Twelve healthy habits to improve mental and physical wellbeing

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If you want to be healthier, happier and more productive, then keep reading.

I am a writer. I write about writing things, however every now and then I like to put a little something together to help those that follow me have a healthier and happier life. Simple things that I have learnt that have improved both my alertness, productivity, outlook and general level of happiness. Call it a shred of wisdom. Calling it me talking a load of crap. Call it what you like: these are my tips on how to improve your life through small daily changes.

Caveat – I would work on doing one of these at a time, maybe implementing them over a twelve-month period. Why do I say this? Well because our brains like to resist change, especially when too many things are thrown in at once. Ever tried a new year’s resolution to eat healthier, stop smoking, run every morning and to go the gym five times a week? How long did you last? A day? A week? Two weeks max doing all of them?

Our brains like to resist change. These things come with habits, and habits are created through triggers, rewards and repetition. With small implemented changes over a consistent period of time, we can build regular habits that stick with us. Through making steady improvements over a twelve-month basis, working at one at a time, we are able to increase our functionality and wellbeing through small behavioural changes that ultimately lead us to improving our life.

How does the saying go? If you do what you have always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. So something needs to change, right? Even if you do just one of these things, you will see an improvement in your life and productivity. Trust me.

Stock photo – Cooking

1 – Learn to cook.

I’m not meaning you have to be like a celebrity chef, or even make really fancy ass meals that would leave a Micheline style restaurant longing for improvements. What I am saying though, is that you should learn how to do something properly which is a requirement to our survival on a daily basis. If that hasn’t sold you on the idea of learning how to cook a few basic meals, then look at it this way –

A standard meal in the household would be –

A pack of frozen dinosaurs at £3.00 a pop

A bag of frozen chips at £1.50

Maybe some baked beans at around £0.30 per tin.

Total cost for one meal – £4.80.

Cooking time – approx. 35 minutes.

These foods are filled with preservatives, are expensive for what they are, and are also not very high in nutrients, but are high in salt and saturated fats.

Now let’s compare a piece of fresh chicken (I advise buying in bulk, wrapping them individually in cling film or plastic sandwich bags, and then freezing them, using as required.) Fry an onion and throw some herbs on there and boil some pasta.

Bulk buy three chicken breasts – £2.50 (£0.83 each)

½ Onion – £0.10

1/10th of ground garlic – £0.10

Two handfuls of pasta – £0.25

Cost for one meal for two/three people – £1.28

Time to cook – Twenty minutes.

If bulk cooked and frozen, approx. cost per week – £8.96

Dino’s and chips for a week (for evening meal only) – £33.60

How about that McDonalds you get on your dinner break? Again, quick maths here, but say you spend £5.00 a day on your lunch break, then that is £25.00 a week. Compared to pre preparing meals, that’s a huge cost for one meal each day. In total, the cost of fast food for your dinner, then a freezer tea for your evening meal, can come to around £58.00 a week! Compared to around £16.00 if you made home cooked meals and froze them, eating as required. That’s a whopping saving of approx. £42.00 a week, which is nearly £200.00 a month.

The above is an estimation, but you get the idea: It’s cheaper, faster and more nutritious to cook and freeze your own meals, rather than keep sticking things in the oven or grabbing things on the go. The amount of time it will take to do the second option is practically the same as the time spent for the dinosaurs to turn golden. Not only that, but you know what is going into you and your families’ mouths, you know what it was cooked in, it’s nutritious, simple and easy. There are thousands of recipes available at the tips of your fingers, and you should look at making your own food more often. You will save money, learn a skill and be eating better quality food each day. So, learn to cook a few simple meals. You can thank me later.

Writing

2 – Work on something new each day

This one is pretty self explanatory. Work on something you enjoy, be it a book, writing, playing music, jiu jitsu, a course, a new skill or backflips into a shark pit (I’d rather not, personally). The point is, we work damn hard at our day jobs, but majority of people don’t want to do their day jobs, and because they’re so fucked after having their souls sucked from their bodies ten hours a day, they don’t get to focus any attention on the things they want to really do.

