With a growing national interest on health and nutrition, it is little wonder that many people are searching for simple and realistic changes they can implement to become healthier. And “being healthy” isn’t just something to brag about, it translates into very real improvements in your happiness, energy level, and ability to concentrate and function well. To become healthier, you should consider making small changes in several different categories- enhancing sleep, improving diet/nutrition, exercising more frequently, and reducing stress.
Simply taking steps to improve your sleep can yield many health benefits. For instance, depression and other mental concerns have been linked with poor sleep, and sleeping better can alleviate psychiatric problems. Sleep problems may include trouble falling or staying asleep, being drowsy throughout the day, frequently waking (including as a result of sleep apnea), and difficulty breathing while asleep. These issues often translate into lower energy, poor cognition, trouble focusing, fatigue, and feelings of melancholy. And children are not immune to these problems; it is estimated that a quarter to half of people struggling with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder)-including children- are plagued by sleep issues. If you have any such difficulties with sleep, correcting these issues can lead to better mental capacity and happiness. Here are some simple tips for improving your sleep: stick to a sleep schedule, including a bedtime routine that can help you unwind and prepare for sleep. You can give your body many cues for healthy sleeping, such as exposing yourself to a lot of light during the day and minimizing light during the night, reserving your bed for sleep and intimacy (not relaxation, reading, watching TV, etc.), and turning off electronics while in bed. Your body can learn to produce more melatonin and associate your bed with good sleep. You may also consider managing your stress/anxiety and establishing a healthy exercise plan (both discussed below) to help improve the quality of your sleep.
One of the most often cited tips for becoming healthier is to “eat your fruits and vegetables.” Why has this advice lasted throughout the ages? Because it is true! Fruits and vegetables have been proven time and again to be key in healthy body and mind functioning and in strengthening the body against illness. According to Harvard’s advice on eating fruits and vegetables, fruits and veggies have been proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer. And including more fruits, vegetables, and low-fat diary options in your diet can help lower cholesterol and high blood pressure. The high levels of fiber in fruits and vegetables can also guarantee better digestive health. The vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables can also improve vision, including lowering your chances of developing cataracts or macular degeneration. Check nutritional guidelines for your height and weight to be sure that you are getting enough fruits and vegetables in your diet. If you (like most people) could use to eat more of these healthy options, take small steps like including some fruits and/or vegetables in every meal and putting them in visible places so you will snack on these foods instead of chips and packaged goods. Another excellent idea is to have vegetables ready (sliced, bagged, etc.) for easy access to use as snacks or quick toppings for salads and other dishes. If you believe that no real meal is complete without meat, consider taking a night off a meat every week and exploring how fruits and vegetables can make their own main courses. Additionally, consider using these organic superfood green drinks as a quick option for nutrient-packed snacks and meals.
Another obvious recommendation (that many people ignore!) for healthy living is to establish a regular habit ofexercising. Health professionals have linked exercise with many benefits, including higher energy, lower risk of chronic and major illnesses, better mood, healthier weight and fat ratios, a better sex life and improved sleep. Research into the relationship between exercise and cancer has even found that regular exercise can combat the negative symptoms of both cancer and cancer treatments. There are many small steps you can take to exercise more. First of all, exercise that you hate is exercise that you likely will not maintain, so find ways to make your workouts more enjoyable, including choosing activities you like, varying activities, working out with a friend, and trying new, fun activities. You don’t have to exercise in huge blocks of time, so doing a few ten-minute activities each day will boost your overall health. And you can introduce some disguised exercise into your daily habits by parking further away from stores and work, opting to take the stairs over elevators, and staying active while doing activities that are typically sedentary (like exercising on a fitness ball while working on the computer).
Finally, any plan to become healthier would be incomplete without setting goals for reducing stress. Stress can go a long way in damaging your body and mind. In fact, some scientists have gone so far as to call stress a “silent killer.” Research into the relationship between stress and cancer has found that “psychological stress that lasts a long time may affect a person’s overall health and ability to cope with cancer.” An inclusive plan to be healthier will help you reduce stress, as sleep, nutrition, and exercise are all factors in reducing stress. Other tips include maintaining a good support system of friends and family, increasing your self-esteem by focusing on the good and using self-affirming statements, and managing your time to include leisure and activities you find rewarding.
If your goal is to become healthier, it is best to use a sweeping plan that includes small steps in each of these categories. Following this approach will leave you feeling happier and more energized, and your long-term health will be less affected by illness and disease.