Find Your Balance with these 5 Lifestyle Keys

If you want to find a lifestyle balance that takes back control of your wellbeing, there are 5 key areas to consider. Each will have a profound effect on your daily life and are a great starting point for unlocking your potential to be the best you can be.

The 5 lifestyle keys are:

1.Food

Research has shown that what we eat affects both our physical and mental health and is associated with our sense of Wellbeing. Keeping a food diary for a week can help you see if you are eating well and help you identify any changes you may need to make to improve your health and wellbeing.

2. Exercise

Being active and taking regular exercise promotes overall health and wellbeing as well as reducing stress. You also become stronger, fitter and less prone to injury. If you’re not currently exercising regularly, try starting with 10 minutes of gentle activity such as walking, dancing to your favourite tune or just try to spend less time sitting and more time moving, you’ll soon feel the benefits!

3. Sleep

We all sleep, but how well do you sleep? Sleeping improves mental and emotional wellbeing. It also allows your body to rest and repair, recover from illness, boosts your immune system and gives you energy. Try to get into a regular sleep routine and make sure you’re sleeping in a restful environment.

4. Habits

We go through each day following our usual habits, often on auto pilot, not noticing what we do! Start to take notice, are these habits useful or are they preventing you achieving what you hope for? If you feel you need to change your habits, check out last weeks blog when we looked at how habits are formed and how we can learn new habits.

5. Thoughts

How is your inner dialogue? Does that voice in your head make you feel strong, capable and in control? Or is it full of self doubt, criticism and negative thoughts. Your inner dialogue can either support or sabotage the changes in the lifestyle you wish for. Notice the thoughts that affect your actions and start to recognise if they help or hinder you.

We will cover these in more detail over the coming weeks and provide some useful strategies to help you find a lifestyle balance that helps you take back control of your wellbeing, so don’t forget to check in next week!

Is something getting in the way?

Hands up if you’ve ever tried to make positive changes to your lifestyle, such as losing weight, getting more active or stopping smoking and soon found yourself slipping back into your old ways again!

Why is that?

During our lifetime, our experiences have helped up develop patterns in our behaviour, often referred to as habits. These habits maybe positive and help keep us safe and well, such as the habit of brushing your teeth, checking for traffic before crossing the road or eating when you’re hungry.

We can also develop unhealthy habits we may want to change, but these habits are often hardwired in our brain and finding the willpower to change isn’t easy. Understanding how these habits form can help you understand how to break down barriers and stop these habits getting in the way.

Habits are formed by a cue, a routine and a reward, this is called a habit loop. For example;

The Cue: you feel thirsty

The Behaviour: you drink some water

The Reward: you feel relief from quenching your thirst.

Repeating the same behaviour, over and over, trains your brain to recognise this as ‘normal’ and it becomes a habit. If you want to change a habit you have to rewire the circuit, by changing the behaviour and repeating it over and over, at least 21 times, until it becomes a new habit.

Start by observing any patterns in the behaviour you want to change. Can you identify what the cue is? Can you find ways to change the behaviour that follows the cue? Or find a new reward that makes you want to repeat the new behaviour again and again?

For example:

The Cue: You are feeling bored

The Behaviour: You decide to eat some chocolate

The Reward: The release of dopamine, serotonin and endorphins help you feel happier but only in the short-term, as later you may feel guilt.

Rewire this to:

The Cue: You are feeling bored

The Behaviour: You decide to go for a brisk walk outdoors

The Reward: The release of dopamine,serotonin and endorphins helps you feel happier, this time in the long-term, as this has also helped you feel in control.

Everyone will have their own habits and the desire to change a habit is personal to each individual, here is how you can get results:

  1. Once you’ve decided what you want to change and why (see last weeks blog), write down what barriers may get in your way. Consider:
    • Your habits,beliefs and barriers that you’ve come across before.
    • What environmental factors may affect you i.e. work, day to day life and social obligations.
    • Family commitments and expectations.
  2. From your list, pick one or two things you think you can tackle.
  3. Consider how to overcome these barriers.
  4. Make a plan to help you get results.

Join us next week to discuss five lifestyle keys

Believing is Achieving!

The media constantly tells us why we should do more exercise, so why is it so hard for some of us to be more active?

Our past experience will have shaped the beliefs we hold about ourselves and these beliefs help shape our behaviour. If you are one of those people who have always participated in sport, chances are you’ll have no trouble keeping active for life. However, if you hated sport at school, have a condition that affects your movement or simply do not like exercise, becoming active will undoubtedly be more of a challenge. If you believe you don’t like exercise, but want to change this, here are some guidelines to help you start to make that change. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day! Take one step at a time and start by considering the following;

What is your current situation?

First, think about what you do right now. What is your normal routine? How do you feel? What is important to you? Are you happy with the way you live your life? Spend some time thinking this through and write down your thoughts.

What do you want to achieve?

