minimum of 20 minutes, as if I am not in the mood or am very tired that seems a manageable amount. Having said that, once I get going I tend to do 45 – 60 minutes. Making time for this is really important. Generally it means a little less time pointlessly surfing the net!
2.      Food. Again, perhaps obvious, but so important.  If you don’t put good quality food in your body, you will feel terrible. I don’t snack at all now. I read a great book called Eat Stop Eat, which is about fasting. Snacking is essentially a way for food companies to get us to eat more, and we really don’t need to do it. I have a big breakfast and lunch to get me through the working day, and then a smaller dinner, as I don’t tend to be so hungry in the evenings. This works for me, a different spread of energy intake may be better for others depending on what their day looks like. The result of having proper meals and not snacking? I lost 3 stone in weight... bonus!
3.      Walking. I love a good walk. It is good for my body and good for my mind. I wrote a blog piece for the All Stars over at Filo-Obsessed about walking and how to get started.  Walking is low impact, so no worries about damaged joints, it is easy, cheap and best of all it slows you down so you get to appreciate what is around you. It really helps my stress levels stay under control. I walk every day. Without fail. 
4.      Reading. I am a big reader, as you can see from my blog, but last year I was in such poor shape I didn’t even have the enthusiasm to do my favourite hobby. I read for an hour each night. It helps me wind down (after my walk!) and no screen time before bed helps me sleep better. Making room for hobbies is really important, even if it is only a few minutes per day.
5.      Water. Again, perhaps obvious, but if you haven’t tried substituting caffeine and sugary drinks with water, you won’t know the benefits. Your body and particularly your brain need water to function properly. The recommended level is 2 litres per day. That is a lot to start off with! I ramped up over the course of a week, replacing other drinks with water.  You might find you are a more regular visitor to the “smallest room” for a few days, but the benefits of being able to think more clearly, weight management and glowing skin have to be worth it! Often when we think we are hungry we are actually thirsty, so this will help you with item 2, if you want to snack, have a drink first. You might find that your hunger disappears.

So, these are my top five daily health habits. Why not sit down and think of a couple of small changes you could make over the next few weeks? If you change one thing per month which is positive, over year you will make a big impact on your health. You don’t have to make enormous changes, they are too hard to handle with everything else going on around you, but small changes are very manageable, and have a bigger benefit than you might think.

Many thanks to Vanja for hosting my post!

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