When you have a busy life, prioritising your health can often fall to the bottom of your long to-do list. However, there are small steps which you can incorporate into your daily routine which will have a big impact on your health and well-being, both physical and mental.

1. Focus on what you are grateful for

When you lead a busy and stressful life, it can be easy to forget all of the great things that you have going for you. Spending a short amount of time daily just appreciating all of the great people that you have in your life and all of the simple things that you have to be grateful for, can really boost your mood and change your outlook. Several studies have demonstrated, that when it comes to day-to-day life, the more positive people expected their futures to be, the better their mood, the fewer their psychiatric symptoms, and the better their adjustment to diverse situations including college transition, pregnancy, cardiac surgery, and caregiving. So diverting your attention to the positives in your life and all of the things that you are grateful for, may just make you better equipped to deal with the challenges and stresses of day-to-day life, as and when they arise.

2. Find 15 minutes to meditate or just relax every day

When you are extremely busy, taking time out to do just nothing may feel like a complete waste of time. However, meditating or just taking a short while to relax every day can bring about significant physiological changes that can significantly reduce stress levels and also boost your mood. Research carried out in America and published in the Journal of Psychiatry Research Neuroimaging demonstrated that those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had increased grey matter in the hippocampus, an area of the brain important for learning and memory and decreased grey matter in the amygdala, a region connected to anxiety and stress. Several other studies have demonstrated that meditation can help to improve mood, depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders. For example, a systematic review of studies examining the benefits of meditation on mental health concluded that there was strong evidence that meditation provided effective coping techniques for epilepsy, symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and menopausal symptoms. The benefit was also demonstrated for mood and anxiety disorders, as well as autoimmune illnesses.

3. Eat to nourish your body

Rather than counting calories or worrying about your weight, eat food to nourish your body. Eating nutrient-dense, nourishing food will allow you to enjoy both great mental and physical health. For example, many people are often scared of the good fats from nuts, seeds and avocados due to their calorific nature, however, these fats are very important for our brain (and general) health. Eat foods according to how nutritious they are, rather than how many calories they contain, and you will see significant improvements in your mental and physical health.

4. Make time to sleep

When you are stressed and worried about the thousands of things that you have to achieve by the next day, sleep often takes a back seat. You would rather work until 11pm and get everything done than go home leaving lots of things to finish off tomorrow. Research has indicated, however, that those who don’t sleep enough may be more likely to be overweight, get depressed and age faster. So choosing to stay up late and get all of your chores or work done may not be the best thing for either your mental or physical health.

5. Stop being so harsh on yourself

Most people are much more critical of themselves than they are of anybody else. They often talk to themselves in a way that they would not even talk to a complete stranger. Picking yourself physically to pieces and focusing on your flaws only leaves you feeling miserable and deflated. Focus instead on what you like about your body, personality and life and you will soon find that the way you look at yourself and the rest of the world will completely change.

Thanks to Shelly Cho from Just Sensible Health for providing this feature.