Can four short, simple steps promise more balance, health, and strength? I believe so. In my 50s, as an advocate for daily wellness techniques for happy and energised ageing, a carer, and wellness teacher, I've seen first-hand how four simple steps can have a profound impact on well-being, even for older adults. Imagine four short daily techniques that take seconds and minutes without equipment - simple steps that can add health, more energy, and even support you in accessing happy ageing. Simply put, your health is your wealth, and that warrants a daily approach that works for now and a decade ahead. 
Embarking on your 2024 wellness journey? Two strategies can deepen your commitment and help you stay the course. 
First, make it a choice: "I CHOOSE to be happier and healthier" is more powerful and lasting than "I will try to be healthier and happier this year." 
Secondly, think about your future self. Perhaps, you would like your future self to be healthy and enjoying life. You can make choices now to help you now and your future self. 
Here are four simple transformative steps for better balance and health - a deliberate move towards happier ageing and vibrant living. 
Step 1: Frequent Standing 
The first wellness step? Standing up frequently when sitting - and I mean frequently. Aim to stand every 15 minutes. The act of standing up may seem deceptively simple; however, I emphasise that this small but impactful action holds the key to unlocking a myriad of health benefits. Life is a series of choices, and often, the smallest choices can make the biggest impact on our well-being. Standing up frequently is not just a physical act; it's a conscious decision to break free from the shackles of a sedentary lifestyle and embrace the vitality that comes with movement. 
My rationale for promoting this foundational step is grounded in scientific evidence and an understanding of the human body. Prolonged periods of sitting have been linked to a range of health issues, from an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases to musculoskeletal problems. Think of standing as a reset button for your body and mind. 
When we sit for extended periods, our circulation slows, our muscles become stiff, and our energy levels plummet. By standing up frequently, we invigorate our bodies, improve blood flow, and kickstart our metabolism, all of which contribute to an overall sense of well-being. Short, regular breaks from sitting have been shown to improve focus, boost mood, and even enhance creativity. 
Moreover, the benefits extend beyond the physical realm, as standing up provides an opportunity to recalibrate mentally and emotionally. Consider it a mindful pause, a chance to step away from the screen, stretch your limbs, and reconnect with your surroundings. The simplicity of this act belies its profound impact on our holistic health. Stand up, embrace movement, extend your wellness with regular rises to your feet. 
As a professional laughter yoga teacher, I have introduced a light-hearted and playful approach into my standing-up routine, fondly named 'Oops, I Changed My Mind.' With laughter echoing through the room, I engage groups of people in a delightful dance of sitting and standing that transcends the traditional boundaries of exercise. Wellness should be enjoyable for everyone, regardless of age or ability. I wanted to create a routine that not only promotes physical health but also brings a sense of playfulness and community into the mix. I guide them through the steps. We stand up together, then I say, 'Oops, I changed my mind!' and we sit back down and repeat! It's like a joyful game of musical chairs, minus the stress! Fostering a sense of community among a group of people is important; loneliness and isolation can have a significant impact on well-being. By turning your wellness routine into a playful game, you're not just exercising your body but also nourishing your spirits and building connections. The 'Oops, I Changed My Mind' routine isn't just about standing up and sitting down; it's about embracing the joy of movement and creating a positive mindset around it. 
Step 2: Smiling - The Start of Laughter 
Step 2 is smiling, the start of laughter. Smiling triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural chemicals produced by your body that act like natural painkillers and mood boosters. The word "endorphin" comes from "endogenous," meaning "originating within the body," and "morphine," which is a powerful pain-relieving medication. Studies have shown that people perceive pain to be less intense when they are smiling. 
The act of smiling can also lower cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress. Smiling makes it easier for others to recognise and respond positively to your facial expressions, improving social interactions and hence supporting your wellness. 
