Carla Ortuño Güendell
Is half Spanish half Costa Rican. She has lived in 12 different countries and enjoys embracing cultures’ little eccentricities. This unique experience has taught her that no matter where we come from, we all share similar aspirations and responsibilities in life. We aspire to find happiness, love and to have good health. Our main duty is to respect others and take care of our planet.
She has dedicated her career to working in the development and humanitarian field – gaining experience from three continents in different areas: health, education, human rights, environment and infrastructure. She studied translation and international relations and enjoys both learning and teaching languages. She speaks fluent Spanish, English, French and Chinese and is currently studying Polish.
Carla is an intercultural communicator and linguist who is passionate about finding the things that bring us happiness, love and balance in life. She loves staying active, practicing sports and is also treading her own path towards a zero waste and minimalist lifestyle.
Looking and feeling healthy starts from developing a positive and balanced attitude towards yourself and the world. In fact, mental and physical health go strongly together. The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This holistic approach can work wonders, and we will show you why.
You have probably already come across countless articles on how to lead a healthy life and look and feel good. But many times this advice is centred on counting calories, weighing yourself all the time and trying to copy the look of celebrities and influencers.
Healthy eating habits, regular exercise and enough rest is THE rule of three. But to this trio we will add one more, very crucial, element: mental health.
Healthy eating habits
Our bodies need energy to keep up with our busy schedules and active lifestyles. Food and water constitute that energy and it’s essential for us to learn about the right proportions and types of food our bodies need.
A balanced diet provides our bodies with nutrients that come mainly from vegetables, fruits, whole grains, carbohydrates, legumes and lean proteins. Replacing processed, sugary and fatty foods with those nutrients helps us feel our best. It has a good effect on our energy levels, digestion, mood, skin and reduces the risk of developing diseases.
We seem however to have forgotten about these simple and obvious instructions. Many have fallen into the trap of trying hardcore diets: low-carb, ketogenic diets, all-protein diets, fasting… People are obsessed with losing weight or gaining muscle and put their health at risk just to fit in with our society’s beauty standards.
In this unhealthy diet frenzy not only are we harming our bodies but also hurting the environment. People now opt for companies that deliver daily meals packed in plastic containers because they want to lose weight and have no time nor desire to cook. That plastic mostly ends up in landfills or oceans where it sits or floats for 100 or even 1,000 years. On another note, if you really care about the environment and your health, cut down on meat and dairy products. According to a major report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it is one of the biggest ways to reduce your environmental impact.
Developing healthy eating habits is in reality not that complicated. There are thousands of recipes on the internet nowadays that show you how to prepare simple and healthy meals. Just remember to put your health and the environment first. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and stick to a healthy, delicious and balanced diet that will make you feel and look radiant!
Staying active and moving our bodies is essential to being healthy. I’m not talking about spending one hour at the gym, in the pool or on a run six times a week — unless exercising is your passion, of course. That’s what we have gotten wrong. It’s about quality, not quantity.
The WHO reported that 1 in 4 adults is not active enough. We tend to use the excuse that there is no time for exercising in our busy lives. But that’s not true, it’s about priorities, and health is definitely THE priority. So if you have a hard time squeezing a session of exercise in your schedule, opt for short and regular workouts.
Dedicating at least 20 minutes of your day to some type of exercise will bring great benefits. For instance, you can choose to do 20 minutes of stretching, of light jogging or running, of dancing or of body weight training. Twenty minutes is too long? Start with 10 and move up with time. If you organise yourself, do a session at least three times a week and commit to it, anything is possible. And the good news is that you will feel awesome after it! Combining different types of exercise is beneficial because it works your whole body, from flexibility and posture to endurance and strength.
For whatever reason you exercise, do it consciously and correctly, do not overtrain or obsess about it. Exercising also gives you the opportunity to spend time outdoors and with other people. Exercise is above all what will help you lower the risk of developing diseases, will help you age better as well as release endorphins that make you feel happy. There’s no better remedy for keeping our bodies healthy and our minds calm.
Slowing down and resting is sometimes not well perceived in our fast-paced society. We feel the pressure to do more, learn more and have more, but do we make time for rest?
Having a good night sleep or simply disconnecting and taking a few breaths for a few minutes can help recharge your energy and ability to cope with all your duties and responsibilities. According to the US National Sleep Foundation, the average adult should get between seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Sleep regulates your blood pressure, controls your weight, improves your mood, boosts your immune system and helps repair muscle tissue.
A lack of rest can increase your stress levels which in turn creates havoc with your emotional and physical health. If you identify with this, rethink the way you organise your life. Don’t rush through life wanting to do and have more, slow down and savour what you have around you, let your mind and body relax and focus on the now for a few minutes. Meditation is a great tool you can use every day to enter into deep relaxation. Dedicate at least 3 minutes for yourself with your eyes closed, emptying your mind of all the thoughts and bringing your attention to your breath, body, sounds and sensations.
Whenever your body and mind send you signals crying out for some rest, make sure you listen to them. Stop what you are doing and take the time to do something you love, something that relaxes you: take a nap, take a bath, watch a movie, go for a walk, call a friend, etc.
Most important of all, sleep makes you happier and slows down the ageing process. Dr. William Dement, co-founder of Stanford Sleep Center, says that “sleep is the number one predictor of how long we’ll live.” If that’s not a good enough reason to make you prioritise your sleep, what is?
This is where our 4th element comes in — the basis of our overall wellbeing. You may have a balanced diet, exercise regularly and give your body the rest it needs but if you are a victim of your own thoughts, emotions and other external factors your health will be affected.
Mental health is about feeling valued and good about ourselves both in the individual level and in relationships. A strong mental health allows us to deal with life’s ups and downs, have control over our lives and stay connected to our surroundings. In other words, no matter the challenge or opportunity you may face, you will strive to find a way to cope with it and focus on the optimistic viewpoint in every situation.
Our lives are filled with challenges that make it hard to stay positive sometimes. But our minds tend to make the problems ten times bigger because they are hard-wired to focus on threats. For example, if we don’t do well in an interview, it will most probably bring us down. Our minds will then go over the situation many times and will probably start bringing in pessimistic thoughts about ourselves, of how useless we are, how we could have done better and how we will never find a job. These thoughts resulting from the many challenges we may face in life will start to accumulate and create a negative image of ourselves. This is what we need to put a stop to — the constant thoughts pouring through our minds.
There are a few techniques to learn how to strengthen our minds and break the habit of wandering towards toxic thoughts, emotions and behaviours:
- Replace a negative thought with a positive one. Maybe you had a bad day and can’t stop blaming yourself for it. Identify a positive thing that happened to you that same day, no matter how small. The goal is to shift your attention when your thoughts turn negative.
- Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. It has been proven that contemplating what you are grateful for can improve your mood, energy levels and reduce your anxiety. Keep a diary next to your bed and write down some of the things you are grateful for after every day.
- Learn to quiet your mind. Train to free your mind of thoughts for a few minutes a day. Relaxation exercises, such as meditation and mindfulness, can improve your state of mind and outlook on life.
- Value yourself and others. Treat yourself and others with kindness, respect and avoid criticism and comparison. Make time for the activities you love and surround yourself with people you love and make you feel good.
It all starts from within. We need to break down the inner barriers that impede our overall wellbeing. I invite you to observe your thoughts, identify your own destructive patterns and shift your thinking. As Buddha said, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” Our thoughts become our words, our words become our actions, and our actions become our life.
Don’t wait any longer. Go on, take control of your own life and find your balance — you will look healthier and younger than ever!