If your lowest scoring category in our Lifestyle MOT test was the under-vehicle checks, then don’t be disheartened – this section covered five things we are most likely to forget when we consider our overall wellness. It could be that you need more information or inspiration, but we’ve got expert advice to help with this.
This section of the Lifestyle MOT covered…
- Limiting ‘screen time’ (looking at phones, tablets etc)
- Laughing, every day
- Considering posture when sitting for extended periods of time
- Being open to trying new things
- Having consistent energy levels
Brendan Street, Professional Head of Emotional Wellbeing at Nuffield Health, explains: “We all now spend much of our time in ‘doing’ mode. Getting things done, ticking off tasks. We write emails whilst we are eating, and taking that important phone call.”
“The trouble is, whilst we are multitasking we are not paying attention to any one thing and as a result we don’t notice when something is giving us pleasure, or when we are making things really complicated by being fed up about being fed up, or tired of being tired. In essence we don’t take time to ‘be’.
“Research in Psychology has shown that by taking time and effort to ‘be’, to notice, or relish moments, people are able to experience improved wellbeing.
“A study in 2011 demonstrated that one of the characteristics of those with excellent emotional wellbeing – so called ‘Flourishers’ – was the fact that they consistently take more time to fully appreciate the small pleasures in life. Deliberately focusing on positive experiences for a week has been found to lead to an increase in overall measures of happiness and positive emotions are also connected with an increase in resilience – the ability to ‘bounce back’ from stress).
“But what is it that these happy, ‘Flourishers’ do? What does it mean to notice or savor small pleasures?
- Focus on one activity – stop for a moment, do one thing. Close the laptop and just focus on eating the sandwich.
- Engage fully. Notice the feel of the sandwich in your hand, its weight, size, texture. Notice how it feels against your lips, the smell. Is it hot or cold? Spicy or sweet? How does the taste change as you chew etc. Use as many senses as possible to really notice the activity – as if you were doing it for the very first time and are required to explain it to someone afterward.
- Enjoy the activity as if it is the last time you will experience it. Research has shown that thinking about an experience as temporary – something that will come to an end – will increase the present enjoyment of it.
- Look to the past. You don’t just have to savor positives in the present. Psychological research reveals that positive reminiscence – thinking about past positive events (e.g. birth of a child, first date, wedding day, finishing a marathon) via imagery or using memorabilia (photos, medals etc.) will also increase happiness. In addition reminiscing like this with a partner about past events, particularly where you shared laughter, results in improved relationship satisfaction.
“In essence taking time to savor small pleasures results in increased positive emotions (e.g. happiness) which makes people more resilient, leading to increased life satisfaction. Increased life satisfaction leads to more opportunities to savor small pleasures, which then leads to more happiness – a virtuous circle. By relishing the moment we are retaining happiness. As stated by the Dalai Lama “the very purpose of our lives is to seek happiness”. Savoring the small pleasures makes it all the more likely we will find it.”
Dr Deborah Lee, from online doctor and pharmacy Dr Fox, is a doctor and freelance health writer. She has been a fully qualified doctor for 30 years and is a trusted health writer for sites like The Huffington Post. Her top tips for maintaining your overall wellbeing include:
Dr Lee’s top tips:
- Consider your screen time
Whether we are at work or relaxing at home, our eyes are often glued to a screen. Be it our phones, laptops, tablets or TV, screens are a big part of our lives.
However, the risks associated with too much screen time can affect us in many ways. Short term effects can include headaches and migraines, sensitivity to light and dry eyes. Long terms effects can include weight gain, chronic neck and back pain, and impaired cognitive function.
This doesn’t mean you have to give up screens altogether. Tech-free dinnertime, limiting phone usages after 9pm and increasing your non-screen focused activities are some of the best ways to reduce.
- Make time for laughter
It’s so easy for us to get bogged down in the day-to-day, without taking the time to have a little fun. Laughter not only feels good, but helps lower blood pressure, lowers stress levels and releases endorphins.
Laughing may not solve all your health problems, but many people forget that it’s something you need to make time for, just like exercise or rest. Take a few minutes each day to think about something that always makes you smile. Tell a colleague a joke, watch a funny video, and give yourself that little bit of time to feel happy.
- Remember to sit up straight
Your mum may have always told you to sit up straight, and she was right. Correct posture keeps your bones and joints in alignment and decreases wear and tear on supportive structures. It can help to reduce neck and back pain that we may have from sitting at our desks all day, and eases the stress on your tendons, muscles and ligaments. It also helps with digestion and can even boost your mood.
If you have an office job, sit with your back against your chair and try to keep your spine straight.
- Start doing something you love
Having a hobby is more important than most of us realise. When we find something we like doing it can bring us joy and enrich our lives. It can also help to reduce stress, give you something positive to focus your energies on and increase your confidence and self-esteem.
It can feel very daunting at first but exploring and developing at least one hobby is a great way to enrich your life and help with your overall health and wellbeing.
- Cut down on your alcohol levels to boost your energy levels
Cutting down on alcohol has many different benefits. From better sleep to weight loss, if you drink regularly, it’s one of the best changes you can make to help your energy levels. If you feel sad or anxious, drinking alcohol can make you feel much worse in the long term. Drinking less can help you feel happier, more of the time. You’ll also have more time and money, leading to a better quality of life overall.
- Make time for mindfulness
Mindfulness is centred around training you mind to focus on your emotions, thoughts and sensations in the current moment. It sounds much simpler than it actually is. Connecting with the present moment has been proven to be a key element in stress reduction and overall happiness, but it takes practice.
Sitting quietly and focusing on the sounds you can hear, your body’s sensations and the emotions you feel, even for just a few minutes at a time, is a great way to get started with mindfulness. As you get more into it, you can use meditation apps to help you develop it further.
- Catch-up with loved ones
Spending time with the people in our lives who we love and trust can help with self-esteem, confidence, security and decision making. With our busy lives, making time for those who love us unconditionally can often be the first thing we drop. However, it’s incredibly important to our wellbeing, and we should endeavour to put time aside for it as much as we can.
- Do something creative
Creativity is food for the soul. Doing something creative can help us relax, problem-solve better and connect with ourselves. Whether it’s painting, singing, writing, stitching, designing or storytelling, it doesn’t matter if you’re good or bad at it.
Try something as simple as writing in a diary each morning or jotting down some thoughts before you go to bed. Give drawing a try and see what direction it takes you. You might be surprised at what hidden talents lay within!