Healthy Lifestyle & Wellbeing Tips

Easy wins: week-by-week tweaks for a happier 2023

Jess Spiring,-Deputy Editor

Week two: boost your body

Welcome back to the easiest new year, new you programme you’ve ever seen. We’re assuming you started at the very beginning by giving yourself a week’s worth of mini mind makeovers, and have kicked off 2023 feeling the benefits. If not, it’s never too late.

This week, we’re focusing on boosting your body. 

We’re not talking ‘drop a dress size’ (ugh) or 10 steps to rock-hard abs. No, we’re hoping to spark a little self-care joy with inspirational daily habits that will put you on the right track to a happier and healthier 2023.

Monday: touch your toes

You know the old adage, use it or lose it? Add a little stretch routine into your day to keep your joints supple and your muscles loose. Try this easy-to-follow plan if you’re reasonably flexible already or visit the NHS website for a beginner’s guide. Only do what feels comfortable for you – try repeating each stretch three times for 15-30 seconds.

1. Knees to chest

Lay on your back and bring one knee to your chest, keeping it there with your hands. Hold then release. Repeat with the other knee.

2. Shoulder stretch

Sitting or standing, draw your arm right across your body at chest level, holding it with your left hand just above the elbow. Draw your arm closer to your body until you feel a stretch in your right shoulder. Hold, release then switch to your left arm.

3. Forward bend

Standing with your arms above your head, slowly sweep your hands down on either side, folding your body in half to reach down towards your ankles. Hold for 10 seconds before straightening up.

Tuesday: live a l’eau life

As if things weren’t confusing enough right now, a recent study cast doubt of the received wisdom that we should all drink eight glasses of water a day. It set out to discover if the 1945 report we base our guzzling goals on was correct and it turns out a million factors determine your hydration needs, from how much body fat you have, to where you live, your age and your gender.

But before you nudge your bottle to the back of the cupboard, the NHS still suggests drinking 6-8 glasses of water, tea or coffee as the rule of thumb – a benchmark most of us fail to hit each day, with low concentration, low energy and immunity all affected by dehydration. So for today’s tweak, think: drink.

Wednesday: wear trainers (so you move more)

Sure, you can skip shoes for Pilates, barre and yoga – you can even go barefooted for lunges, push-ups, squats and kettlebell swings. But trainers are still non-negotiable for cardio. The best sports trainers are designed with performance in mind. Running shoes can help you to run faster, and more efficiently, particularly over long distances. The most supportive trainers will enhance high-impact workouts, be it sprints, HIIT, jumping, spinning, rowing, cartwheeling… 

But can wearing trainers, on everyday days, actually make you move more? 

Anyone who’s slipped their feet into a clever pair of kicks will surely agree, sneakers = springy, bouncy, movement-making magic. The right pair of trainers will boast textured undersoles (for grip), stabilising heel cups (for balance) and biomechanical arch support (for comfort) – and all with the air of nonchalant cool that comes as standard. 

Late for school pick-up? Missed the bus? Just want to get. Stuff. Done? Wear trainers. A feet of engineering, trainers do the legwork for you, frankly. Wear trainers (so you move more). Then conquer the world. 

Thursday: lighten up

In the depths of winter it can be easy to live a mole-like existence, barely leaving the house. In fact, a 2019 study showed us Brits spend 90% of our time indoors. This matters, mole-people, because natural light helps control our circadian rhythms (the sleep/wake cycle), so when the days are short and the weather foul a SAD lamp can step in to help reset your body clock. Using one that mimics sunrise in the morning and sunset at bedtime can help improve your sleep, crank up your energy levels and max your good mood.

Friday: lift things up and put them down again

It’s the age-old question, how to make exercise a habit – and one that’ll stick? First up, pick something that suits your personality. If the idea of exercise for exercise’s sake doesn’t float your fitness boat, then give it a function instead – whether it’s running to a friend’s house, or lifting, it’s the little things…

1. Eat, lift, repeat 
When it comes to building healthy habits, research shows that frequent repetitions are more likely to become something you do automatically. One study shows that it takes an average of 66 days for a new healthy behaviour to become habit, so persevere. Once it’s slotted into your daily routine, there’s no stopping you.

2. Stack your habits
Behavioural scientists say that the best way to form a new habit is to tie it to an existing one, by identifying existing patterns in your day and bolting on some new, healthier ones. Most of us are wedded to our morning routine – so why not lift dumbbells (or tinned tomatoes) while the kettle boils, or wear a wrist weight while you brush your teeth? 

 

Saturday: trade hygge for friluftsliv

Pronounced free-loofts-liv (literally ‘open-air living’), friluftsliv was made popular by Norwegian poet Henrik Ibsen in the 1850s, who waxed lyrical about the benefits of spending time outdoors for our mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing. 

Friluftsliv can include anything from forest runs, a wild, chilly dip in your lunch break or taking a (preferably snowy) stroll into work. Recent research also suggests that a 40-minute stroll can significantly improve how you feel about your body, particularly if it’s snowing. The study highlights the psychological benefits of getting outdoors – ‘shifting attention away from an aesthetic view of the body, and towards greater appreciation of its functionality’, explains Professor Viren Swami.

If in doubt, channel the Scandi saying, ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes,’ and tool up accordingly. Plus, you can read up on the (many) mental health benefits of fresh air. Outdoorsy mindset, activated. 

Sunday: and rest

Ask any pro athlete and they’ll tell you that resting is vital to every successful programme – by allowing your body to repair and reset, rest helps to avoid future injuries. 

Indeed, science says that rest can help to improve memory, boost concentration, mood and metabolism too. Sitting down has never sounded so good.

If you struggle to simply stop, try weaving in meditation or calming music (classical is proven to help unwind a highly strung mind). And do have a read of our mini mind makeover guide. 

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