It seems that almost everyone wants to get healthier. The sheer number of diet plans, exercise plans, and self-help books on the shelves of bookstores is indicative of the fact that overall, humans want to be better.
Overhauling your lifestyle is hard, though. For example, when you’re used to a diet of fried food and ice cream, suddenly switching to nothing but fruits and veggies is probably going to frustrate you. Similarly, few people who vow to hit the gym every day are able to follow through on that pledge. The problem? While the motivation is great, most people are far too ambitious when making proclamations for healthy living. Instead of making small changes that add up to an overall healthier lifestyle, they try to make one or two major changes that are uncomfortable or unrealistic — and that leads to failure.
Taking small steps, though, often leads to greater rewards. Changing one behavior at a time, and adding in new behaviors as you go, will have a cumulative effect on your health.
Not sure where to start? Try these small, simple changes.
1. Reduce Screen Time
Screen time, whether on a mobile device, television, or computer is one of the greatest detriments to health, regardless of age. Screen time contributes to obesity (often due to the mindless snacking that takes place while watching), reduces overall satisfaction with life, disturbs sleep, and harms your sex life. While you may not be able to avoid it entirely, limit the time you spend watching TV or using the computer outside of work hours.
2. Drink More Water
You know the drill: You should drink 64 ounces of water per day. If you aren’t meeting that goal, make a point to drink more throughout the day; try replacing one of your normal drinks with a glass of water to start, or bring a refillable water bottle to the office. Add a little more every few days, and eventually you’ll reach the recommended amount.
3. Aim for Five a Day
Again, it’s well known that we should eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, but many people fail to meet that goal. What constitutes a serving? One medium piece of fruit, half a cup of peeled and sliced produce, one cup of leafy greens, or half a cup of 100 percent juice.
Try adding fruit to your cereal or yogurt, or having a salad with dinner to boost your fruit and veggie intake, or replace a sugary snack with an apple or banana.
Sleep deprivation is linked to everything from headaches to cancer, so make a point of getting 7-9 hours of shuteye per night. Don’t forget to turn off your phone and television; the blue light of electronic devices prevents you from reaching the deepest cycles of sleep. If you need noise to fall asleep, use a small fan or invest in a white noise machine.
Stretching helps to prevent tense muscles, and helps you maintain flexibility. When you stretch, you help maintain your joints’ full range of motion, which helps reduce pain and reduce the risk of injury. Stretching also helps improve circulation and posture, as well as reduces stress and tension. Set reminders throughout the day to take stretch breaks.
6. Park Farther Away
Ideally, you should work out for 20-30 minutes, 5 days per week, for optimum health. If you can’t find time for regular sweat sessions, though, fit fitness into your day. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator helps, but you can do other things to add steps, too. Try parking as far from possible from the door when you get to work or go shopping; not only will it be easier to find a parking spot, you’ll add hundreds of extra steps each day, which can add up to better health and weight loss.
7. Get a Checkup
Preventive care is covered under the Affordable Care Act, so there’s really no reason to skip your annual checkup. Make an appointment to see your doctor to get a read on your blood pressure, cholesterol, and other key health factors. Early intervention can help prevent serious health issues in the future; for example, your doctor may prescribe a statin like Lipitor to help improve your cholesterol and lower your risk of heart disease.
Studies indicate that people who are happy and positive are healthier in general than those who tend to be more cynical and negative. Find things that make you happy, and smile and laugh as much as possible. Life may not be perfect, but when you look on the bright side, it’s much happier.
Taking a moment to focus on your breathing can do wonders for your heart rate, stress levels, and mood. Focused breathing can also help reduce pain and improve sleep quality. A few times a day (perhaps while stretching) take a few deep breaths and clear your mind. You’ll be calmer and more relaxed — and healthier.
Making small changes is the most effective means to a healthier lifestyle — and is likely to result in weight loss and more energy as well. If you want to make changes, but aren’t sure where to start, choose an activity from this list. You’ll feel better and be on track to better health.