I truly believe you can drastically improve your health and well-being simply by adopting the 10-minute habits outlined in this two part article.
12 months’ ago, I decided to instigate a series of healthy habits into my daily routine & now I want to share my experience, backed up by research, to help you make small, smart choices which will have a big impact on your health & wellbeing – physically, mentally and emotionally.
Great health can only be achieved when all parameters of health are flourishing. If you are strong but immobile, if you have great aerobic capacity but you are constantly stressed, if your nutrition is optimal but you are always feeling negative and pessimistic, you won’t achieve great health.
The discovery of the field of epigenetics (control of our genes) shows that all our behaviors and actions (what you eat, drink, breath, touch, how you feel, your beliefs, how you live and what you perceive whether real or imagined) impact our health. In order to achieve good health, you must successfully adapt in these areas according to your environment.
I believe we often concentrate on specific areas of our health that we feel we naturally excel at, at the expense of the areas that we find harder to achieve success. Carol Dweck explains in her book (Mindset 2012) that we often have a fixed mindset (I’m good at something or I’m not) which is limiting, rather than a growth mindset (I can improve my skills by practicing).
Despite what you may have been told, nobody is born a genius, people become geniuses through persistent practice and dedication.
The Compound Effect: The principle of reaping huge rewards from a series of small, smart choices
Opportunities to Move (O.T.M)
This is as simple as it sounds! We are sitting more than ever – at home, in the car, at work – often for lengthy periods without moving. I’m as guilty as anybody since I spend a lot of time reading, writing and acquiring information. Recent research paints a very grave picture for those who spend a considerable amount of their day on their bottoms. By actively seeking out OTM you are reducing the damage caused by this unhealthy practice.
The great thing about OTM is that it can be anything that gets you up on your feet and moves your body. Such as going for a walk, using the stairs instead of an elevator, performing chores, gardening, playing active games with your children or it can take the form of a specific exercise (squats, press ups, burpees, running on the spot, whatever you choose, you can even watch TV whilst performing these habits) as the title says, just find Opportunities to Move. Michelle Seager (No Sweat 2015 #1 book in diet/exercise by USA Best Book Awards) depicts over 25 OTM.
I perform body weight squats diligently every day. These work for me because of their versatility (you can do them anywhere) & they allow me to increase intensity (the amount of physical power that the body uses when performing an activity) in the shortest period of time using the leg muscles (the biggest muscles in the body). Years of playing football have caused me to suffer from knee & joint pain & squats are a way to help alleviate this. I perform 6 sets of 85 squats throughout the day, my first set when I wake up & my final set before bed around 10pm, with the remaining 4 sets spread out throughout the day.
Reading 10 pages of an inspiring book
Persistently acquiring valuable knowledge is one of the best things anybody can do. The more useful information you possess, the more options that are available to you and the greater your probability of making the right choices. Many people feel they don’t have time to read or they choose to use their time reading books that allow them to escape their reality. There is nothing wrong with escapism or immersing yourself in fictional fantasy but I would argue that if you want to improve your life, then inspiring self-help and non-fictional books are the better option.
I have always been an avid reader but it’s only been recently that I have purposefully begun to read books. There has never been a time in human history where there has been such freely & serviceable information available to all. Unfortunately, we have ever increasing distractions competing for our time & attention & it is those who are able to consistently focus on beneficial information and successfully adapt it to their environment, who will do best in this era of accelerated change, overwhelming complexity & increased competition.
For those who dislike reading you haven’t got immerse yourself in a book for hours Jeff Olson (The Slight Edge 2013) illustrates how, if you can just commit to reading 10 pages of an inspiring book, within a year that would total 3650 pages, equivalent to around 12 books.
How you feed your mind is every bit as important as how you feed your body. There has been an explosion in the availability and sales of audiobooks (my favourite means of information retention) so you don’t even have to read the book yourself, you can sit back and relax and have somebody else read it for you.
“Neuroscientists have discovered that when you ask the brain to meditate, it gets better not just at meditating, but at a wide range of self-control skills such as attention, focus, stress management, impulse control and self-awareness. People who meditate over time aren’t just better at these things, their brains become fine-tuned willpower machines” (The Willpower Instinct 2013)
For most people, when you mention meditation they imagine a Buddhist monk or link it to some sort of spiritual ritual. This is not entirely wrong because Buddhist monks do meditate and you can have spiritual experiences whilst meditating, but the practice I’m talking about is quickly gaining in popularity and does not necessarily fall into either of these two categories. In fact, what first attracted me to meditation were the scientific revelations linked to this habit:
1) Improves Stress: Studies have shown that people who regularly meditate tend to see an improvement in stress management and their overall stress levels (see this article)
2) Builds Willpower: Leading willpower researcher Kelly McGonical, Ph.D. of Stanford University states, “Practicing mindfulness meditation for a few minutes each day can actually boost willpower by building up grey matter in areas of the brain that regulate emotions and govern decision making”
3) Improves Creativity: Meditation is said to promote a type of thinking (divergent) that allows many new ideas to be generated. Read more here
4) Fights Depression and Anxiety: Mindfulness meditation has been shown to help patients gain control over their depression and anxiety levels. Read more here
5) Improves Immune Function:
Research indicates that meditation may positively alter the brain and immune system.
I’m naturally an early bird so part of my morning routine includes taking 10 minutes to meditate. If this sounds impossible, try less time perhaps at the end of the day or during your commute. There are some great apps out there (i.e. Headspace) that teach you how to meditate & make it more fun & rewarding. I have experienced many of the benefits since I started this healthy habit. Remember you can start with as little as 1 minute sessions & work your way up to greater lengths.
6) Improves Positive Emotions: Research has revealed the practice of loving-kindness meditation can bring about a shift in positive emotions, including love, joy, gratitude, contentment, hope, pride, interest, amusement, and awe.
7) Improves Focus: Those who regular partake in the practice of mediation are better equipped and abler to quieten their brain and reduce the mind wandering. Read more here
Please read part 2 of ’10 minutes to great health’ for more small, smart choices ….