Healthy body, healthy mind

Online and on social media, we’re bombarded with the holy grail of ‘health’. But what does it actually mean to be ‘healthy’? Is it going to the gym every day? Having glowing skin? Drinking green juices? Benching a personal best? How about wearing yoga pants from dawn until dusk?!

With such unclear messaging about what ‘a healthy lifestyle’ is, it can be difficult to even know where to start!

We spoke to Faiza, Laurie, Raul and Tamsin; four young people who have all battled health issues. They tell us what being ‘healthy’ means to them.

Let’s recap.

Everything is connected

What you do with and put into your body can have a powerful impact on your mental wellbeing. Being physically active, getting enough sleep, and eating or drinking the right things are just as important for your mind as they are for your muscles.

And vice versa: mental health problems can also affect your physical health. Struggling with low mood, or being stressed and anxious, can affect your appetite, leave you feeling exhausted, give you headaches and cause muscle tension and pain.

As Tamsin explains, for her:

"Healthy living is about respecting my mind, respecting my body and remembering that what goes into my body can affect my mind and everything’s connected."

Check in with your mind

When our physical health is suffering, it’s easy to see: a broken leg, a cut or a bruise, a limp. When our mental health is suffering it can be more difficult to spot. But we all have a state of mental health and all we need to actively take care of it. We need to check in regularly to see how we are doing and if there’s anything we need or are missing.

It’s easy to forget this and put other things first though. When Tamsin was promoted at work, for example, she says that she was so eager to do well that she worked long hours, didn’t eat and didn’t sleep:

I wasn’t respecting myself, and that brought my whole body, my mind down to the ground.

Like you’d go to the gym, or eat vegetables to stay in tip-top shape, you can keep your mind strong and healthy too. Try and identify if there is anything you can do day-to-day to improve your mental health: take a walk on your lunch break, unfollow people that make you feel insecure, or make time for a hobby that makes you happy.

Remember nothing is more important than looking after yourself

Take charge of your health

You need to make decisions about how you will live a healthy life, because no one can do it for you.

Faiza has a long-term health condition and has had to take charge of her own health in order to survive. “Healthy eating has always been a massive part of my life,” she says. Laurie wanted to improve her lifestyle. To succeed, she says:

I really had to take my health into my hands and make it my responsibility.

If they can make positive and informed decisions to look after their health and respect their bodies, so can you! And remember, even small changes can have a really big impact, so don’t feel overwhelmed – every bit helps.

Get active

It’s not just about the gym! Doing something active that you enjoy can be good for both your body and mind. Faiza does yoga, Raul goes to the gym and Tamsin skateboards. Try a hobby that gets you up on your feet, gets your heart pumping or builds strength through skill – you’ll be amazed by the positive impact it has on your mental health and happiness. As Tamsin explains:

"I’m doing something I enjoy but also exercising my body, getting rid of those negative thoughts and creating happy memories, creating new feelings with new people."

Remember: how you look does not define your health

Health and appearance often get confused. Some people judge health on how they look, for example their body shape and size, but this isn’t always a sure indicator. Everyone is different and just because someone is bigger or smaller than someone else, doesn’t mean they are healthier or unhealthier. There is a lot we don’t know and cannot see.

As Raul says:

Health looks different and is different for everybody and is not defined by shape or size.

What does healthy living mean to you?

You just need the foundation, the basics. Eating enough, sleeping enough and talking to your friends. Put yourself first – your mental health and your physical health should be the priority.

Exercise moderately, eat a balanced diet and think positively.

Respecting my mind, respecting my body and remembering that what goes into my body can affect my mind and everything is connected.

Drinking well, eating well and having a healthy relationship with exercise.

Where to go for more support

There’s lots more advice and guidance on the Bitesize Support pages. Have a look at our mental health collection to get started.

You could also look online. You could start by visiting the NHS website or MIND.

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