If you asked a variety of random people what their biggest priority in life was, the answers would be equally varied. Some would say their family and friends, others would say their careers, some would say traveling and you'd get the occasional person saying their twelve cats (in which case, walk away slowly).
But there's something at the foundation of all those priorities; your wellbeing. You can't hang out with your friends and family, advance your career, enjoy travelling or look after your twelve cats if you're sick, injured, uncomfortable, immobilised or otherwise incapable of living life.
That's why your wellbeing should be your biggest priority; because it's the foundation of your entire life.
There are five dimensions of wellbeing that are essential for you to focus on; hydration, nutrition, fitness, sleep and mental health.
Drinking more water is the fastest change that you can make, and it has a massive impact.
It helps to remove toxins, reduce inflammation, lubricate joints, enhance metabolism, and improves energy, digestion and mental performance.
You should be aiming for around two litres or half a gallon per day. In addition to water, you can also have tea, coffee, milk (including milk substitutes) and fresh juices. Unfortunately, beer, wine and spirits don't make the list. Ice cubes in a cocktail don't count as water either.
There's a reason why the phrase "you are what you eat" is so heavily used; it's blunt, simple and true. If you constantly eat crap, you'll look and feel like crap. If you eat healthy, you'll look and feel healthy.
So eat a balanced diet of healthy sources of protein, carbs and fat. It's also important to eat a variety of colours. I know that sounds like something you'd say to a two year old (or someone on LSD), but it's true. Different coloured fruits and vegetables provide a full spectrum of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants. Finally, eat all of the above within your daily recommended calorie intake. You can simply Google "calorie calculator" to find out what yours is based on your age, height, weight and lifestyle.
The absolute minimum for exercise should be 30 minutes of physical activity per day. But even that's low, considering that our bodies are specifically designed for movement. Humans (and our ancestors) have been highly active across thousands of years. It's only very recently (relative to our species existence) that we've created television, desk jobs, gaming consoles, smartphones and other things that keep our bodies idle.
Aim to include a mix of cardio, resistance and flexibility training to keep your body optimised for speed, strength, longevity and overall high performance.
It's also important to keep a varied exercise routine. Our bodies are amazingly efficient at adapting to whatever we put them through. So over time, doing the same exercises will just become easier and easier for your body to complete, and you'll get diminishing returns. By switching up what you do, you'll continually grow.
Sleep is the one thing that almost everyone I know complains about. They don't get enough of it, and so they wake up looking, feeling and operating like Charlie Sheen after a heavy weekend.
Sleep improves your concentration, productivity, metabolism, recovery, energy, mood, immunity and you know, little things like that. There's a reason why you should be spending a third of your life (eight hours per day) sleeping. It doesn't slow you down from living life, it keeps you going - so make time for it.
These days, the most important thing you can do to get quality sleep is to keep your phone away from you. I can think of a few vibrating products that are great for the bedroom...but your phone isn't one of them. Not only does consuming content keep your brain alert, but the bright light tricks your brain into thinking it's still daytime, and so it doesn't produce melatonin - the hormone that helps you sleep. Apart from not using your phone (or any other screen), keep your bedroom quiet, dark and comfortable to maximize the quality of your sleep.
Finally, your body has something called a circadian rhythm. I won't bore you with the details, but you need to keep the rhythm consistent in order for your body to properly function. You can do this by waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day. Obviously, it's not always possible to go to sleep at the same time because you're out or otherwise busy (or getting busy), but you should always try and wake up at the same time.
One in four people are affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime (and I bet it's actually higher because a lot of people don't talk about it).
Just because you can’t see mental health conditions like cuts, scrapes and bruises, that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. Stress, depression, frustration, addiction and anxiety are real, and they should be managed.
Depending on where you are on the scale, you may need to see a professional in order to get what you need. But there are also remedies that everyone can use, even for the occasional tough day.
Talking about what's bothering you is a great place to start. Or if you can't talk about it, even writing down your thoughts can be useful.
Also make time for yourself and what you enjoy. Don't constantly focus on your responsibilities or respond to the wants and needs of those around you. Put yourself first.
Engage in a therapeutic activity like meditation or yoga. Something that allows you to clear your mind and silence the world around you, so that you can re-enter it with refreshed energy.
Look after your physical health by focusing on the other dimensions of wellbeing covered in this article. Your mind and body are connected, looking after one influences the wellbeing of the other. That's science, not a bumper sticker on a hippie's van.
Once you start maximizing all five dimensions of your wellbeing, you'll have a powerful platform to thrive in all areas of your life.