When you get home, don’t turn the tv on. Instead, force yourself to sit down and do that thing you love for five minutes. Only five minutes, but commit yourself to doing that one task for five minutes. You’ll find by just telling yourself you’re doing five minutes, that you actually find the energy and time to do much more. Thus building habits, habit triggers and also building something in your spare time that you really love and enjoy outside of your day job.

Dinner a the table

3 – Eat at the table

We have them for a reason. When you have made that delicious and freshly cooked meal for your family, it only makes sense to put your phone away and spend the time that day having a meal together and discussing you’re the day you have all had. We are all busy people, and we may find it hard to find time to sit together and talk. So what better time than at meal times? If it’s only one meal a day, that’s an hour where you are present with your families and loved ones, present in the moment and not distracted by the outside world. To have that time to be able to sit and reconnect with those that you live with. If you live on your own, I would still suggest you do this, as it gives you a chance to be present in what you are doing. It’s good for the soul, for the emotional health, and it builds the relationships between you and those closest to you.

Move

4 – Lift weights and do cardio.

Ever wonder why every one of these damn posts has some kind of ‘move your ass and get sweaty’ elements to it? Because it’s important! We have evolved to be running, jumping and climbing trees. We have evolved to fight lions and tigers that wanted to kill us, and to hunt after deer and other animal life through thick forestry and to pick berries from trees without being bitten by damn snakes. We are creatures that are designed to move. And with the modern lifestyle, we are sitting in our cars, then at a desk, then on our couch most of the day.

Our bodies and mental health are suffering. Not only that, but studies of those that exercise regular have shown decreases in anxiety, in depression and stress, and have shown to have higher levels of testosterone, healthier immune systems, better bone density, lower risk of stroke, heart disease, cancer and dementia, and all other amazing benefits. Not to mention it makes you look better naked and you’ll have better sex, with better looking people. If that isn’t an incentive, I don’t know what is. Move your ass each day for twenty minutes or so, either at the gym, going for a nice walk outside or hell, in your living room following a YouTube video. Lift weights, get disciplined, get sweaty, get sexy.

Clear your space

5 – Declutter your home.

They say that the environment someone lives in is a direct reflection of their mental health. I think this is very true. Someone that has their clothes all over the floor, their bed is unmade, and their surfaces are filled with dirty pots, pans and an inch thick in dust and grime, then I think it’s not a million miles away to suggest that the person living in that house isn’t very well. I have found that when I clear the house I feel much better in myself, and even if it’s only me in the house at the time, I can think clearer and be more productive when my living space looks that much neater and tidier. Not only this, but the satisfaction one gets when they have cleared the house is that little hit of that ‘well done’ brain chemical we love so much.

So one, make sure your living space is clean. But more importantly, get rid of clutter. You’ve heard of minimalism right? Minimalism is having a more meaningful space. Everything you own from clothes, ornaments, belongings and just general ‘stuff,’ should add value to your life. Why do you have a wardrobe cluttered with fifty shirts that you only ever wear three of? Twenty pairs of shoes that you have never worn? Let go of pointless possessions. You don’t own them if you can’t part with them. They own you instead. Clear the pointless shit and make more plentiful space and send the rest to the charity shop or sell it.

I recommend looking into minimalism and the mental clarity it can give. Not only will you make space, but you will save money because you won’t be buying all the useless crap you normally would be buying, and the things that you do have would add great value to your life. I suggest getting some house plants in your space too. They are great to talk to when nobody is around…

Read

6 – Read More.

This one should go without saying. I often hear people say when I mention about reading the words ‘Oh I should do more reading really, but I never have the time.’

In the world of audiobooks, there is little excuse we can really have to not consume more books. With audiobooks, that hour we spend driving to work each day, or the time we spend at the gym, walking the dog or cleaning the house can be used more productively. Simply put your headphones in, fire up the audiobook and crack on. Yes YouTube videos are great for learning information quickly, but the amount of information you can get from a book compared to a short video is enormous. The world is filled with amazing and useful knowledge, and there is a book on just about any subject you want to learn about.

