The Wellbeing Checklist – 15 Key Elements to Optimal Health

1- Starting Your Day Right

Did you know that how well we sleep starts the moment we wake up?

If we wake up to natural sunlight for around 20 minutes then it can help to set your circadian rhythm for the rest of the day. Historically our ancestors would wake with the rising sun and also sit around a campfire in the evenings, and so red light is good for us in many ways.

It can help to set our circadian rhythm, and so getting into the habit of rising with the sun could set us up for the rest of the day and even that night ahead. Red light is also good for our mitochondrial health, which is implicated in all areas of our health.

In addition to this, just 20 minutes of sunlight may also be good for getting adequate levels of vitamin D, so if you can walk to work, or just find some time to get 20 minutes of sunlight before you start your day it could make all the difference to your sense of wellbeing.

Vitamin D is good for our immune systems among many other functions within the body. It’s actually a hormone that our bodies don’t naturally make and if we lack vitamin D it can lead to more frequent infections, feeling tired, low moods, achy bones, slow wound healing, hair loss and muscle pain.

2 – Smoothies

Smoothies are a really good source of nourishment. They are quick and easy to make.

Instead of making fruit smoothies I recommend adding pea protein to plant based milk. I don’t recommend whey as a lot of people are sensitive to dairy and it can be inflammatory.

Some of my favourite ingredients include bananas and almond butter, frozen berries and flax seeds, avocado and spinach, apple and celery.

If you can make these fresh then that is best, or buy a Nutribullet and annoy all of your workmates by bringing in fresh ingredients and blending at work. It’ll help save you from grabbing the wrong snacks that are close to hand.

You can add other things to a smoothie to make it really worth it – such as green powder, vitamin powders, chia seeds, collagen.

3 – Preparing Food the Night Before

Why is this a smart move?

Most of us don’t have time to cook 2-3 times a day! Life has become so busy with one thing or another and if we’re not careful we might find ourselves gazing into the fridge at lunchtime wondering what to make, or grabbing convenience foods when we’re out in a rush.

One hack that I have recently started at home is the art of leftovers! Yes the word leftovers doesn’t seem very appealing and if you’re anything like me you’ve not quite got into the habit of batch-cooking and freezing.

If you make enough to feed you, your partner and the both of you for lunch the next day then you can save yourself a whole lot of hassle, time and calories! I have a meal planner that has two weeks’ worth of menus and the plan is that you only cook once a day. For example, Miso salmon with roasted veg, or chicken with pesto and courgetti. This can be eaten warm or cold the next day and you could add a side salad and dressing too.

4 – Variety is the Spice of Life

It’s really easy to get stuck in a rut with the same fruits and vegetables that we buy every week, I’m the same! But if we can diversify our fruits and vegetables we can benefit our health in many ways.

Eating a larger variety of fruits and vegetables will increase our fibre intake. This is beneficial for our gut bacteria who feed on non-digestible fibres that we eat. And when we feed them we can in turn increase the health of our gut lining, our immune system and even our mood.

Also, increasing our variety of fruit and vegetables will increase our intake of phytonutrients which are the many compounds of plants that are good for our health.

For example, carotenoids provide yellow, orange, and red colours in fruits and vegetables. They act as antioxidants in our bodies which means that they help to tackle damaged tissues and free radical build up. These can be found in sweet red peppers, pumpkin, sweet potato, and carrots of course.

There are also polyphenols (red wine, dark chocolate, tea, and berries are some of the best-known sources). Flavonoids are also a type of polyphenols and these include quercetin, kaempferol, catechins, and anthocyanins, which are found in foods like apples, onions, dark chocolate, and red cabbage.

5 – Immune System Boosters  

It is true that some vitamins can help the immune system and there is no harm in stocking up on some as we move into the winter months.

Vitamin C is a really good support for the immune system because some studies show that it can reduce the length of time that you have a cold or flu for and zinc can improve immune system function and resistance to illness.

Sambucol which contains elderberry is always kept in our fridge in case we need it. One of the most well-researched elderberry benefits is its ability to support a healthy immune system. The berries contain chemical compounds called anthocyanidins, which is an antioxidant found in blueberries and cherries.

