Spring Clean Your Life - Part 4: Physical Health

Hey there! As a quick recap of our Spring Clean Your Life series we’ve thus far covered how to Declutter + Find Focus, Spring Clean your Mental Health, and Spring Clean your Relationships. Today we’re looking at your physical wellbeing, and when it comes to health let’s meet our crew to watch out for:

  • The Decider
  • The Lifelong companions
  • The Party Poopers
  • The New Kids on The Block
  • The Lurkers

The Decider – your health coping style

Before we jump into doing a spring clean of your physical health, though, let’s talk about your coping style when it comes to looking after your health.

Why does coping style matter for health? Because it really does act as The Decider when it comes to your health outcomes – it impacts on your willingness to learn more about what you’re facing, learn what to do to better manage your health, and taking action to improve your health.

Two coping styles that come to mind are Monitoring and Blunting. [1] Monitors, when faced with a health issue, read up on the issue and its prognosis, monitor the symptoms, and make lifestyle changes that reduce health risks. Monitors take an informed approach and work to minimising their health risk and its impact on quality of life.

In contrast, Blunters actively avoid seeking out the information, may ignore any guidelines or recommendations in relation to minimising health risks, and do not make lifestyle changes that could have a positive impact on their health. Blunters take a ‘head in the sand and hope for the best’ approach.

 

Based on the above approaches, when it comes to some Spring Clean Your Life health questions ask yourself:

  • What is my coping style when it comes to my health?
  • How does my coping style impact negatively on my health? Do I avoid regular check ups? Do I fail to monitor for any signs that my health has changed?
  • What changes do I need to adopt in terms of my coping style and attitude to health so that I can achieve the best health outcomes for me?

You can also read more about the mind and your health here.


The Lifelong Companions – sleep, diet, exercise

Getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising…hearing this advice is probably a bit snore-inducing because you’ve likely heard it all before – and with good reason. We consider these building blocks our Lifelong Companions because focusing on improvements in these areas really set you up for a healthier life. You probably already know that:

  • Exercise is linked with many benefits when it comes to your physical health, including preventing chronic disease and improving fitness. It also helps to improve your mood and boost your brain power – read more about it here along with tips to help make exercise a habit.
  • Sleep is important for repairing the body and restoring the mind. In fact, a lack of sleep is linked with lower reaction time, with performance equivalent to having an elevated blood alcohol level! Read more and find out how to improve your sleep here.
  • Your diet is important because your body needs fuel but it’s not as simple as that. Your nutrition has been shown not only to impact on longevity and chronic disease risk but it has also been shown to impact on your mood and your performance on cognitive tests.[2],[3] So if you find that you’re reaching for caffeine or sugar to ‘pick you up’, what does that tell you in terms of how sustainable your eating is for your everyday life?

 

So the big questions to ask yourself when Spring Cleaning are:

  • Am I getting the recommended guidelines for physical activity? [4] This is around 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate intensity, or 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity, each week?
  • Am I getting sufficient sleep each day that leaves me feeling refreshed when I wake up?
  • Is my diet sufficient for a healthy lifestyle, or does it leave me overweight, tired and irritable, or looking for the next caffeine or sugar hit?

 


The Party Poopers - drug use + excessive alcohol consumption

As much as we’re all for having fun, we advocate keeping The Party Poopers at bay. Not being able to remember what you did the night before, a horrible hangover, regrettable and/or unsafe behaviours, relationship bust-ups, poorly thought out texts that seemed like a good idea at the time…these all have the potential to ruin what was meant to be a good night out. Throw a smartphone and YouTube, Facebook, or Snapchat into the mix and you can see how the undesired results can amplify.

Your health may be the last thing on your mind but plan ahead for maximum fun, minimum harm. So, this means taking a closer look at what you will be consuming and in what amounts, whether you will be able to still look after yourself or have reliable friends who will take care of you (provided they’re in a state to do so), and also how you will get to the party and back home safely.

Importantly, we need to talk about alcohol. In a 2013 national survey of drug and alcohol use of over 23,000 Australians (aged 14 and over) the data on alcohol use found that around 1 in 5 individuals have, in the previous 12 months, placed themselves or others at risk of harm while under the influence of alcohol - with driving while under the influence of alcohol being the greatest risk. [5]

There are recommended guidelines when it comes to alcohol, and it’s important to recognise that partying (either through excessive alcohol consumption or through recreational drug use) to the extent that your judgement is impaired can lead to risky situations – physically, socially, and sexually. 

