Healthy life advice tends to revolve around two things: food and exercise. Although these factors hold considerable sway over how we feel and function, looking after your body and mind encompasses so much more.
Here are seven simple habits you can introduce into your life that’ll benefit both your physical and mental health — and you won’t see the words “handful of almonds” or “run around the block” here.
1. Set your alarm slightly earlier and… breathe.
Having just 10 more minutes in the morning allows you to take a moment for yourself before responsibility sets in. If it’s any incentive, you don’t have to even leave your bed.
“Use this time to do breathing exercises, which will relax the mind and get you ready for your day,” says Personal Trainer and IsoWhey Sports athlete Nardia Norman.
Deep controlled breathing slows the heartbeat and stabilises blood pressure, which elicits a calming effect on the body and can tone down your stress response.
Watch: A guided meditation by Paper Tiger to try at home. (Post continues after video.)
2. Avoid confidence-killing habits.
It’s probably not humanely possible to feel confident 24/7, but continually feeling down on yourself has wide-ranging ramifications for your mental health.
One way to combat this is to identify habits that sneakily sap our confidence, particularly at the start of the day. According to Clinical Psychologist and Director of My Life Psychologists Tal Schlosser, checking social media, weighing yourself or trying on multiple outfits before you leave the house can all have an impact.
“Avoid starting your day with something you know usually triggers your critic and drains your self-confidence,” she advises. Instead, use that time to do something that boosts your mood – have a cup of tea, hug a loved one, listen to music, etc.
Tea: better for your soul than standing on the scales. (iStock)
3. Look after your eyes.
Many of us spend hours gazing at computers, phones and tablets and our eyes tend to bear the brunt of it.
Christine Nearchou, a lecturer in the University of Melbourne’s Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences, says the size and proximity of screens can lead to temporary eye strain, dryness or burning as our peepers work hard to provide clear, focused vision.
There are plenty of simple tweaks that can help combat this, like lowering the brightness of your screen, trying to keep devices an arm's length from your face where possible, and taking a break from gazing at screens every two hours (and looking at something in the distance). It might also be worth adjusting the size of the text on your gadgets if you're really struggling.
It's also wise to have your vision checked regularly. Straining to read what's on our screens can lead to poor posture as we hunch or pull our heads forward for a better look, so you might be doing damage to more than just your eyes. (Post continues after gallery.)
4. Stop slouching.
The way we hold our bodies when standing and sitting has a considerable impact on our health. Sustained poor posture can lead to physical pain in the neck, shoulders and back, due to added force being placed on the joints and muscles in these areas.
It can also affect how we feel; a small 2014 study found poor posture was associated with feelings of social fear, hostility and nervousness.
There's no "perfect" posture, but making an effort to sit up straight and hold your shoulders back — and recognising the factors that can negatively impact your posture — will improve matters.
Watch: Spent a lot of time sitting? You might be at risk of Dormant Butt Symdrome - yep, it's a thing. (Post continues after video.)
5. Step away from the desk.
It's no secret that spending hours on end parked on your bum isn't doing wonders for your body or even your mind — research last year found a sedentary lifestyle could have negative mental health impacts, increasing an individual’s risk of developing anxiety.
This isn't to say you have to get up and complete a gym class every hour in order to overcome the effects. Just getting up to say hi to a colleague "in person" (yes, apparently you can interact with people in real life! Remarkable), or doing the coffee run, will make a difference.
Got your inbox back down to zero? Good. Now stand up for a moment. (iStock)
6. See/talk to your friends.
Research suggests spending quality time with your close friends has positive effects on your emotional health, and possibly physical health as well.
No, you don't need to slot them in to every free minute of your life, but don't underestimate the mood boost that comes from a quick phone call or coffee catch-up (especially if you have a good laugh while you're at it).
7. Wear foot-friendly shoes where possible.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, nine out of 10 women's foot deformities are linked to bad shoes, and flimsy footwear can impact our legs and spine as well.
"They're a little bit small, but they're 70 per cent off..." Don't do it. (Image: Walt Disney Pictures)
Where possible, avoid buying/wearing shoes that are too big or small, have super-thin soles or are made from flimsy synthetic materials. Even if you invest in one pair of supportive, well-made shoes to wear to and from the office before slipping into something more 'cool' to wear at work can make a difference.
Wearing shoes with wider toes and alternating your heel height each day are also recommended.
What are the habits that keep you healthy?