When it comes to being healthy, many of us have an all-or-nothing approach. The choices on the health spectrum seem to either be Olympic athlete, or total couch potato — and nothing in between. However, there are little things you can do to improve your health, that don't require a gym membership, ridiculously strict diet, or a life committed to 24/7 yoga classes. (Unless, of course, you want to do those things.)
Personally, I prefer a more minimalist approach when it comes to my health. I don't want it consume my entire day, but I also want to feel my best. Luckily, a simple approach can do wonders. As Marci Clow, MS, Registered Dietician, and Senior Nutritionist at Rainbow Light, says in an email to Bustle, "I’m a strong believer that little changes can make a big difference. If you begin incorporating small changes and stick with them, they will eventually become habits and part of your regular lifestyle, which is when you may notice health improvements."
See what I mean? The changes don't have to be a big deal, or over-the-top difficult, but they will most definitely be life-altering in the best way possible. The key is simply starting small, and sticking with the changes. With that in mind, here are a few ways incorporate some simple, healthy habits into your daily life, so you can be as healthy as possible.
1. Give Deep Breathing A Try
Stress is everywhere, in the form of busy schedules, crazy commutes, long work weeks, and late-night social obligations. (I got a bit tense just writing that, to be honest.) Too much stress can lead to all sorts of problems, including headaches, nausea, muscle tension, and even anxiety, according to the Mayo Clinic. So it's important to remember to relax, and give your body a break.
The best way to do this is with deep breathing, which should become your new favorite hobby. "First, take a normal breath. Then try a deep breath: Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural)," according to Harvard Health Publications. It's as easy as that.
2. Consider A Multivitamin
If you feel like you aren't getting 100 percent of your nutrients, then consider supplementing your diet with a delicious gummy vitamin (or capsule, if you're fancy like that.) "A multivitamin obviously can’t replace the wide variety of substances that naturally occur in food, but a well-formulated multivitamin offers a balanced combination of nutrients to complement a healthy diet and fill in nutrient gaps," Clow says.
3. Have Yourself Some Coffee
This one is such good news, as it often feels like delicious things are the first to go when it comes to being healthy. (Clearly, that's not always true.) As Amy Capetta noted on Refinery29.com, "Researchers from the National Cancer Institute found that both caffeinated- and decaffeinated-coffee drinkers had a lower risk of death from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, and infections." So sip away.
4. Call It Quits With The Energy Drinks
Since it's OK (and even good) to drink coffee, you may want to consider dropping all other caffeine drinks. According to Laura McMullen on Health.USNews.com, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that the consumption of several energy drink brands has been linked to hundreds of hospitalizations. With scary news like that, it's a much better idea to stick to coffee, or high-protein foods, when you need some extra energy.
5. Don't Skip Breakfast
I know people are pretty divided when it comes to breakfast — to eat, or not to eat. But if you can manage it, it's a pretty good idea to have a little something when you first wake up. "Although you might not feel hungry in the morning, breakfast gives you the fuel that you need to make it through the day," Clow explains. "Opt for foods with protein and fiber to sustain you, such as a veggie omelet or oatmeal with bananas and yogurt." It'll keep you feeling energized, while saving you from starving your way until lunch.
6. Eat An Apple A Day
Yes, for real. "It turns out the old adage is backed by scientific evidence," said Andrea Atkins on HuffingtonPost.com. The recent study from the University of Iowa showed that mice who ate apples each day retained more muscle, and avoided obesity. It's most likely due to the apple's peel, according to Atkins, which contains ursolic acid, a substance that helps stop muscle breakdown. Definitely worth a try.
7. Remember To Wash Your Hands
Remember when I said improving your health can be easy? Well, it doesn't get much easier than a quick scrub at the sink to prevent yourself from getting sick. "Good hygiene starts with the basics like washing your hands, which is a clear method for maintaining immune health," Clow says. "Get in the habit of using plain soap with warm water and vigorously rubbing the hands together for at least 20 seconds before eating or preparing food to help cut the risk of spreading germs."
8. Throw In Some Exercise
You don't have to be a triathlete to reap the benefits of exercise, but you should get your blood pumping a few times a week. "Physically speaking, regular exercise has been shown to keep your brain sharp," Capetta said. "And then there’s the emotional aspect: Exercise pumps up your endorphins, quickly putting you in a better mood." Get in the habit of walking after dinner, or doing a few crunches each morning. You'll fee much better afterward.
9. Get Enough Sleep
It may not feel like a big deal, but staying up until 2 a.m. every single night really does a great disservice to your health. "Fatigue causes vulnerability to illness of all kinds," Clow says. "To encourage adequate sleep, create a comfortable sleep environment, maintain a good diet and exercise plan, and engage in relaxing activities near bedtime."
10. Sit Up Straight
Apart from protecting your back from the awfulness that is desk chairs, sitting up straight also does wonders for your mental health. "Research ... has shown that slumping and slouching may influence a person's thoughts and feelings, and that improving posture could help to boost mood and energy levels," said Cari Nierenberg on LiveScience.com.
11. Stay Hydrated
It doesn't need to be said twice that water is super important for good health, and yet hardly any of us drink enough of the stuff. So make it a point to carry around that cute reusable water bottle, and actually use it. "To keep your body functioning optimally it’s important to stay hydrated and the best beverage is plain old water regularly consumed throughout the day," Clow says. You can also add in some sparkling waters, lemon water, or unsweetened iced tea to mix things up, while still giving your body what it needs.
12. Swap Out Artificial Sweeteners
Sugar-free stuff is often confusing, because we've all grown to think that they are better (or healthier?) than the real thing. However, the fake stuff you sprinkle in your coffee doesn't do your body any favors, according to Capetta. "For one thing, its extra-sweet taste ... has been shown to turn on sugar cravings, and artificial sweeteners can confuse the way your system responds to actual sugar, ultimately affecting insulin and blood-sugar levels," she added. It's much better to stick with the real thing.
13. Be All About Tea
If you aren't on the tea train yet, then it may be time you get addicted like the rest of us. That's because, apart from being delicious AF, studies have found that some teas may help with cancer, heart disease, and diabetes; lower cholesterol; and bring about mental alertness, according to Julie Edgar on WebMD. So grab yourself a cute teacup, and have at it.
Getting healthier doesn't have to be too, too difficult. Simply make a few positive changes, and you'll be on your way to better health in no time.
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