But how do you read more if you don’t have access to an audiobook or simply don’t enjoy listening to audiobooks? Well, try the five-minute rule. Set yourself the task of reading for five minutes, and only five minutes in a day. Be that when you first wake up, on your lunch break, on the bus, or my personal favourite, before going to bed at night.

I find by building a small habit in the day for a short, achievable amount of time, will allow you to build it into your daily routine and to get it done more consistently, and actually make you miss it when you don’t do it. I find reading books a great way to de stress and get lost in another world, or even learn a few things that can then be implemented in business, personal growth or even learn something more about a topic you enjoy. Pick up a book for five minutes or put an audiobook on the next time you start cleaning out all your stuff from your wardrobe. You’ll love it.

Nature

7 – Get Outside More

Believe it or not, we have not evolved to sit the house all day and night. The only times we ever step outside being when we are en route to work, that walk from the train station or the car park to our office where we sit down for eight hours, then go home and vegetate on the couch watching TV shows. Getting out more is said for a reason. Being stuck inside all the time narrows our mind. We are fed the news and none stop adverts, which means that our frame of experience of the world is askew. Getting out the house, even for just ten minutes a day, has lots of health benefits from improved mood, brain function, lessens the risk of dementia and hell, you might even strike up a conversation with someone you get on with, meet a new partner, loose a little weight and get a good Instagram shot. You could stumble past a book store or café you didn’t know was there, or see a show being advertised to take that special someone out to go see.

Staying locked I our homes is a way of staying locked in our own minds, and from this, we see the world through a very narrow lens. Try it; get outside and go for a walk or go explore somewhere that you haven’t been. Live in the moment, and don’t just wait for moments to happen.

Make your bed

8 – Make your bed in the morning.

There are a lot of people these days that want to change the world when their own lives are in disarray. How can you expect to change the world when you are living in chaos? The world changing starts with you. Get your own house in order. Jordan Peterson, the author and Psychiatrist speaks about this a hell of a lot. He says that you need your own world to be in order before you can try and organise the world of other people. A simple yet powerful message. And a great way of kickstarting your day. By making your bed the first thing you do in the morning, you have already got a tick in your box for that day. And if you do nothing else for the rest of your waking hours, you know that you started the morning off the best way you could have. Make your bed in the morning. Make sure you fold the sheets just right. Plus, it then primes you for productivity and habit building. If you want to write more, eat better or get more exercise in, especially with the new year looming, then you can implement this easy step at the start of your day and start the day off right.

You make your bed, you go running. You make your bed, you do some meditation. You make your bed, insert habit here. It’s a trigger for a habit loop. It sets you up to be productive, and gives you that nice little feeling of satisfaction. Something so easy, and is such a vital building block for productivity and feeling better about yourself, yet is so overlooked. Like I said earlier in this blog – ‘The surroundings one lives in is a direct reflection of their mental health.’ In other words, if your home is disorganised chaos, then the chances are your mind is too. Start with something little, and build from it. Make your bed. Start the day off right.

Watch less news!

9 – Watch less news.

I will keep this one brief: nobody ever finished watching the news and felt better about themselves. Either we’re all going to die, the world is going crazy, or there is some disaster somewhere that had killed everyone and there are no pancakes left. Watch less news, and you will feel a hundred times better. Also, remember this one fact – A news organisation is a business. Its purpose is to make money and to survive. With the amount of competition conventional media has these days with social media etc, then they have to make their headlines and their feed be the most abhorrent, shocking and upsetting and outraging stuff they can pull out of their arses. Most of it is overblown, and is there for the click bait, the reaction and the outrage. Don’t feed the machine, consume less news, and read more books and go out for more walks. You will be a thousand times better for it. We don’t have to be in the know at all time about everything. It’s sensory overload and our brains can’t handle it. And when our brains get stressed, we get upset and anxious, meaning you stay in your home more, speak to less people, and watch more news about why the world is falling to pieces. It’s a loop, and it’s a very good one at catching your attention. Fill your brain with less chaos and dance around the house to your favourite song with your kids instead.

Yoga and meditation

10 – Stretching and do breathing exercises.

