It's never been easier to lead a healthy lifestyle. The amount of information and resources available to help educate, inspire and act towards a healthier existence is endless. Yet, most of us still struggle to meet our health goals. Here are 17 easy changes that can make a direct and significant impact on your quality of life.
Drink more water
Just by being sufficiently hydrated you're significantly improving your body's ability to function. Fluids are essential at a cellular level; water is vital to the distribution of nutrients throughout the body. You'll think better, feel better and perform better. In a crowded world of health tips, drinking more water is one of the universal truths that cannot be denied. Proper hydration has been shown to reduce risk of colon cancer by 45% and bladder cancer by 50%. Think about that.
Cut out sugary drinks
It makes me cringe to think of how many sodas I drank as a kid...hundreds, possibly thousands. Once I learned about proper nutrition as a teenager I more or less cut out sodas completely. The amount of sugar in these beverages is criminal. Most contain around ten teaspoons of sugar.This includes sweetened iced teas, energy drinks and sweetened coffee beverages. Processed sugars in liquid form and or corn syrup is especially harmful for the body. This causes a massive insulin spike which can lead to diabetes. Soda also dehydrates you and destroys your teeth and of course will cause weight gain. Not to mention the abundance of phosphoric acid, which will literally soften your bones!
Keeping bad bacteria out of your system can be as easy as flossing. Brushing simply isn't enough when it comes to cleaning your teeth. Flossing or using a waterpik has been shown to significantly improve oral health. Flossing does about 40% of the work when it comes to teeth cleaning. Just remember to floss gently and take care of those gums.
Going for a walk is one of the simplest yet most beneficial things one can do. Brisk walking increases blood flow, oxygenates blood and loosens stiff joints. Walking also clears the mind and gives you some time to reflect. Plus, compared to running, there's little to no impact on your knees. Additionally walking steadily builds stronger bones. Research at Duke University showed that taking a 30 minute walk three times a week was just as, if not more effective than medications at managing depressing.
Avoid artificial ingredients
If that product has numbers and too many unpronounceable ingredients, skip it. Seek out whole foods or minimally processed foods which contain only natural ingredients. Artificial ingredients are not easily recognized by your body and can literally slow you down. They've also been shown to increase the risk of cancer and other inflammatory diseases. Foods loaded with artificial ingredients are usually chemically engineered to be addicting. What about all those so called health foods like protein bars and low carb snacks? Skip 'em, or at least look for minimally processed options.
Another no-brainer, yet so many of us skimp on quality sleep. And those of us who do put in the hours usually do so at the wrong time. Getting shut-eye between 10:00 pm and 4:00 am is the key. This is where quality sleep happens. Your body will also recover faster from any physical and or mental stress. Sleep also improves your memory. In a process called consolidation, your mind hardwires whatever you've been learning while you're sleeping. So in essence, you're working even while you're sleeping. Quality sleep also increases creativity, reduces inflammation and helps manage body weight.
Eat more soup
Homemade soup is typically rich in vegetables, filling and and can give you much needed fluids as well as minerals and vitamins. Avoid canned soups as they are typically full of sodium and contain BPA. Making your own bone broth, or stock, is incredibly beneficial. This is mainly because of gelatin found in connective tissues. Gelatin works wonders for your digestion and aids in joint health. These days, healthy bone broths are also available in grocery stores as they have become increasingly popular.
Feeling stiff or stressed out? Try daily stretching. Now it's easy to over do it, so be patient. Make stretching a daily routine by doing dynamic stretching during your morning walk or during your lunch hour. Stretching keeps muscles flexible and strong. It also feels great. Try this series. Investing in a foam roller is another great idea. Take self-massage to the next level and release muscle knots with these extremely effective tools.
