As we continue to spend copious amounts of time at home due to the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown guidelines, I don’t know about you, but this has given me a lot of time for self reflection and to think about my goals. You only have to take a quick scan of social media to see that many of us are reviewing our habits, our behaviour and how we can start to take a slower approach to life. And if you’re of this mindset, there’s no time better to read a book like Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s Feel Better in 5. Without the guilt factor that a lot of health focused books carry, Dr Chatterjee looks at ways in which we can use five minutes a day, three times a day to form three healthy habits, or what he calls ‘health snacks’. It may sound too good to be true – I was a sceptic myself – because it’s hard to imagine how five minutes can make any real difference. But think of it this way, if you spend five minutes every day eating unhealthy food, stay completely sedentary, or talk to yourself in a negative way, it’ll quickly escalate. So he suggests that we focus on our mind, our body and our heart.
Feed your mind
One area of wellbeing that we typically forget about is the mind, particularly in terms of stress or negative talk. Our minds aren’t built for the modern world and we’re often so busy and pre-occupied, it can be hard to switch off, and this is probably one of the reasons why one in four of the UK population experiences a mental health problem each year. But i’m sure if you’ve ever felt anxious, experienced sleepless nights or generally felt as though your mind is whirring at a million miles a hour every day, you’ll already know that. However, Dr Chatterjee explains that focusing on one positive ‘mind snack’ every day can help to improve your mood and overall feelings of calm. This can be anything from journaling, meditation, drawing or spending time in nature. But you have to find an activity that best suits you and your routine – whatever it takes to give your mind the break it needs.
Move your body
When we talk about movement or exercise, we often think about spending time in the gym or going for that long run. That can be enjoyable (and I’d definitely say it is), but not everyone shares this mindset and Dr Chatterjee is keen to emphasise that we don’t need to exercise for long periods in order for exercise to be effective. We’re bombarded with images of what exercise or being fit should look like but what if we chose to stop the guilt and just take five minutes each day to move, whatever that looks like for you? Dr Chatterjee includes options such as HIIT, bodyweight strength training, yoga and even dancing to your favourite song for five minutes a day. There’s a misconception that exercise has to be complicated or ‘difficult’ to understand, but it doesn’t have to be that way – it’s all about mindset. Consider putting movement first, keep a kettlebell next to the kettle, get up and take the stairs when you can – get your heart racing in a good way.
Love your heart
Would you ever consider that your relationships should be a part of your overall wellbeing? Well before this (or lockdown), I definitely didn’t. But our relationships can have a direct impact on our overall levels of happiness – go figure – and this includes your relationship with others, as well as yourself. Showing your heart and relationships some love can include anything from phoning a friend, writing down things you love about yourself and those around you, showing kindness, focusing on forgiveness or even striking up a conversation with a stranger. The more you do, the more you’ll feel the effect.
Above all, the main thing we need to remember is that for something to become a habit, it has to be enjoyable and also fit into our existing routines. We’re all busy and we all have limited time available, so look for the opportunities where you can squeeze in that extra bit. The good doctor suggests that when you’re boiling the kettle, consider completing a mind or body focused activity; or if you’d usually spend your evenings on devices, consider putting five minutes aside to have a cup of tea with your partner, friend or housemate to talk about your day and really focus on your relationship without any distractions. We all know it to be true, but consistency is key, and Dr Chatterjee includes some wonderful case studies that truly help you to understand what can be achieved with something simple changes.
I’ve been including some of these additions into my routine for almost three weeks now, and I’ve noticed a real difference. As someone who usually struggles to sleep, i’ve been able to get seven hours sleep per night as the norm, waking up much less than usual. This has helped me to feel more rested, which has given me more energy so that when I’m working out, I’m more likely to reach my 100% effort level. And I’d put this down to regular meditation and yoga – just five minutes of each every day. Everyone will have different aspirations for this programme, and Dr Chatterjee has outlined some key goals you can work towards. So I guess the only question to ask is, if you could make a positive change over these few weeks (or during the whole lockdown period!) and if you’re in the right mindset to do so, then why wouldn’t you?