When we think of someone who is genuinely healthy, we might conjure up images of a smiley woman who loves her job, works out five days a week, and cooks with a lot of fair-trade quinoa. Go ahead and nix that image from your brain; the common denominator of healthy people is actually a set of small, daily practices that they stick to even when the going gets tough. It's the consistent habits that contribute most to our wellbeing, above anything else. You don't need to live the life of a raw food chef or fitness instructor to be healthy.
Regularity and commitment are the keys to keeping yourself in tip-top shape (I don't mean just physically), yet that's what makes it so hard sometimes. It's the small stuff we tend to overlook the most because they become so ingrained, so second-nature, that we rarely ever consider changing them. Well, I know my routine could use a little makeover, what with my odd hours of eating and blankly scrolling through my iPad during the few spare moments I encounter. You'll be happy to know it doesn't really take that much work; gradually start making some changes and you'll see yourself more thriving and vigorous than ever before.
Here are 11 daily practices we can all adopt to be healthier.
1. Journal For 10 Minutes Every Morning
Whether it's writing down your dreams when you wake up or scribbling on the train during your commute, writing down what you're feeling every morning is a useful way to release anything you may be bottling up inside — and we're usually holding something in there that we need to get out.
University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker tells Psych Journal that journaling improves the immune system, helps with asthma, and keeps you emotionally leveled out. You don't have to be a writer, either — better out than in, as Shrek once said. (I think he was referring to belching, but, whatever, the message still applies here.)
2. Always Have Healthy Snacks With You
Snacking makes me the happiest girl on the planet, but it's one of those joys that can go sorely wrong. If you roam around without any goodies in your handbag, you're bound to succumb to the bad cravings and find yourself lost in something deep fried, which will make you feel awful later. Carry dried fruits, mixed nuts, or an all-natural granola bar to keep your energy up. You'll slowly chip away at the grumpiness that can come along with being hungry at odd hours of the day.
3. Eat Lots of Greens
"Duh," you're probably thinking. We know vegetables of the dark green kind are super nutritional, but how many of us actually eat enough in a day? Just one serving of leafy greens a day can give you a solid serving of vitamin K, which prevents you from prematurely aging. A lack of K can lead to weak bones, heart disease, and kidney issues. Get your hands on some kale!
4. Exercise In The Morning
Getting the endorphins going in the a.m. can never be a bad thing, and the sooner you make room for this in your daily routine, the quicker you'll see a lasting spike in vitality. Whether it's getting up 15 minutes early to simply jog around the block or doing a home Pilates routine, get the body moving so your brain can be rushed with blissful endorphins. Your brain and your abs will thank you for it.
5. Try Not To Take Things Personally
Your emotions will become much more balanced when you learn how to conquer this one, however impossible it may seem. When we take on other people's problems or anger, we amp up our own anxiety, and then everything gets out of whack. If someone cuts you off in traffic, shrug it off. If a co-worker makes a passive aggressive comment about your work, recognize that she's just jealous of your general magnificence and move on. It's the key to calmness — and sanity.
6. Spend Some Quality Time Alone
Don't get alone time and loneliness mixed up. Going out to eat lunch by yourself does not make you an old maid. Spending quality time with your number one (yep, that's you) can actually make you more creative, ward off depressive symptoms, and help you decide what you want to do with the big choices in your life. Carve a few minutes out of every day to pamper yourself — without any distractions or other people.
7. Breathe More
Breathing properly is one of the quickest ways to improve physical and mental health; it can reduce migraines, aid in digestion, and curb your anxiety. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University, told the Wall Street Journal that you could even raise your likelihood of living a longer life if you just commit to slower, deeper breaths on a daily basis. Remind yourself to breathe today, because you'd be surprised at how often we forget. Meditation is a great way to practice.
8. Eat Slowly
When you take your time to work through a meal, you're doing yourself a disservice if you just shove it down your throat. Studies show that women who eat faster end up enjoying their food less, and often aren't in tune with when they're full. Not only does chewing more mindfully help you make better choices in what you're eating, but it helps your body process everything better.
9. Tell Someone You Love Them
Psychology professor at University of California Davis Robert Emmons tells WebMD that people who are more loving and grateful are more healthy in the long run. They take care of themselves more often, by eating well and exercising, and they are simply in a more stable mental state. The easiest way to cultivate gratitude is by telling someone you appreciate them in your life. Yes, your cat counts!
10. Take Breaks Every 90 Minutes
Successful social entrepreneur Chris Atgeka wrote for Huffington Post about how crucial it is to rest at some point during your day. He recommends taking a break every 90 minutes and leave the office for a few minutes. When you come back to your desk, you'll be more productive and energetic. That could be a good window to grab some much needed alone time.
11. Ask Yourself What You Want To Do — And Do It
We get way too caught up in following the rules, and then we end doing things that, deep down, we really don't want to. Routines and responsibilities are good things to keep close to you, but listen to your instincts when it comes to the events that aren't at the top of your priority list. Do you really want to go out and meet your friends for a few cocktails, or are you too tired from the long day? Do you actually feel like going on that date you planned last week? You'll be much more content if you — brace yourself for cheesy — listen to your heart.
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