By Samuel Smith
Published: Tuesday, January 5, 2021
2020 was a physically and mentally exhausting year, leaving many of us a little worse for wear.
But the human mind and body are resilient things, and with a little help, can easily bounce back.
No matter what your plans are for 2021, you’ll want to make sure you start the year feeling your best, whether that means widening your social circle, eating better, sleeping better, exercising more, or improving your mental health.
There are countless ways to get your health back on track, but here are 5 quick tips that are sure to point you in the right direction.
1. Get enough sleep
According to the Sleep Health Foundation of Australia, adults need an average of 8-and-a-quarter hours of sleep every night.
If you’re a night owl who sleeps less regularly, studies show you may experience concentration issues, increased anxiety and stress.
There are a number of things you can do to improve your sleep. First, make your bedroom environment a comfortable space with the appropriate sleep support and bedding to suit the season. Regulate the room temperature with appropriate heating or cooling and curtains or blinds to block out sunlight.
Maintain a daily sleep routine so you can set a natural sleep/wake cycle. Allow some digital downtime by putting away your phone or laptop half an hour before going to sleep. If you need to use your devices directly before nodding off, switch them to night mode, which emits a softer light.
It’s also important to limit the amount of alcohol and coffee you drink as too much can impact your sleep quality. Try not to nap throughout the day – this will likely confuse your body clock.
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2. Take charge of your mental health
This year has been a struggle for us all, especially those who’ve lost jobs, found themselves working around the clock with kids or dependant family members at home, or self-isolating away from loved ones.
According to statistics from Beyond Blue, a quarter of Australians will experience an anxiety condition in their lifetime, while 17% of Australians aged 16 to 85 have experienced an anxiety and/or affective disorder in the past 12 months.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to remember that if you aren’t feeling yourself, you’re not alone, there’s nothing to be ashamed of and there’s help out there.
Taking control of your mental health is as much about asking yourself ‘How can I feel my best?’ as it is asking ‘What doesn’t feel right?’.
If you’d like to improve your wellbeing, the first step is simply seeing your GP. They’ll chat with you and see if you need/want a mental healthcare plan.
HCF members receive mental health care benefits. If you’re an RAA member, you get 5% off health insurance premiums with HCF.
3. Eat well, not less
Looking to lose weight? It can be tempting to start a restrictive diet or opt for a regime of weight-loss shakes. But these are temporary fixes and won’t fuel your body with the nutrients it needs.
To lose weight and keep it off, you’ll want to aim for a balanced diet including 5 portions of vegetables and fruit per day, plus plenty of fibre and some dairy and protein.
Combined with exercise, even small dietary changes can lower your risk of developing type-2 diabetes, depression, heart disease, tooth decay and some cancers. To ensure you’re eating well, try developing meal plans in advance, and eating as many nutritious home-cooked meals as possible.
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4. Get active
Joining the gym isn’t the only way to get in shape. There are so many ways to get active, from YouTube yoga videos to bike rides, summer swims at the beach, morning runs at the local park or even choosing to walk part of your journey to/from work each day.
The health benefits of exercise are far too long to list, but some of the most prominent include lowering blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels. Exercise – even just walking around the block each night after dinner – can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease and, according to the Australian Government Department of Health, help maintain mental health.
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5. Join a group or club
With many Australians having recently dealt with restrictions and some coming out of self-isolation, forging a connection with others is more important than ever.
Simply chatting with another person, sharing your thoughts and bonding over a common interest can boost your mood dramatically.
So, if you have a hobby, why not seek out others who share it? From hiking and surfing to cooking, reading and working on cars, no matter what your interests are, there’s likely to be a group of people out there who share them.
Wondering where to start? Chat to your local council.