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Simple lifestyle changes for a healthier you

The winter months can often be when we feel at our unhealthiest. The lack of natural sunlight along with the excesses of the festive season can sometimes take its toll on our mental and physical wellbeing. And with approximately 30% of the South West's workforce working from home, many of us are looking for ways to improve our increasingly sedentary lives. In this article we’ll explore some simple lifestyle changes that may help you feel healthier and happier.

Simple lifestyle changes to improve health

You don’t necessarily need to make big or drastic lifestyle changes to improve your health. Below are five examples of simple lifestyle changes designed to boost your physical wellbeing.

1. Make exercise part of your daily routine

According to the NHS, we should be getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. Regular physical activity helps to strengthen the heart and lungs, build muscle, improve overall fitness and can also aid weight loss. By incorporating as much movement as possible into your daily routine, you are helping to invest in your health, now and in the future. Remember that exercise doesn’t have to be vigorous or high intensity. A brisk 10 minute walk or a home workout can have multiple health benefits, especially when done every day. You can read more about getting into a routine of exercising regularly in our article How to make exercise a habit.

2. Spend time outside

The cold, dreary weather may not be the greatest incentive to head outdoors but even when the weather is poor, it's still beneficial to our physical and mental health to make the most of any natural daylight and get some fresh air into our lungs. Exposure to natural light, however limited, can help to boost our levels of vitamin D, which is important for bone health, mood and overall well-being. It can also help to regulate our circadian rhythms, which can aid a good night’s sleep.

3. Eat a healthy, balanced diet

Eating a healthy, balanced diet all year round is essential for maintaining good physical health. A diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains can provide the body with the nutrients it needs to function properly. It's also important to avoid processed foods and high amounts of added sugars and saturated fats, as these can contribute to weight gain and increase the risk of chronic diseases. By adding more fruit and vegetables to your diet, you are also investing in your immune system, reducing the risk of catching colds, bugs and other illnesses. Try switching snacks like crisps or biscuits for fruits, nuts, rice cakes or carrot sticks. These foods are rich in essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that support overall health. By ensuring you have these in your food cupboards, rather than snacks high in added sugar and saturated fats, you are helping to reduce the temptation of unhealthy snacking and comfort eating.

4. Quit smoking

Quitting smoking can be far from easy, but there are some simple ways you can put yourself in the best possible position to kick the habit, such as identifying your triggers, i.e. the situations or emotions that trigger your desire to smoke. Reaching out for support is also incredibly beneficial. Support doesn’t have to just come from health professionals, but from friends and family too, who can provide encouragement and positive reinforcement as you commence your non-smoking journey. By surrounding yourself with a positive support network, and avoiding situations where you’re more likely to smoke, you are putting yourself in the best possible position to quit once and for all.

5. Limit alcohol consumption

Reducing alcohol intake is often popular at this time of year as many of us choose to go through a period of ‘detoxing’ after the excesses of Christmas and New Year. Swapping your wine or beer for water, or alternating alcoholic beverages with water on a night out, can help to keep your body hydrated and prevent dehydration-related symptoms such as headaches and fatigue, while improving liver function. You can also seek non-alcoholic alternatives, such as mocktails (why not try some of our delicious mocktail recipes?) and avoid social activities where the emphasis tends to be on alcohol (e.g. parties or a night in the pub).

Simple lifestyle changes to improve mental health

During the winter, many of us are prone to low mood and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Making small lifestyle changes,such as the examples listed below, can help improve these symptoms, boosting our mental and emotional health.

1. Have a good sleep routine

Good sleeping patterns are a core element of looking after your mental health. Sleep plays a crucial role in regulating emotions and mood, while also boosting cognitive function. If you struggle to get 7-9 hours’ sleep every night, consider limiting the amount of screen time before going to bed as unnatural light affects production of the hormone melatonin which aids natural sleep. Also consider avoiding caffeine, nicotine, heavy meals and alcohol close to bedtime, which can all have detrimental effects on your sleeping patterns. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and create a comfortable sleeping environment with as little noise or unnatural light as possible.

2. Make ‘Me Time’ part of your daily or weekly routine

'Me' time, also known as self-care, is important for maintaining good mental health as it allows you to take a step back from the stresses of daily life and focus on your own needs and wellbeing. When we don't take time for ourselves, we can become overwhelmed, which can lead to a wide range of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Little self indulgences personal to you, such as a candlelit bath, playing your favourite music or having a Netflix binge, can not only help to reduce stress and improve your mood, but can lead to better decision-making, improved relationships and boost productivity. 

3. Join a local club or community group

Winter often leads to feelings of isolation, especially with limited opportunities to get out and about. These feelings can also be exacerbated if you are someone who works primarily from home. Joining a club or local community group can be beneficial for mental health as it brings you together with like-minded people for a common purpose. This can help build a sense of belonging in a supportive, social environment. It can also help improve self-esteem and confidence, aid personal growth and learning, and help to combat stress and anxiety - and you might make a few friends along the way!

How LiveWell Dorset can help

If you’re looking to explore how you can make small lifestyle changes to boost your health and wellbeing, LiveWell Dorset is here to help. Our website has a wealth of resources designed to help the people of Dorset lead healthier, happier lives. Why not try our LiveWell Finder tool to find local activity and recreational groups near you, or take a look at our Habit Hacker for some bespoke behaviour change techniques? You can also drop us a line or register with us today. Our friendly expert coaches and advisors are on hand to create a free, bespoke health and wellbeing plan that is designed specifically for you and your health goals.


"In January 2019, I was five stone heavier. Now, with the weight loss, parkrun and netball, my anxiety has improved tenfold."

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How does this work?

The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

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