6 – Energy Boosters

B vitamins are vital for many functions within the body. Taking a good quality supplement may be beneficial for helping to release the energy from food, but it’s important to take a B vitamin complex and not just one on its own, unless you know you have a specific deficiency. Getting enough B vitamins should be possible from eating a well-balanced diet but vegetarians and vegans need to be careful as B12 is not available from plant sources and so supplementing this may be a good idea. In addition to this it’s always good to opt for a methylated B vitamin as this means that the methyl molecule has already been added to the B vitamin, making the process of absorption and assimilation more effective. If you suspect you may be deficient in B vitamins it’s always good to get your bloods checked first.

Iron is another important nutrient for cellular energy. One of the most important functions of iron is the transportation of oxygen within the blood. Iron’s main purpose is to carry oxygen in the haemoglobin of red blood cells throughout your body so your cells can produce energy. Iron increases energy production, reduces fatigue, improves our cognitive function, keeps our immune system strong, transports oxygen in our body, creates healthy red blood cells, and maintains healthy cell division.

The main sources of iron come from animal products, in particular red meat, so if you are vegetarian or vegan then it’s important that you aim to get it from other sources such as green leafy vegetables, legumes, rice, nuts and seeds. Caffeine can limit absorption and vitamin C can assist with absorption.

7 – Staying Well Hydrated

Staying well hydrated is crucial for many functions of the body.

It is crucial for the kidneys to be able to eliminate waste products, and also for our temperature management. Being dehydrated can cause dizziness, lethargy, poor concentration – and we can even confuse hunger for thirst and so if we don’t drink enough fluid we could turn to food instead which is extra calories.

Having a glass of water by your bed for the morning is a simple hack. Drinking the whole glass when you wake up will not only help reach your daily hydration goal but it will help to eliminate waste that has built up in your system overnight.

Other tips to increase hydration:

Herbal teas are a good option.

Electrolyte drinks are also good because they include essential minerals too. You can make your own version by adding a pinch of sea salt.

Or drinking coconut water.

Here is an easy lemon-lime sports drink recipe to try at home:

Yield: 4 cups (946 ml). Serving size: 1 cup (237 ml)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) of lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) of lime juice
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) of unsweetened coconut water
  • 2 cups (480 ml) of cold water

8 – What to Avoid

Caffeine

Avoiding caffeine after a certain time is advisable, so have 1-2 coffee’s but have them before 1pm.

Caffeine does have many benefits, and research has shown benefits to the liver, microbiome, heart and even cognitive decline due to its polyphenol and antioxidant effects, as well as it containing potassium, magnesium, B2 and B3. It may stimulate gut motility and improve bacteria health and aside from anything there is a ritual to starting the day with a coffee!

But, caffeine can stimulate the adrenal and cortisol pathways of our system. If we are especially sensitive to caffeine, it may make us jittery or impact our sleep, even if we drink it 6 hours before bed. For people who feel jittery after caffeine it could mean that they have a genetic SNP to the slow metabolism of caffeine in phase two of the liver, or that if they are hugely stressed anyway, it may cause excess stress on their adrenals. It can even possibly cause an increase in glucose levels because it raises cortisol and so it could be argued that caffeine increases insulin and that is something we don’t want to do.

Processed foods

Processed foods are far removed from actual real food. Our digestive systems have not been geared up to handle these foods. They also contain trans fats, fructose, additives and preservatives which can mess with our health over time. Some people can have immediate reactions to some additives such as sulfites and MSG so it’s best to always cook from scratch where possible.

Starch and Sugar

Starch and sugar converts into fat in our liver. This is what can cause metabolic disease in later life. It is not fat that causes fat, unless we really do eat too much of it.

Sugar and starch converts into fat if it’s not immediately used, and too much of this is bad news for our livers, blood vessels, fat cells, digestive system and even our brains.

Replace sugar and starch for proteins, good fats and complex fibres.

9. – How to Practise Time-restricted Eating

Time-restricted eating is something that is important for our overall health and our digestion. It’s important that we give our digestive systems a break as this also lets our body clean out unwanted debris from our cells and to regenerate our bodies as a whole.

Ideally working around a 16/8 hour principle is best, but find a window that suits you! Snacking on apples, nuts, seeds, olives, Pulsin bars and dark chocolate is the best snack options, but ideally eat them straight after your main meals.

If work timings make this hard, you could try eating a simple three meals a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner – but no snacking!

