First of all, I wish you a very happy 2016!
The new year has started, and indeed January’s “new year’s resolutions” are there. These are often related to healthy eating or exercising, so this was a perfect opportunity to write a blog on how I try to stay healthy throughout my student life.
But before I start to actually write this blog, it is time to define “health”. According to the World Health Organisation, health “is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” (WHO, 1948) So, we have different aspects here: physical health, mental health and social health. How do I make sure that I remain healthy in all these aspects?
When I think about physical health, the first things that come to mind are nutrition and exercise. Eating healthy and keeping on moving will most often keep your body healthy. So, how do I do that in a world that is full of temptations (such as Netflix, beers and apple pie)? Well, first of all: I do definitely enjoy those temptations every now and then!
However, next to beers and apple pie (and chocolates, cookies, ……) I make sure I eat plenty of fruits and vegetables which I can buy very cheap at the market, which is three times a week in Groningen. For about 5-10 euros I can buy so many vegetables that I can make my own soup for lunch each day of the week and still have enough veggies for dinner. For another 5 euros I can buy kilos of fruits.
Secondly, I am very lucky with housemates who also like to eat healthy, so whenever we eat together we eat mostly fresh foods with as little artificial stuff as possible. And sometimes we eat pancakes and drink beers, because well, we can. 😀
Exercise related, I joined a sports association as soon as I moved to Groningen. In this way, exercising was really something I enjoyed because it also had a social aspect. Getting to know new people in a new city while discovering a new sport was something I really enjoyed! For students, Groningen has the “ACLO”, an overarching association for student sports. Most student sport associations (lacrosse, gymnastics, soccer, hockey, volleyball and many more) are part of the ACLO, which means that if you’re a member you can also join group lessons like Zumba, Pilates or Bodyfit that are organized by the ACLO. This makes it both cheap and a lot of fun to go and work out. Besides, Groningen is also a really nice city for a walk or a run with its parks and buildings.
However, just as with eating, also here balance is the key. Being healthy does not only mean exercising a lot and eating only “healthy”. Also the evenings where you make it too late at a party in the city center and the afternoons you chill out on your couch and watch series are awesome and good for your (mental and social) health!
This is something I feel is about feeling content with your life, your studies and everything else you do. Because (especially the first months of) studying can be very demanding I think mental health is at least as important as physical health. Starting to study is probably the first time you have to live “by yourself”. No parents who do your groceries, who tell you to get out (or go to) bed. Suddenly you’re in a new environment with new people and it all starts with you. Your initiative, your planning, your priorities. This was something I quite struggled with the first weeks I lived in Groningen. Meeting many new people, getting many new impressions and being much more responsible for my life made me feel quite tired every now and then. Later I figured out that I just needed to chill a bit more every now and then, which made me feel mentally much better because I got the feeling that I knew better what I was up to. Going for a run, talking to a friend, or sitting on my couch with a cup of tea (or glass of wine) could help me with that.
Social health (well-being)
I feel like social well-being has most to do with doing what you like and being with people you feel comfortable around. Joining associations (whether it’s sports, music, knitting or chess) and meeting like-minded people can be a way to achieve this. I have done this by joining committees within the associations I was a member of. For me this was ideal, since I find it hard sometimes to get to know (many) people at once and a committee is a nice way to first get to know some people of your association among which you feel comfortable before you are going to be social with (many) more people. The advantages I found in such a committee is that if you join a committee of something you are interested in (whether it is photography, social media or organizing events), you will meet people who are also interested in these things, because otherwise they would’ve joined another committee! But obviously, there are many other ways in which you can meet the people that may be your best friends to be. Also, drinks, parties and other activities can help you to meet new people within an association or within your studies. To see each other in another setting than the usual (sport/study/..) one can be really awesome, too!
All in all, I think each aspect of health relates to the others. Social and physical well-being help you feel mentally healthy, whereas mental health helps you improve social and physical well-being. But I also think what is important is to “allow” yourself to not feel well at times, because this gives you an opportunity to figure out what you think is not right, so you can eventually improve your overall health!
How do you stay healthy?