This one is a biggy. You sit at a desk all day, sit in the car in traffic and then sit on the couch. You may exercise and move that body which is brilliant, but you have to stretch out those tight muscles and joints. It’s good for posture, recovery and flexibility. I’m not saying you need to do two hours of yoga and meditation a day, but do a little bit of something in the morning or a focused session each week. It’s ten minutes a day or one hour a week. Don’t have time? How long did you spend today numbing your mind on fucking tick tock for God sake?

Slow the mind, move your ass and let that tension leave you. It has a tonne of health benefits. It makes sense to do, as meditation and yoga has been practised for around five thousand years, so there must be some benefit to it, right?

Drink more water

11 – Drink more water.

Your body is made up of sixty percent water and we lose around a litre of it a day by breathing, sweating and using the bathroom. You should drink more of the good stuff. Stick a little cordial or fruit in it, drink it from a glass or from a leather pouch with the fur of a Jaguar wrapped around it. I don’t care. You should aim to drink around one gallon a day, or four litres. You’ll pee like a race horse, but it’s great for helping your blood and organs flush out all that crap; I don’t mean drink more caffeine energy drinks or sodas, that is not good. Did you know it takes your liver 14L of water to flush out one energy drink? And you want to put that crap into your body for the momentary high it gives you? Not for me that. Drink what we have evolved to drink.

“Oh but it doesn’t taste of anything.” Grow the fuck up. How old are you?

“Oh but it’s boring!” Only if you make it boring. Drink less shit and stop pumping your body with sugar, and feel the benefits of hydration. Start easy – Drink a cup of water in the morning and THEN have your morning cup of Joe. You will feel much more awake, lose weight, your skin will look better and you will feel and look fresher. Drink the good stuff. It literally falls from the damn sky for a reason.

Be uncomfortable

12 – Cold Showers.

Those that know me will roll their eyes at this, and those that have just read it will be initially thinking ’Fuck that shit.’ But that’s what I thought to begin with. Until I tried it.

The first time you do it you feel like you want to cut your heart out. It’s not pleasant, but what I found is as well as the huge benefits they have such as improved mood, less risk of depression, a huge dump of adrenalin and the other fuzzy brain chemicals, better skin and better heart health, they also give you the resilience of doing something that makes you uncomfortable.

Personally, I do two to five minutes most days. But I get how that can be a lot for someone to dive right into when they haven’t ever done it before. But trust me, out of all this list, you want to get mentally strong and be more productive? This is the shit.

Try for thirty seconds. Don’t set the water too hot and gradually decrease the temperature, that is the cowards way, and we aren’t cowards here my friends. We read and write fucked up dark horror stuff, so no place for yellow bellies.

Set a timer for thirty seconds and get in the cold water. Scream, shout, whatever, just get through the timer. You will hate every second of it to begin with. Now the real test of metal, is when you do the next one. You already know it’s NOT going to be pleasant, but you are tough. You are a machine. You are the product of millions of years of evolution, and you can handle a few seconds of being a bit cold. The trick is to breatheeee. I use the Wim Hof breathing method. If you don’t know who he is, he is a super athlete who holds 26 world records, and he is the only person to ever climb mount Everest in his shorts. Read that again. IN. HIS. FUCKING. SHORTS. Hof has trained his mind and body to withstand the harshest of cold conditions, and he says anyone can learn to do this. He is harder than nails, and he says we should have a cold shower each day. It’s great for our health, our body, but also our mind.

Exposure to healthy stress is a good thing. Do something that makes you feel uncomfortable. Do something that scares you. Turn off the hot and get into the cold for sixty seconds and build up to two minutes. Do this daily. Tell that voice in the back of your mind that is like ‘ooooh, bit cold that,’ to go fuck itself. Kick ass, you are a titan, and you can do something simple and small like have a cold shower in the morning or after a gym session, and you can throw those shitty energy drinks down the drain. You won’t need them. You will feel like you’ve had your balls plugged up to the mains and you will feel more alert and alive than you have ever been.

Do these simple tips to help your body, mental and emotional health. I hope that at least one of these things on this list has been useful. I would love to hear what you think of them. Email me at Jaydarkmoore@gmail.com

I’ll see you again soon.

Until next time –

  • J

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Twelve healthy habits to improve mental and physical wellbeing

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