How can you raise a smile when it feels difficult? If you are feeling low, it can be hard to raise a smile. Here are some proven techniques that can help. Firstly, focus on your breath, which helps you move your attention to your body. Close your eyes if it feels comfortable and picture a positive memory of joy and happiness or think of someone you love - a family member, friend, or a pet. This can help to raise a genuine smile. The second strategy that works well is to move in any way you can that feels good and safe. Movement can help you move towards a smile as it takes you away from your thoughts and back into your body. Choosing to walk around the room or even swaying or dancing can often help create an inner shift towards feeling better and lead to a genuine smile. If you are unable to stand or walk, shake your hands or shrug your shoulders or sway as you remain seated. I have worked with clients with very little mobility, and very slight movements moved them away from anxious thoughts to connect with their body. Perhaps a smile is not possible right now, but it is likely that the intention to smile and movement has led to you softening, feeling better, and being open to a smile in the near future. Additionally, spend time with people who uplift and support you. Positive social interactions can bring joy and make it easier to smile. 
Putting a smile on your face the moment you wake up is a great habit to acquire as our first moments upon waking can be among our most powerful and creative. The brain can be supported into thinking, "I feel quite good about today," and it’s a great way to start the day! A simple positive mindset step. 
Step 3: Sips of Water for Wellness 
The third step places a spotlight on the vital role of water in maintaining a healthy balance. In a world brimming with changes and daily stresses, I promote a simple yet transformative approach to hydration - 'Sips of Water for Wellness' throughout the day ensures hydration becomes a constant companion, especially during busy times of work and stress. 
Hydration boosts energy, clears skin, aids digestion, and supports weight loss. For your mind, it improves focus, lifts mood, and reduces stress. My emphasis on sipping rather than gulping is rooted in the body's ability to absorb water effectively. When we sip, we allow our bodies to absorb water more efficiently. It's a gentle and continuous process that ensures we stay adequately hydrated without overwhelming our system. The 'Sips of Wellness' approach becomes particularly important during periods of heightened stress and intense work. Stress can be dehydrating, and in turn, dehydration causes stress. By taking small sips of water, for example, every 15 minutes or so, we not only maintain optimal hydration levels but also create moments of mindfulness in our day. 
Step 4: Savouring Breath 
The fourth step: ‘Savouring Breath' invites us to pay attention to the gift of each inhalation and exhalation. Breathing is a fundamental and often overlooked aspect of our well-being. The word "savour" can be used to describe the enjoyment or appreciation of moments and sensations. 'Savouring Breath' stands as a reminder to breathe more fully and consciously. We often underestimate the impact that our breath has on our physical and mental state. By taking a moment to savour each breath, we tap into a profound source of relaxation and rejuvenation. 
I recommend incorporating intentional breaths into daily routines, especially during moments of stress or busyness. Conscious breathing doesn't require a secluded meditation space. It's something we can weave into the fabric of our day, whether we're at work, home, or anywhere in between. The 'Savouring Breath' practice involves taking slow, deep breaths, focusing on the inhalation and exhalation. It's not about counting breaths or forcing a particular pattern. It's about cultivating an awareness of our breath and allowing it to be a source of calm amidst the chaos. 
Scientifically, mindful breathing has been linked to a myriad of benefits, including stress reduction, improved focus, and enhanced emotional well-being. I encourage individuals to visualise a comfortable breathful haven... "Breathe in, and imagine your breath as an invited guest in a cosy living room within your body. Picture it like a comfortable haven with walls, a floor, and a ceiling. The plan is to draw each breath into this room, filling the space with revitalising energy." By embracing 'Savouring Breath' as a daily ritual, you can foster a harmonious connection between the body and mind, and more balance and calm. Like the smile, add the breath step upon waking up. Smile and breathe and feel grateful that you have breath in your body for another day. 
Anything worth doing is worth doing daily. Remember the 4 wellness steps... stand, smile, take sips of water, and savour your breath, to create a symphony of well-being for each and every day. Wellness isn't a destination; it's a daily journey, and each step contributes to the masterpiece of a more balanced and health-boosting life, now and to 2034 and beyond.  
Be well - 
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