“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, or not to anticipate troubles, but to live the present moment
wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha
The other day, I had a friend ask me to suggest some things she could start doing to get healthy. As I began writing down a plan for her, I came up with the list below. I thought this would also be a perfect first blog to share as I am trying to inspire others to be healthy as well. These are all research-backed tips that you can start working on now to help improve your overall health and happiness. In upcoming posts, I would like to talk more in detail about a lot of the tips listed below, but for now this should be enough information to get you started. Changing habits and implementing new ones is not always easy, but it will be worth it!
1. Cut Out Processed Foods and Sugar and Eat Real Food
You are what you eat, so what you put into your body will affect how you feel, sleep, perform during exercise, and function throughout the day. Try to avoid processed foods and foods with high amounts of sugar. Fuel your body with clean healthy foods and watch your energy levels increase, moods stabilize, brain function improve, and metabolism speed up (just to name a few things). This is probably one of the most important changes you could make to affect your overall health.
2. Get Your Sleep
Sleeping requirements vary from person to person, but according to the National Sleep Foundation, most healthy adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Getting enough sleep can boost your concentration and productivity, improve athletic performance, decrease inflammation in the body, and improve your immune function. Try to avoid using your phone or tablet before you go to bed. Studies have shown that the blue and white light given off from our screens prevents our brains from releasing melatonin, a hormone that tells our bodies it’s nighttime, which overtime can severely disrupt your sleep patterns.
3. Get Your Sweat On
The Mayo Clinic recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week, or a combination of both. So aim for around 30 minutes every day. This is the minimum amount recommended to stay healthy and decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke. Strength training is also very important to help you maintain or lose weight, increase bone density, and increase muscle mass. Keep in mind that sweating does not only mean you are burning calories, it is also helping detox toxins from your body.
4. Drink More Water
Your body weight is made up of 60 percent water. Every system in your body needs water to function. The current IOM recommendation for people ages 19 and older is around 3.7 liters for men and 2.7 liters for women. This is your overall fluid intake per day, which includes anything that you drink or eat that contains water, including fruits or vegetables. Find a PET plastic water bottle (or even better, a stainless steel one) and carry it with you throughout the day. Our family loves the Hydro Flask canteens and we each have one of our own. They keep your beverage hot or cold all day long!
5. Dry Brush Your Skin
Dry brushing is a great way to smooth, exfoliate, and detoxify your skin, but it also supports the lymphatic system, increases energy, reduces cellulite, and improves blood flow. If you have never heard of dry brushing or do not know how to dry brush, read here for directions. Remember, if you are dry brushing to help detox your body, then you should also be eating clean and exercising!
Find time in your day to meditate, read, take a nap, or just relax. Our bodies are not designed to live in a constant state of “fight or flight.” Long-term stress can increase your risk of health problems. Relaxing will help your body release chemicals that make your muscles and organs slow down and increase blood flow to the brain. This will leave you feeling calm and mentally alert, improve your energy levels, and decrease the load on your nervous system. Read more tips here on how to produce the relaxation response.
7. Stop Smoking
This one seems pretty obvious. But here are the main reasons to stop: You will decrease your risk of cancer as well as several other diseases. You will add years to your life. You will be protecting others from secondhand smoke. You will save money. Quitting smoking is not easy, but it can be done and there are a lot of resources online to help get you started. Did you know, your body will actually begin to heal itself within 20 minutes after your last cigarette? Whoa!
8. Drink Alcohol in Moderation
If you drink alcohol, having one or two drinks per day may decrease your odds of getting heart disease and certain types of cancer. Don’t overdo it though, because having more than two drinks per day on a regular basis has the opposite effect.
9. Get a Pet
Animals are therapeutic and can actually improve your health. There is nothing quite like the unconditional love from a dog who greets you at your door with a wagging tail and loving smooches. If you don’t have a pet of your own, take a visit to a local pet shop or visit a friend who has a pet. Or let your kids get that dog they’ve been begging for!
10. Go Outside
There is proof that getting outside in nature is good for you. There is something about being in nature that refreshes the mind, body and soul. Find something you enjoy doing outside or just go outside and spend at least a few minutes each day out in the fresh air. I live in a place that is surrounded by mountains, and they are my place of solace and my escape from the real world. Even if I just go for short hike, I feel so much better after I have spent some time outside.
11. Spend Time with Friends and Family
Being around the people you love is important. Social time is important for happiness and decreased stress. Carve out time in your week to spend with your favorite people.
12. Learn A New Skill
Learning a new skill is actually good for the brain. The white matter in your brain is called myelin, and it helps improve performance on a number of tasks. The more you practice a new skill that you are learning, the more dense the myelin in your brain becomes, which helps you learn even better. It is especially important to keep your brain active as you grow older to fight off diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
13. Limit Your Screen Time
More and more research is surfacing about how screen time is detrimental to your health. Not only is it bad for your vision and posture, it hinders your brain performance, interferes with sleep, and can lead to depression. I think this may be one of the hardest things to implement, but it’s so worth it! We have “No Screen Time” days once a week in our home, and I am always amazed to see the things my kids find to do in place of scrolling through their phones or watching TV.
14. Pay Off Debt
Overwhelming debt can be burdensome and lead to stress and depression. To improve your health and your finances, start by creating a budget to track what you are spending and then find ways to pay off your debt. There are plenty of online resources to help get you started.
Laughter really is the best medicine! Studies show that a good laugh boosts endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in your brain. It can also improve your immune system and help you live longer. So put on a good comedy movie and laugh away!
16. Love Yourself
Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. Embrace what makes you unique. I think the best advice I’ve ever heard is to treat yourself like you would treat your best friend.
17. Acts of Kindness
There are so many benefits to doing random acts of kindness. Doing an act of kindness produces the “love hormone” oxytocin, which makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It can be something as simple as smiling at a stranger or helping someone load groceries into their car. One thing I like to do is to pay for the person’s order behind me at a Starbucks drive-through. Someone did that for me once and it made my day! I now find it even more fun to be on the giving end. Try finding daily opportunities to help others. If you have kids, let them be a part of it so they can learn to practice empathy and kindness too.
18. Stop Worrying
Most of us worry about things that we cannot control. It’s important to identify your fears, determine what you can control, let go of what you can’t control, and find a way to manage your stress. I am realizing as I get older that the worst case scenario usually isn’t as tragic as you might envision. There’s a good chance you’re stronger than you think.
19. Try Taking Cold Showers
Not only is a cold shower good for your hair and skin, they help improve alertness, immunity, and circulation. They can also help relieve sore muscles after training. I have a friend who swears that since switching to cold showers her hair is so much softer. Try it for a week and see what you think!
20. Start a Gratitude Journal
Being thankful for the little things in your life is one of the most powerful techniques to feel happier. Studies have shown time and time again that counting your blessings every day trains your mind to focus on the positive, which overall leads to better health. Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep and write down three things that went well that day or three things that you are grateful for. People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time the to notice and write down the things that are thankful for, experience more positive emotions, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.
So there you have it, 20 things to try to start improving your health today! Remember, it’s about progress, not perfection, so don’t feel overwhelmed that you can’t do it all at once. Here’s to a happy and healthier you!
Your Health Rx: Pick 1 or 2 things from the list to work on for one month. Implement new ones each month as tolerated.
Feel free to contact me and let me know what topics you would like to learn more about!