“Health is a state of body. Wellness is a state of being.”
– J. Standord
Tired of being tired? Stressed out by the daily grind? Feeling decidedly blah? It’s time to give your wellbeing the boost it deserves. Whether you’re a wellness newbie or a seasoned self-care pro, there are 5 easy and sustainable ways you can inject some good energy back into your life. So grab a cup of tea, put your feet up and let’s explore your options!
‘Wellbeing’ has become quite the buzzword, especially since the pandemic. And fair enough too – we’re all in need of a little extra TLC after the last couple of years, right? The pressures of life can be a heavy, constant battle. We’re just not built to run at high speeds, continuously, for long periods of time. It’s beyond draining.
We need to find a way to get from exhausted to energised, from surviving to thriving – and developing some simple wellbeing habits is the perfect place to start.
First, let’s be clear that ‘wellbeing’ has nothing to do with your dress size or your athletic ability. While there’s no singular definition, wellbeing is a combination of how you feel and how you function – it’s the battery pack for your body and mind. Just like a battery powers up your phone, wellbeing powers up your life. When you’re at full charge you feel energised, motivated, ready to take on the world. But when your battery is low, you feel drained and unable to function at your best.
The Australian Unity Wellbeing Index has been monitoring the wellbeing of more than 65,000 Australians for the past 20 years, and according to Lead Researcher Associate Professor Delyse Hutchinson, our wellbeing has a huge impact on every part of our lives.
Delyse says studies show that “If you have better wellbeing, you’re more likely to have better physical and mental health, and decreased risk of disease, injury and illness. People have better immune functioning when their wellbeing is higher—they’re more likely to recover from illness if they do get sick, and they’re more likely to have increased longevity.” She also notes that “people who have higher subjective wellbeing are more productive in a work context and are also more likely to contribute to their community.”
So quite important, yeah?
Impact of hormones on your wellbeing
As our body experiences changing emotional states, it releases a bunch of hormones and chemicals to help calibrate the situation. If we’re in a state of constant ‘fight or flight’ the body is releasing hormones like adrenalin and cortisol, whereas when we’re connected and happy we’re releasing serotonin, dopamine and endorphins which are far more supportive and mood boosting.
Each hormone has a different role and function, so having an awareness of what triggers the release of which hormones (and how to regulate them) can be the difference between living in an anxious, always-on state, or living with a sense of calm, ease and safety – that holy grail feeling of happiness and contentment.
Here are 5 ways you can keep those hormones in check and give your wellbeing a well-deserved boost.
1. Sleep on it.
Getting enough sleep is absolutely critical to your wellbeing, no two ways about it. Not only is deep sleep needed to strengthen your immune system and allow the body to repair itself, but studies show that a lack of sleep profoundly affects your focus, emotional reactivity, decision-making, risk-taking behaviour and judgement. It also puts you at greater risk of developing certain diseases and medical conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and poor mental health.
Unfortunately, sleep doesn’t always come easy. But if you set yourself up with some sleep rituals to help ease your body and mind into a calm, relaxed state, you’ll find those nights are few and far between. Even just reinforcing to yourself that you’re going to enjoy the sleep ahead can help ease you into the night, rather than going to bed fearful of not being able to sleep.
Conscious and deliberate rituals are a powerful way to start signalling to your body that it’s time to hit the hay. Whether it’s taking a bath or shower, having a calming cuppa, reading a book, listening to music, practicing a meditation or lighting a candle, your mind will start to recognise these rituals over time, helping you connect with your natural circadian rhythms and making it easier to fall asleep. So take half an hour in the evenings to wind down with some sleep rituals and treat yourself to some much-needed self-care… those z’s will come rolling in.
If you’re interested in learning more about the impact sleep has on you, and are keen to get some helpful tips for getting more of it, check out this fantastic ‘Sleep is your Superpower’ TED Talk – it’s well worth a listen!
2. Drink water. Lots of it.
Did you know that water makes up around 50-70% of your body weight? Water is absolutely essential to just about every bodily function, including digestion, temperature regulation, absorption, transportation of oxygen and nutrients and elimination of waste… without water, you just can’t function properly.
When you become dehydrated, you lose more than just water – you also lose electrolytes, sodium and potassium. And too much of that is just plain dangerous. Not to sound overly alarmist, but while you can survive without food for weeks, dehydration can kill you within days.
Most adults lose around 2.5-3 litres of water a day just through normal activity, so it’s important to top up your supply every day. Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend at least 8 cups of fluid a day for women and 10 cups for men… more if you’re exercising, or if it’s particularly hot.
If you’re worried about remembering to drink enough, try ‘habit stacking’ – stacking a new habit on top of an existing one. The idea here is that your brain is already wired to do what it’s doing, so attaching a new habit to a current one is easier than trying to remember a new one. For example – every time you brush your teeth (your current habit), drink one glass of water (new habit). Your old habit is a built-in reminder for your new habit… no sticky notes necessary!
