Dr Prabhjot Gill said: "A healthy heart loves more". Unfortunately, more and more people start living chaotically and developing all sorts of addictions that affect their heart, as well as other vital functions.
Drinking, smoking, indulging in excessively sweet and salty meals, overthinking, even connecting with the wrong people- all of these habits can affect your heart and your general wellbeing. The good news is, all of these habits can be changed for the better.
Many people who are caught up in these vices think it's too late to stop because they've been doing it for too long. This approach does more harm than the vice itself. As long as you're alive, changing for the better will never be useless. Trying to stop will also pay off, no matter how slow you make progress. So, if you're struggling with turning your vices around, consider adding these changes to your daily routine. You'll feel the difference.
Detach from your vice and analyse yourself without finding excuses
Before lighting that cigarette, refilling your glass of wine, or eating another slice of cake, stop for a moment and try to understand your reason for doing that. People tend to associate vices with some sort of peace when they are stressed or anxious. But anxiety is the fear of the future, or unpredictable. Very often, people continue their vices in the comfort of their home, when they actually feel relaxed. If you have any confusion, then do ask Dr Prabhjot Gill about it.
Subconsciously, you associate a vice such as smoking with a release of stress. Once your brain gets used to the feeling of calmness due to the cigarette, you'll feel the need more and more to light one. If you understand that you own your vice, and not the other way around, maybe you'll postpone your habit for some hours at least. Changing for the better requires you to be very honest with yourself and identify the core problems.
Be present and mindful
Find a balance in everything you do. We've all heard that it's not good to make any excess. How many of us really took account of this? It is true: the excess of any kind will always be the reverse of pleasure. As soon as you crossed the line, you'll start feeling sick. Too many cigarettes? Dizziness. Too much alcohol? Hangover. Too much cake? Bellyache. And so on. If you can't cut it off completely, reduce the amount progressively. It’s so important to think about the very reason behind the things we do willingly, but automatically. If you smoke that cigarette, at least smoke consciously. Don't add more harm by scrolling on social media and feeling the need to light another one in 10 minutes because you were not paying attention.
You can change right now
Don't wait for Monday, New Year's Eve, or hitting rock bottom to actually start changing your life. Postponing things you can change right now is just a waste of time. Nothing guarantees that on Monday, you'll have the motivation to change your life forever. Start now, and until Monday you'll already have made some progress.
Start exercising and eating healthier
Not only you'll feel and look better, but also your heart will benefit. Exercising constantly or simply being active will make your heart function better. You don't have to push yourself. You could start by replacing small habits with their healthier version. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Enjoy a little piece of chocolate, instead of buying the latest flavours-and trying them all at once. When you are not in a hurry, switch the bus with a walk.
Reduce consumption of salt and sugar as much as possible
These two ingredients are so harmful, that it's a pity we got so used to adding them to every recipe.
Try switching to healthier alternatives. Instead of eating the sweetest chocolate on market, try to make a tasty fruit salad and put a small amount of whipped cream on it, so you won't feel too deprived. When buying juice, take a quick look at the calories it contains and how much sugar it has. If the numbers make you think twice, then don't buy it. Take the sugar free version. Salt is another issue when it comes to the proper functioning of the heart. Salt can cause high blood pressure, bloating, excessive thirst, but in time it might lead to bigger problems, such as a stroke. Best moderate your salt consumption or prepare your meals in advance, and understand how much is too much.
Stop Overthinking and Stressing
What we put into our minds can cause as much harm as what we put into our bodies, be it alcohol, salt, sugar, or cigarettes.
Overthinking the past or the future is simply missing the present. That is a vicious circle that takes you from one frustration to another. Stop this cycle of useless, repetitive thoughts and focus on building a better and healthier version of yourself.
Try a little experiment
Every time you feel the urge to smoke, to drink, to eat when you shouldn't, set an alarm for 10 minutes, or how much your vice usually takes. Instead of paying attention to your vice, do something you claim you never have time for. Maybe read, maybe call someone dear, maybe decorate your room. This way, you'll reduce the harm and you'll raise your spirit.
Alter your vision about what change means and start changing every day
When we truly want to achieve something, we tend to fantasize about it and forget to actually take the steps to get there. Take your time to create a routine that you can stick to every day. It is better to make noticeable progress in time, rather than being enthusiastic one day and falling back the next day to the bad habits.
Be patient in your journey. Whatever vices you have, if you’ve been doing it for a long time, it will be hard to kick them out of your life immediately. So, set realistic, achievable goals and track your progress. If smoking 2 packs of cigarettes was your daily standard and lately you are smoking only one pack, then this is great progress. Great progress comes with great effort, but all in good time. All of these changes will reflect on the health of your heart and your general mood. Don't give up on yourself.
Dr Prabhjot Gill
MBBS MRCGP (2016)