Modern health and fitness looks at identifying your physical condition and how to improve it.
For example, if you are overweight, a typical approach would be to promote a calorie restrictive diet and some exercise.
However, this does not tell the full story and looking at aspects of health and fitness in isolation often doesn’t work.
A holistic approach to health is an all encompassing lifestyle approach and looks at getting to the root cause of the issues you may be facing.
So a holistic approach to losing weight would evaluate your diet but also your lifestyle and mental well-being. It looks at the whole system.
In a nutshell, holistic health is the recognition that your physical, mental and spiritual well-being are all interdependent.
Your body, mind and soul need to be in balance.
This is why sometimes you can follow the right nutrition and exercise plan but not make the progress you want.
Or why sometimes you go to the gym but your mind is saying ‘I just can’t do 30 minutes training today’ and so you don’t.
You haven’t connected your mind and soul to the body.
The key is to find balance across your body, mind and soul.
5 steps to build the foundations of a holistic healthy lifestyle
1.Mindset – challenge your identify
Have you ever wondered why you aren’t making progress despite knowing what to do?
It might be because whilst your physical actions you are taking are healthy, you might still believe that being healthy just isn’t for you.
Subconsciously, this can really hold you back.
One of the toughest obstacles when embarking on a healthy journey is your thoughts.
It’s totally normal to think and feel negative thoughts and to have some anxiety.
However, these thoughts originate from the mind. And much of what the mind tells us is not actually true.
So how do we start to challenge what the mind is telling us and become less anxious?
Here are some simple and effective ways;
- Affirmations. For example, instead of thinking to yourself, ‘I am fat’, Say out loud every day ‘I am a human being with a level of X (insert weight loss target here) weight loss I want to lose’. This reframes your perspective
- Connect with people who are like what you want to become. For example, if you want to get healthy, find someone who is healthy. Take note of their actions. The people you follow and surround yourself with have a significant impact on how you perceive yourself and your subsequent actions
- Do 10 minutes of meditation or deep breathing a day. A simple way to do this is the 3-4-5 breathe where you breathe in for 3 seconds, hold for 4 seconds and breathe out for 5 seconds. Focus only on counting the seconds. Ideally it is best to do this in the morning and in the evening
Sleep is the foundation of everything for a healthy lifestyle. You can have the best nutrition plan and exercise regime and even lower your stress, but if you are not getting good quality sleep you won’t achieve anything like your full potential.
And it’s the quality of sleep that matters, not just the perceived quantity.
Sleeping between 10pm – 2am is where optimal sleep occurs.
Staring at screens and going to bed late is detrimental for your sleep and health.
The most important thing when it comes to sleep is getting into a routine such as being consistent with what time you go to bed and wake up.
Some practical tips to help get better quality sleep;
- Schedule a time when you are going to go to bed and wake up every day. Just by writing down what time you are going to go to bed and what time you are going to get up is very powerful and makes it more likely you will stick with it
- No screens at least 30 minutes before bed and instead read or do a few deep breathing exercises or read a book or anything that helps you relax
- Limit coffee/caffeine intake after lunch and swap it for green or chamomile tea. Caffeine blocks the signals of our body that tells us we need to sleep whereas chamomile tea has been shown to help us relax
3. Develop a mindful approach to food
You already know that you should be eating healthy with lots of fruits and vegetables and drinking lots and lots of water.
Knowledge of what to eat is important but what’s just as important is your relationship with how you eat.
This is the case whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle or be healthy.
You are not what you eat. You are what you absorb.
The body uses a lot of its energy during the digestion process. If you eat quickly or in a stressed and distracted state and don’t chew your food your body will have a much harder time digesting the food.
Unfortunately the culture we live in where we are praised for being busy and doing things quickly can make it all too easy for you to feel like you have to rush eating in front of the tv or at your desk at work.
However, there are some easy ways to eat more mindfully;
- Putting yourself in a relaxed state before eating with a few deep breathing exercises
- Eating slowly by putting the fork down between each bite
- Eating until you feel 80% full
4. Get moving
Our bodies are designed to move, not just in a straight line but in all directions.
Bending, twisting, pushing, pulling and carrying are all natural movements that our bodies are designed to do.
However, we are living in an age that is deficient in movement.
It’s important to realise that moving doesn’t have to mean going to the gym!
The best way to move more is to integrate into your current routine or to choose an activity that you enjoy.
This is especially the case if you feel you are too busy to make the time to travel to and go to the gym.
Some movement is better than no movement.
Some practical tips on how to do this are;
- Walk to complete as many daily chores as you can – whether it’s getting your shopping, nipping to the post office or walking partway to the office. You could also just make time to do a 15 minute walk every day
- Playing with your family or pet
- Dancing or playing a sport with a friend or joining a social team
- Combine movement with everyday chores: stand on one leg whilst cleaning teeth, squat whilst taking a shower, do your stretching while you watch TV
5.Connect with nature and reduce toxins
From improving your sleep and productivity to decreasing stress, anxiety and likelihood of illness, there are so many health benefits to being outside in nature.
A walk in nature is the best bang for your buck form of therapy.
Unfortunately, we are becoming more and more disconnected with the natural world.
The world we now live in is toxic with hidden health issues such as noise pollution, air quality, toxins and chemicals that are in the products we buy that contribute to our stress and anxiety.
However, some practical ways to increase connection with nature and reduce toxins in an urban environment;
- Put up scenic nature pictures in your home. Simply looking at a natural landscape picture reduces our stress and anxiety
- Put up flowers or cleansing house plants like aloe vera or spider plant. Try to use natural cleaning products such as Ecover
- Take a walk in a local park away from busy roads
- Listen to relaxing music such as the sound of water or use an app like Headspace
- Declutter your home of things you don’t use or need – decluttering the home declutters the mind and makes you appreciate the things you do have
Make it fun to take action to be 1% better on all of the above
All of the above are interdependent to each other.
Taking action on all of them is important. However, if you are just starting out, make one simple change to one aspect of your lifestyle.
Once you have done this for a few weeks, make another simple change in another aspect of your lifestyle and so on.
Achieving a healthy lifestyle isn’t about transformational change. There is no end goal.
It’s about making small changes to all areas of your lifestyle to help you move better, feel better and live better.