Tips for establishing a health-promoting (and life-sustaining) lifestyle
By: Helena Louw – Occupational Therapist
Work together as a family to manage your use of electronic devices
Now that you know electronic devices can potentially pose a health risk to you and your family, involve your family in looking for ways to manage it responsibly:
- Discuss everyone’s needs and wants for using electronic devices and share ideas on the prioritization of screen-based activities (e.g. work before play).
- Brainstorm alternative ways of doing activities which may be done without using electronic devices, (e.g. writing a physical letter to grandma instead of an email).
- Implement some basic rules to help safeguard the whole family’s health and boost its well-being (e.g. switching the wi-fi off at night, banning electronic devices from mealtimes and bedtimes, having daily limits of screen-time use for each family member).
Prioritize your sleep
Sacrificing sleep essentially equates to sacrificing health and life-years down the line. Prioritize the quality and quantity of your sleep by trying out the following ideas:
- Dedicate your bedroom to sleeping. Refuse to engage in stressful or stimulating activities (e.g. work or TV) in there; rather, teach your brain to associate the bedroom with relaxing and resting.
- Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol and food/ drinks containing caffeine, before bedtime.
- Decide on and maintain regular going-to-bed and getting-up times. Plan for 7-9 hours of sleep per night, plus a little extra time to allow you to fall asleep.
- If you like daytime naps, limit them to no more than 30 minutes and take them before 5pm.
Having a sedentary lifestyle poses scores of health concerns, many of which may not even be rectified by regular ‘bouts’ of exercise. This means that even if you exercise for 30-60 minutes per day, if you sit still for the rest of the day your health may still suffer. Look instead for ways to move throughout your day:
- Do parts of your work while standing or walking.
- Take frequent breaks from sitting – walk around, drink water, get some fresh air.
- Walk where you can instead of driving.
- Take the stairs instead of the lift.
- Do something which keeps you moving during lunch-breaks.
You don’t necessarily need to follow a fancy or complicated diet – a lot can be achieved by simply replacing some of the foods which cause inflammation, with healthier alternatives.
- Avoid or minimize sweets, cookies, puddings and all other foods containing refined sugar. Replace instead with honey, maple syrup or natural sweeteners.
- Avoid or minimize refined starches such as those found in pasta and white bread; instead, try to eat brown rice or wholegrain foods.
- Use as much whole/ natural foods in your cooking as possible, e.g. natural meat instead of processed sausages.
Start with small changes that you and your family can maintain over time, and build on those to tailor your lifestyle for health over the long term.