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Of the hundreds of health and wellness stories we published in 2021, some hit home more than others. When we’re lucky, we read – or get to write – a story that doesn’t just entertain and inform, it changes our perspective or behaviour.
This year, there have been multiple articles that have affected how I live. Our complete guide to running reminded me that you can teach an old dog new tricks. By applying our experts’ tips and focusing on rhythmic breathing, shortening my stride, tilting forward and increasing my cadence (AKA being less of a lead-foot) I found I could go faster, for longer. It was a revelation to me that such small changes could make such a big difference.
Running into the new year, armed with good information about our health.Credit:iStock
Speaking with Stanford University psychiatrist Dr Anna Lembke about our collective addiction to dopamine also had an impact. And that’s because it’s not just about addictions to booze and drugs, zithromax iv sex, gambling and porn. It’s all the hyper-palatable food, online shopping and the endless stream of entertainment and distraction on our screens. We never have to be bored or sit with sadness or discomfort.
My compulsive seeking of pleasure and consumption became bleedingly obvious to me. As I was transcribing the interview, I checked my phone half a dozen times and the fridge multiple times for the chocolate I’d already established wasn’t there.
The only way to combat our pleasure-seeking, comfort-seeking compulsion is to do hard things, Lembke said. That includes resisting the impulse of the instant hit; learning to sit with uncomfortable feelings; taking breaks from all the stimulation; and pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones. It’s advice that gives me pause for thought and motivation to resist the impulses when they arise.
Then there was The Resilience Project’s Hugh van Cuylenburg, who emphasised the need to go easy on ourselves, especially after a year when all our lives have felt messy. Life may always feel messy, he said, and it’s what we do with it when we’re in that mess that counts. Kindness, compassion, lower expectations and a sense of humour all help. They were words I, and I’m sure you, too, needed to hear.
And finally, we ran several articles touching on time-restricted eating (TRE). I was reminded that breakfast is not the most important meal of the day; that snacking too often or eating the whole time we’re awake can inhibit our bodies ability to repair cells; and that by synchronising eating with the metabolic processes of our circadian rhythm (via TRE), we ride the wave of our metabolism and hormones. This has positive knock-on effects to our health. When we eat is important – perhaps as important as what we eat. It’s information I’ve applied to my own eating habits and find good armour against the 8pm snack-attack.
Half the fun is experimenting and seeing what makes us feel healthier and more well in ourselves, physically and mentally.
I was keen to know what the rest of the Lifestyle team has taken from 2021 and will carry with them in the year ahead. This is what they had to say.
A dry month is good, but better yet is a lifetime of drinking in a way that is cut back. Credit:Illustration by Dionne Gain
Cutting back on alcohol
It seems fitting that one of the most memorable lessons I learnt from a health article we published in Lifestyle in 2021, was from one published on the very first day of the year, January 1: “What happens to your body and mind when you reduce your drinking”. The sober movement has been having a real moment, and for many people, it’s very appealing. It carries many, many health benefits and I encourage anyone to try quitting alcohol if they wish to.
But realistically, it’s not for everybody – myself included, so I’d throw my hands up and open a bottle of wine. That’s why it was invaluable for me to learn from health experts that simply reducing your consumption also brings a long list of desirable effects, including to your liver, your cardiovascular system and cancer risk. I gently took on the advice and became more mindful with my drinking. I found the most noticeable benefits were better sleep and a happier, clearer head. Plus, I wasn’t getting the booze munchies, which meant better nutrition. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve carried some of the insights from this article all year – particularly during Melbourne’s lockdowns, when I was determined to drink less than I had previously – and I suspect I’ll remember them through 2022 too.
– Sophie Aubrey
Helping people find their absolute best: Ben Crowe.Credit:Eddie Jim
Getting to know me
I hadn’t given much thought to how we define success until I read Sarah Berry’s profile of Ben Crowe, the Melbourne-based mindset coach behind high performers such as Ash Barty and Dylan Alcott. As the former sports marketing director at Nike, Crowe spent most of his career working with athletes on their external story when he noticed that it was the story they told themselves – their internal dialogue and self-worth – that led to real success. Focusing on external validation and being “distracted by results”, he says, can only get you so far. As part of his approach, he gets his clients to answer three “simple but not easy” questions to get them focused on the things they can control: Who am I? What do I want? How do I get there?
