So, over the last few weeks we have talked a bit about how we can make small, manageable changes at work and at school that can have a big impact on our current and future Health and Wellbeing.
This week, the focus is on changes we can make at home.
Whether you live on your own or with your partner, flat/house share with friends, live with older family members or are a parent looking after your kids, there are wee things you can change in your daily and weekly routine that can make you feel happier and improve you health.
Night time routine.
You may have been expecting me to lead with changes you can make to the start of your day. in fact, I think how you day begins can very much depend on how much organisation you have done the night before and how well rested you are.
My day definitely gets off to a better start if I get off on the right foot. For me, there is little worse than starting the day with my stress levels already through the roof!
Here are some tips to try in the lead up to bed time that could improve your wellbeing and get you off to an easier start the next day.
Get as organised as you can for the next day.
We have a weekly planner on the wall. It doesn’t have every detail of each person’s commitments for the week but it does have all the kids clubs and when homework is due in.
Other things like daytime or evening work meetings, nights out, school trips etc go on our phone calendars so we can check we have everything packed the night before.
Sometimes we let the ball drop and get out of the way of checking and within days I can feel the spinning plates start to wobble and fall.
- Set out what you can for breakfast the next day. I get the bowls, cutlery and cereal out so the kids can get used to helping with breakfast. Teaches them both organisational skills and helps them become a bit more independent (as well as saving time in the mornings). I also tend to leave the frying pan out for my eggs and leave out a plate, mug and cutlery when I unload the dishwasher in the evening. Don’t see the point in puting them to bed overnight too.
- Pack your lunch. If you tend to take your lunch with you then get as much of it made the night before as you can. I pretty much always take my lunch with me. it’s cheaper, usually tastier and I like to know what I’ve got to look forward to for lunch/snacks. It also allows me to think about what I am eating in advance to make sure I’m getting lots of different fruit/veg/nuts and pulses and lots of variety throughout the week. Again, totally time saving the next morning.
- Plan the next evenings dinner. If you aren’t working/finish early, or perhaps only cooking for one or two people, then this tip may not be that useful. Most days, I’m not home till after 7, too late for the kids to eat. We tend to draw up a rough plan of the week’s dinners on a Sunday but, A, we can’t always decide what we want and B, sometimes what we fancy changes so the night before we try and do as much as we can to prep for dinner the next day. I’ve always got batches of chilli (beef and vegetable), curry (chicken and vegetable), bolognese, soup and a basic tomato base sauce in the freezer for days when we are both working and the rest of the time we go for fish or vegetarian based meals that are quick and easy. We try to aim for 2 vegetarian meals a week. Lots of evidence to support the benefits of a high fibre diet in terms of reducing the risk of heart disease and certain cancers (including bowel and breast) and a good way of getting the kids into the habit of eating a wider variety of plants.
Get enough rest.
Sounds simple? Sadly it’s not always. Lots of things can affect our sleep from being really busy, working shifts, feeling stressed or anxious to hormone changes, being in pain, caring for kids or sick or elderly relatives.
Poor sleep results in elevation or several hormones including adrenaline and cortisol which have been shown to increase blood pressure, increase in appetite hormones which can lead to consumption of more food and obesity, and increase in substances associated with inflammation.
Improving the length and quality of your sleep can help lower your rosk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Small changes can lead to an improvement in your sleep quality.
- Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night. You could try setting an alarm on your phone (a tip I got from a friend whose phone ‘binged’ to tell her it was her bed time when I was out with her one night). Sometimes we need an obvious reminder like this.
- Consider avoiding ‘blue light’ ie TV, phones and tablets for the last hour or so before bedtime. Blue light sends signals to our brain that is is day time and can prevent the rise in a hormone called melatonin that helps our brains move into sleep mode. We try as a household to avoid screen time on the lead up to bed time. You can imagine how popular that rule is with the kids but the older ones can see the difference themselves now.
- Avoid stimulants including caffeine (after midday-it has a 6 hour half life), nicotine, excessive exercise in the late evenings, and noise. I’ve switched to decaf tea and no one in the house (including both sets of grandparents) have noticed the difference taste wise but my sleep has certainly improved.
- Create a sleep friendly environment in your bedroom. Keep the temperature cool, the room dark and quiet and try to ensure you have a comfy bed.
