How to Make Your Physical and Mental Wellbeing a Priority in 2020
Looking after our wellbeing and taking time for self-care is so important, yet it’s something we often overlook. But, when we don’t keep an eye on our health, minor ailments can go unnoticed and may develop into bigger health problems.
In fact, a recent survey into the UK’s health and wellbeing suggested that our “keep calm and carry on” culture, coupled with lengthy wait times for treatment and lack of access to healthcare, could be having a detrimental impact on the nation’s health.
With this in mind, Dr Dawn Harper, GP and Simplyhealth Ambassador, has shared her expert tips to help you prioritise your physical and mental wellbeing needs throughout 2020 – and beyond.
Many of us spend a lot of time sitting down, whether in our spare time, at work or even commuting – and it’s not good for our bodies! Sitting for long periods is thought to slow the metabolism, which affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat.
The good news is, to improve our health, we don’t all have to become marathon runners – unless of course, we want to – we just need to move more!
NICE guidelines recommend getting at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. This might sound daunting at first, but breaking it down into smaller amounts, such as 30 minutes over five days, can make it much more manageable.
Not only will you see the physical benefits but adding exercise to your routine can lift your mood and benefit your mental wellbeing, helping to manage issues such as stress, anxiety and depression.
Make routine checks a priority
Eating more fruit and veg, taking regular exercise and sleeping well will all help to keep you healthy, but with busy lifestyles it can be easy to put off routine health checks, such as eye tests or dental check-ups, particularly if there’s nothing causing discomfort.
Indeed, the latest survey findings revealed that many UK adults are failing to take proactive steps to maintain their everyday health, with less than half (46%) of those surveyed booking regular check-ups with the optician to monitor their eye health and just 51% making an appointment with the dentist for a general check-up.
Moreover, the average Briton waits for over two weeks to book an appointment with their doctor about a minor health concern. This appears to be taking its toll on our health, with one in five people surveyed admitting their illnesses last longer as they can’t get to the doctors due to other commitments.
As it happens, there is a lot of truth in the old adage “prevention is better than cure”. For instance, an optician can tell a lot from your eyes, such as what your cholesterol and blood pressure are like, and if there is an unusual amount of pressure in the eye. Spotting abnormal changes can help detect your risk of diseases like cataracts, arthritis and even dementia.
To help you stay on top of routine check-ups, consider a health cash plan, such as Simplyhealth. At a time when waiting times are lengthy, a health plan can provide quick and easy access to healthcare professionals such as GPs, counsellors or even physiotherapists. You can also claim back the cost of routine healthcare treatments, from opticians and dentist appointments to prescription medication, physiotherapy or even podiatry.
Look after your mind
I’ve been a GP for around 25 years and in that time, I’ve seen an improvement in the way we talk about mental health, but we still have a long way to go. Despite greater awareness, it seems there remains a stigma associated with the issue, with less than a third (30%) of UK adults admitting that they feel more comfortable discussing personal mental health issues now than they have done previously.
So, this year make sure you think about your own mental wellbeing and if you, or someone you care about is suffering, I would encourage you to address the issue and talk about how you’re feeling.
Some people find it easier to confide in a friend because it makes them feel more at ease, while others may prefer to chat to a trained counsellor, who can offer their professional advice to get you through a difficult time.
Remember, that living healthily should be a pleasure, not a chore, and that we can affect so much with our mindset. Our happiness level seems to have a direct effect on how well our bodies function. For example, increased happiness may lead to lower blood pressure, a robust immune system and a lower chance of chronic pain.
Moreover, when you crack a smile, it affects certain muscles which release a chemical called endorphins, which not only trigger a positive feeling and help to improve your mood but can also help to reduce stress levels, increase blood flow and lower blood pressure.
So, to stay on top of your health this year, try to do something that makes you smile everyday – whether it’s reading a book, going for a run or catching up with friends over a cuppa!