Limit screen time
For those of us who work at the computer all day, it is essential to limit screen time during non-working hours. Additionally, everyone should avoid long periods in front of their phone, TV or computer one to two hours before bed. Especially in children, increased screen time is linked to obesity, anti-social behavior, poor sleeping patterns and even violence. If you're watching a screen, it's likely you're not doing anything else, i.e. moving, talking or otherwise participating in your environment.
While saying yes to things has its own perks, saying no will keep you honest. A lot of us have a hard time saying no to others. This benefits no one. Agreeing to something that you have no interest in or cannot commit to, will only create problems for all involved. Saying no will also keep you from spreading yourself too thin. Decide what your priorities are and stick to them.
Drink warm water and lemon upon waking
You wake up thirsty and full of toxins. Jump start your day with this energizing, detoxifying and immune boosting fix. How you start your day sets the tone for the rest of your waking hours. A mug of warm water with the juice of half a lemon will:
- balance your pH levels
- boost your immune system
- aid digestion
- hydrate the lymph system
We've all heard it by now: Cutting back on meat has real health benefits, especially red meat. This is mainly linked to cardiovascular disease. Of course we could argue all day about where the meat comes from, how the animal was treated, the use of growth hormones, etc. These are important considerations. In a perfect world, I personally would only eat organic and/or wild caught meat. It's not easy to do. Most of us simply buy what's in the supermarket because it's convenient and affordable.
The reality is that the industrial meat system is a horrible, horrible thing. Animals are essentially seen as inanimate objects in these supply chains. Cruelty and disease are rampant. Environmentally, the industrial meat industry is also incredibly damaging. So, cutting out meat for a day or two can not only do you good, but also helps the world in general.
Avoid cold cuts and hot dogs
These processed meat products contain tons of cancer causing compounds, sodium and other inflammatory compounds. One hot dog typically contains 600 mg of sodium. That's half the daily dietary recommendation. Nitrates are also heavily present, which can lead to cancer, especially in the colon. Cold cuts also contain loads of sodium and nitrates as preservatives. Protect your digestive and cardiovascular systems...avoid processed meats.
Meditate for 5 minutes every day
In the past few years meditation has hit the mainstream. People from all walks of life are now using this ancient method of relaxation to improve their lives. And the benefits are now being scientifically proven. Daily meditation can help with hot flashes, increase seratonin production and grey matter in the brain, alleviate depression in mothers-to-be and treat inflammatory diseases.
Humans are social creatures. We thrive on contact, both verbal and physical, and need this interaction at a fundamental level. Socializing has many benefits for our mental and bodily health. For one, it boosts the immune system, especially in the elderly. People who socialize more often are also less depressed than those who isolate themselves.
Being social also helps us to solve issues that would otherwise be left unpacked. By talking with one another eye to eye we build trust and comfort in each other's company. This means miscommunications are more likely to be talked out. In person contact also creates a forum for us to offer support in difficult times.
Susan Pinker's research for her book The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier and Happier, led her to Sardinia. People there maintain a very active social life with family, friends and neighbors. This island is home to a large number of centenarians. The point is that socializing is more important for your health than a whole lot of other things we obsess about. So get out and mingle! And no, Facebook doesn't count.
The majority of the things we complain about could be classified as 'first world problems'. If you've got a roof over your head, a bed to sleep in, a job, a car and some money in the bank you're better off than the majority of the world's people. This doesn't mean that your problems don't matter; it's just a change in perspective which can help you manage whatever it is you're dealing with. Someone's always got it worse. Saying thank you for all the things you do have, or the things that are going well, on a daily basis is a hugely beneficial practice. This article on Forbes.com breaks down exactly why having more gratitude will lead to a healthier, happier and longer life.
By practicing deep breathing techniques you can almost instantly relieve stress and anger. Deep breathing gives your body exactly what it needs...oxygen! Increasing oxygen flow energizes the body and releases toxins. This practice also increases endorphin production which naturally eases aches in pains as well as strengthens the abdominal muscles. Relax, take a deep breath and repeat, repeat, repeat.
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