Since Covid, I’ve noticed both in my own interactions and in the media that people are more aware of their wellbeing. There are many aspects to your lifestyle which can affect both your physical and mental health (and one affects the other). This article addresses a few of them – hopefully you’re already applying most of them!
I discovered Dr Rupy Aujla via the Action for Happiness charity. He’s a medical doctor who’s active on social media and runs a website called The Doctor’s Kitchen where he shares recipes for healthy eating.
I like his approach that “lifestyle is a form of medicine”. Obviously, I’m not a medical doctor, but here’s a summary of his five principles of healthy eating:
- Get more plant material in your diet
- Get more colour in your diet
- Get more fibre in your diet. This food group includes nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, stalks of cauliflower and broccoli, and vegetables with the skin on. These are good for the gut and inflammation control – inflamed bodies can cause inflamed brains which can lead to depression
- Eat whole foods, whether cooked or raw. Avoid processed foods and move to natural foods. (Apparently, a handful of companies provide over 80% of the processed foods on the market.)
- Pay attention to the quality of your fats – good fats include nuts, seeds and cold-pressed oils
Disclaimer: Of course you should eat the right foods to suit any health conditions you may have. As with all dietary advice, perhaps take the advice of your own doctor before you make drastic changes to what you eat.
We are used to ‘grazing’, because we don’t like feeling hungry and food is often all around us. But intermittent fasting improves our metabolism, because, when there are no carbs in your system, your body takes energy from fat cells.
Dr Aujla recommends eating in a window of about 10 hours, and not eating the rest of the time. Don’t eat too late – stop two or three hours before you go to bed.
I now fast between 8pm and 12 noon which has regulated my blood sugar levels – before, I’d eat breakfast and then feel lightheaded two hours later.
Are you missing hugs with your loved one? Many people are.
The current guidelines about social distancing force us to keep apart. This goes against our fundamental human nature, and can affect our mental and physical wellbeing.
You might be interested to watch this 5-minute BBC recording about the C-tactile system and the importance of touch – research shows that babies and animals can die without it:
If you currently live alone and/or are unable to touch and be touched, here are some thoughts on what might help in the meantime:
- If you have a pet you can stroke, increase the amount of time you spend doing that
- Wrap your arms around yourself
- Do activities that are connected to touch, such as a warm bath or a longer shower than usual; yoga; self-care such as massage and applying beautiful smelling lotions to your body (I guess that might appeal more to women than to men)
- Recall happy times and focus on bringing the memory to life, vividly
- Keep in touch with people via video – even if you’re doing that a lot for work
- Go for a walk with a friend or neighbour, if you can – talking, laughing and smiling will help
Here are some changes you can make when working from home (Source: David Brown for BBC News).
Sunlight boosts seratonin levels. So, if you can, set up your working space near a window, especially if it’s upstairs because this allows more light. Ensure the windows are clean inside and out, paint the walls a light colour, and add mirrors to bounce even more light around the room.
Background noise can be distracting. You might be able to concentrate better by using headphones or ear plugs. If you’re redecorating, you can absorb the sound by lowering the ceiling and adding extra plasterboard on the walls, choosing heavy curtains or window shutters (as long as they still let in plenty of light), adding thick carpet with under-carpet boards, and having soft furnishings in the room.
Clutter raises stress and cortisol. Invest in new storage, have a thorough tidy up, and get organised.
Buy house plants and bring other natural objects indoors to give your brain a break from focusing on work. Some of the best house plants for providing oxygen according to NASA (yes, really!) include:
- Aloe Vera – NASA says aloe vera is one of the best air purifying plants you can buy as it continuously releases oxygen throughout the night while simultaneously taking in carbon dioxide (a good one for adding to the bedroom too). It’s also relatively easy to maintain and particularly forgiving of forgetful waterers.
- Devil’s Ivy or pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
- Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix Roebelenii)
- Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
- Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Other healthy habits for wellbeing
Commit to a healthy lifestyle that includes:
- Good nutrition
- Regular exercise (perhaps get a standing desk so you’re not sitting down all day long)
- Daily walks outside in daylight and nature (particularly during the winter) – maybe build in a walk at lunchtime in the week?
- Plenty of relaxation
- Quality sleep
- Relationships that are good for you
- Something new to learn
- Laughter and fun
Self-care means you need to make time to do things for you, that is, things you love to do.
It also means positive self-talk. If you have an inner critic, or you’re achievement-orientated and always want to be perfect or better than everyone else, it could be a sign that, deep down, you lack self confidence. Replace negative self-talk with the phrase: “I am enough”.
Work on your self-development. Start with raising your awareness through self-reflection, feedback from others, self-help books – and perhaps by reading more of my articles (such as the links below)!
Cultivate an ‘adult’ mindset where you don’t blame other people for where you are in life and what you feel about certain situations. Decide what to take responsibility for yourself.
Stop paying attention to what other people think about you.
Remember the mantra: “Accept it, change it, or leave”.
Consider your relationships. Who in your life affirms, supports and nourishes you? Who is draining and critical? Spend more time with the first group, and drop or minimise time you spend with the others.
Be outward-focused. Ask yourself what you are grateful for each day.
Be other-focused. What can you do to help other people? This is really good for your own wellbeing. Think about people you can support one-to-one (perhaps by mentoring or sponsoring them), through a charity, and within your community.
What you can do as a leader
Check in with your colleagues, especially those who are back in lockdown/confinement. For some, this will be OK. For those facing the winter season, it might feel never-ending. This will be different for everyone, so you’ll need to personalise your approach.
Take time to see their reality, not just how work is going for them. Ask how they are doing, and what you can do for them.
Remind them that, even in a pandemic, it’s OK to have fun. Don’t be purely goal-focused, also create a safe and optimistic atmosphere for your team.
“A leader is a dealer in hope.”
Be sure to connect with individuals you know are on their own. For them, self-isolation really does mean isolation. Also reach out to people you think are strong. Just because they don’t show how needy they are on the outside doesn’t mean they won’t appreciate your time, attention and a listening ear.
Here are three more practical things that leaders can do and the ways I can support you:
1. Make sure your people aren’t spending too much time working.
Many of my clients are showing compassion for their team members by taking some pressure off deadlines and deliverables, and trusting people to do what they need to do. This is creating both psychological safety and loyalty – I think we can safely say 2020 is a unique year…
2. Make sure your meetings are run efficiently and productively. Note that online meetings take even more preparation than on-site meetings. Don’t just wing it! Put the work in.
I’m an online coach and facilitator, so please ask me if you’d like help with that and/or read my article How to facilitate effective virtual meetings.
3. Create learning opportunities for yourself and your people.
For example, I’m considering creating a discussion group where we take one of my articles as the focus and then have a facilitated Zoom conversation to answer your questions, go deeper into the material, discuss what you’ve taken from it, and plan how you can apply the principles in your organisation. Do let me know if this is of interest to you, and which topic(s) you’d like me to start with.
You might have seen this image online. It reinforces the advice I’ve given above, with a neuroscience twist:
If you enjoyed this information, you might find my other articles useful too:
- Why and how to use positive psychology
- Showing gratitude: Why it’s good for you and others
- Being your authentic self
- How to reboot your social skills and confidence
- Understanding and managing anxiety
- How your mindset can enable or limit you
- How to look after the wellbeing of your workforce
We’ll show a round-up of the most popular newsletters of 2020 in December, and be back with new content in the new year.