TV’s Dr Helen Lawal shares her top tips to help you sleep, move, eat well and be happy!
When we’re wrapped up in the bustle of our day-to-day lives, it’s all too easy to neglect the simple things that can make a huge difference to our physical and mental health. But in a culture where we work longer hours while taking on more family commitments than ever before, blocking out our day for marathon gym sessions and kale smoothies is simply unattainable for many of us. Here, Dr Helen Lawal discusses the importance of taking time out to focus on your wellbeing, offering practical tips that can be easily integrated into our hectic lifestyles.
Dr Helen Lawal is no stranger to Leeds. Nigerian born and Yorkshire bred, the TV GP holds degrees in both Sport and Exercise Science from University of Leeds and Medicine from Hull-York Medical School. She served as a junior doctor at hospitals in Leeds and Wakefield before going on to work in the NHS for OneMedical Group as the lead GP for Lifestyle Medicine. Alongside receiving patients at Wetherby Surgery, she works as a health coach in a private wellness centre helping us lose weight and create healthy lifestyle habits. That’s when she’s not on television, presenting a number of hit Channel 4 series including How To Stay Well, Food Unwrapped and most recently, How To Lose Weight Well.
There are several fad diets and food trends out there, making it difficult to know what to believe and where to start. One thing we can be sure about is that increasing the amount of vegetables in your diet improves your general health, bowel health and reduces the risk of certain cancers. Why not challenge yourself and your family to eat five vegetables a day, plus two portions of fruit? Here are some ideas to get you started:
- If you are making a chilli, curry or stew – include five different portions of veggies. This will make sure you’re hitting your targets, as well as making you feel fuller.
- Substitute rice with cauliflower rice and noodles with zoodles (zucchini spirals). Vegetables make fantastic nutrient-dense alternatives to some of our favourite carbohydrates.
- Add berries and banana to your cereals in the morning for a sweet energy hit! While carrot sticks or apple slices and hummus make a great snack if you’re prone to a mid-afternoon slump.
As well as improving your diet, being active can prevent disease and keep you happier and healthier. Evidence shows that physical activity reduces your risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia and depression – there’s no drug that can do all of this! The key is to start small and build up your physical activity levels gradually. Something is always better that nothing. Make movement a normal part of your day by trying the following:
- If you can, always take the stairs!
- Break up long periods of sitting with standing – standing desks are a great way of doing this.
- Walk and talk – consider walking meetings rather than sitting at a desk. Next time you have a phone call to make, take yourself off for a brisk walk.
Lastly, but by no means least, sleep well – develop a sleep hygiene routine and honour it!
- Practice the regular rhythms of sleep – go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
- Create total darkness and quiet in the bedroom – consider using a sleep mask and earplugs.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol or reduce it after lunchtime – it may make sleep worse.
- Get regular exposure to daylight for at least 20 minutes daily. The light from the sun enters your eyes and triggers your brain to release specific chemicals and hormones like melatonin that are vital to healthy sleep, mood and aging.
- Write your worries down. During your ‘power down hour’, note the things that are causing you anxiety and make plans for what you might have to do the next day to reduce your worry. It will free up your mind and energy to move into deep and restful sleep.
Catch Helen in the ongoing series of Food Unwrapped on Channel 4.