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Mastering Health – The 5 Simplest Ways To Thrive In 2024

Written by: Timo Topp, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Timo Topp

As the echoes of the indulgent festive season fade away, the dawn of a new year brings forth the perennial desire to embrace a healthier lifestyle. Forbes Health's recent survey reveals that top resolutions for 2024 revolve around improving fitness, with goals like hitting the gym, being more active, and shedding those extra pounds. Alas, only 1% manage to persevere to 12 months! : Why is it so challenging to stay committed to a healthy lifestyle, and what can be done to tip the odds in our favour?

Group of successful businesspeople sitting and eating

In this article, I share the five simplest habits to enhance physical and mental well-being that are ideal for the busy-time poor professional to put you in the top 1% of healthy high achievers. 


Why do people fail?


The common thread among those who fall short of their health resolutions is often the pursuit of drastic changes, unsuitable for their unique circumstances. Unrealistic expectations lead to a sense of overwhelm, making the commitment seem arduous and unsustainable. People dive into daily gym sessions, extreme diets, or the abrupt abandonment of carbs, only to find themselves overwhelmed by their already busy lives, leading to inevitable burnout. Does this sound familiar?


Unlocking success through simplicity


The key to success lies in simplicity and sustainability. 


Success requires changes that are realistic, feasible, and harmonious with one's capabilities and lifestyle. The path to victory involves gradual adjustments rather than drastic overhauls. Instead of committing to a strenuous daily gym routine, aim for three or two sessions a week – a more achievable goal that sets the stage for success. Likewise, rather than completely forsaking carbs or sugar, consider a more balanced approach to avoid the rebound binge and eventual surrender. 


In essence, simplicity breeds sustainability, leading to lasting success.


Embarking on a health odyssey: 5 Simple strategies


Here are the five simplest ways to thrive this year, that require relatively little effort and form the foundation of health mastery.


1. Revolutionise your breathing 


This might be a surprising place to start but have you ever given much thought to how you breathe? Unless you do Eastern practises like martial arts or yoga, you have probably never been taught to breath effectively. But changing how we breathe changes how we feel and perform. Better breathing brings more energy, enhanced mental clarity and focus and better performance. Why else is breathing so fundamental to mindfulness, athletes and elite soldiers? 


You can improve your breathing in two ways: 

  • Breathe deeper and slower into the abdomen and avoid shallow, rapid chest breathing, which only exacerbates feelings of stress. Deep slow breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which slows the heart rate, breathing rate and conserves energy – helping to reduce stress 

  • Breathe through the nose which is 20% more effective at oxygenating the blood than mouth breathing.


If you really want to be a Topp student, you can look to incorporate a small pause between the inhalation and the exhalation. The optimal number of breaths at rest is 8. Spend a minute to measure how many you currently take.


Topp tip: Become more aware of your breathing for enhanced mental clarity and calmness.


2. The elixir of your life


Yes, you have heard it all before I know but are you really drinking enough, from my experience most people still need to drink more (and less of other beverages). Did you know a small 1-2% drop in hydration contributes to a decline in cognitive function and mood? 


Have you ever noticed you are crankier when you haven’t had enough water to drink?


Your brain is made of 75% water. Your body has a strong signal to respond to hunger but a weak one to respond to thirst, so when you are feeling peckish, you are probably thirsty. Drinking water is important for energy, general health, skin, cognitive function and managing your appetite. 


Water should be the primary beverage you consume, as your body is made of water: not red wine, latte or diet coke – water. You lose about two litres a day through bodily processes so you must replace it. 


Topp tip: Start your day with a big glass of water, drink water 15 minutes before eating and carry water with you.


3. Sit up straight for success


As children many of us were probably berated by our parents for slouching: “Sit up straight!” It’s sage advice because it will help to reduce unnecessary strain on your body and optimise correct physiological function. Think about putting a kink in a garden hose. 


Consider the weight of your head is about 5kg. Forward head posture is an epidemic in our modern society due to sitting, computers and phone use that puts a huge amount of strain on the neck and upper back. Consistent poor posture leads to strain, constant strain can lead to an injury and left unchecked: deformity. Have you ever seen a very old person struggling to look up because their line of sight is downwards? 


Good posture also contributes to looking good: Imagine the King, president or prime minister addressing the nation with slumped posture and rolled shoulders? Good posture contributes to personal confidence and an air of authority. 


Shoulders back, head up, chin in, hip knee and ankle joints aligned and you will be on the road to better posture.


Topp tip: Become more conscious of sitting, standing and walking tall.


