Mental health & wellbeing

Six simple steps: How to increase your happiness, health and longevity

Dr Ron Ehrlich /

healthier

Dr Ron Ehrlich. Source: Supplied.

For most of us, our overriding goal in life is to fulfil our potential — and whether that is as part of a family, community or business, central to being the best we can be is to also be as healthy as we can.

We face many challenges in our modern world. The key is to identify and minimise what has the potential to compromise your health, and most importantly, to focus on simple principles to build mental, physical and emotional resilience. Here is a short list to get you started.

1. Prioritise

Your health is just too important to leave to anyone else.

If we are faced with a medical emergency we are fortunate to have the wonders of modern medicine to call on, and so often it is lifesaving.

The problem is our healthcare system has become a chronic disease management system. It’s a great economic model, which keeps the chemical, processed food, pharmaceutical and healthcare industries generating billions of dollars.

It’s just not a very good health model. You can either choose to be part of the economic model, or take control of your own health, and reap the benefits.

2. A consistently good night’s sleep

Sleep is your body’s built-in life-support system, affecting every measure of health, physical and mental. A good night’s sleep is a function of quantity and quality.

In terms of quantity, 95% of the adult population requires seven to nine hours.

And in terms of quality, putting your head on the pillow is not enough. The quality of sleep is a function of how well you breathe while asleep.

If, despite your best efforts, you are still tired, seek out a sleep physician to explore your options. It could extend your life, and even save it.

A consistently good night’s sleep is the most important part of your day.

3. Nourish

‘We are what we eat’ and there is a strong connection between ‘mood and food’.

If the evidence is anything to go by, with mental health and preventable chronic diseases on the rise, what we are eating is clearly not working for us.

For some people, food sensitivities or intolerances are real, and often complex, but some basic principles can get you started. Eat real food with a wide variety of lots of vegetables. Keep the carbohydrates, not just sugar, low.

This will mean measuring what you eat for a week or two to understand what you are actually consuming (70-100g each day is doable and sustainable). Lowering blood sugar and insulin levels is a positive for most diseases.

Consume a moderate amount of ethically grown proteins ( about 1g of protein for every kg of body weight) and include healthy fats — which could include butter, olive oil, and fat from ethically grown animals. We need healthy fat for every cell and hormone in our bodies and it ensures you won’t be hungry.

And finally, drink filtered water.

4. Reduce toxic load

We are literally exposed to thousands of chemicals on a daily basis in our air, water, food, personal care and household cleaning products, clothes and furniture.

We assume they have been tested and are safe. They haven’t and are not.

Household moulds and dust mites can also play havoc with our immune system, affecting both physical and mental health. Wi-fi radiation from phones, laptops and other devices has now been classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a class 2B carcinogen — which means it is “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.

The good news is by making informed decisions you can reduce your toxic exposure and load by 90%.

5. Move

It’s liberating to know just moving is good for you. Recent research has even found walking speed is a very good predictor of your chance of surviving the next five years, so it’s a great motivation to keep practising.

Walking is safe, social, sustainable and enjoyable.

You can also get some sun which gives you vitamin D — one of the most important hormones we need to be healthy, and one we are commonly deficient in. That is a win-win on the move-nourish front.

If you manage to exercise beyond that, doing 15 minutes of high-intensity intermittent training (HIIT) incorporating some everyday functional movements of bending and stretching, twisting and turning, pulling and pushing, then your metabolism will be elevated for 24-48 hours.

This is a good thing, considering a 10km run raises your metabolism for ‘only’ six-eight hours. Combine HIIT with some weight-bearing exercises and the effects are even better.

6. Value relationship and express gratitude

In the longest health study undertaken, Harvard University followed a group of individuals over a 75-year period. The study concluded relationships are the best predictor of health, wellness and longevity.

That doesn’t necessarily mean just a life partner. It can be family, friends, community, a church or club, amongst others.

Positively engaging in meaningful relationships and acknowledging their importance has a powerful effect, with the research further confirming expressing gratitude has a positive influence on health and happiness.

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Dr Ron Ehrlich

Dr Ron Ehrlich delivers keynotes and wellness workshops and is the author of A Life Less Stressed: The five pillars of health and wellness. He also hosts the weekly podcast Unstress with Dr Ron Ehrlich.

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