3. Keep moving.
For me, movement is a tonic. A quiet walk outside, without any technology, is my favourite way to problem-solve and gather my thoughts. It’s a sanity-keeper that helps my brain make connections it doesn’t make when I’m surrounded by interruptions and digital distractions. And it gets me out of my chair! I’m not the first to be bitten by the walking bug (check out these TED talks on the power of walking it out), but I can’t stress enough how transformational movement can be.
Being physically active has a huge number of health benefits, including reduced risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, stronger bones and muscles and weight management. And thanks to mood-boosting chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that are released when we move, there’s also a proven link between wellbeing and physical activity, with active people showing higher levels of happiness, self-esteem and life satisfaction compared to inactive people.
Problem is, 55% of Australian adults don’t meet the current physical activity guidelines. That’s a huge number of people who can give their wellbeing a boost simply by moving more… are you one of them?
4. Fuel yourself.
One of the easiest ways to regulate your hormones is through your food intake. I’m no nutritionist, but I do find it useful to understand how fuelling works. Many of us rely on coffee to kickstart the day, carbs or sugar to sustain us and maybe some alcohol to round it out. What most people don’t understand is that sugar is like a frat party for cortisol (our stress hormone), driving it into over-production where it can trigger a state of nervousness and anxiety.
Acidic foods, which also activate cortisol, can leave you with inflammation and pain – and if the acid keeps building, you’re at greater risk of developing various disorders and diseases. So, what’s the answer? Keep your gut health in check by understanding which foods alkalise and acidify your body after you’ve eaten them. A diet rich in alkalising food helps to balance out your pH level, ultimately reducing acidity and enabling your body to function at its best. Check out this helpful food chart below, based on the research of ‘Alkaline Diet’ pioneer, Dr. Young… and next time you’re at the supermarket, stock up on your greens!
5. Breathe right.
Ok, it may sound like trite advice when you probably feel like you’ve been doing just fine at it your whole life, but it’s SO important to breathe properly.
Let me explain. Our bodies flip between two states – sympathetic and parasympathetic. When we’re in a sympathetic state, we’re releasing cortisol and adrenalin, feeling overwhelmed, disorganised, tired, disconnected. Cue burnout or adrenal fatigue. When we’re in a parasympathetic state, we’re releasing serotonin, dopamine and other helpful hormones, we’re calm, relaxed, content, feeling balanced. The easiest way to shift between the two states is through breathing.
It sounds ludicrous, but the majority of people just don’t know how to breathe properly. We’re literally robbing ourselves of the vital oxygen required to circulate blood and get energy to our cells and brain. It’s something I cover extensively in my Recalibrate course, but let me give you the short version…
Breathing is hereditary. We can pick up our style from parents and caregivers. So if you had an anxious mother when you were in the womb, you could have picked up her shallow breathing. If you grew up in a house when anger was common and people shouted and sighed a lot in frustration, you’ll find you may do the same, or are prone to holding your breath in fear when it’s noisy.
The good news is that breathing is habitual, which means we can change it with practice. We can form good habits and bad ones. It’s the simplest function of the body that we can adapt, and we can do it very quickly.
So what’s the correct way to breathe? It’s a multi-dimensional process; your whole body moves, tilting on the inhale (giving you a sense of space) and tilting on the exhale (sense of letting go). When you inhale, your chest and belly rise, and on the exhale your chest and belly collapse back towards the spine. Hold your hands to your chest or belly to feel the movement. Ideally the exhale should be equal to or longer than the inhale, use counting to regulate.
Now all you need to do is practice… and thankfully there’s plenty of opportunity for that!
These tips aren’t intended to make you feel guilty about not doing the ‘right’ things – they’re about helping you build a better relationship with your body, creating simple, healthy and sustainable habits that will drastically improve your overall wellbeing. If it feels like a lot, start small and try doing just one thing a day to support your wellbeing – every little bit makes a difference, I promise!
If it helps, think of your wellbeing like a cake – it has many different ingredients that work together to make it delicious and satisfying. Just like a cake needs the right balance of flour, sugar, eggs and butter, your wellbeing needs a blend of physical, emotional and social elements to be healthy and fulfilling. So now you’ve got the recipe, go and grab your fanciest apron – it’s time to mix up some self-care, add a dash of exercise, sprinkle in some laughter and enjoy the sweet taste of a balanced and happy life!
If you’d like some help improving your wellbeing, one whole module of my new Recalibrate Self-Paced Coaching Program is focused on helping you assess and reset your wellbeing practices. You’ll also learn other life-long skills like value-setting and taking action to achieve your goals, as well as how to smash through limiting beliefs, bad habits and negative thinking. You can download an Info Pack for all the details, or simply get in touch and we’ll organise a time to chat!