As a yoga teacher, masseur and sports therapist I'm passionate about health and finding ways to feel good. When we feel comfortable and at ease in our body we automatically feel good in mind and emotion, and vice versa. While everyone wants to feel good, few realise how a just few simple suggestions can help improve physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. So here are my top ten tips to improving your body and your mind.
Use it or lose it - it's that simple! Our bodies are designed to move. Movement challenges our muscles and helps to keep our bodies conditioned. It lubricates our joints to prevent them from seizing up like a rusty engine. All movement is helpful whether it be walking, yoga or sport. Find an activity that you enjoy so you are more likely to sustain it in the long term. If movement raises the heart rate is has the added benefit of improving cardiovascular health.
It sounds obvious but many of us don't breathe properly or have shallow breathing patterns which impact on our stress levels. Get out in the countryside and breathe some fresh air, practice yoga (or pranayama, the breathing element of yoga), improve your posture, buy a plant for your house and try to reduce the amount of chemicals in your environment.
3. Keep hydrated
Our bodies are composed of around 60% water. That's a lot. Water is vital for life as it sustains the body and assists in many of the body's essential functions such as hormone manufacture and digestion. Water helps lubricate the joints and flushes our body of toxins. Only slight dehydration has been known to cause headaches and impair mental function. Drink 6 - 8 glasses of, ideally, filtered water or herbal tea every day.
4. Eat well
What and how we eat has a direct impact on our wellbeing. It affects how we feel in body, mind and emotion. If we eat when we are stressed our digestion is impaired, if our nutrition is of poor quality we will not function at our optimum level. Eat as natural, unprocessed and chemical free as possible and try to eat good quality wholefoods. If you eat meat buy it from a trusted source without hormones or antibiotics. Additionally, to help keep blood sugar levels stable and adequately fuel the body, eat three meals a day. Try to avoid eating late into the night when the body is winding down for sleep.
As much as we need to move, our bodies and minds need time to slow down, rest and recharge. Try switching electronic devices off and reading, listening to music, going for a walk or socialising. Reduce activities that demand lots of energy, or situations that drain you. In our fast paced world relaxation is often hard to come by and instead needs to be practiced.
6. Increase pleasure
This is vital – and fun! Find things you enjoy doing that make you feel happy and that make you smile - and do more of them. They could be small things or something completely life changing which you've always wanted to do. Ask yourself what it is you would really like to experience and bring into your life, then go out and do it.
7. Karma Yoga
Karma yoga is the yoga of action and selfless service to others. When we do good for others we naturally feel good about ourselves. Think of ways you can help and support others in your daily life. They don't need to be grand gestures; offer someone a smile, a cup of tea or hold a door open for the person behind you.
As humans we're social animals. Socialising with friends and like-minded individuals increases the body’s levels of serotonin, a feel good hormone which helps to decrease stress. Choose to spend time with people whom you can relax around, and who are supportive and fun to be with.
Music can be infectious and has the ability to shift our mental state making us feel energised, euphoric or calm. Put a smile on your face by listening to your favourite music, or even better singing or dancing along.
This is vital to our health. Sleep gives our body time to repair and restore its energy reserves. Our body follows the cycles of nature and the earth. As the light fades at the end of the day our body prepares itself for sleep. Light from TV and computers close to bedtime can over stimulate the body by sending confusing signals making falling asleep problematic. Aim to turn off electrical devices two hours before you go to bed and see if it makes a difference to the quality of your sleep.