 

Spring Cleaning Your Life questions to ask yourself:

  • Is my alcohol consumption within the recommended guidelines for your health (no more than 2 standard drinks each day) and for my safety (no more than 4 standard drinks each drinking session)?
  • Has my use of alcohol or drugs caused any problems such as injuries, unsafe behaviours, actions I have ended up regretting, or legal problems? Have others been concerned about my alcohol consumption/drug use?



The New Kids on the Block – hydration + sedentary lifestyle

Hydration is one area that's been increasingly looked at for its impact on health and wellbeing. It has been suggested that even mild dehydration has a negative impact on mood and cognitive performance [6].

They say that sitting is the new smoking, but what's the research behind that? It's been suggested that taking breaks from sitting are positively linked to waist circumference, BMI and triglyceride levels [7], even when taking exercise activity into account.

 

Spring Clean Your Life questions to ask:

  • How much water do I drink each day? What is one sure-fire way for me to increase my intake of water?
  • How many hours each day do I spend sitting? What activities could I do standing up instead?


The Lurkers – chronic diseases + familial risk

Operation by stealth is where The Lurkers excel, and that’s precisely why we have to keep an eye on them. Chronic diseases and familiar risk aren’t ‘front and centre’ health issues that we consider until it’s too late.

Perhaps a sedentary lifestyle (poor diet, a job that involves a lot of sitting, smoking) propels you closer towards diabetes or heart disease, or perhaps there’s a long family history of eye diseases that result in blindness. In any case, The Lurkers are the ones we don’t really think about until we head out of our twenties and thirties, but it helps to lay the foundation at an earlier age.

 

Prevention really is better than cure when it comes to The Lurkers, so our Spring Clean Your Life questions are:

  • What health conditions am I at heightened risk of experiencing as a result of my family history?
  • What health conditions am I at heightened risk of developing due to my lifestyle?
  • Do I get regular check-ups to keep an eye on The Lurkers? (this may mean regular check ups for your eyes, blood pressure, blood glucose level, cholesterol, etc.)
  • What are three things that I will do to minimise my risk of chronic disease?


So there you have it - our five crew members (The Decider, The Lifelong Companions, The Party Poopers, The New Kids on The Block, and The Lurkers) are ones to watch when it comes to your physical health. We hope that this Spring Clean has helped you make a few positive changes to your lifestyle.

Stay tuned for our final instalment in our Spring Clean Your Life series!

 

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REFERENCES

[1] Muris, P., van Zuuren, F.J., de Jong, P.J., & Hanewald, G. (1994). Monitoring and blunting coping styles: The Miller behavioural style scale and its correlates, and the development of an alternative questionnaire. Personality and individual differences, 17, 9-19.

[2] Lourida, I., Soni, M., Thompson-Coon, J., Purandare, N., Lang, I.A., Ukomunne, O.C., & Llewellyn, D.J. (2013). Mediterranean diet, cognitive function, and dementia. A systematic review. Epidemiology, 4, 1-11.

[3] Hulsken, S., Martin, A., Mohajeri, M.H., & Homberg, J.R. (2013). Food-derived serotonergic modulators: effects on mood and cognition. Nutrition Research Reviews, 26, 223-234.

[4] Department of Health. Australia’s physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines. Fact sheet: Adults (18-64 years).   http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines/$File/FS-Adults-18-64-Years.PDF

[5] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2014). National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report 2013. Drug statistics series no. 28. Cat. no. PHE 183. Canberra: AIHW.

[6] Masento, N., Golightly, M., Field, D.T., Butler, L.T., Van Reekum, C. (2014). Effects of hydration status on cognitive performance and mood. The British Journal of Nutrition, 111, 1-12.

[7] Healy, G.N., Dunstan, D.W., Salmon, J., Cerin, E., Shaw, J.E., Zimmet, P.Z., & Owen, N. (2008). Breaks in sedentary time: beneficial associations with metabolic risk. Diabetes care, 31, 661-666.