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An article written by TeamUCL Nutritionist and fitness professional, Sophie Tully. 

How to stay healthy and happy right now? 

Whilst it feels difficult to remain focused and motivated at the moment actively doing things that protect and promote your health and wellbeing can help you to feel more positive and in control day to day. 

When it comes to priorities imagine yourself as a pyramid. What are the essential things we need at the base to create a strong foundation? 

Sleep 

Getting optimal sleep makes everything else much easier. During sleep our brains, process information, make new connections and essentially perform a deep clean to remove anything that no longer serve us well. Good quality sleep therefore helps directly protect brain health and function as well as promote a calm mind. 

Try to stick to a regular bed-time and practice good sleep hygiene such as turning off screens and stop highly engaging or stressful activities 30 minutes before bed. Let yourself self sleep undisturbed without an alarm. Once you are waking naturally and feeling rested this is your optimal routine so try to stick to it.

Healthy balanced diet

A healthy balanced diet is one that allows you to meet your bodies needs and this differs slightly for each of us. As a guide aim to eat proteins rich foods such as meat, eggs, beans and pulses, fish or tofu etc 2-3 times per day plus, LOTS of veg, some wholefood carbohydrate such as wholegrains, potatoes, root veg and fruit and healthy fats a few times per day e.g. nuts, seeds, full fat dairy, olive oil and avos. 

Breathing

Whilst we all of course breathe, stress and anxiety levels are be directly related to the quality of our breath.  

When we are under stress our breath gets shallower and becomes more rapid. Vast quantities of scientific literature support the psychological benefits of taking some slow, deep breaths on metal wellbeing.  

So, when you have a few moments or you notice that you’re feeling anxious; take a moment to breathe. Think about breathing in and down to your stomach, letting your belly expand. There’s no need to do any fancy breathing exercises (unless you want to) but gradually allow the inhale and exhale to get longer and deeper. 

Now we can layer on things that actively promote health and wellbeing:  

Movement  

this doesn’t have to be doing a YouTube HIIT workout or running 5k but anything to get the body moving, loosen up the muscles and shake out built up energy will help release endorphins and help you feel more human. For inspiration, make sure to check the UCL Project Active classes online.

Project Active Classes

Time in nature

Being outside, seeing green things, exposing ourselves to trees and grass and the sounds of nature is scientifically proven to boost mental well-being and calm anxiety. Try to spend time in the garden or go for a walk in the park and ‘smell the roses’.  

Staying socially connected 

Studies into the longest living humans on earth consistently show that strong social relationships and feeling part of a supportive network is key for long term health and well-being. So, call your friends regularly, contribute to groups online, and chat to people in your community who you meet when out.  It’ll give you a warm fuzzy feeling as well as help boost your health! 

Once you have these firm foundations in place you can begin to look at everything else specific to you and work to gradually and sustainably feel better and become more resilient. See the links provided for inspiration.  

Whilst no-one knows how long the current situation will last, looking after ourselves will help us all come out the other side in the best possible health. 

Stay healthy, 

Sophie Tully