- Take 10-15 minutes to actively relax. Take your pick of what works for you. Things we know work well include yoga, meditation, reading, listening to relaxing music or having a bath. My wee girl loves cosmic kids yoga. You can find it free on you tube. It’s basically various stories told through various yoga poses (easy enough for kids so suits me), with each episode lasting 10-15 minutes. Even on a busy day, I can usually find time to fit this in and it’s a good wee pre bed activity.
Start the day well.
So, you are already off to a good start having done loads of prep work the night before!
- I like to spend five minutes lying in bed going over what I’ve got on in my head before I get up. Not always do-able with the kids but I try. i’m not a morning person so my other half is pretty food at trying to give me these few minutes in the hope I get out of the right side of the bed!
- I take a couple of minutes to do some stretching and try to focus on something positive in the day head. I am not a natural optimist and I definitely find that this helps me get off on the right foot.
- Sit down to have breakfast if you can. I actually take my breakfast to work with me some days, especially if I am starting early. On days I am eating in the house, I make sure I sit down at the table to eat, ideally with the kids. It’s nice to talk to them about their day and hear about things they are looking forward to or worried about. It also helps them with social skills like conversing at the dinner table and encourages them to enjoy the food and company rather than watching a screen. Even when I am dining alone, I try to take my time and avoid using my phone or watching TV.
Build in activity where you can
We know that sitting for long periods increases our risk of heart disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression, anxiety and other chronic diseases.
It also weakens the big muscles in our legs and glutes which increase our risk of having problems with our mobility and chronic back pain as we age.
By making small changes in your daily routine you can reduce you risk of developing chronic disease, boost your energy and improve your mood.
- Walk, jog or cycle to work if you can. I need my car to do home visits (and I am not confident enough to cycle on the roads) so I drive to work. On my days off I walk to and from school with the kids, go for a walk or a run and walk to do as many of the things on my ‘to do list’ as I can. If you can’t walk all the way to work, why not get off the bus a stop or two earlier? If you don’t work, try to get outside at least once a day. Even a brisk ten minute walk 5 times a week can greatly reduce your risk of the conditions outlined above.
- Get out in the garden. Gardening is a great way to build activity into your day and you can see the results of all your hard work.
- Get out of you chair more often. If you find you are sitting for long periods of the day then make a concerted effort to get up and move more often. Set a timer to go off every half hour or get up with every ad break on the TV. Anything that signals to you that it’s time to stretch those legs.
- Set up a walking group. The girls in my street have a whats app group and there is at least 1 of us out for a walk most nights. this has definitely encouraged me to walk more.
- Walk with the family. I am trying to get my kids used to being more active than I was as a child. I am hoping that if they see me and my husband doing something active every day then they will follow suit. When we can we get them up to the park or just out for a walk. It’s good to develop healthy habits early on and also gives me the chance to have one on one time with them in the vein hope I actually get any info about what’s going on at school!
Try something new
Most of us as creatures of habit. We know what we like and think we know what we don’t like but what if you are missing a trick somewhere?
Trying new things is good for our confidence, self esteem and personal growth. Even if we don’t enjoy it or can’t master it at first, rarely do we regret giving it a go.
There are lots of things that affect our wellbeing including how well we sleep, how active we are, what we eat and drink, our social support network and how we manage stress.
Why not try something new that might also help improve one of these key areas.
- Join a new club. You can learn a new skill and increase your social circle.
- Try a new sport. Five a side football? Netball? Boxing? Get fit, meet new people, reduce your stress and improve your sleep in a oner!
- Volunteer. Get that feel good factor from helping others and maybe meet some lovely people along the way.
- Get outdoors. Go for a walk. exposure to nature has been shown to reduce stress levels. There are lots of local walking and hill walking groups. If running is more your thing, why not try a @parkrun or sign up for an event and set yourself a target?
- Get in the kitchen. Cooking has been shown to be good for reducing stress levels. It may also encourage you to try new foods, cook more and, in turn, increase the amount of fresh food and reduce the amount of processed foods in your diet. If you have kids/flatmates/other family members in the house, get them involved.
- Find your happy place. It might be at the gym, it might be on your own with a good book, it might be walking in the woods, it may be with friends. Whatever and wherever it may be, find it and go there often. Make this a priority when planning your week. There are lots of other things that can wait!
If you have any other ideas for small changes you can make at home to improve your wellbeing, leave a comment or drop us a line at email@example.com