A large research study recently published results on over 1,000 participants, investigating which of the main lifestyle behaviours, being nutrition, sleep and exercise, has the greatest impact on mental health and well-being. After 2020, we can take stock of faring reasonably well during the pandemic, when compared to other nations and despite the current community transmission. We can head into the new year with a focus on positive mental health – unfortunately, over 40% of Australians have suffered mental health symptoms during Covid and there has been a doubling of calls to support helplines, so it’s worth considering as part of everyone’s New Year resolutions.
The study found that sleep quality is the best indicator of depression and well being. Next is sleep quantity and then physical activity. In terms of nutrition, only raw fruit and vegetable intake had a correlation with improved wellness.
To improve your sleep quality and quantity, set a routine bed time, ensure your room is comfortable (not too hot nor cold) and free of distractions, reduce caffeine and alcohol, find ways to relax before bed (such as meditation, prayer, mindfulness, music or reading a book) and exercise as much as you can during the day.
The World Health Organisation guidelines on exercise have just changed and according to the new definition, 85% of Australians don’t get enough exercise! The evidence now demonstrates that exercise can prevent and reduce the severity of mental health conditions.
To improve your exercise, watch our videos on the Osana website or attend your gym or fitness trainer, play sport outdoors, run, cycle, swim or try yoga, pilates or tai chi. Increase your physical activity to the extent you are comfortable and free from symptoms; even short bursts of interval training helps. If you have sore joints or restrictions in your movement, work with an exercise physiologist or coach to create a tailored exercise regime.
To improve your fruit and vegetable intake, use celery & carrot sticks as snacks over Xmas, make soups and add vegetables to oven bakes, pasta and stir fries, juice up veges for a smoothie in the morning, and try dry vegetable chips and dips. Try a new salad recipe this holiday!
Take care of yourself and your family – it’s been an exhausting and challenging 2020. Next year gives us the opportunity to reset our nutrition, sleep and exercise to stay healthy in order to reduce the stress on our lives.