Living a healthy lifestyle means your mental and physical health function well in tandem. If one isn’t at its best, the other automatically suffers. The two most common things that come to mind when we say healthy lifestyle is exercise and eating nutritious foods. While they are definitely important factors that determine the quality of life, there are many other factors that play an important role in the optimum functioning of your body that lead to a healthier and happier lifestyle.

  1. Consume less salt and sugar: Salt and sugar make a really tasty addition to all meals. And like most foods, they are alright if included in small amounts. However, consuming too much salt or sugar can be harmful and lead to a lot of health complications.

About 90% of North Americans 2 years and older consume way too much sodium – average daily intake being 3400 mg while recommended intake is less than 2,300 mg. And 70% of this comes from processed and restaurant foods. Excessive sodium in diet puts people at risk of high blood pressure, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Since most sodium is obtained through salt, consciously reducing your intake to 5 grams a day will make a huge difference. Try to limit processed foods and snacks that are salty. Make it a habit to read the nutritional labels and choose low-sodium products.

Excessive sugar consumption has its drawbacks, too, increasing the risk of tooth decay and unhealthy weight gain. Other health risks include heart diseases, acne, type 2 diabetes, cancer and depression amongst others. AHA recommends no more than 100 to 150 calories per day for adults. You can reduce your sugar intake by limiting the consumption of sodas, sugary snacks, candies and sugar-sweetened beverages. You can also swap sugar with natural sweeteners such as stevia and agave.

  1. Drink a lot of water: You’ve probably heard and read this everywhere on the internet. Benefits of drinking plenty of water is something known to all of us yet is often ignored by most. Water is essential to carry out our bodily functions, removing waste and toxins, and transporting nutrients and oxygen throughout our bodies. Since we constantly lose water from our body through urination, bowel movements, perspiration and breathing, replenishing the lost water is crucial. While an individual’s water consumption depends on various factors, on average, an adult needs around 2 to 3 litres of water. A good way to tell if you are getting enough water is by the colour of your urine – either colorless or pale yellow is good.
  1. Exercise regularly: Human bodies are made to move, and our current lifestyle hardly allows us that. We all spend a lot of time in front of the computers at work and back home, on the couch watching TV. We cannot stress enough the importance of exercising regularly. It doesn’t matter what kind of exercise, so long as you get in at least 4 days of exercising, 30 minutes each day. Remember that the most important thing is that you choose an activity you enjoy – swimming, dancing, weight training, running – no matter what you pick, the only way you will be consistent is if you enjoy it. Regular exercising has numerous health benefits that includes reduced risk of various diseases, higher bone density, elevated mood, decreased risk of depression and other mental health disorders, and could potentially increase your lifespan.
  1. Get enough sleep: How often do you hear your friends or family say that they hardly sleep or get only a couple hours every day? Lack of sleep is now a common problem seen across many generations and people.

There are many reasons people struggle to sleep – insomnia, depression, working late, stress, to name a few. While we all lack sleep every once in a while, making it a habit and consistently getting less sleep can lead to serious health issues. An average adult needs anywhere between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Failing to get that can lead to short-term problems such as lack of alertness, excessive daytime sleepiness, impaired memory and compromised quality of life. Long-term effects are severe and can lead to heart attacks, high blood pressure, heart failure or stroke.

  1. Avoid negativity: No matter how physically fit and healthy you are, your mental state of mind plays a huge role in your overall well-being. Negativity can impact people a great deal and it is imperative to let it go in every form – people, situations, places. A positive mentality can work wonders and aid all other aspects of your life, helping you live your best life. This means not just avoiding external factors, but also ensuring that you are positive and kind toward yourself.

Letting go of negative people and thoughts from your life, eating healthy, exercising regularly and sleeping enough will all contribute to a positive mindset and will help you lead a happy, fulfilling life.

  1. Quit smoking: Smoking kills, period. There is no better way to put it. Over 40 million North Americans still smoke cigarettes, and about 3 million high and middle school students use at least one tobacco product, including a vape. Every day, nearly 2,000 youth younger than 18 years try their first cigarette. 

If you are a smoker, you certainly know the ill effects of smoking, not just on yourself but those around you as well. Quit – for better health and lifestyle. If you do not smoke, never start. Tobacco-free air is much better to breathe and your food tastes so much better when you don’t smoke.

  1. Reduce alcohol consumption: Getting a drink is the most common social activity for people across various age groups. While an occasional drink or two shouldn’t hurt, frequent and excessive drinking can lead to liver failure and other problems such as mental and behavioural disorders, including alcohol dependence, some cancers and heart diseases, as well as injuries from violence and road clashes and collisions from aggressive driving. Keep your alcohol consumption to a bare minimum and avoid it when you can.
  1. Practice gratitude: This is one of the most effective but under-rated habits that has the potential to change the way you live, for the better. There are many ways that people practice gratitude, from journaling to praying, but the effect is the same. Gratitude is just the state of being grateful, expressing appreciation or thanks. This gets you in the habit of positive thinking by helping you focus on the good things in your life. The benefits of this habit are numerous, including improved mental and emotional health, boosted immune system, better relationships and an overall state of happiness and positivity, which will help you in all other aspects of life. 

There are so many ways to improve your quality of life and live a healthier, happier life and the above tips are a great place to start. Take control of your life, be mindful of your behaviour and start incorporating these tips today – remember that you can make a difference in your lifestyle!