11 Small Lifestyle Changes That Can Make A Big Difference In Your Health & Happiness
When it comes to improving our health and happiness, all the tips floating around the internet and given to us by our doctors can seem overwhelming. Luckily, we don't have to completely overhaul our lives to improve them, and we can instead make little changes to our lifestyle that can have a big effect. Small changes build over time, and they seem less daunting at the start, which can encourage you to stay consistent in your changes.
In fact, science supports this theory: Research from Cornell University found that small, easy changes are better for sustaining healthy eating habits and getting in shape. Finding initial changes that work for you can help you successfully incorporate them into your daily lifestyle, and this can help motivate you to take on more habits later on, including other areas of your life as well.
Although we are all different, certain activities and behaviors have been universally shown to help people improve their overall wellbeing. It's good to know what little steps we can take to improve our lives that actually work and won't have us running for the hills. If you're looking to make small changes to your lifestyle, consider these little tweaks that can have big impact.
1. Start The Day With Water
"Many of us are chronically dehydrated," says nutrition coach Stephanie Burg over email. "We may start our days with coffee, drink alcohol and/or soda in excess, or we simply aren’t conscious of our water intake throughout the day." A study from the Journal of Nutrition found that even just mild dehydration can cause moodiness, fatigue, and problems concentrating. "Before you grab that coffee mug, aim to drink between 12 to18 ounces of water, first," says Burg. "You can add a squeeze of lemon, or heat your water slightly with a tea kettle if that sounds good to you."
2. Stretch Before Bed
"Many of us struggle to find time for movement throughout the day, or our jobs require us to be sedentary," says Burg. "Besides increasing the strength and flexibility of your muscles, stretching before bed can help to release accumulated stress from your body and calm your mind. Stretching before bed prepares you for more restful sleep, reduces your risk of injury, improves your overall fluidity, and promotes better posture so you can carry yourself with more confidence, grace, and ease."
3. Eat Without Distractions
Part of mindful eating is eating without distractions and savoring the sense of your food. This can help encourage healthier food choices and even relieve stress, according to Harvard Health. "When we eat while totally preoccupied — driving, emailing, working, in front of the television — our body never gets the clear signal that we’re taking nutrients in," says Burg. "If we’re feeding ourselves while multi-tasking, we aren’t able to fully listen to our bodies, thus leaving us unable to recognize how our food is affecting us on a number of levels."
4. Take A Morning Walk
To get a natural boost of energy as well as a breath of fresh air, start off your morning with a quick stroll. "Early morning sunlight can boost our circadian rhythms, improve metabolism, and help our ability to sleep well at night," says Royan Kamyar, M.D., MBA over email.
5. Wear Sunscreen
Most of us put on sunscreen when we go to the beach or pool (hopefully), but you should start getting in the habit of putting sunscreen on every single time you'll be outside. "This is the number one piece of advice that I share with both my patients and my family," says dermatologist Dr. Alan J. Parks to Bustle over email. "Whether you're walking to work or heading out for a day at the beach, get into the habit of applying sunscreen every day before you leave the house. Not only will this habit — which will only take five to 10 minutes per day — keep your skin looking young and wrinkle-free, it will also protect you against skin cancer."
6. Spend Some Time Away From Social Media
"It's so easy to let your time — and your emotions — slip away as you scroll through your news feed," says social worker Barbara R. DiGangi, LMSW to Bustle over email. "Limit distraction, comparison and ego-based thoughts. A study from the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that people who look at Facebook frequently tend to be more depressed, as they are constantly making social comparisons to the "highlights" they see on social media. "My suggestion is to make your world smaller — focusing on the news that brings you joy," says DiGangi. "Tailor your feeds to the people you care most about and who inspire you instead of constantly scrolling through the opposite."
7. Cut Down On Alcohol
No one is saying to avoid happy hour altogether, but make little changes in the size of alcohol you order to better your health. "Stop drinking pints and switch to bottled beer," says performance coach Dalton Wong over email. "Drink champagne or Prosecco as it’s served in a flute, which is automatic portion control."
8. Get Up At Work
Sitting at a computer all day? It's time to change that. Set an alarm to remind yourself to walk around the office — or even just stand. A study from the European Heart Journal found that people who spent more time standing or moving during the course of their week had lower levels of cholesterol and blood sugar.
9. Find A Fitness Buddy
Finding a workout buddy is not only a great way to hold yourself accountable, but it can also help motivate you to hit the gym and even work out harder. Research from Michigan State University found that having a workout partner can help motivate you and even push you to do your workouts for longer.
10. Connect With More People Daily
And I'm not talking about social media. Even just smiling with a stranger can make people feel more connected, says a study from Purdue University. "Give someone a hug or simply look up from your cell phone while you are on your way to work or walking down the street," says holistic health coach Katie Henry PT, DPT, CIMI to Bustle over email. "We are human beings, and we thrive on connecting."
11. Make Your Own Food
Ditch the ready-made meals and takeout, and start making your own food. "This is will save you money, increase your awareness about good food, and give you health," says nutritionist Tehzeeb Lalani over email.
The more little changes you make, the more they add up. Once you begin to feel better, you'll likely be motivated to implement even more healthy changes.
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