A Simple Guide To Health

readingThis post introduces a series of posts that together make up my Simple Guide To Health which is part of a broader collection of posts on Living Well.

I’ve read hundreds of books on health over the years and grappled with my own major health challenges for over a decade, I’ve had hundreds of tests and seen too many doctors.

In part because of the medical advice I’ve received and more often despite it I finally have solid physical and mental health. I’m still chronically ill, but I live well, I’ve come to terms with my limitations without giving into them.

Over the years I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with ‘the system’ of health care in the UK and with the overly complex and contradictory self help book industry, this guide is my way of easing that frustration.  Eventually I want to write a book that builds on the embryonic ideas contained in the articles that I link to in this post, the articles are a way of practicing.

I’m going to attempt to simplify health advice, take what I’ve learned in my own struggles and from all those books and turn it into a few short blog posts.  I’m going to present the advice in priority order and I’m going to skip the obsessive evangelism associated with the diet, exercise, meditation … writers.  I’m going to address real world challenges like time, motivation, temptation, will power.

I’m going for simplicity, rather than completeness.  I’m going for advice that anyone can follow, rather than addressing some specific group of people.  Fundamentally I’m writing this guide for myself, to help me work through in my own mind what it means to live well by sifting through all the contradictory advice swirling around my brain.  Since this guide is first and foremost for me it’s worth noting that I’m time rich, slightly autistic and suffer from a number of chronic conditions that limit my stamina and motivation.  This means any advise might not be right for you, but I hope it will still be useful.

This post outlines the structure of the guide only.  It’s an index to the articles that I intend to write over the next few months.  Each time I write a new post this guide page will be updated with a link to it.

Before I get started though there are some basic articles that I need to write that provide the tools everyone needs to have in order to succeed in any life change:

  1. How To Make Changes In Your Life, simple advice for achieving successful changes
  2. Identify Bad Habits And Replace Them With Good Ones, change takes effort, forming good habits reduces the effort required to sustain change
  3. How To Measure Your Life, the best tools I’ve found to become more aware of your life, track your habits, build new ones and increase motivation
  4. Understand what Health means to you

The next section provides a complete overview of the guide. I recommend that even if you think you have an area sorted in your life you don’t skip reading the article.  The guide is provided in what I consider to be a priority order:

  1. Sleep well.  Sleep is the foundation upon which health is built and it’s often the easiest to achieve, so I’m awarding it first place in this guide.  Without good sleep it’s difficult to sustain the motivation for the other areas described later on in the guide.
  2. Move Well. As a society we have dramatically changed the way we move over the last hundred years.  There are thousands of books on this topic alone, but the basics are simple and easy, so moving gets second place.  I’m also covering stretching, aerobic and strength exercises here.
  3. Calm The Mind. Chronic stress is the hidden killer, it affects our lives in a myriad of invisible ways.  Learning to deal with stress is moderately easy though and so it gets third place.
  4. Eat Well.  It’s often said that ‘we are what we eat’ and it’s true that food has a huge impact on health, but it’s not as easy to change our eating habits as it is to improve sleep, move well and reduce stress so it comes in fourth
  5. Be Mindful.  It’s easy to go through life without being aware of the moment, but living mindfully allows you to enjoy the now, whether it’s weeding the garden, doing the washing up or visiting the Grand Canyon
  6. Simplify Your Life. Modern life is seductively complex, it’s often not obvious that you’ve passed the threshold and life has become too complex, simplify before it’s too late
  7. Play Games And Have Fun. Sometimes we forget that it’s important to play physical games, splash around in the surf or throw a ball, especially when our children start to ‘grow up’ too
  8. Get Outside. The human brain is built to appreciate and experience nature, but it’s easy to slide into a life spent in doors
  9. Slow Down.  We are packing ever more into our lives with the assumption that more is better, it’s not, we need to find space to slow down
  10. Make Progress.  I’m picking progress as the top priority for a happy life, I cover many other areas later on, but don’t neglect this one.  Making progress sounds too obvious, it’s not it’s critical
  11. Feed Your Mind.  Developing a love for learning is key to a healthy life, but there are many other ways to feed the mind as well
  12. Give Back. Take simple steps to give something back to the world whether it’s your family, your environment, your community, a charity
  13. Be Aware Of And Avoid Toxins. We are surrounded by toxins of many kinds, toxic people, toxins in the air and in the food that we eat.
  14. Plan Ahead.  Get the balance right between living for today and planning for tomorrow
  15. Develop A Sense Of Purpose.  Whether it’s being part of something bigger than yourself, leaving the world a better place than you found it, raising a family, serving a God, it’s important to have a purpose in life
  16. Manage Your Money. Your relationship with money can have a big but non obvious impact on your health

There’s one key area missing from this post, develop positive relationships, I originally had this topic on the list and it’s certainly key to health.  However I decided to drop it at the last minute because I felt that as a shy, mildly autistic guy I really had no qualifications to write about relationship from experience and hadn’t done enough research to do justice to such an important topic.  I might change my mind in a few months, but for now research that topic yourselves.

You can follow my blog on twitter @steveiswriting, follow all my reading @steveisreading, just my reading highlights @stevehighlights (or tumblr) and follow me @steverichards

The picture today is a celebration of reading, one of the ways that I feed my brain.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

23 Responses

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