Forget everything Barney the Dinosaur taught you: it’s good to be selfish. We spend so much time living our lives for other people when the one person you should be focusing on is yourself, and by turning your attention inwards you’ll actually start to benefit those around you.
We can start with your health. The most common excuse I hear from clients is that they don’t have any time to spend on their fitness. This just isn’t true. We all have the same amount of time to work with, and by making a few selfish decisions we can start to prioritise our health over everything else.
Take work for example. For many of us this is the biggest source of stress in our lives, and while you often can’t do much to change that, you can change how you deal with it. By making the time to focus on health, you will start and end the day in a better mood. The knock-on benefits of feeling better mean you’ll work harder, handle pressure more easily, and feel less busy.
Consider your kids: when you’re feeling fit and healthy you can give them more of yourself, play with them for longer and keep up with their adventures. In relationships, rather than slumping on the sofa in front of the television each night, you can be more active and more energetic. You will look and feel better around your partner.
It’s just a matter of making time for yourself. Carve out three one hour blocks in your diary. I guarantee they exist, either before or after work, on your lunch break or even at the weekend. You don’t need to spend this time at the gym, but consider something like a yoga or dance class, or an activity you’ve never tried before like bouldering or dragon boat racing. Or take the long way home by bike, walk instead of taking the car – just change something.
Eat well for less stress
Nutrition is a key area for most of our clients when they’re looking to improve their health. The City is swimming in dirty takeaways and boozy evenings, so the trick to staying on top of your nutrition is simply to become more aware of what you’re putting in your mouth.
Before you even think about making any changes, first keep a diary or use an app like MyFitnessPal to stay on top of everything. You’ll spot the areas in which you’re over-consuming (spoiler: it’s the drink), and this will arm you with the info you need to make an effective change.
Sleep plays an important role in your health and in the City we all need more of it. As with your calorie intake, simple awareness is a great way to improve sleep. Start tracking how many hours per night you’re actually getting and note it down. Over the week, work out your daily average. You want to be getting at least seven and a half hours per night. In London, the average is a lot less than this. Make a conscious effort to improve your sleep this month, and get the sleep you need.
Ticket for one
Making time for yourself is a simple shortcut to improving your mood and thoughts. Finding a quiet spot to sit, rest or read alone for a while once per week should be all you need initially, but more popular than ever are health and fitness retreats, which let you exchange the day to day hustle and bustle for some invaluable you-time.
Some people are averse to the idea of being alone, and in a relationship it’s awkward to raise the idea of taking a trip by yourself, but solo travel can be a deeply fulfilling experience. Without anyone else to rely on, and with more time to do little else but think, it is one of the rare opportunities for self-reflection we have in the modern world.
If you don’t have the time to get away for days at a time, you can start with activities like long walks, bike rides, hikes and meditation. These allow you to switch off and clear the mind, which increases creativity and helps to deal with stress.
When you have selfishly focused on your own health, happiness and well-being, you’ll be presenting your best version of yourself to others. Open your diary, and start making appointments with you.
• Harry is a trainer and life coach at No1 Fitness. Go to no1fitness.co.uk to learn more and book an introductory class