4. Walk faster, live longer and think more creatively


By simply walking faster, you could live longer according to research conducted by the University of Leicester involving 400,000 adults. A clear link was found between walking pace and a genetic marker of biological age. A faster walking pace, independent of physical activity, was associated with longer telomere which is a protective cap at the end of each chromosome, that protects DNA from damage.


Walking is also great for the headspace, it’s a time to unwind and allow ideas to propagate. A 2014 Stanford study showed walking increased creativity by 100% compared to participants who were seated, when completing “divergent thinking” creativity tests.


Read more here.


“It’s only ideas gained whilst walking that have any worth” Nietzsche

Conversely, slower walking speed has been shown to be a risk factor of chronic disease and unhealthy ageing. Other studies have shown that walking faster could extend life span by 15 years. 


You don’t need to achieve 10,000, aiming for 8000 delivers excellent health returns but under 5000 is considered a sign of a sedentary lifestyle. The more you do the better. 


Topp tip: Walk faster, live longer and you could come up with more creative ideas! 


5. Gratitude, the gateway to a healthier mindset


Humans tend have a negative bias. We worry and complain before complimenting and praising. It’s a remnant of a survival mechanism to be cautious and not trust others too readily which thousands of years ago this would have kept our ancestors alive. Now, it is hard wired into out DNA to have a negative outlook. By consciously choosing to focus on what’s going well in our life we can nurture a positive and resilient mindset which will contribute to less worry, stress and anxiety. This isn’t is fluffy nonsense, science has shown that gratitude releases feel good neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. So, when you catch yourself about to complain, stop, take a breath and reframe your thoughts for a more positive perspective. As my Gran use to say ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all” and I would extend that to our thinking as well.


How to be more grateful:

  • Stat your day by thinking about all the good things in your life to set yourself up for a positive day. 

  • Say ‘thank you’ – sincerely – more often for the things people do for you, especially to important people like family and loved ones.

  • End your day by thinking about three things that went well: who did something positive for you? What did you do to help someone else? What wins did you have? Thinking about positive things before bed over worrying about your to do list will help you to sleep better. 


Topp tip: Be thankful for the positives in your life and say thank you more often to people in your life and you will be contributing to a more positive world for yourself and for others.


But what about food?


So, you need a few tips for healthy eating success too? Don’t go on a diet! They invariably don’t work. Yes, people do lose weight initially but most end up putting it back with interest as they slowly slip back to old ways. 


Here is how to improve your diet successfully: 

  • Cut out the crap: reduce the not so healthy stuff: junk, snack and processed food and increase the good stuff: fresh food, fruits, nuts and vegetables – particularly greens. 

  • Cook more food yourself rather than eating out or ordering. To do this you need to commit time to a grocery shop to have the right food available.

  •  Reduce portions: most people eat way too much. Chew for longer so you don’t over it and aid optimal digestion. 

  • And most importantly cut back on alcohol. It’s not so much the calories as it is the disruption it causes to other healthy habits: you won’t sleep as well even after a couple of drinks, so the next day you feel less energised as a result your appetite will be stimulated to crave higher calorie foods and eat more and you will be less likely to workout. 


Other great food tips: add more fibre, it’s important for gut health. Reduce red meat – it’s been classified as a potential carcinogen by the World Health Organisation and increase omega 3 fatty acids from oily fish like sardines and mackerel which are important for reducing inflammation. Inflammation is often associated with disease and ageing. And eat nuts as they are proven to help you live longer and contrary to conventional wisdom they actually help with weight loss.


Follow this simple food advice and you will go far.


Conclusion 


Embarking on a journey to better health need not be such a struggle. Success lies in mastering the basics – the seemingly mundane yet timeless foundations of a healthy life. These simple strategies are tailor-made for busy professionals, requiring minimal effort but offering maximum impact. It's the mastery of the supposedly boring that distinguishes the 1% who persist in their health journey from the 99% who falter. So, embrace simplicity, cultivate awareness and pave the way for a year of looking and feeling your best.


Follow me on Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!

Timo ToppBrainz Magazine
 

Timo Topp, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Timo Topp is a world leader in the wellbeing space with 30 years of experience, working as a coach, author and speaker. It his purpose and passion to help people to live healthier, happier lives. Timo is the creator of 'WORKBEING' a workplace wellbeing philosophy that empowers busy professional people to live healthier lives at work so that businesses can thrive. He is also the author of the book EAT, MOVE, LIVE – An authentic approach to look and feel your best for life. Timo’s philosophy to optimal well-being is based on ‘simplicity, sustainability, success’ so you can look, feel and perform at your best, for life.

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