Just in time to coincide with the disappointment of failing to live up to paltry resolutions at the turn of a new decade, The Harvard Medical School published a list of 101 Tips for Top Health. Judging by the look on your face you cannot stomach 101 (or even 100) and are about to click ‘Back’ on your keyboard, but WAIT! What if I gave you a top 15? No? A top 10? Just ten things to do to make a real difference to the way you live your life in the 2020s.
Surely, ten. Even if you only actually do something with two (maybe three?). I set out below ten top tips to enhance your life this year. Can you commit to two? Well, let’s see.
1 Make one ‘good’ eating decision every day. Examples are, no snacks after 6.00pm, cutting out two cups of coffee, no carbs with your evening meal. Imagine that every time you make that decision your body (well, your gut) is beaming at you.
2 The science on intermittent fasting is gaining traction. It doesn’t have to be torture, or even unpleasant. Two of the more bearable (and beneficial) examples include, 12:12 and 16:8. In the first, you intake all of your calories between (say) 7.00am and 7.00pm. This is ‘fasting lite’, a little like doing 41 in a 30mph limit is ‘speeding awareness lite’, but it is ‘intermittent fasting’.
The better example is 16:8. Whereby you take in all your calories in an eight hour window. Say, between 1.00pm and 9.00pm. The benefits to your blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as to hormonal re-booting, are huge. Sure, you may lose weight, but that is barely a quarter of the story.
3 Turn off your phone completely for two hours a day. As in, it doesn’t exist in that time period. This is hardly palaeanthropic, but it will feel good. You fill, or don’t, two hours each day without reference to a 5.8-inch screen display.
4 Read one book a month and alternate your choices between fiction and non-fiction. Sneaking in another tip, but making it part of No. 4, find 30 minutes each day to read the chosen book of the month.
5 This is ‘the exercise one’ (scroll down to 6 is this one does not apply to you…). Get off the bus, tram or tube one stop early and walk. Or, park your car further away from your chosen destination, and walk. Or, get out of the lift one level below your destination floor, and walk up the stairs to the floor you need. Hasten your pace when you do to a level where your heart is beating a little faster than usual.
6 Focus on your breathing for ten minutes (on the bus? On the train? In bed at night?). Place your hand just beneath your navel so you can feel the gentle rise and fall of your belly as you breathe. Breathe in slowly. Pause for a count of three. Breathe out. Pause for a count of three. Continue for ten minutes.
7 Always launch change with a plan. Map out the objective you choose to achieve. It is always tempting to skip straight to the action, especially when you’re feeling inspired to make a change. By winging it, though, you may ignore important issues, such as why you do (and don’t) want to make this change. Make a commitment based on that knowledge, then plan a path of small steps that lead to your ultimate goal.
8 Listen to the words you are speaking in five minute tranches three times a day. Heighten your self-awareness and hear yourself say things such as, ‘I’ll try’, ‘not too bad’, ‘quite good’, ‘obviously’, ‘basically’ (particularly annoying), etc. Hear the impression you are making (albeit subconsciously) with your listener and decide which words to eradicate from your day-to-day vocabulary.
9 Ask people questions.
That’s it for this one. Become one of only 5% of people who show enough interest in the lives of people around them to actually ask them questions and not to make the next sentence you are about to say about you. When you get good at this, and if you can do it, ask another question after their answer to your initial question (I know!). Even ask them a question about the answer they just gave you to the question you asked.
10 Drink a glass (what, about 300ml?) of tepid still water every morning. Every morning.
Pick two (three?) and two (three?) of the above. Stick with them and become the observer of yourself as they become part of your new life. Good luck.