In answering them, success becomes less about what you want to accomplish and how that might look to everyone else, and more about who you want to be in pursuit of your goals. It’s an exercise I’ll be keeping in my back pocket as the new year approaches, and one I’ll remind myself of when challenges and frustrations arise.
– Julia Naughton
Rachel Stanley recommends considering your cadence when running.
Learning to embrace running
If you experienced the reign of super aggressive Catholic PE teachers in the ’80s you will understand why I didn’t embrace running until coming across this comprehensive guide. While locked down on the Mornington Peninsula in 2020 I had already strapped on sneakers for the occasional jaunt around the Flinders golf course to combat the three Cs: Carbs, Chardonnay and more Chardonnay but the long road was still waiting for me.
During this year’s Sydney lockdown I finally attempted going further than 6-7 kilometres after encountering the practical tips in this story. I cherry-picked the advice that worked for me and ignored others at my own peril (it would seem stretching is important). I completed this year’s virtual City 2 Surf in a time that still makes my chest swell with pride and nudged 20 kilometres during training. Sure, I looked like Cliff Young shuffling home from a Mardi Gras party while running, but it’s a visual I wish those PE teachers had been around to fully appreciate.
– Damien Woolnough
The ‘ideal’ daily step count is less than most of us think.Credit:Getty
The myth of 10,000 steps
For years now, I’ve assumed that any day I walked less than 10,000 steps was, well, kind of a dud. Ten thousand steps was the magic number. To do what, I never knew, exactly. Would it boost my chances of living longer? Give me the energy of Mick Jagger on stage, hip-thrusting in front of thousands? I never knew, but the number stuck in my head, like a burr to a jumper. This was unhelpful on even the best of days, let alone those when, before falling asleep in the clothing I wore that day, I’d racked up a measly 1500 steps.
And so, when I read Sarah Berry’s piece confirming that, actually, 7500 steps was “ideal”, my heart took a little leap. It didn’t just clarify what 7500 steps a day will get me (a 40 per cent lower chance of dying from any cause in the next two years), it’s also lowered the bar for what success will look like in 2022. A better gift, I can’t currently imagine.
– Samantha Selinger-Morris
Nici Berman is a social worker who encourages mental health days.Credit:Nick Moir
Prioritising mental wellbeing
There are so many articles I benefitted personally from. As we dealt with another tumultuous year, reading about people saying “actually, I need a mental health day”, as Sophie Aubrey’s piece explored, made me realise that to remain productive, it was OK to step away from technology and work to recharge and refocus a day here and there. Other pieces, including Kimberly Gillan’s on creating a “third space” at home for our wellbeing and Sarah Berry’s on “Pandemic Flux Syndrome”, made me rethink how I set out my working days, interactions and the use of space at home. The latter also validated feelings of uncertainty and grieving – something we are still going through as cases surge once more during this festive season.
Sophie Aubrey’s “The fertility conversation we are missing in our teens and 20s” has made me think about addressing a previous gap in conversations with my friendship circles about egg freezing, infertility, and family plans. And finally, at the tail end of the year Sarah Berry’s piece on how many daily steps we actually should strive for made me realise that setting goals is important, but it’s important not to beat ourselves up when we don’t meet expectations we set, whether minutes, steps or reps.
– Nicole Economos
Here are some of the wellness stories most read by you this year:
Everyone is hooked on the idea but 10,000 steps a day is not the ideal
Coffee helps heart health? It’s more complicated than that
Belly fat may be resistant to weight loss when intermittent fasting
Not just in your head: Why do some people seem to always feel cold?
I went to a stretch therapist. I hardly recognised my body afterwards
What happens to your body and mind when you reduce your drinking
My 14-centimetre ‘snowman’ growth finally taught me to advocate for my own health
The part of your body that will help most with pandemic stress
He’s a super athlete. But don’t go following Tom Brady’s ‘insane’ diet, experts warn
Forget the food rules: three meals a day is not the only way
What’s happening to your body when you’re ‘piss fit’?
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