Health Q&A

Take Our 31-Day Well-being Challenge

January 1, 2018

Wellness and well-being are all about your physical and mental health

Welcome to 2018! We know that you’ve probably set yourself some new year’s resolutions, but these can often be hard to stick to. As health and well-being has become one of the most popular topics for resolutions, we’ve put together a 31-day challenge to make sure your resolutions don’t fall by the wayside.

Wellness and well-being is all about your physical and mental health. It’s about considering your body and mind as a whole, rather than just looking at one key area. In fact, well-being is rising in importance, with the Top Employers Institute stating that a total of 81% of certified top employers in South Africa have defined an organisation-wide total well-being programme. By focusing on your well-being, you can elevate your overall mood, health and happiness, simply by making small daily choices.

Anyone can achieve wellness, whether that’s through small changes to your diet, getting more active or focusing more on having a happier mind. In fact, it’s been shown that the relationship between health and well-being is a mutual one: good health improves well-being and good well-being improves health.

Our 31-day challenge is designed to help you lead a healthier and happier life in just one month.

Week 1: In the kitchen

Day 1: Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning

After a long night, drinking water is vital for hydrating your body as soon as you wake up. Our body needs more water than most of us realise and it’s a fantastic way of flushing out any toxins that may have been in your body. It also supports digestion and benefits the skin.

Day 2: Eat one green food every day

This one is especially useful after eating lots over the Christmas period. It can be a bit of spinach added to a smoothie or a cup of green beans at dinner. These kind of foods provide us with more nutrition than any other food group and protect us from major forms of disease.

Day 3: Enjoy natural tea and coffee

Tea and coffee are two of the best sources of antioxidants in our diet. They’ve been known to boost liver health, help mental health and even promote a healthier heart. However, the key to enjoying these benefits is to take out any milk and sugar.

Day 4: Reach for herbs instead of salt

We know how tempting it can be to reach for the salt when it comes to adding extra flavour to your food. So, instead of becoming a regular salt shaker, try reaching for the herbs instead. Herbs like cardamom and cinnamon are great for breakfast foods, while pepper, basil, thyme and turmeric are great alternatives for savoury lunch and dinner dishes.

Herbs like turmeric also have fantastic health benefits, such as anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to support cognitive performance.

Day 5: Add berries to your breakfast

Berries can help with our digestion, and even provide rich nutrients for our brain. They’re also able to keep us fuller than processed cereals. Simply add half a cup to breakfast dishes like smoothies or porridge. You’ll also have a great source of vitamin C to keep your immune system in check.

Day 6: Stay away from sugar

Sugary foods tend to be processed, addictive and never a reliable source of nutrients. Sugar can also mess with your skin and your digestion, while making you tired and irritable. So, what can you use instead? Fruits like berries, bananas and oranges, and vegetables like carrots, can add an alternative source of sweetness.

Day 7: Cook more

It can be difficult to get cooking if it’s something you’re not used to, but being in charge of your own meals means that you’ll be able to keep a closer eye on what goes in your food. Making your own smoothies, oatmeal, soups and macro-bowls are perfect for living a healthier life.

Week 2: Get outdoors

Day 8: Walk for 20-30 minutes every day

This might sound difficult, but it’s actually easier than you think. If you use public transport to get to work, simply walk some of the journey instead. If there’s no way you can swap transport for fresh air, then getting up just half an hour earlier in the morning will provide ample time to get in a good walk (or a jog if you can manage it).

Moving first thing in the day has been found to boost serotonin levels, providing energy to the body and helping you focus better throughout the day.

Day 9: Be more active when possible

Although we’ve touched on this above, it’s important to take the active route when possible. Usually use the lift at work? Try the stairs today. Always try and find a parking spot right next to the supermarket? Try parking further away. Being active for longer throughout the day will also improve your metabolism.

Day 10: Don’t take a seat

It can feel good to have a sit down, but be careful not to sit for hours on end. If you work in an office all day, make sure you’re taking regular breaks and standing up and moving around. If you do have to sit a lot, check out our 4 steps for a healthier, happier back when sitting.

Day 11: Lift a heavy object for five minutes every day

Whether it’s a dumbbell, kettlebell or just a household item, lifting an item above your head and then by your sides for five minutes every day will have major health benefits. Resistance training has been shown to enhance testosterone in the body, which improves your energy levels, focus and sense of motivation. It can also improve your metabolism.

Day 12: Stretch

Like the voiceover says in that Baz Luhrmann song: ‘stretch’. It’s a simple action that can instantly improve your mood and release muscle tension, prevent muscle cramps, improve blood flow and even help with your digestion. All you have to do is stretch in the morning and just before bed.

Day 13: Find your zen

While stretching is good for the body, yoga takes it one step further. And, you don’t have to worry about being flexible. Yoga provides a fluid way of moving your body and stretching everything out – plus, the benefits are almost endless. For example, it’s been shown to lower stress, improve respiration, energy and vitality and enhance cardio and circulatory health.

Day 14: Get some fresh air

While we’ve said that walking is good for well-being, so is spending a little time outside every day. Being around nature has been shown to prevent depression and anxiety, sharpen the mind and expose us to the most natural source of vitamin D (the sun). If you can exercise outside, then definitely take that option.

