As I’m sure many of you know, today is the first day of Lent. Here in Ireland, whether you are religious or not, everyone gives up something for the season. Whether it’s to stop smoking, not eat chocolate, give up soda… everyone finds something to give up for the lent season, kind of like new years resolutions. What is it that we tend to give up most? Usually, it’s choice to make our lives a little healthier. Regardless of the season or reason, at some time or another we’ll probably take the initiative to make better life choices. So, how do we lead healthier and happier lives?

Eat Healthy

Ever hear the term, “you are what you eat?” Well, it’s true! When we don’t eat healthy foods, we are depriving our bodies of the nutrients our body needs. Research has shown that people who eat diets high in Omega-6 fats, and low in Omega-3, are more likely to develop depression, than people whose diet includes higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, when our bodies are low on vitamin D, our chances for developing depression increase. It is believed that this may be one of the causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder (Seasonal Depression).

Practise a little Self-Acceptance

Sometimes this can be really hard, we all have parts of ourselves that we don’t like. It’s easy to get caught up in, “I’m such a ditz sometimes, I can’t believe I forgot the milk again”, or “well… so much for getting in shape and working out, I just don’t feel like going to the gym, I’m such a failure.” Instead, try replacing it with one of the thoughts listed below…

  • I’m not a bad person when I act badly, I am a person who has acted badly.
  • It may be worse to fail, but failure doesn’t make me a worse person.
  • I can be myself without having to prove myself
  • I’m not a fool for acting foolishly. If I were a fool, I could never learn from my mistakes.

When all else fails, remember that tomorrow is another day, and another chance to try again. Don’t focus on today’s failure, but tomorrow’s opportunity. For more tips on improving your self-acceptance, check out these tips here.

Get Active

I’m not saying you need to run to the gym and go do an hour and half long workout everyday. According to recent research, even just 30 minutes of moderate exercise 3 times a week is enough to benefit your brain. This could be 15 minutes walking around the block… 30 minutes walking around the shopping mall, 30 minutes walking your dog, or 30 minutes grocery shopping. If you are interested in exercising more, most gyms will let you meet with a trainer once to set up a workout plan, try out a workout class with a friend! Hey, if nothing else, it’s agreat stress reducer!

Practise increasing your tolerance

This may sound silly or strange, but it’s easy to get fed up and unhappy when we have low tolerance for certain people, situations, or things. And you know what? It’s okay to get frustrated at things, but it’s also okay for other people to make mistakes every once in a while. Remember that it’s all in your perspective. Maybe you’re in a hurry to grab lunch, and the line at the checkout counter is really long. You may think, “ugh, I don’t have time for this! But if I leave, I won’t have time to go somewhere else for lunch!” Instead, what good is coming out of this? Maybe you finally get a chance to relax from your busy work day. Will it really be the end of the world if this one day you are a couple minutes late getting back to your desk?

Get some Zzzz’s!

There is such a high percentage of Europeans and Americans who are deficient on the amount of sleep they need. Studies have shown that people who are deficient on the amount of sleep they need are more likely to experience depression, get sick, feel irritable, and show poor school and/or work performance. When poor sleep habits continue over a long period of time, you are more likely to experience high blood pressure, and mental impairment.

Do something to help someone else

Did you know that people experience greater levels of happiness when they help someone else than when someone does something to help them? Whether it be calling an older relative, volunteering, or cooking dinner for a friend. Doing something nice for others can help us feel better about ourselves. Check out HelpOthers.org for tips on random acts of kindness you can do in your community!

This is just a short list to get you going towards a healthier lifestyle. What other small changes have worked for you that has helped your life feel healthier and happier?

Nicole Paulie is a Counselling Psychologist, and co-author of “How to be Happy and Healthy – The seven natural elements of mental health.” She provides therapy in the Dublin city area. Contact us to learn more or to book an appointment.

6 ways to head down the road to a healthier life
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