My plant based journey started off as an experiment. It was an simple and easy way of feeding my retreat clients nourishing food without deprivation or compromise on taste. But quite quickly, the plant based way of eating began to make a significant mark on my life and my general wellbeing in so many more ways. This new way of cooking sparked a creative love affair with a world of new ingredients, an appreciation for their heritage, and ways of using them that I could have never dreamt of before. I rediscovered that there is so much beauty in this world in the form of nature and how we are interdependent on it for our health and happiness and I aspire to spread that message as far as I can!
Because of my own success with this lifestyle and how it has so positively transformed my physical health and my mental wellbeing, I’m so often asked questions about what I eat, what makes me happy, and what I recommend others eat to make them healthy and happy. To be honest, happiness and wellbeing are so individual and acheiving them stretches SO far beyond just changing what you put on your plate – it’s all about a 360 degree approach to your everyday habits and outlook.
The things that make me jump for joy may not be someone else’s cup of tea and vice versa. And for the sake of full disclosure – I also have ‘bad’ days, times when I don’t feel so good about myself, and am far from perfect! All I can do is speak from my own experience and tell you what works for me, what has made me feel better and what makes me tick on a daily basis. I have learnt lots of lifestyle tips along the way that make me look at life a little bit differently and that therefore have a direct impact on my happiness levels, and I share those with you in the hope they will help positively impact your mindset and physical wellbeing, too.
1. Listen to your Body
This might be an old saying and one we hear time and time again but I put it top of the list because it’s true – you REALLY need to listen to your body. If you are suffering from fatigue, indigestion, mood swings, weight gain or loss – listen up! Your body is communicating with you and telling you that you need to make a change, that whatever your current habits are, they ain’t working! When something doesn’t feel right your first port of call is to tune into your own body and decipher the messages it’s sending you. This isn’t always easy to do at first but believe me, it’s worth learning how to do because it’ll save you a lot of trial and error and wasted energy later down the line. Your body knows what it needs.
2. Eat Less Meat
Yep. This one cannot be avoided. Even national governments, WHO and Unicef are now stating the need to cut down on our meat consumption for the sake of the environment and our current health status. This doesn’t mean that you have to go ardent vegan. Just make better choices, go for quality versus quantity when it comes to buying your meat, and make sure you know where your animal products come from and how they got to your dinner table.
I agree that being vegan or vegetarian isn’t for everyone but what ends up on your plate and how it got there is within your power and you will notice a huge shift not only in your physical health, but in how you view the environment and your gratitude for it when you become conscious of the ways in which you can lessen your personal impact on it.
3. Pause Technology
It’s time to get strict with your tech time! This might sound easy but try and not reach for your phone for distraction when waiting for the tube or in a queue, or to placate you in moments of boredom. Note how often you do this without even thinking, I bet it’s more than you realise!
Not only is constant blue light from our devices especially harmful to our health in the way it has been shown to disrupt our hormone balances and sleep habits, constantly checking in on social media may also negatively impact our emotional wellbeing. Instead of flicking the television on just for the sake of the background noise or opening social media for a mindless scroll, wake yourself up from mental hibernation and use your brain for what it does best! THINK, solve, ponder and endure the company of yourself. Let yourself be truly bored even, it’s in moments like these that we can really begin to tap into our creativity and best ideas and give ourselves a break from comparison culture.
4. Move More
Everyone knows this one but trust me, muscles are not made by wishful thinking or by a magic wand, only actual, blood pumping, muscle activating exercise will do it! Choose an activity that you really enjoy and you’ll find it so much easier to stick with it, it doesn’t have to be going to the gym – try dance, indoor climbing, skateboarding, yoga, or gymnastics. Don’t overthink it or put too much pressure on yourself to achieve sporting greatness, it can be as simple and as inexpensive as making sure you go for a walk everyday. You can even do that without having to take up extra time in your day to do it, for example, instead of making phone calls at your desk take them on the go instead.
Physical activity makes you feel good – it’s a proven fact of life. Getting active alone is great if that’s what you enjoy, but tap into even greater feel-good benefits and expand your social circle and community by getting involved in group classes and clubs. When we move our bodies and engage in social activities we release myriad neurotransmitters, including endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, which give us our own innate, natural high! The fact that you can reap the physical benefits of a fitter body in the process is an added bonus.
5. Take Time Out
Take time out from the buzz of the world, from traffic, from to-do lists, from media consumption, from your phone, from family members that stress you out. Call it meditation, vacation, self care time, just make sure that you have dedicated, even scheduled TIME OUT now and again. Whether you switch yourself off from the world for just 5 minutes each day or if you prefer to plan in longer periods out for holidays or long weekends, it is becoming increasingly important that at some point in our busy lives that we stop and let ourselves ‘have a moment’ to simply breathe and just be.
6. Be Happy!
This one is super important! The thought that you can just flick a switch and ‘be happy’ can sound a little ridiculous but (mental health conditions aside) you really are in control of your own thoughts, feelings and your personal perspective on the world – how liberating is that!?
Define and decide what makes you happy and incorporate some of it into your life each day. What is your heart telling you? What makes you tick? What ignites your internal fire? It doesn’t have to be a big thing – it could be as simple as taking photos of your cat or being awake in time to see the sun come up in the morning. Figure out what it is and do it MORE!
And while we’re on the subject of being heart-lead, have a word with your head and tell it to stop arguing with your heart. When you learn to live life through your heart instead of your mind you’re on a clear path to happiness and that is something money can’t buy.
7. Eat More Greens
Yes, yes. I know you know this, but do you actually do it? Veggies and fruit provide abundant vitamins, fibre, hydration and minerals and the best part is that you can eat as much of them as you possibly want! There is no need to worry about limiting your intake of fruits and veggies because they are so good for you and provide so much nourishment. Start by seeing how many different colours you can get into your mouth each day, not only is this great for your body but seeing so much incredible, vibrant colour provided by nature herself is a huge happiness booster too!
8. Cut Out Drainers
Basically, cut out all of the negativity in your life. All the stuff that weighs you down, distracts your attention, and doesn’t make you feel good. This negativity can present itself in the form of friends, family members, work, accounts you follow, your environment, and your own habits. You always have a choice, ALWAYS! If you choose to stick with something that is draining your energy you have to deal with the consequences. Another option is to limit the negativity, which means if you have an incredibly annoying relative or work colleague, for example, limit the time that you spend with them. Start thinking about the things in your life that you do only because you feel you have to rather than because you want to. That’s a good start.
9. Self Love
This is a big one but maybe the hardest of all to accomplish. But if you can learn to love yourself, your relationship to everything else will transform. This means that if you can look at yourself in the mirror and accept yourself for who you truly are, with all your perceived faults and say ‘this is who I am and I am fine with it’ then you have won half the battle already.
Love and compassion towards yourself and your surroundings and all living things is one of the BEST pieces of health advice I can give because it is what changed the game for me on my own journey, and is why it is one of the key principals I teach on my retreats. When we can value ourselves, our capabilities and the fact that every single one of us matter and that every single thing around us matters, that is when things within us bring profound change.