Do you feel exhausted just from the thought of all the things you “should” be doing to maintain your physical wellbeing? Get eight hours of sleep. Eat better food. Take 10,000 steps. And repeat. Day after day after day of “should”, “should”, “should”.
Let’s be honest … few among us have the willpower to sustain this kind of effort no matter how good it might be for us. In the real world of demanding bosses, growing families and long-suffering friends, looking after our physical wellbeing often feels like a luxury we simply can’t fit in.
But given being healthy is not simply the absence of disease, but the presence of physical, mental and social wellbeing is “being too busy” or “too tired” really an acceptable excuse to keep putting ‘looking after yourself’ at the bottom of your to-do list?
After far too many years of not getting enough sleep, eating mindlessly and rarely exercising, eventually I came to accept that despite all my reasonable excuses the overwhelming sense of tiredness and exhaustion I was feeling meant I could no longer put off looking after myself. But with every minute of most days already packed juggling a full time job, a young family and a gorgeous group of friends, I needed tested, busy-proof ways to turn my list of wellbeing “should” tasks into wellbeing “want-to” activities.
As a result, after a lifetime of swearing I wasn’t a morning person I discovered I do function better when I get up around 5.30am each day. Not least because I use this extra time to head out for a quick jog, even though I’d been convinced for most of my life that “fun” and “run” never belonged in the same sentence. And of course all this activity leaves me hungry for a good breakfast, even though I’d spent decades telling anyone who would listen that my stomach couldn’t digest food first thing in the morning.
Want to know how I managed to move from physically functioning to flourishing?
Can You Really Improve Your Physical Wellbeing?
“Most of us know what we should be doing when it comes to our health,” Dr. Justine Tuffley notes. “The challenge is fitting in ways to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep in our busy lives.”
“Unfortunately when we do decide to try to physically improve our wellbeing, we’re often motivated by goals that are hard to sustain. While losing weight is a great reason to get moving, it’s easy to forget after a couple of weeks of hard work why you really wanted to make these changes,” she explains.
“Instead when we’re trying to improve the way we sleep, move and eat it’s important to go back to basics and get clear on why you’re doing this. How will these changes really help you to make your life more meaningful and joyful so you’ll have the motivation to sustain your efforts?”
But just how do you use meaning to guide your physical wellbeing practices? In this episode of Chelle McQuaid TV, I asked Justine as a former GP and now health and happiness coach for others, what are the small changes, that can make a lasting and big difference to our physical wellbeing?
How Can You Physically Flourish?
Here’s how I applied four of the simple steps Justine recommends to help me find the energy and vitality to consistently flourish and lose (and keep off) eight kilograms as I did it:
- For the sake of what? – Get clear on why you want to improve your wellbeing. Why are you willing to try and get to bed at the same time each night? Why would you bother to get up early to exercise? Why would you choose a piece of fruit instead of a donut for morning tea? For the sake of what are you willing to get out of your comfort zone and make the time to look after yourself even if it feels a little hard?
Researchers have found that we’re more likely to stick with our goals and feel satisfied as we achieve them if they’re focused on a sense of growth, meaning and connection rather than on boosting our egos or bowing to other people’s expectations. Try to ground your goals for wellbeing in your values and deep interests. For me although I hoped to lose weight, prioritizing my physical wellbeing was for the sake of having the energy to care for my kids and share the research I love with others.
- Create A Bed Time Routine – Studies suggest 95% of us need somewhere between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. If you’re consistently sleep deprived you accumulate a huge sleep debt and when you’re tired you start a vicious wellbeing cycle of poor food choices and not exercising. Your internal body clock wants to go to bed and get up at a regular time so try to establish a bedtime routine by turning off screens an hour before bed and using this time to wind down by writing down any worries on a piece of paper and folding them away to be dealt with tomorrow and using a favorite relaxation technique – be it restorative yoga, meditation or slow breathing – to help you get a good night’s sleep.
- Move More – When it comes to exercise it helps to have a basic philosophy that you need to move more than you currently are. With most of us spending more time sitting down (9.3 hours) than sleeping in a given day, researchers have found inactivity is killing more people than smoking is now. Unfortunately watching your diet and exercising 30 minutes a day is not enough to offset the many hours of sitting most of us do, so the key is to stay active throughout the day. Try to create a morning exercise habit – one study discovered a mere 20 minutes of moderate activity could significantly improve your mood for the next 12 hours – by finding something you enjoy and doing it with a friend or a group. Then try to keep moving regularly throughout the day – take the stairs, park a block away from your destination, walk across the room to talk to someone – to hit the recommended 10,000 steps each day.
- Eat Mindfully – Each time you reach for food stop and ask yourself: ‘Am I hungry?” You’ll find quite often the answer is “No”. Instead you might be eating because you’re commiserating, celebrating, socializing or just feeling bored. By asking “Am I hungry?” you can begin to identify if it’s really food you need or something else. Then when you do eat, slow down so you can savor what you’re consuming and register when you’re full. People who eat mindfully find they rarely need to eat everything on their plate to satisfy their genuine hunger needs. After you’ve eaten, tune into how different foods influence your energy and mood. When scientists explore the relationship between diet and mental health, it is clear that certain types of food increase or decrease your energy in a given day. Fatty foods for example have been found to make you lethargic and moody.
So for the sake of what are you willing to improve your physical wellbeing?
For more support visit www.drjustinetuffley.com.au.