Don't ignore your Physical Health
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Being physically healthy means that you’re regularly moving your body in a way that feels good and taking other steps to ensure a healthier lifestyle.
It’s not just about working up a sweat (although this can be part of it!) – there are lots of things that you can do to improve how you feel physically. What’s more, taking care of your body can have a positive impact on your mental health too, increasing your overall wellbeing.
Good physical health isn’t all about getting ‘fit’ or doing lots of exercise. It can look like:
- Eating a balanced diet and regular meals
- Staying hydrated
- Getting enough sleep
- Reducing drug or alcohol consumption
- Getting check-ups when needed, e.g. visiting an optician, dentist, or seeing a doctor for a health check-up or to ask about any concerns
- Listening to what your body is saying!
Because the body and the mind are interlinked, improving your physical health is likely to make a difference to your mental health too. Taking good care of yourself physically can also;
- Reduce stress and anxiety levels
- Make you feel happier (exercise releases feel-good chemicals in the brain)
- Improve concentration
- Help to slow down thoughts
- Allow you to focus on the present
- Boost self-esteem
- Reduce the risk of depression
What things can you do?
Developing a healthier way of living doesn’t mean getting up at 5am to go on a run! Just taking a few small steps everyday can do wonders for your physical health. Bear in mind that everyone’s body is different, so what might feel good for one person might not work for you.
Move a little regularly. Exercise doesn’t have to be intense. For some people, a brisk walk or run might do the trick. For others, introducing some gentle stretching or yoga can feel amazing. A quick Google search will give you lots of ideas for home workouts, and Mind has plenty more ideas that you might not have thought of. Simply getting up from a desk or sofa every so often and moving around can help. If you’re in a wheelchair or find it difficult spending a lot of time standing, the NHS website also has some suggestions for sitting exercises.
Set reminders to hydrate yourself. This can be really helpful if you’re someone who forgets to drink enough. Aim for 6-8 glasses per day.
Take time to unwind before bed. Prepare your brain for sleep by turning off all screens at least 30 minutes before bed and switching your phone to ‘do not disturb’ or ‘night mode’. Taking a warm bath or shower, doing some stretches or reading a book are all ways to relax your mind and body, making it easier to get a good night’s rest.
Try to eat a balanced diet. The NHS website has more information on the different food groups and why it’s best to incorporate all of them into your day. You don’t need a stack of recipe books either – YouTube has thousands of videos for nutritious meal ideas, and there are websites like BBC Good Food for further inspiration. If you’re living at home or with housemates, cooking together can be a fun way to connect too!
Reduce alcohol intake. Excessive drinking can affect chemicals in the brain that are essential for maintaining our physical health. Because it’s a depressant, it can also increase stress and anxiety levels and make you feel low. Cutting down on how much you’re drinking can make you feel a lot healthier in both body and mind (it will save you money too!). The NHS website has a whole page of tips for reducing your alcohol intake.
If you’re using alcohol and/or drugs to cope with deeper feelings, you might want to seek support. See our page on alcohol and drug use for more information and guidance.
Don’t feel guilty if you can’t always exercise/eat healthily/get to sleep on time… you get the idea. Life often means that we can’t be ‘healthy’ 24/7, and that’s ok. Sometimes, taking care of yourself means having a nap, watching TV or eating pizza. It’s important to listen to what your body and your mind needs, so don’t be hard on yourself.
Where to go for more advice and support
The NHS website has a range of information and tips for taking care of your physical health.
Childline offers suggestions on how to stay healthy and why it’s important for young people.
Download an app! Whatever you want to work on, there’ll be an app for that. The NHS’s One You collection includes apps for cutting down on alcohol and smoking, keeping active regularly, and healthy meal inspiration. Try Nike Training Club for workout ideas, Yoga for beginners for gentler movement, and Evolve21 for inclusive workouts for people of all abilities. Sleep Cycle is great for improving your sleep, while WaterMinder can motivate you to stay hydrated throughout the day.
Listen to a podcast. Podcasts can be great in so many ways. Not only can they give you advice on looking after your wellbeing, they might motivate you to try new things too. They’re also just nice to listen to while walking, jogging or doing a workout - whatever the topic. There are lots of podcasts out there, including Running on the Scott, which is hosted by one of 42nd Street’s own young people!
See a GP if you’re concerned about your physical (or mental!) health. They’ll be able to do a check-up and provide you with the support you need. It might also be time to visit the dentist… it’s not fun, but it’s best to get checked out! The Mix website has a whole section on accessing health services if you’d like more guidance.
Seek support from 42nd If you’re finding it difficult to stay on top of your physical health because of how you’re feeling, you may want to talk to someone. We provide a number of face-to-face services, all of which offer something slightly different depending on what you want to get out of the support. You can also chat with one of our workers online via text - just register for ongoing online support via our online support portal. We also hold weekly drop-in sessions so that you can speak to a worker without an appointment.
Overall, though, every service provides you with someone who will listen, acknowledge your feelings, and work with you to develop ways to manage your emotions. You can read about our services here.
By: Ruby Guyler