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Living Your Best Life

Living Your Best Life

"Live each day as if it were your last. Learn as if you would live forever".
Mahatma Gandhi

In our 24/7 society, bombarded as we are with unrealistic expectations of what we should look like, what consumer goods we should aspire to, what amazing qualifications and jobs we should have, we may feel that we can never achieve the idealized lifestyle that is constantly being presented to us. It’s easy to forget just what an incredible gift life is and how we should make the very best of it, whatever our circumstances and whatever hand life has dealt us.

We can’t really do much individually about the disasters that beset the world – chaotic politics, global warming, threats of war and so on, although we should not forget that these exist and do whatever we can in our small way to mitigate them. However, we can strive to live happy, fulfilling and purposeful lives, using our talents, exploring the world around us, making meaningful relationships, seizing opportunities and trying to find our rightful place in the amazing universe in which we find ourselves.

The wierd and wonderful thing that we call a person – a bundle of cells, a bunch of neurons, a genetic code, a mass of electrical energy – is difficult to comprehend and impossible for even the cleverest scientist to explain. We are all born in a body and with a mind, inherited traits and talents and a personality, which develops according to our experiences. Maybe the first step in living your best life is to learn to love yourself, and to look after your body and mind and treat them well. Here are a few pointers, which you might find helpful: -

Accept and Respect Yourself
Accept your faults and perceived flaws – nobody (or body) is perfect. We should learn to appreciate the fact that life is a gift and make the most of what we have, instead of envying others and feeling dissatisfied with our physical appearance or our perceived shortcomings. Respect your mind and body and treat them well.

Eat Well
Whether you are an omnivore, vegetarian or vegan, steer clear of highly processed foods that are low in nutrients and fibre and high in sugar, salt and saturated fats. Instead, eat a diet with the right balance of proteins, carbohydrates, dairy products or equivalents and fruit and vegetables. And remember to drink plenty of fluids – plain water is best. For more information, see the NHS Eat Well website But cut yourself a bit of slack and don’t feel guilty about the occasional treat – after all, life’s for living!

Be Active
Our bodies are designed to thrive on activity. Exercise makes our bones stronger, builds our muscles, helps us to control our weight, reduces our risk of disease and makes us happier. To stay healthy, experts recommend that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week and strength exercises to work all the major muscles two or three times per week. Your gym membership is a great way to commit to regular exercise and healthy habits.

Get Enough Sleep & Take Time To Relax
Make Sure that you get the recommended 7 to 9 hours sleep every night. Lack of sleep puts you at risk of heart disease and diabetes and can reduce your efficiency and creativity during the day. Avoid TV, computer and mobile screens before bedtime, keep your bedroom cool and dark, don’t drink coffee, tea or alcohol late in the day and set yourself a regular routine, so that getting to sleep becomes second nature. And in your waking hours, take time to relax and do something you really enjoy, whether it’s pottering in the garden, listening to music, cooking, doing something creative, strolling in the park or settling down with a good book. Such activities can boost both your physical and mental wellbeing and help you find a calm space in a frenetic world.

Look After Your Mental Health
Thankfully, mental health is no longer a taboo subject. All of us are subject to traumas and losses in our lives and any of us can become depressed or anxious for good reason or for no apparent reason at all. When this tips over into debilitating illness, it should be taken seriously and you should not be afraid to ask for help. Looking after yourself physically and taking regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and improve your mental resilience. Talking about your feelings to a sympathetic friend can help, as can doing something you’re good at and find enjoyable. Yoga, Tai Chi and meditation or practising mindfulness are all disciplines that can help us enjoy life more and understand ourselves better.

Learn Something New
Learning something new is good for your mental and physical health and can increase your enjoyment of life enormously. Learning a language that you can practise on holiday, taking up painting, singing, joining a sports club or a dance class or trying amateur dramatics - whatever you choose to do, will enhance your social inclusion and develop you as a person. You’re never too old to learn something new and if you find that a particular activity doesn’t float your boat, then try something else. Having lots of skills and interests will make you a more rounded and engaging person and might even increase your employability.

Be Sociable
Human beings are by nature social animals. This has enabled us to communicate, co-operate, evolve and create the technology, from the wheel to the computer, that has helped us rise to the top of the food chain. We form friendships, fall in love and bond with our families, and all these social connections enhance our feelings of self-worth. Helping other people, even when this does not benefit ourselves, makes us feel good and reinforces our social bonds. Altruism is the cornerstone of many religions and secular world views and really does make us feel better about our lives. So try a daily “random act of kindness” – just buying a friend a coffee or helping an elderly neighbour with their shopping. Compassion and kindness not only make the world a better place for others, but they also reduce negative emotions such as anger, depression, loneliness and anxiety in ourselves.

Living your best life takes effort, but life is short, and being positive, curious, active, friendly and fit and healthy are the best paths to finding lifelong happiness and fulfilment.

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