When it comes to improving your health, and possibly living longer as a result, the best ways to go about it are always a bit predictable. These include the usual, like eating healthy foods and managing your stress levels — all things you need to do, to ensure good health. But if you want to add a little sprinkling of somethin' extra on top, it never hurts to look into all the surprising habits that help you live longer, that many health experts swear by.
By incorporating a few of these tips and tricks into your routine — after checking with your doctor, of course — you could be upping your chances of living a longer life, simply by dint of improving your health. So, if you want to drink clay, go for it. And if you want to walk around barefoot outside or play in the dirt, have at it.
Remember, though, that nothing beats the basics. "Before jumping into the pool of [new] habits, nothing will help you more than a healthy diet, frequent exercise, stress reduction, and good quality sleep," Dr. Scott Schreiber, a chiropractor, acupuncturist, and nutritionist, tells Bustle. "The extra habits can give additional health benefits, but will be of little help without a strong base." Once you cover all your conventional bases, consider giving one of these more eccentric habits a try. Of course there's no guarantee that adopting any of these habits will ensure a longer life, but experts and research suggest adding these things into your routine may better your health, which is important for longevity. Here are a few habits that may improve your health, and possibly even help you live longer as a result, according to experts.
There are so many odd drinks out there that claim to boost your health and maybe even help you live longer. Think along the lines of wheat grass shots, ginger shots, apple cider vinegar, etc.
For many people, none of these are super palatable. But when you look past the momentary bad taste and think of the potential health benefits, it could be worth it. And the same may be true for drinking clay.
"Drinking bentonite clay might be considered gross to some, but it might just be the next prebiotic superstar if taken correctly," clinical nutritionist Stella Metsovas, author of Wild Mediterranean, tells Bustle. "The gut microbiome is now considered one of the strongest impacts in the progression of aging. Since prebiotics are known to modify the composition of bacteria in your gut for the better, it’s no surprise that a healthier gut, means anti-aging for the whole body!"
Of course, clay isn't the only place where you can get prebiotics. "There are prebiotics in the clay that have health benefits, but you can also get these from food," Dr. Schreiber says, such as garlic, onions, and asparagus. "Always check sourcing and purity before consuming any product," he adds. And if you do decide to give clay a try, don't overdo it, and balance it with other sources of prebiotics, as well as probiotics.
2Cleansing Your Brain
In order to stay healthy, brain health is where it's at. "Brain scientists know that almost all neurodegenerative disorders are associated with the accumulation of cellular waste products, so paying attention to whatever enhances brain cleansing can improve your health," Hillary Tinapple LMT, CST, a Certified Craniosacral Therapist, tells Bustle. Research from the University of Rochester found that the brain flushed out this cellular waste through a mechanism called the glymphatic system, and this flushing process can happen during sleep.
But really, how much of us actually get "enough" sleep? Plenty of people are sleep deprived, and that can be bad for your health. "When we are sleep deprived, or when there’s some disruption with this 'plumbing' system, a buildup of cellular debris can cause problems. So, getting good sleep is a good idea."
3Using A Neti Pot
If you've ever tried nasal saline irrigation, better known as a Neti pot, then you probably already know it can be a bit messy. "It’s a small kettle looking like object [that you] fill with warm water and saline," Bess Berger, RD, Cdn, of ABC Nutrition by Bess, tells Bustle. All you have to do is stick the spout of the pot in one nostril, tip your head to the side, and the saline solution will travel up through you face and out the other nostril.
"It’s gross but cleans out your nose, sinus cavity, makes you less prone to colds, upper respiratory infections and sinus infections," Berger says, all of which can drastically improve your health, especially if you're prone to those sorts of illnesses.
4Playing In The Dirt
When was the last time you went outside and got your hands dirty? "Playing in the dirt is a ... habit all children do, but studies show that this actually boosts the immune system," says Schreiber. "The exposure to bacteria, viruses, and other microbes [found in the dirt] builds our immunity."
Hopefully, you played in the dirt as a kid, as your immune system was developing. But it's also something you can do now, as an adult, for the same benefits. Plus, being outside in nature, and taking some time to do nothing but "play" can be incredibly relaxing.
5Walking Barefoot Outside
Similarly, if it's been a minute since you last took off your shoes and walked in the grass, now may be the time. "Walking barefoot connects us to nature," Schreiber says. "Almost always we have some type of footwear on and our feet can become desensitized without the natural input of the skin receptors." So the more often we can go outside, and stand shoeless in the grass, the better.
Many people claim that walking barefoot — sometimes known as "earthing" or grounding — can be beneficial to your health. It's said that being barefoot allows us to absorb the earth's electrons, which can aid in stress reduction, better sleep, and reduced pain.
According to one study in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, "[...] emerging scientific research has revealed a surprisingly positive and overlooked environmental factor on health: direct physical contact with the vast supply of electrons on the surface of the Earth. Modern lifestyle separates humans from such contact. The research suggests that this disconnect may be a major contributor to physiological dysfunction and unwellness. Reconnection with the Earth's electrons has been found to promote intriguing physiological changes and subjective reports of well-being." So why not try wiggling your toes through the grass a little more?
The next time you're in the mood to try a new health food, you might want to reach for some algae. "People may not realize it, but this super food is ancient and is one of the most powerful foods on the planet," Stephanie Ferrari, MS, RDN tells Bustle. "Algae contains more than 40 vitamins and minerals including all the amino acids, potent antioxidants, and contains something called chlorophyll which binds to toxins in the body and removes them through the waste process (ie. going to the bathroom)." It may be sliming and green and strong-tasting, but it can certainly improve your health.
7Biting Your Nails
While this isn't something you should do all day long, it can't hurt as much as we think to bite our nails occasionally. "You are introducing germs directly into your body when you bite your nails," Dr. David Greuner, of NYC Surgical Associates, tells Bustle. "It can help your immune system by exposing you to some germs. Kind of going off of the concept that too much hand sanitizer can remove good bacteria from you." And in the same vein as playing in the dirt. That being said, be cognizant of what your hands have been exposed to before biting your nails, and don't do it too often.
8Taking A 26 Minute Quick Nap
If you want to improve your health, grab a pillow and shoot for this very specific nap length. "Research shows that naps of 18 to 26 minutes will provide health benefits," Dr. Rubina Tahir tells Bustle. "Being at the end of range [of] 26 minutes is best!" Although short, this length of time can help improve your overall performance, alertness, and mood.
And you don't need to get fancy about it, either. "You can nap in your chair at work on your lunch break," Tahir says. "Set a timer — you will be amazed by the boost in energy you get if you make this a regular practice."
9Drinking Warm Lemon Water
Before you have any other food, "drink a warm glass of water that contains fresh lemon juice (not from concentrate) first thing upon waking," health expert Chris Marvin, founder of One Rep At a Time, tells Bustle. "This aids with liver health by reducing inflammation."
Small changes like these, however different they may seem, might be able to boost your health. Of course you should always talk to your doctor before considering any major lifestyle changes, and be sure that these habits are accompanied by the basics for overall health — eating well, exercising, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep.