You already know that eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep are important to your overall health. But did you know that your mental health is just as important?
Not only can stress and anxiety play havoc with your sleep and digestion, but they can also make it harder to stick to a healthy diet or exercise plan. Managing stress and paying attention to your mental and emotional wellbeing can help us focus on your goals. Finding healthy eating and exercise routines that support your mental wellbeing as well makes us more likely to stick with these habits.
Healthy eating habits
There is no one-size-fits-all plan for nutrition, but there are some basic ideas that work for most people. Eating healthy doesn’t just do your body good – there are also many benefits for your brain and mental health.
1. Fuel up regularly
Keep your body (and mind) fueled throughout the day by eating regularly. For most people, this means having a meal or snack every 4 to 5 hours. Eating regularly helps to prevent energy crashes, especially later in the day.
If you regularly find yourself losing focus or feeling sleepy at your desk in the late afternoon, incorporating a healthy afternoon snack into your routine may help you stay mentally present.
2. Emphasize protein
Include some protein at each meal and snack. Protein helps to keep us satiated for longer, helps to repair and build muscle tissue, and is also linked to the production of “happiness chemicals,” like dopamine, in your brain.
For a quick and easy protein-rich snack, try trail mix or fruit with nut butter.
3. Stay hydrated
It’s important to drink water (and other liquids) throughout the day to replace lost fluids so you can stay hydrated and feel your best. A good rough guide is 2.5-3 liters of water per day. Not a fan of plain water? Get creative by drinking infused waters, make your own herbal iced tea, or consider a smoothie as a mid-afternoon snack.
Ensuring you are well hydrated can improve both your mood and your ability to concentrate.
4. Focus on fruits and veggies
Build your meals and snacks around fruits and vegetables. They're packed with antioxidants and micronutrients which help optimize your health and athletic performance. They're also naturally low in calories and rich in fiber, which can help fill you up to maintain a healthy weight.
Healthy habits for the mind
Mental wellbeing is just as important as proper nutrition and exercise. And taking care of your mental health can often make it easier and more enjoyable to stick to a meal plan or exercise routine.
1. Get creative
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, so mix up your routine once in a while. Being creative with your routine can mean making small changes, or treating yourself to something special once in a while. These little moments outside of the norm can bring us a bit of joy, even when things get tough.
2. Be self-compassionate
Self-compassion means having empathy for yourself, and quieting that critical voice inside your head. Fall short of your exercise plans for the week, or indulge in some less-than-nutritious snacks? Being kind to yourself means sticking to your values, and trusting that a little setback doesn’t mean all your efforts are wasted.
Likewise, when you smash that workout or cook a delicious, veggie-rich meal, it’s okay to pat yourself on the back. You’re doing great.
3. Strengthen relationships
Humans are social creatures – we all long for connection. Having people in your life that you can turn to when you need help is important for your overall mental wellbeing. Plus, building healthy habits is often more enjoyable when you do it together.
In-person interactions are more valuable than text or social media – why not invite a friend to go for a walk, and get active together?
4. Practice mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness can be as simple as focusing on what you’re doing or seeing in the present moment, even for just a short time. Or, it can be taking a few minutes each day to clear your head and breathe deeply.
It’s easy to get distracted, or live more in the future than in the present while we’re planning out our day. But staying grounded in the present moment is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety, and also enjoy life’s simple pleasures – like a delicious home-cooked meal, for example.
Find something you can stick with
No matter what healthy activities you decide to incorporate into your lifestyle, make sure that you actually enjoy them. While any change can take some getting used to, it shouldn’t feel like torture. Healthy habits should eventually feel natural, not forced.
To help with this, look for balance. Try to develop habits that are beneficial to both body and mind – not one or the other. This can help sustain these changes and turn them into long-term healthy habits. What’s your favourite healthy habit?
Everyone is different, so remember to listen to your body when finding the best approach for your healthy living. Counsellors and Registered Dietitians on the TELUS Health MyCareᵀᴹ
app are here to help you develop sustainable habits to stay physically and mentally healthy. Create personalized strategies that work for you and your family with the support from a Mental Health Counsellor or Registered Dietitian on the TELUS Health MyCare app.**
Get started with TELUS Health MyCare today
*Users must be 16 years or older to access a counselling appointment. Counselling appointments require additional payment of $120 plus applicable tax. Users under some employer-sponsored solutions will not pay a fee for the service. Any payments for appointments must be paid using a valid credit card. An in-app receipt will be provided for you to claim for reimbursement if applicable.
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