Being healthy isn’t about one small activity or an isolated action – to be healthy you have to make wellness a part of just about every aspect of your life. Learn from the 10 great health habits that healthy women swear by (and that experts tell us work!).
1. They go for regular health checkups
We got the boring one out of the way first. No one enjoys the annual rotation of PAP smears and cholestrol tests, or the monthly health checks like breast self-examinations, but healthy women know that early intervention saves lives so they stick to the schedule and get checkups when they need them.
You can check out the screening procedures that you should have here.
2. They get enough sleep
Sleep is vital to our wellbeing. People who don’t get enough sleep can be moody, forgetful, susceptible to illness, and likely to gain weight. And there’s not much negotiation about the amount of sleep you need. Eight hours is the norm, with only an hour of leeway either way for people who need more or less sleep.
You can check out how much sleep you need by age here. If you can’t sleep, try these solutions.
3. They manage their stress
The many professional and family demands on women contribute to their stress. We’re told of the importance of achieving work-life balance but the pursuit of balance is probably adding to your stress! Healthy women identify the signs of stress, and take steps to lessen the effects. A helpful practice is mindfulness – focusing fully on the task at hand rather than worrying about all the other demands on your attention. Don’t neglect other proven stress-busters: exercise, down time, fun, friendship and “me time” (see below for more).
4. And they focus on “me time”
Emotional wellbeing is closely tied to physical wellbeing, says Chicago psychotherapist and author Cherilynn Veland, speaking to Psychology Today: “If we aren’t taking time to rest, relax, reenergise and restore, bad things will happen eventually.” These bad things include a wide range of psychological and health conditions, including anxiety, depression, heart disease digestive disorders and sleep problems.
Veland recommends scheduling “me time” into your week, just like everything else – not just leaving it to chance - and actually setting alarms on your phone to let you know it’s time. What constitutes me time is entirely up to you.
5. They drink in moderation and don’t smoke at all
According to the Harvard paper Alcohol: Balancing the Risks and Benefit, alcohol is both a poison and a tonic. While there are studies that report the possible health benefits of alcohol, there is no question that alcohol abuse leads to liver damage, and alcohol use is a risk factor in breast cancer. At the same time, there’s no denying the de-stressing benefits of a nice glass of wine at the end of a long day.
Shedule “me time”, don’t leave it to chance
The watchword here is “moderation” – and by moderation we mean one or at most two units of alcohol a night. And no, healthy women don’t knock back a week’s worth of units in one night then abstain!
There’s really nothing to say about smoking other than: don’t.
6. They aim for a healthy relationship with food
Leaving aside the raging debates, there are a few things that experts agree on: fad diets, sugar and processed food are bad; plenty of vegetables and variety are good. Rather than obsessing about their diets, healthy women simply try to eat more of the good things and fewer of the bad.
7. They prioritise being active in creative ways
For some healthy women, a daily hour at the gym is easy to achieve. Others can’t bear the idea of sweating it out with the fitness freaks. Whatever their approach, healthy women prioritise the exercise that’s right for them. If they don’t work out, they go for daily walks or swims or yoga and dance classes – and even keep active at the during the day by taking the stairs rather than the lift, parking far from the entrance to the shops, or using their lunch break to take a stroll.
8. They wear sunscreen
Healthy women know that no matter what generations of social conditioning tell us, there is no such thing as a healthy tan. A tan is simply a sign that the sun’s radiation has damaged your skin. While there are certain mood and health benefits to daily sun exposure, don’t overdo it. Wear sunblock every day and if you know you will be spending time in the sun, wear a hat and UV protective clothing.
9. They take tech breaks
Technology has enhanced our lives in so many ways. Information is readily available to us, we can keep in touch with distant friends and relatives, we can work from just about anywhere, and we know what’s happening everywhere in the world – but all this connectivity certainly has a downside. Healthy women know that for the good of their minds and bodies, sometimes they just need to disconnect.
This can take the form of regular digital detoxes, or daily “quiet” times – as long as you are spending some of your life disconnected from technology and the other billions of other people all around the world who use it too.
10. They believe in the power of positive relationships
Healthy women build a network of positive people around them. They quietly disengage from friends, family and co-workers that don’t add value to their lives. And they develop coping mechanisms for dealing with toxic people they can’t avoid.
It’s a good idea to focus on incorporating positive social experiences into your life. According to Harvard researchers, positive relationships relieve harmful stress levels, which can negatively affect coronary arteries, gut function, insulin regulation and the immune system.