Healthy living can feel like a catchphrase ideal that will never be attainable. But, with small steps that you can take every day and week, you can make considerable strides in the right direction. For example, this week, you might sign up for a Mediterranean meal delivery program and then start incorporating the Pomodoro method next week. (More on both a little later.) Regardless of how you choose to go about it, you’ll be successful if you take it slow and make sustainable changes you love living with and feel the benefits of.
Here are seven small steps that you can take toward healthier living:
1) Sleep More
Sleeping is crucial for your health. Most adults need around eight hours of sleep a day, but some people may need more or less depending on their age and lifestyle. If you’re constantly feeling tired, you may be running a sleep deficit. This is when you’re not getting enough sleep overall, and it can negatively affect your health. According to research, short-term effects can include:
- Increased stress responsivity
- Somatic problems
- Reduced quality of life
- Emotional distress
- Mood disorders
- Cognition, memory and performance deficits
- Behavior problems and irregularities
The same research points out some pretty dire long-term consequences as well, including:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Weight-related issues
- Metabolic syndrome
- Increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes
By getting enough sleep, you’re giving your body the time it needs to rest and repair. This can help improve your overall health and well-being.
2) More Fluids
Water is essential for life, and it’s also crucial for keeping your body healthy. When you don’t drink enough water, you can become dehydrated, which has a range of negative consequences. These can include:
- Muscle weakness
- Mood changes
It’s recommended that adult men drink around 13 cups (3 liters) of fluids per day, and women drink about 9 cups (2.2 liters). This includes fluids from all sources, such as water, juice, coffee and tea. It will, of course, vary by season, level of activity and climate. So make sure you’re aware of how much fluid you’re taking in and adjust accordingly.
3) Personal Hygiene
One of the simplest ways to stay healthy is to practice good personal hygiene. This includes washing your hands regularly, showering or bathing daily and brushing your teeth twice a day. If you don’t have access to soap and water, a hand sanitizer will do in a pinch.
4) Adjust Your Diet
Your diet has a massive impact on your health. Over time, eating unhealthy foods can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease and other chronic conditions. In addition, when we eat foods that upset or inflame our gastrointestinal system, it can lead to problems like constipation, diarrhea and even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). But making small changes to your diet can significantly impact your health.
One easy way to do this is by following a diet that makes sense for you and your lifestyle and dietary needs or restrictions. Recently, the Mediterranean diet was named the best for 2022 and for a good reason. It’s based on whole, unprocessed foods and it’s sustainable. It’s also been shown to have a host of health benefits, including:
- Weight loss
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer
- Better mental health
Source: Michelangelo Gratton/Shutterstock.com
The Mediterranean diet topped the ranks for these reasons, but also because it is easily adaptable. So, for example, if you need to eat gluten-free or follow a low-FODMAP diet, you can still follow a Mediterranean-style diet.
If you’re not sure where to start when adjusting your diet, talking to a nutritionist can be helpful. They can give you advice on what foods to eat and how to plan healthy and satisfying meals. As well, using a Mediterranean diet meal delivery service or a low-FODMAP meal delivery system can make transitioning easier. This way, you get all the nutrients you need without having to worry about what’s going into your food or finding the time to shop and plan meals.
5) Stand More
Sitting for long periods is terrible for your health. It’s been linked to several health conditions, such as obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. One way to counteract the adverse effects of sitting is to stand more.
If you’re an office worker and find yourself strapped to a desk for long periods, you should definitely speak to your employer about getting a motor-operated standing desk equipped with a height-adjustable screen and keyboard. If you work from home, it would be a worthwhile investment to get one yourself. Some can be expensive, but others offer just the frame at a significantly reduced cost allowing you to attach your own tabletop. Then, you can drop by stores like IKEA or Home Depot and find something affordable.
Even if you don’t have or can’t get a standing desk, there are still ways to stand more throughout the day. The first is to use the Pomodoro technique, which has been shown to positively impact health, time management and overall productivity. It works by breaking up your workday into 25-minute segments with a 5-minute break in between. During that break time, stand up and move around. Every four cycles of this, you get a 15- to 30-minute break during which you can head out for a short walk or do some other light activity like stretching or desk yoga.
6) Get Your 30 Minutes of Exercise
Speaking of 30-minute strolls, you should aim to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, whether it’s a walk, a jog or some time in the gym. And if you can’t do it all at once, that’s okay. You can break it up into shorter, 10-minute sessions as well. Just make sure you get moving and break up that sedentary time.
Exercise has a host of benefits, including but not limited to:
- Weight loss and healthy weight management
- Reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer
- Better mental health
- Improved cognitive function
- Improved sleep hygiene
- And much more
7) Ditch the Stress
Finally, one of the best things you can do for your health is ditch the stress. According to the American Psychological Association, stress affects all the systems of your body, including:
- Musculoskeletal System – This includes your muscles, bones and joints. When you’re stressed, they can ache more and be more susceptible to injury.
- Respiratory System – Here, we’re talking about your lungs and airways. When you’re stressed, you might find yourself breathing faster and shallower, which can lead to respiratory problems.
- Cardiovascular System – The subject of much medical examination, stress can lead to all sorts of problems with your heart and blood vessels. These can include high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
- Endocrine System – Most people don’t realize this system exists. Still, it’s responsible for releasing hormones, regulating biological processes and contributing to the growth and well-being of the other bodily systems. When it’s under stress, this can lead to all sorts of health problems.
- Gastrointestinal System – No one likes tummy troubles and, unfortunately, stress is one of the leading causes. It can lead to problems such as diarrhea, constipation and even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Nervous System – The system that controls all the other systems. It’s responsible for sending and receiving messages from the brain. When it’s stressed, it can lead to all sorts of problems like headaches, fatigue and even anxiety and depression.
- Reproductive System – Thinking of having kids? You might want to ditch the stress first. It can lead to fertility problems in both men and women.
There are many ways you can overcome stress in your life. We’ve already mentioned a few, like exercise, healthy eating and getting more sleep. Ensuring you have proper balance in your life is also essential. Find ways to add hobbies and activities that you enjoy, spend time with loved ones and learn to say no to things you don’t want to do. And finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Friends, family and professionals can all be excellent sources of support.
Enjoy Your Healthy Living Journey
So there you have it — seven small steps you can take to help improve your health and begin your journey to healthy living. Remember: These things should be sustainable and don’t have to happen all at once. Start with one or two and add more as you feel comfortable. But most importantly, enjoy the journey. It’s not always going to be easy, but it’s definitely worth it.
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