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Lifestyle medicine is about improving your overall heath. It focuses on the things you can do on a daily basis to help make you feel better and improve how you’re feeling and your physical and mental wellbeing. Understanding and implementing some lifestyle changes will automatically make you feel better in yourself, which will make managing your chronic pain that little bit easier.
What you eat and drink
When you eat nutritious and healthy food, you are more energised, and you’re feeding your body the good stuff to help look after itself. You can still have treats, but focus on the good stuff first: eat the rainbow in different colours of fruit and veg; eat more plant-based food; make simple healthy swaps such as a yoghurt and granola for breakfast instead of the high sugar cereals.
And don’t forget to stay hydrated – this helps your body function as it should, keeps joints lubricated to reduce pain, and helps keep you full so you don’t overeat.
Exercise and movement
Our bodies are designed to move and exercise and movement are great for our health and wellbeing. Any kind of movement, exercise, walking, and stretching are going to help with managing your chronic pain.
Tight muscles can make your existing chronic pain worse, which only makes things harder to manage. So the more you move, the better it is for managing your chronic pain.
If you’ve not exercised properly for a while, start slowly and build it up. Just 5 minutes a day can make a huge difference .
There’s lots of evidence suggesting that sleep is vital for our overall health. Not getting the right amount of quality sleep can have so many knock-on effects to our stress levels, to our gut health, and to our energy levels throughout the day.
Sleep repairs our body and helps protect us from different types of illness, increased inflammation, and helps restore our energy. Anyone with chronic pain knows how harder things are when you’re ill and feel tired.
Making small changes can make huge difference to your sleep. Spend time outside during the day (especially in the morning) as this helps produce melatonin in the evening, which helps us feel more tired and can help us get a better night sleep; reduce the use of screens before bed; and stick to having your caffeine drinks in the morning only.
Having chronic pain is stressful. It’s constant, it gets you down, and is both physically and mentally draining. The worst thing about chronic pain causing stress is that this stress can then cause more pain. It’s a vicious circle which is hard to break.
Stress can affect your sleep, concentration and memory, and can lead to other health issues and chronic diseases.
Little things like keeping a gratitude diary, getting out in to nature more, doing some exercise, and doing the things you enjoy can all help reduce stress.
Relationships and connection
Loneliness is thought to be as dangerous to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day (I heard this on the Feel Better Live More podcast by Dr Rangan Chatterjee). Connection and friendships with others can have a real positive affect on how we feel and can help prevent other heath issues, such as stress.
Find ways to connect and spend time with friends and family when you can. You may not always feel up to it or have the energy at the time, but connecting with others can boost our wellbeing and make us feel good – and it can make us feel more energised.
What lifestyle changes can you make?
Let me know in the comments below ?
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