Having researched practical ways in which to keep ourselves healthy and happy, here are the three things that will help most of us stay in sound body and mind. They are in order of importance;
Socialisation - Maslow knew it, albeit it was third on his hierarchy of needs, socialisation is imperative for your mental wellbeing. Following the ice age, we had to work together to survive. As our brains grew larger and larger, our emotional bond with each other became stronger and stronger.
Socialisation is not just about talking (although that is by far the strongest component of socialisation) it is also about being part of a community, sharing, altruism, caring, and many other factors.
I went to a seminar last year where a scientist set to put an end to the socialisation debate on whether talking would reduce our stress levels. He studied the cortisol levels (cortisol is released into the blood when we become stressed) in two groups; both groups had to record how much conversation they had with other people across each day.
The control group were told to hold their usual amount of conversation; the other group were told to at least double their amount of conversation time. The conversation times were compared and the cortisol level in this latter group who spoke the most were at least half that of those who did not talk as much.
Bottom line, talk more, share more, help others and get out into the community. Shutting yourself away and not talking, or worse still conversing on social media, is the worst thing that you can do for your wellbeing.
Exercise – The evidence is irrefutable; the benefits of exercise are enormous. In fact, there is very little negative side-effect of exercise if done properly within the recommended guidelines.
How much exercise should you get? 30-minutes of medium to fast paced walking. This exercise must be completed at the end of the working day. Why – to burn off the accumulation of adrenaline and cortisol in your body from the day’s activities.
Physiologically men train better in the morning, women in the afternoon. Men can still train in the morning but all of us must get our heart rates above the rate it was during the day to have any benefit. If you don’t burn off adrenaline, you will have trouble sleeping.
Sleep – If you have completed the first two things, socialisation and exercise, you will sleep much better. How much sleep do you need, it varies for all of us. To work out how much you need, on the days that you don’t have to wake to an alarm, note the amount of sleep that you got each night over 10 to 12 days. Average it out and that is how much sleep you need.
Your bedroom must be cold – between 15 and 18°, and dark – use both curtains and blinds. You must eat your evening meal at least three hours before bedtime so that your immediate digestion is completed. Remember though to eat a small piece of protein right on bedtime to stop you waking at 3am. Avoid coffee after 3pm.
Regularity is one of the most important factors in sleep. Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each day, including the weekends if you are struggling to find regular patterns.
Never be afraid to have a nap during the day and on the weekends if you need to. In my opinion it is better to get sleep whenever you can if you aren’t getting enough at night. Without adequate sleep you won’t function at your best.
These three things – socialisation, exercise and sleep - will help to keep you well.