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A healthy student life

Many students lead a very irregular life. If your lifestyle unbalances your body, your mental wellbeing will also be affected. Your lifestyle choices in terms of diet, exercise, relaxation, relationships, stress management and the like are all reflected in the way your brain functions.

A healthy diet

A diet of pizza, beer and breakfast shakes obviously won't keep your body in the best shape. But it’s also important to realize that food like this can actually harm your body and therefore also your mental health. Too much salt, sugar and certain fats, all of which are found in junk food, are detrimental to your mental wellbeing. You may find yourself in low spirits and more inclined to mood swings, sometimes even depression. The best way to combat this is to pay attention to your diet and make changes where necessary. And don’t forget the liquid calories you consume. Unfortunately, sugary drinks and alcohol don’t have a positive effect on body and mind.

A diet containing enough of the right nutrients will not only improve your physical health and immune system, but also your mood. There are countless food hypes that swear by particular eating patterns, and everyone is obviously free to find what suits them best, but one golden rule will never go out fashion: ‘Too much of anything is bad for you’. Restrict your intake of salt, fat and sugar, and make sure that you eat enough vegetables, fruit, fibre, protein and unsaturated fats. It doesn't matter how you do it (it's always good to experiment and listen to your body), as long as you include these nutrients in your diet. It’s also a good idea to have regular breaks from drinking alcohol.

Sufficient amount of exercise

Physical exercise has a huge impact on mental health as setting personal goals and learning new skills increases your confidence. Exercise also reduces stress, because you focus on your body rather than your mind. In addition, your body produces endorphins while you are exercising, hormones that make you feel happy and combat depressive feelings and anxiety.

The Netherlands Standard for Healthy Exercise (NNGB) recommends a daily minimum of 30 minutes moderately intensive exercise, such as brisk walking. Then there’s the fitness standard which says that keeping our heart and blood vessels fit requires at least 20 minutes of intensive exercise 3 times a week.

The UG's friendly student sport centre ACLO facilitates all kinds of sports, giving you plenty of scope to find the type of sport and exercise that suits you best.

Relaxation and sleep

It’s not easy to find time to relax in a hectic student life, but without rest, you won’t function properly. It doesn't have to take long; just a few minutes can be enough to calm your body down in times of increased stress. Try this:

  • Read a magazine or a chapter of a book
  • Go for a walk in relaxing surroundings
  • Do some breathing exercises to calm your body down
  • Talk to someone to put things into perspective and distance yourself from a stressful situation.

It’s also a good idea to make an effort to find structural activities that you find relaxing. The Usva at the UG offers a wide range of courses and workshops that students can try at reduced prices. It’s the ideal opportunity to try something you’ve always fancied, like yoga, painting or drawing. Or go to the ACLO to find a sport that allows you let off steam.

The amount of sleep we need varies from person to person, but the guideline for adults is 7 to 8 hours per night. Insomnia can be detrimental to your mental health, so you should always leave enough time in your schedule for sleep. The following tips may help you to get to sleep:

  • Don’t drink alcohol or drinks containing caffeine, or smoke, in the hours immediately before going to bed
  • Meditate or do some breathing exercises
  • Get plenty of exercise and sunlight during the day
  • Go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day

And don’t be afraid of missing a party or turning down an invitation. Your reward for a good night's sleep will be more energy, a better attention span and a happier, more stable mood.

Source: Calimero

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Last modified:12 March 2020 6.55 p.m.
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