When someone utters the words "healthy lifestyle," it's hard not to think about grueling boot camp classes at the gym, or a diet that's seriously lacking in tasty snacks. That's why, for many of us, healthy habits feel like an all or nothing type of thing. Either you're a fitness guru, or someone who can't be bothered at all. Going an easier route, or doing little things to feel healthier, never seems like an option.
But guess what? It totally is. If a committed diet and fitness routine isn't your jam, it's still possible to take good care of yourself in simple, easy ways. In fact, this is often the way to better health. "Small changes are what success is made up of," says Lauren Minchen, M.P.H., R.D., C.D.N., in an email to Bustle. "I always recommend taking one step at a time rather than dramatic, unmanageable leaps ... It's those who put in the work on a daily basis, making consistent healthy choices day-to-day that see the best results."
This might mean making only two to three changes to your routine at a time, Minchen tells me. Doing so means boosting your health, without feeling overwhelmed or stressed out. Read on for some ways you can do just that — no boot camps necessary.
1. Climb On Into Bed
Getting enough sleep is one of the best ways to improve your health. If you want to start off easy (like, really easy) then get thyself to bed. "Sleep makes you feel better, but its importance goes way beyond just boosting your mood or banishing under-eye circles," said lifestyle writer Alyssa Sparacino on Health. Sleep can also improve your heart health, boost your memory, reduce inflammation, and even help you live longer. So get those seven to eight hours, OK?
2. Have An Egg For Breakfast
If you're eating breakfast, then you're off to a good start. But if it's something like cereal or a donut, try adding in a bit more protein. "Eating a healthy dose of protein (20-30 grams) ... sets the tone for your appetite the rest of the day," Minchen says. All you gotta do is fry up an egg, or grab a handful of walnuts. Easy as that.
3. Take A Few Deep Breaths
Take a moment to notice your breathing. Are you kinda holding your breath? If so, start to catch yourself in this bad habit and make it a point to take deeper breaths. "Getting oxygen to your blood is about as important as it gets for health," said life coach Richard Kronick on HuffingtonPost.com. "One slow, deep breath can significantly increase the oxygen levels and vitality of your bloodstream. Imagine what five or 10 deep breaths could do."
4. Get Food Ready For The Week
If you ever start the week promising yourself to eat healthier, only to give into takeout on Monday evening, then come join my club. This is the common fate of us busy people, but it can be avoided by planning ahead and getting some food ready for the week. "Assembling will take five minutes tops," said health writer Tara Fuller on Greatist.com. Just chop some salad, cut up fruit, and divvy up rice. It'll make eating healthier so much easier.
5. Make Water Your Go-To Drink
Admit it, you know how important it is to stay hydrated. But do you actually do it? If not, get yourself a reusable water bottle and don't ever let it leave your side. Sip throughout the day until you get at least two liters, or about a half gallon. "That's a must for your body to function optimally," Minchen says. Other liquids count, too. But water is the most ideal.
6. Stand Up A Bit Straighter
I know, slouching feels natural and oh so comfy. But a little posture change can go a long way in improving your health. "When standing up straight, you decrease cortisol (which makes you stressed and nervous) and increase testosterone (which makes you feel strong and confident)," said Kronick. "By changing your posture, you can significantly change your health and change your moods."
7. Toss Yourself A Salad
To boost your health, you don't necessarily have to stop eating the foods you love (read: pizza, burritos, donuts, etc.). But you do have to add more nutritious foods to your diet. Minchen tells me we should all aim for three to five cups of dark leafy greens a day (equivalent to a large salad). "It's amazing what these will do for your satiety, energy, and skin," she says.
8. Relax Those Tense Muscles
Whether you're stressed or not, it's pretty common for people to have tense muscles. This is likely due to hunching over a computer and sitting all day long at work. If this is your life, it can be incredibly helpful to do a quick body scan to look for those tight muscles, according to Kronick. "One by one, consciously relax these areas," he said. You'll feel so much better as a result.
9. Meditate For Five Minutes
Meditation is a great way to unwind your body and relax your mind, so it's most definitely worth a try. You can go all out and look within for an hour or two. Or, you can go the easier route and simply devote five minutes before bed, according to Fuller. Just turn off your light and quiet your mind for a few.
10. Get A Massage
Again, as far as easy health tips go, it doesn't get much simpler than lying down for a message. Not only are they super relaxing, but massages are also pretty darn good for your health. "Studies ... found that a 45 minute massage brought on a major spike in lymphocytes, white blood cells that fight bacteria and viruses," said the editors of Prevention. This means having a better ability to fight off colds. Pretty cool, right?
11. Pack Your Lunch
Bringing your lunch to work means eating the healthy stuff you packed, instead of living off vending machine snacks or dashing to the corner store. It makes life not only healthier, but also a lot easier. "Think about taking leftovers from last night’s dinner and adding some cut up vegetables, fruit, and nuts for snacks," said Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D. on EatingWell.com. You'll be so glad to have healthy snacks on hand come noon.
12. Move Your Bod More Often
Again, you don't have to be a fitness guru or a marathon runner to be healthy. "Simply aim to get some activity in every day ... Whatever you can fit in consistently will support life-long health," Minchen says. Maybe this means doing some squats while you watch TV, or going for a walk on your lunch break. It all adds up, and it all makes you healthier.
13. Think Positive Thoughts
If you have time for nothing else, make it a point to think happy thoughts. "Positive thoughts have numerous health benefits and negative thoughts can significantly harm your health," Kronick said. "Thought is the true foundation of your health." So the next time you feel stressed of pissed off, replace that with a little gratitude or a positive mantra.
Do this, or any of the other easy tips above, and you'll be feelin' healthier in no time.
Images: Pexels (14)