10. – Getting Natural Daylight and Fresh Air

Getting around 20 minutes of sunlight first thing in the morning can help to set our circadian rhythm for the rest of the day. Historically our ancestors would wake with the rising sun and also sit around a campfire in the evenings, and so red light, as opposed to blue light, can help to regulate our sleep/wake cycle. Infrared light can help to set our circadian rhythm, so getting into the habit of rising with the sun could set us up for the rest of the day and even that night ahead.

Infrared light can help to set our circadian rhythm, so getting into the habit of rising with the sun could set us up for the rest of the day and even that night ahead. Infrared light is also good for our mitochondrial health, which is implicated in all areas of our wellbeing.

In addition to this, just 20 minutes of sunlight may also be good for getting adequate levels of vitamin D. The recommended blood marker is >50/mol/L. So if you can walk to work, or just find some time to get 20 minutes of sunlight before you start your day it could make all the difference to your wellbeing.

Vitamin D is good for our immune systems among many other functions within the body. It’s actually a hormone that our bodies don’t naturally make and if we lack vitamin D it can lead to more frequent infections, feeling tired, low moods, achy bones, slow wound healing, hair loss and muscle pain.

11. – The Importance of Movement and Time Out

Getting up from our desks every 20-40 mins is really important for our spine, circulation, nervous system and brain.

Taking just 5-10 mins out can really help to reset our nervous system and help us to become more reflective and proactive.

12. – How to get restorative sleep and why it’s so key

Manage stress. Our nervous system and immune systems don’t differentiate real stress from perceived stress, it’s all stress! And this stress will put a burden on our immune systems because it may have to fight an inflammatory response from increased cortisol and adrenaline. So taking some deep breaths, doing some yoga and getting out in nature may well help you to fight infections.

Make sleep non-negotiable. Sleep is a fundamental part of our rest and repair. Even skipping sleep by 1-2 hours a night can impact our body’s ability to rest and repair. Getting deep sleep and making sleep a priority can help our immune system to clear out the debris from our own internal metabolic systems, leaving more defences in place to help fight infections.

13. – Breathing Techniques if You Get Stressed

Abdominal breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, is a powerful way to decrease stress by activating relaxation centres in the brain. The abdominal expansion causes negative pressure to pull blood into the chest, improving the venous flow of blood back to the heart.

When you mindfully incorporate abdominal breathing exercises into your daily routine, you may find that focusing your attention on your breath during stressful moments becomes easier to do. This is an important skill that can help you deal with stress, anxiety, and negative emotions in a positive way. Mindful, deep breathing can also help sharpen your ability to concentrate.

The following abdominal breathing exercise, often called 4-7-8 breathing, can help you start breathing mindfully:

Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down, with your feet slightly apart, one hand on your abdomen near the navel, and the other hand on your chest.

Gently exhale the air in your lungs through your mouth, then inhale slowly through your nose to the count of four, pushing out your abdomen slightly and concentrating on your breath. As you breathe in, imagine warm air flowing all over your body. Hold the breath for a count of at least four but not more than seven.

Slowly exhale through your mouth while counting to eight. Gently contract your abdominal muscles to completely release the remaining air in the lungs.

Repeat until you feel deeply relaxed for a total of five cycles. You may be able to do only one or two cycles at first.

Once you feel comfortable with your ability to breathe into the abdomen, it is not necessary to use your hands on your abdomen and chest.

14. – How to Protect Your Energy and Put Boundaries up For Your Own Wellbeing

It’s really important that we protect our own energies from other people’s ‘stuff’ and also from any negative energy that they may unknowingly put upon us. We are made of atoms, and atoms are 1% protons and neurons and 99% energy!

Being an empathetic person and/or working in an environment where you do a lot of listening and caring is a gift in itself, but you need to remember not to let the impact of the deep healing work you do, impact your own health. Either don’t let it sink into your deep emotional subconscious, or make sure you take steps to let it go from your own energy system soon after.

15. – Energy Preserving Tips!

Use a guided visualisation to protect your space. Before you get into close contact, or if you sense a negative situation, put a bubble of protection or a triangle around you. Visualise this in your mind and keep it strong and protected throughout.

Be sure to let go of any stored up emotions or energy from other people you may have encountered. Go for a walk in nature, take a hot magnesium salts bath or practise meditation or yoga each day as a way to release stored up feelings and energy.