Watch: Simple steps to a healthier life
If you’ve found 2020 tough, you’re not alone. Mental health charity, Mind, reports that more than half of adults and over two thirds of young people have said their mental health has suffered this year.
“We’re currently going through a global pandemic so it’s really important that you’re kind to yourself and that you also give yourself the space that you need,” says GP, Dr Chris George.
Luckily, he believes that it only takes a few small changes to help improve your mental and physical health.
First up, he advises making changes that you will stick to. Starting on a complicated fitness regime or changing too many things at once is a recipe for failure.
“If it’s simple and it’s easy, we’re more likely to follow it and it’s going to have long-term success for us,” advises Dr George. “By building these habits, it means that we’re able to be more successful going forward.”
Dr George believes one of these new habits should be exercise. Not only can it help boost your mood, but exercise can also enhance your immune system, essential during a global pandemic. One top tip to ensure you stick to a new exercise regime is to choose something you love doing.
“Pick any exercise that you like,” advises Dr George. “The most important thing is that you enjoy it because if you enjoy it, you’re more engaged and you’re more likely to do it long term.”
And you don’t need to go mad if you’re new to exercise – just five minutes a day can be beneficial.
Dr George says: “What we know is that five minutes is the minimum that you need to do to have any physical benefits from that activity, s whilst it sounds like very little, it can have a huge impact on your health, and it’s also more likely to create good, healthy, long-lasting habit.”
Once you’ve got exercise sorted, it’s time to look at what you’re eating, but Dr George says it’s not about going on a diet.
“Diets have been shown to actually cause weight gain after the diet period,” he says. “So for long-term success, ditch the diet and make small sustainable changes.”
These changes can be as small as increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in your diet or upping the amount of water you drink each day.
Mental health is just as important in these trying times and Dr George advises ensuring you add some relaxation time into your day.
“For me, I like using the four, five, six technique for breathing,” recommends Dr George.
“Breathe in for four seconds, hold for five, breathe out for six. I can assure you, you’ll feel so much more relaxed and calmer once you’ve finished.”
His final tip is to keep a gratitude journal. Every day you just write down the things you’re grateful for – it really is that simple – but it can be super effective.
One study found that those people who kept a journal weekly for 10 weeks experienced more gratitude, positive moods, optimism about the future and better sleep.
“It’s something that’s really helped me this year,” reveals Dr George. “I found even the small things that I’m grateful for has made me really appreciate things in life, especially in what’s been a very stressful year.”
Watch: Easy ways to improve your sleep