World Health Day is celebrated on April 7 each year to commemorate the founding in 1950 of the World Health Organization, an agency of the United Nations that focuses on the public health of the world. A different health topic is selected annually to draw attention and mobilize action. This year’s focus is on the interconnectedness between the planet and our health.
This World Health Day, the WHO will focus global attention on urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy and foster a movement to create societies focused on well-being. The WHO estimates that more than 13 million deaths around the world each year are due to avoidable environmental causes.
Here’s how you can do your part to keep human beings and the planet healthy:
- Transport. Walk or bike to work at least once a week. Use public transportation.
- Energy. Change to a renewable energy provider; turn off the lights when not needed.
- Nutrition. Buy your groceries from local producers and avoid highly processed food.
- Healthy Lifestyles. Quit smoking.
- Consumption and shopping. Buy less plastic. Use recyclable grocery bags.
At Vitality, we commemorate World Health Day each year by encouraging our members to focus on their health and well-being. This year, we thought we’d share some tips for how to create healthy habits, enjoy the tasting of eating right, reduce alcohol intake and take care of your mental well-being.
Here are some ways you can build better habits:
- A ritual. Getting started is the hardest part, so having a routine to get you going is important. Do something like playing your favourite song every time you are about to start exercising to prime your brain for moving.
- Temptation bundling. Combine exercise with something you enjoy doing, like watching your favourite show while you are on the treadmill.
- If-then technique. Life often does not go as planned, so know ahead of time what you will do when life gets crazy. Decide in advance, “If I can’t walk today, then I will do an online exercise class at home.” This has been shown to help people stick to their goals.
Here’s how you can enjoy the taste of eating at mealtime:
- Keep it to a minimum. Fast foods are not for every day, keep them for selected occasions.
- Watch portion sizes. Share with a friend or put half your portion in a takeaway container or on a side plate at the start of your meal to take home with you. Choose small or regular sizes and stop eating when you feel full.
- Ditch the sugary drinks. A special offer often includes a bigger fizzy drink or fruit juice, and sugary drinks flow at every occasion. Water is always best. Ask for a jug for the table or a big bottle of sparking if you prefer. Have a sugar-free alternative if you must.
- Grilled or fried? Fish and chicken are generally healthier than red meat (beef and lamb), but not if battered and fried. Always go for grilled or steamed.
- Avoid extras. Cheese, sauces and foods like fried onions and croutons are regular extras. Leave all the frills and don’t add more salt.
Tools to monitor your alcohol intake:
- Have a drinking goal. Aim to reduce your drinking to a certain level, which is below the recommended guidelines. Or ask a doctor to help with setting a personalized quantity best for you.
- Take note of your drinking. Every time you have a drink over a month, diarize it, including what and how much you drank and the situation.
- Set alcohol-free days. Taking a break from alcohol can be a good way to start drinking less.
- Be persistent. Changing any behavior is never quick and easy, so expect setbacks, but don’t let them sabotage you. Stick to your plan and understand this is a long-term process.
Tips to help you take care of your mental well-being:
- Allow yourself to feel. When we feel emotions, especially negative ones, many of us try to suppress them. This suppression is often caused by societal pressures or because we don’t like to feel uncomfortable. Feelings are a part of the human experience and it’s okay to feel them, no matter who you are.
- Don’t ignore how you’re feeling. Don’t “bottle up” your emotions. Pushing your feelings aside can cause them to gain strength and make you more likely to “explode” later. If you’re unable to address your feelings in the moment, try to do so as soon as possible.
- Talk it out. Find someone you trust and share how you’re feeling with them, no matter how bad you feel. Studies show strong social support systems improve mental health and our ability to manage stress.
- Try journaling. Journaling can help you learn how to identify your feeling and help you become comfortable expressing them. At night, write down three things you felt that day and what caused you to feel those things. This practice doesn’t need to take long. Simply write down a few sentences or create a bulleted list.
- See a mental health professional. If you are having trouble dealing with your feelings, mental health providers like counselors and therapists have been trained to help. They can be a strong resource for you to be able to understand what you’re feeling and identify healthy ways to manage those feelings. An online search may lead you to low-cost options in your area. Your employer might also have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which provides you with zero- or low-cost access to counseling sessions.
Lastly, make sure to prioritize your health screenings. We know that during the pandemic it was difficult to keep up with preventative medical care. Take inspiration from World Health Day and schedule an annual doctor or dentist appointment for you or your family members.