Week 3: In the mind

Day 15: Focus on your hormones

Considering your hormones when you’re cooking a meal can be incredibly beneficial. Unsurprisingly, our diets control our hormones, so, certain foods (such as sugar and processed foods) can disrupt this hormonal function and even lead us to feel cranky or down. If you’re looking to give your brain a boost, try foods such as leafy greens, fruits and nuts.

Day 16: Do something that makes you smile

Whether it’s painting, playing an instrument, or even just cooking your favourite breakfast, doing something small for yourself every day is a fantastic way to boost those serotonin levels and raise those feel-good hormones.

Day 17: Ignore that negative voice

We all have that little voice in our head: the one who tells us that we’re not good at something, or gives us reasons why we can’t achieve what we want to. Instead, try creating new messages for a better mood. It’s a simple action then can lead to greater changes.

Day 18: Indulge in magnesium-rich foods

Plant-based foods are naturally rich in magnesium, which is the anti-stress hormone. Some of the best sources include seeds, avocado, cocoa, bananas and leafy greens.

Day 19: Indulge in your B’s

Eating foods like broccoli, coconut, beans, nuts, berries and whole grains can give you a healthy brain all day long. This is because they are sources of B vitamins, which can reduce stress in the brain and enhance focus.

Day 20: Eat more plant-based foods

Plant-based foods have been shown to have a great effect on the brain and your mood. They can relieve anxiety and depression and even promote mental clarity.

Day 21: Eat good fats

If you’re after a good mood, then healthy fats are the way to go. They include foods like raw coconut, almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds and olives and are packed with B vitamins, magnesium and protein – all of which are fantastic for enhancing your brain’s health. Good fats can also reduce cholesterol and promote good heart health.

Week 4: In the day to day

Day 22: Get chatting

Being social has been shown to have benefits for our health and mind. Socialising with people can enhance your mood, relieve stress and anxiety and even promote longevity. All it takes is spending time with your family, or calling up a friend, and you can instantly enhance your well-being.

Day 23: Love your bed

As much as well-being is about being more active or tweaking your diet, it’s also important to remember the importance of sleep. A good night’s sleep allows your bodies to reset itself and detoxify.

When we don’t get enough rest, things like stress, weight gain and depression can occur as a result. While some people say that eight hours is needed, it’s actually up to you and your body. Our top tip? Get enough sleep so that you wake up at the same time each day without the need for an alarm clock.

Day 24: Clear out a drawer

When we clear out clutter (like a messy drawer), it can also help declutter our brain. Decluttering is a great way to make life simpler, which in turn can make you happier and healthier without having so much stuff.

Day 25: Try a new activity

It can be easy to fall into a routine and get into the habit of forgetting to try something new. Falling into a rut has the common consequence of making us unhappy and unpassionate. The easy answer? Trying something new has the ability to reignite passions and give you back that joie de vivre. It could be something you’ve always wanted to do, like rock climbing, or it could be something less extreme, like simply trying a new cooking method.

Day 26: Do something for others

Often, doing something for someone else has the ability to make us feel better, as well as them. It could be as simple as sending a thank you card, giving someone a compliment, doing a friend a favour or just opening a door for a stranger.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group encourages volunteering at a local church, hospital, school, SPCA or old-age home. Regardless of where you volunteer, being part of a charitable cause has the  ability to boost your self confidence through social interaction, especially with people who share your own interests, convictions or values.

Day 27: Be positive

It can be all too easy to fall into a negative energy and look at the glass half empty side of life. But, one should never underestimate the importance of maintaining a positive attitude and energy, even if things in life aren’t quite how you’d like them to be.

It’s no secret that people with positive spirits can affect those around them in a good way. So, whether you’re going to a work meeting, catching up with friends or even just going to your local supermarket, bring positivity with you and see what effect it has.

Day 28: Put on your favourite album

There’s nothing better than elevating your mood by putting on your favourite album. Research shows that music can stimulate the mind’s natural feel-good chemicals (such as oxytocin and endorphins). It can even help us manage stress and enhance memory.

Day 29: Read a good book

What could be more relaxing than escaping the stress of daily life into a literary world? Numerous studies have highlighted the benefits of reading. In addition to lowering your heart rate, there is also evidence that reading can relieve muscle tension due to the calming effect it has on the body. So take the time to break out a copy of your favourite genre, be it an intriguing romance novel or celebrity cookbook.

Day 30: Give yourself a little bit of peace and quiet

Spending time by yourself in the morning can reduce the stress hormone cortisol in the body, which peaks first thing in the morning. You can meditate if you want, or just write out your thoughts or to-do list. All it takes is just 10 minutes every morning to take care of yourself.

Day 31: Set goals for February

While we’ve set out a month’s worth of wellness tips for you, there’s nothing wrong with carrying these into February (or coming up with new ones). When practiced on a daily basis, these well-being tips can make you happier and healthier, so why not start today?

Take care of yourself in 2018 with Topmed Medical Scheme. Our Active Saver option is designed specifically for young families and those concerned with their health and well-being. Get in touch today.

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