Everyone can improve their health in some way, but many of us aren’t sure where to start. Extreme fitness routines and fad diets require us to shift our daily schedule too much, making them difficult to keep up. Instead, in order to reach our goal of sustainable health and wellness, it can be as simple as making small but significant alterations each day that don’t feel like a sacrifice.
Practice Good Sleep
A full night of quality sleep can help your memory, minimize symptoms of depression, and sharpen your attention. It also reduces inflammation, aids weight loss efforts, and combats daytime fatigue. If you have trouble getting to sleep at night, you may benefit from proper sleep hygiene techniques. According to Tuck.com, there are four important ingredients for a good sleep: darkness, quiet, comfort, and a cool temperature. In addition to this, you should go to bed at the same time every night and create a healthy bedtime routine to follow. For example, try meditating or reading a book before bed instead of scrolling through social media on your phone. Also consider not eating for at least two hours before bedtime. This allows food to move further in the digestion process so that our night sleep isn’t spent digesting–it’s spent repairing and building.
Pay Attention to Nutrition Information
The nutrition facts labels on food are there to help us follow a healthy diet, so pay attention to them! By looking at the label, you can compare foods to find those that are lowest in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sugar, and sodium. Limiting these ingredients in your diet will help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid chronic lifestyle diseases. Nutrition labels also indicate foods that are nutrient-dense, helping you meet your daily nutrient requirements without excessive calorie intake. Look for foods that contain 10-20 percent of your fiber, iron, calcium or essential vitamins when shopping. Additionally, check the ingredients list to avoid additives and preservatives.
Once you know what you’re eating, you can begin to assess how different combinations of food make you feel. Current nutritional research is showing that there is not a one-size-fits-all optimal diet for all people. Some people feel better on a high-carb/low-fat diet and others thrive on a high fat/low carb diet. The biggest consensus in nutrition is limiting our intake of refined sugars and flours, and to eat a variety of dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, etc). Beyond that, it’s up to each of us individually to pursue education and test different foods to see what their impact is on our energy levels, mood, and inflammation.
Get Moving Whenever Possible
Too busy to exercise? That’s not an excuse anymore! You can exercise in short bouts of 10-minute intervals throughout the day instead of carving out the time in your schedule for longer workouts. Research suggests that you’ll receive many of the same health benefits as you would from one continuous period of physical activity. As long as you aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, you’ll meet American health guidelines. Go for a brisk walk during a break at work, do a quick bodyweight workout while you’re waiting for dinner to cook, or start your morning with a refreshing yoga routine.
Develop Healthy Habits for Stress Management
Stress is one of the biggest threats to our health these days. It plays with our hormones, overworks our physical body, and creates long-term psychological issues. Managing stress in healthy ways — whether by taking up an exercise regimen or finding hobbies that help lower and manage your anxiety levels — should be a priority in your life. However, avoid turning to drugs or alcohol to cope. Not only are these substances detrimental to our health, but also they can worsen stress and anxiety in the long run. Drinking is particularly risky for women, as research has revealed that women who consume at least one drink per day have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Yoga, specifically, is a great way to lower cortisol levels in the body and reduce nervous system activity.
Think More Positively
Negativity can undermine your attempts to improve your health as you face feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Positive thinking, on the other hand, can help you avoid bad habits, form healthy relationships and enjoy greater self-esteem. Positivity involves looking at the world with a greater acceptance of the challenges you experience. Although cliché, it’s about making the best out of every situation, good or bad. Of course, it can be difficult to change deeply-rooted thought patterns. This is where yoga and meditation can be beneficial, helping you focus inwardly on your own self-talk so you can make a more conscious effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
As you implement some of these changes in your own life, remember why you’re doing it. Do you want to improve your body image? Wake up with more energy? Boost your productivity at work? These goals can be the motivation you need to fuel every small effort you make toward greater health.