Investing in you this Mental Health Awareness Week
Investing isn't all about stock and bond markets. One of the best ways to ensure your future success and happiness is to invest in you. Here are three things that will pay dividends in the future.
Whether you hit the sack or hit the hay, catch some Zs or grab some shut-eye, very few of us get enough sleep. But getting into healthy sleep habits could easily be argued as the most important change you can make to improve your mental and physical well-being.
And it isn't just about avoiding cavernous yawns and face-planting your keyboard. According to The Sleep Council, sleep pays a significant role in healing and repairing your heart and blood vessels. It helps us maintain a healthy weight and good hormonal balance. All these benefits are before we get to improved memory, enhanced problem-solving, better decision-making and stress relief when we're awake and working towards that pay cheque.
The Sleep Council recommends seven to nine hours of sleep for adults aged between 19 and 65. Make sure they count. Leave your laptop and tablet in the living room. Get rid of your bedside digital alarm clock and anything else that has an LED display.
If you do use your phone for an alarm, make sure you use your "do not disturb" function. Make sure the notification lights can't be seen from your bed (I leave mine face down on the floor) and absolutely no scrolling for the half hour before you snooze.
The only reason exercise has been edged into second place on this list is that going without exercise for a month might mean you might get a little cuddly. One day without sleep and you might start randomly crying in your office lifts. That said, we're all functional adults. We can and should do both.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week, and I'm afraid there isn't much room to wiggle round the recommendation.
The number covers all healthy adults between 16 and 84. It covers people with hypertension and diabetes. In fact, it covers all people, and I quote; "irrespective of gender, race, ethnicity or income level". In short, unless a medical professional has told you otherwise, the good people at the WHO are pretty damn sure you can do a few star jumps now and again.
The good news is, it can be done more or less how you like. Exercise can be walking or cycling to work. It can be an exercise class at the gym, or swimming. It can even be dancing, but I feel I should point out that this last one doesn't count if you're boogying off nine beers.
Otherwise, exercise can also be spread out however you like, as long as each session is 10 minutes or more.
In return you can expect lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, various cancers and depression. The importance of the mental health benefits of exercise cannot be overlooked.
Also, you'll look way sexier. The WHO refused to endorse this final point for me.
We're all pretty familiar with calorie counting. We all know we need to eat more vegetables, drink more water and eat less bacon. Most of us are also aware that moderating your drinking will reduce the likelihood of developing a range of medical problems.
But there are other bad health habits - not directly associated but often linked to alcohol - of which you should also be aware.
1. You will spend more money
According to The Good Pub Guide, the average price of a pint of beer in London is £4.20, but paying more than £6 for a beer in the City of London is far from a rarity. A glass of wine can comfortably be higher still.
2. You are more likely to eat junk/fast/heavily-processed foods when you have been drinking
According to the University of Liverpool, this is because alcohol affects your "inhibitory control". As an example of how alcohol could skew your dietary goals beyond the drinks consumed, a McDonald's Big Mac has around 500 calories. In and of itself this is not egregious, but a Big Mac also has almost 40% of your daily salt intake and almost 50% of your recommended saturated fat intake.
3. You do not sleep as well
Although you may fall asleep more quickly after a tipple, The Sleep Foundation has found that you can also disrupt your circadian rhythm. This is the process by which your brain determines its waking/sleeping cycle.
It also blocks the most restful "REM" (rapid eye movement) portion of your sleep cycle. And if that isn't enough, alcohol is a diuretic. This means it will likely lead to extra night time bathroom trips.
Read more: Is a calmer you a more successful you?