Look ahead to the next 12 months, what changes would you like to see? Why are they important to you? If you do not know what you want to achieve, maybe think about what you don’t want to happen. For example; as you age you may not want to lose your independence or you may want to prevent developing a condition such as diabetes, back pain or heart disease. Visualise how you want to be in 12 months time and write this down.

What Needs to Change?

Now, consider what you need to change. What are you doing right now that needs to change in order to be where you want to be in 12 months time? You may end up with several things you need to change. Just focus on changing one thing at a time. What can you can change this week? Keep it simple, realistic and believe you can achieve it, then give it a try! Believing really is achieving!

Next week we will talk about overcoming barriers, so make sure you check back to see how we can help you continue your journey.

Exercise: What should it feel like?

If you are new to exercising or have other underlying health conditions, it’s difficult to know what you should be feeling and have the confidence to continue if you are unsure.

If you normally have painful joints e.g. Arthritis, you may think exercise will do harm. The opposite is true – Moving and Exercising the joints is essential to keep them healthy and has been proven to reduce pain and improve how well your joints work.

It is so important not to avoid activity because of painful joints, it will lead to increased stiffness and weaker muscles – this is known as the deconditioning cycle

Am I doing more harm than good?

It is totally normal to feel a bit uncomfortable or even sore after exercise – especially if it is something new or you haven’t done it for a while. But remember this does not mean you are doing harm. Any discomfort should settle and as you exercise more regularly, this discomfort will become less and less – a sign that your muscles are getting stronger and joints are working better.

Am I doing enough?

We are recommended to be doing 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise per week, but what does this mean?

Aerobic exercise is any activity that increases your breathing and heart rate (e.g. walking, swimming, dancing, gardening), and will improve your general stamina and fitness and have many positive effects on your health and wellbeing.

What is moderate?

You should be exercising at a level that increases your heart rate and breathing, you will feel warmer and you should still be able to talk – but not sing! If you like numbers, it should feel like around 5-6 on a scale of 0-10

150 minutes a week sounds like a lot!

If you haven’t been exercising much recently, this may seem like an unreachable goal. But don’t worry, even small increases in your activity levels can have positive effects on many aspects of your health and wellbeing. Create smaller, more achievable goals like aiming for a 10 minute chunk of moderate intensity exercise per day to begin with and slowly build up from there if you are able to.

Strength & Balance Exercise

Including exercise to improve muscle strength and balance is important to maintain independence, prevent falls and make everyday life a little easier. You can do this by using weights, resistance bands or your own body weight.

To see improvements in strength you need to work with a resistance that tires your muscles to a point where you can’t do any more of that exercise, and would need a short rest before repeating another set of the exercise.

Balance specific exercises should also feel like a real challenge. The aim is that you create a little ‘safe’ wobble in your body so that you are working all your proprioceptive nerve endings (that tell your body where it is in space), and your reflex reactions. This is challenging your nervous system and to see results balance exercises should be practiced every day.

These exercises should feel like a real challenge:

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you”

Here’s how to make it feel easier!

  • Hydrate – make sure you drink plenty, if you are even a little dehydrated exercise will feel harder
  • Eat well – A balanced, healthy diet will give your body what it needs to work most efficiently for you
  • Exercise with a buddy or group if able to – Increase your enjoyment of exercise and time may pass more quickly
  • Pace yourself – Don’t be tempted to increase your exercise by too much, even if you’re having a “good” day. You may feel wiped out and be put off trying again.

It shouldn’t feel like this:

  • If you experience chest pain, dizziness or you are very short of breath -stop immediately and seek medical advice
  • If you experience any unusual or sharp joint/muscle pain while exercising – first check you are doing it correctly. If it persists stop and contact your instructor for advice.

By Emma Rollings, AHS WellBalanced Clinical Lead & AHS Wellbeing Coach

Check our online classes to see what exercises might suit you!

What does Wellbeing mean?

The use of the word ‘Wellbeing’ has become common place these days. Have you ever wondered what is actually means?

Wellbeing is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.” and the World Health Organisation describes wellbeing as “enabling people to develop their potential, work productively and creatively, form positive relationships with others and meaningfully contribute to the community” 

Wellbeing has many components including mental, physical, social, emotional and spiritual, and there are many ways to define it.

Research shows you can improve your Wellbeing by doing 5 simple things. Developed by the New Economics Foundation and widely used by many health organisations including Mind and the NHS, the 5 Ways to Wellbeing can help you cope better with stress and to live longer, healthier and happier!

Here are the 5 Ways to Wellbeing and some ideas to get started:

1. Connect with people around you

This could be with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.

2. Be active

Simply put, try to move more. Try to do something that you enjoy, such as walking, running, an exercise class, dancing or gardening at a level that suits your mobility and fitness. See the Government guidelines to see how much exercise is recommended.

3. Take notice of things around you

Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice
the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking to
work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around
you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.

4. Keep learning new things

Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course.
Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an
instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will
enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as
well as being fun.


5. Help others

Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile.
Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in.
Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community
can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people
around you.

Need help? Visit our AHS Services to find out how we can help you.