8 Ways To a Healthier, Happier and More Satisfying Lifestyle

Group of friends laughing

We all aspire to have a fit, strong, healthy body and mind, not to mention wanting to feel happier and more content in ourselves.

With a few adjustments in your lifestyle you can easily and exponentially boost your well-being and happiness levels.

Lose weight the fast(ing) way

Diet fads come and go (remember the cabbage soup diet?), but an approach to eating, called Intermittent Fasting has been popular throughout history. Intermittent Fasting focuses on the absence of eating, rather than what you’re eating. This voluntary withholding of food has been practiced by many cultures during religious ceremonies. Even the English word ‘breakfast’ means to break the fasting period of the night before.

Intermittent Fasting is easy and doesn’t cost a cent. Simply stop eating for a few hours or days. Reported benefits include weight loss (because your body begins to burn excess fat), as well as improved mental clarity, and reduced insulin levels.

The most well-known fasting diet is the 5:2 diet – five days of eating normally and two days of restricting food intake to 500 calories.

Remember to ‘break your fast’ gently; don’t binge eat and undo all the benefits of your fasting.

Supplement your diet

What we eat and drink provides the raw fuel that enables our bodies to function, so it makes sense to consume the highest quality of foods. We all know the essentials of a good diet; stay clear of sugar, drink more water, eat more organic raw vegetables and practice moderation in everything else.

Eating a healthy diet is a challenge. Even more of a challenge is ensuring the fruit and vegetables we consume are rich in nutrients.

New Zealand’s soils are well known for being deficient in a number of minerals including;

  • Zinc; an important mineral for male reproductive health
  • Selenium; an antioxidant which helps our immune system

Many New Zealanders are also proven to lack in iodine, calcium and Vitamin D, with most deficiency symptoms going unnoticed.

Boost your nutrient intake with a supplement that support a healthy lifestyle and better sexual function or eat foods high in these nutrients to address deficiencies.

Exercise your body and mind

Being active helps us to lose weight, look and feel better and has long term health benefits.

A perfect workout should involve three main areas for overall fitness and health;

  • Cardio exercise: Brisk walking or running, or any form of exercise that gets your heart pumping, ideally to an intensity where you’re breathing hard – but can still speak a few words. Aerobic exercise focuses on your heart, lungs, and circulatory system to improve your overall fitness and stamina.
  • Strength exercise: Weight lifting, push-ups and crunches, or exercises that work your muscles by using resistance. Strength training increases bone density, muscle tone, and muscle strength.
  • Flexibility exercise: Yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi stretch your muscles and helps your body stay supple. Being flexible gives you more freedom of movement and keeps you nimble as you age and reduces your risk of injury during activity or sports.

Don’t forget to exercise your brain as well. Giving your brain a workout keeps your mind sharper and reduces the risk of dementia.

Learning a new skill or hobby like drawing or knitting keeps your brain active. Fill out a Sudoku puzzle, brush your teeth using your other hand, or sign up to Lumosity for a brain workout.

Sleep your way to health

Quality sleep is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle.

Research proves that getting enough quality sleep is vital for mental and physical health, quality of life, and even our personal safety.

When we sleep, our bodies rest. We conserve energy because our blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and body temperature decreases. Meanwhile our brains are active, carrying out necessary physical and mental processes.

For a quality sleep:

  • Set a regular bedtime
  • Turn off your mobile devices
  • Aim for eight hours sleep.

Connect and socialise for well-being

After the fundamentals of life (food and sleep) are addressed, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the next stage toward a satisfying life is attaining intimacy, friendships, and a sense of connection.

Friendships make our lives fuller. Connecting with other people can help us during lonely times. Sharing the highs and lows of life with a trusted confidante helps to alleviate depression, deal with stress and increase feelings of contentment. Cultivating, and investing in, friendships as we grow older becomes harder but is well worth the effort for our mental health and well-being.

There are lots of opportunities around the country to socialise and connect while making a difference to other people or the planet. Volunteer as a big brother or buddy; help out at a local men’s shed, or assist a local environmental group to plant trees or trap predators.

Just relax and chill

We’ve probably heard it before; Stop and smell the coffee! Don’t worry, be happy! Don’t sweat the small stuff!

A calm, peaceful mind is good for maintaining your mental and physical well-being and building resilience. The benefits are well documented; less stress leads to reduced blood pressure, less risk of strokes and the symptoms of depression are reduced. And less stress increases your sex drive.

But how to relax?

Most relaxation techniques involve the breath, while focusing the mind on an image. Another alternative is to do nothing. Stuck in traffic? Instead of checking your phone, do nothing. Look around you, soak up the scenery and - just breathe.

Mindfulness gets a lot of media attention and is in itself a form of meditation or relaxation. Mindfulness is simply about raising your awareness. How often have you rushed through a day and then realised you have no idea whether it was a sunny or cloudy day?

Here's an exercise:

A quick, yet powerful, mindfulness exercise involves focusing for 30 seconds on each of your senses, one at a time. Firstly, focus on what you can see around you. Pay attention to colours, shapes and details. Then focus on the sounds you can hear; birds, traffic, an airplane in the distance. Then focus on the scents you can smell; freshly cut grass, petrichor, burnt toast. Then focus on sensations; the breeze on your skin. Being mindful heightens your awareness and grounds you in the moment, making you more relaxed and calm.

Make today meaningful

Having a purpose in your day, a reason to get out of bed, gives your life a sense of focus and clarity, essential elements to your mental well-being.

During war time, inmates of concentration camps were made to dig holes, and then fill them in again. The task was unproductive and completely meaningless, because it was designed to break morale.

More recently, anthropologist David Graeber’s book ‘Bullshit jobs: A Theory,’ has struck a chord with millions of people because he highlighted the psychological harm of meaningless, unfulfilling jobs.

Humans need meaning. We want to do something of value; it makes us feel good.

Laughter really is the best medicine

Research has proven laughter;

  • lowers blood pressure
  • triggers the release of endorphins
  • reduces stress hormones
  • activates immune system cells
  • gives you a good cardio workout.

Did you know laughing even tones your abs? Not to mention that laughter makes you attractive to the opposite sex.

Stream a comedy movie for a few laughs or share a few jokes with friends and reap the benefits of a happy and healthy mind and body.

To recap:

  • Try Intermittent Fasting to burn fat and lose weight
  • Supplement your diet with lacking nutrients
  • Exercise your body and mind with activity
  • Nurture friends, socialise and make connections
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Relax…
  • Find meaning in your day
  • Have a good laugh

And enjoy a healthier, happier lifestyle!