I’ve developed ‘non-negotiables’ over the last few years which are the foundation of my wellbeing. I don’t like to think of them as rules or restrictions – more like healthy habits. Whilst it’s not the end of the world if I break them, I’ve learnt that sticking to them makes me a much happier person.
Get enough sleep
To me, sleep is a superpower! I’m noticeably more stressed, anxious, short-tempered and more likely to make poor food choices if I have slept badly or not enough. This acts as a great incentive for me to create little rituals to help me sleep better. I try to finish my evening meal by 7.30pm and include nutrients known to help promote sleep such as magnesium and tryptophan. I open the bedroom windows wide to let cool air in, spray some lavender pillow mist around the room, switch my phone off and get to bed at 10.30pm at the latest. I’m well aware that having a late night is very rarely worth how bad I’ll feel the next day.
Eat your greens
My next non-negotiable is green vegetables with every meal. A plate of food without any just doesn’t look complete to me. I might have eggs with fresh green herbs, spinach or chard for breakfast. A big salad for lunch and some broccoli and dark leafy greens with my supper. Dark leafy greens are a good source of magnesium, which can be helpful for sleep, so whenever possible I like to include these with my evening meal. If we eat at a restaurant, I’ll always order a side of greens and if we pick up a take-away pizza I’ll steam some veggies to have on the side.
5 a day
Along the same lines, I eat five portions of vegetables every day as a bare minimum. More often than not I’ll eat ten. Rich in fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, getting lots of plants into the diet is such a fundamental part of good nutrition and I really do practice what I preach.
Having a smoothie when I wake up helps me to squeeze more in and I often recommend this to clients who are not keen on the idea of vegetables for breakfast. If I add berries, avocado and spinach to it that’s three portions before I’ve even started my day. Soups are another easy way to increase vegetable intake, especially if there are fussy eaters in the family.
I don’t eat fish because I don’t like the taste (surprising for a Nutritional Therapist, I know!) so a habit I never break is taking a daily fish oil supplement which makes a noticeable difference to my skin, mood and hormonal health. I am currently using Bare Biology’s Mindful capsules. It may be possible for some people to get sufficient Omega 3 from plant foods such as algae, seaweed, nuts and seeds but oily fish are the richest source. I supplement my diet to make sure I’m getting enough of these wonderful fatty acids.
I’m fortunate to live in the countryside and I have a very energetic Labrador who makes sure we get outside even on my busiest days. Walking through the woods is my favourite way to pause. It can be hard to see past the to do list, but it’s very difficult to remain tense when watching a happy dog bounce around the trees. This time gives me space to think problems through and clear my head. I often return to my desk with a fresh perspective.
Adopting certain daily practices that contribute to overall happiness is a useful tool in maintaining physical and mental wellbeing. Every client I see has different priorities but incorporating key habits that are practical, and most importantly enjoyable, can be a useful way to achieve long-term health. Your ‘non-negotiables’ might not be the same as mine but I encourage you to spend some time thinking about what helps you feel healthy and happy.
Laura MacDonald is a registered Nutritional Therapist (DipION mBANT CNHC) working with clients on a range of health issues including digestive and hormonal health. Practicality is at the centre of Laura’s approach – supporting clients with nutrition that fits into their lifestyle and, most importantly, that they enjoy! She sees clients both online and in her Beaconsfield clinic (when not in lockdown!). You can get in touch via Instagram @laura.nutrition or through her website www.lmnutrition.co.uk