Everyone knows that physical and mental health can be improved by taking regular exercise, quitting smoking, and eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. But it is often the small changes that help the most.
1) Find ways of reducing inflammation.
Researchers are only just beginning to realize the problems inflammation causes in the body, and it is now being linked to all sorts of illnesses, from cancer to Parkinsons, Alzheimers to depression. Inflammation is also thought to play a major role in the ageing process. Chronic, low-level infections, too much-processed food, too many additives, nutrient deficiencies, and even pesticides are all thought to contribute to inflammation. But perhaps most surprisingly, brutal and excessive physical activity also plays a part. It had often been noted that retired sports professionals did not seem to age any better or live any longer than members of the general public. It is now thought that this could be due to the punishing and excessive nature of their training. So make your exercise regular but gentle.
2) Ration the amount of news you consume.
Remember that the various news outlets are in fierce competition. Consequently, they must do all they can to grab and hold your attention. And how do they do so? By frightening you! Do not casually flick from one news station to the next when bored. If you wish to keep abreast of what is happening in the world, buy the most thoughtful, least sensationalist newspaper you can find and read that. At the same time, stop watching the evening news and stop listening to the news on the radio; night and day the media will fill you with fear, dread, and misery about everything from mass migration to economic meltdown, climate change to overpopulation.
3) Be aware of your posture when enduring physical or emotional pain.
A straight, firm posture can help you withstand both physical and emotional distress. According to research, though people instinctively curl into a foetal position when suffering, this should be avoided. When you do so, you lose all sense of power and control. Instead, stand up straight with your shoulders back, your chin up, and your chest pushed out. This will give you a sense of mastery over the pain, thus making it easier to endure. It may even trigger hormonal changes that enable greater tolerance.
4) Reduce the amount of time you spend on social media.
Never forget that your friends and neighbors only post images of the good times. If someone has just returned from a vacation in England, they are not going to post photos of their daughter having a temper tantrum at the airport. All you will see is a happy family smiling in front of Buckingham Palace, or Shakespeare’s birthplace. Facebook is not real life. But, though you may know this, your subconscious does not, and the message you absorb is simple: everyone else has a happier family, more friends, and more fun than me! Research conducted by the University of Missouri even found that those who used Facebook and related sites on a daily basis were more likely to suffer depression than those who did not.
5) Keep a gratitude diary.
Self-pity is a one-way ticket to unhappiness, so develop the habit of gratitude. Before you go to bed, quickly jot down all the things you have to be grateful for. It doesn’t matter how trivial these things are. Perhaps you got a seat on the bus for the first time this week. Or maybe there was a cancellation at the dentist and you were seen earlier than expected. What you are grateful for matters less than the fact that you are grateful.
6) Be wary of germ hotspots.
When life is stressful, difficult and demanding, which, let’s face it, is most of the time, the last thing you want is a cold. We don’t want to make you panic or turn you into a “hygiene freak” but you would want to hear this: it used to be thought that colds were most often caught by breathing in the same air as someone already infected. It is now known that you are just as likely to catch a cold from touching the same door handle, elevator button, or even light switch. So wipe down any surface you can especially during the flu season. It doesn’t hurt to carry a packet of hand sanitisers with you at all times. If this is not practical, make a point of regularly washing your hands. And try not to put your hands near your mouth. If you are a chronic nail biter, this has got to stop!
Of course, no one is suggesting that exercise and healthy eating do not matter. On the contrary, they are very important. But it is often the small, seemingly trivial, changes that can have the biggest impact.