For a girl whose dietary and lifestyle choices once included generous amounts of Cheez-Its, menthol cigarettes, and energy drinks mixed with vodka, doing a massive overhaul on my (not-so-healthy) habits was overwhelming at first. I’m not going to lie… it was downright hard.
I wasn’t sure what foods my body would benefit from, so I tested popular diets and eliminated trigger foods. I wanted to find cost-effective ways to incorporate more organic produce, so I found good deals and discounted products I could add to my recipe rotation. I began exercising on a consistent basis, and instead of automatically reaching for my former go-to substances during times of stress, I explored spiritual practices that seemed to calm my mental state.
Subtle changes began to take place: my skin—which had been acne-laden for the majority of my twenties—cleared-up; the stomachaches that had been a constant companion since I was a kid were happening less frequently, anxiety attacks started backing off, and sleep came easier at night.
My journey toward greater health is ongoing and consists of readjustments, experimenting, countless bumps, and conscious choices along the way.
If you want to make changes to your overall health but don’t know where to begin, here are five, easy ways you can start today.
1. Prioritize sleep
What was once far down on my list of priorities has since risen to the top. Why? Because sleep is an essential and fundamental component of solid health. When we aren’t getting enough of it, everything from our hormones, memory, concentration level, immune system, body weight, skin, gut, and heart is impacted. In short, without enough sleep, you will find it difficult to reap any of the other health benefits you are after.
For one week, make it your mission to create a relaxing environment that promotes sleep. Wind down an hour earlier than usual and give yourself permission to enjoy slow, simple moments that fit your schedule and personality, such as taking a magnesium flake bath, diffusing essential oils, reading a book, drinking a cup of herbal tea, praying or meditating, and unplugging from technology for the evening. Check out more tips for sleep hygiene from the National Sleep Foundation, and some of my favorite products that usher in sound shuteye here, here, and here.
2. Combat Stress
I used to roll my eyes anytime someone would tell me to quit stressing as if it were something I could just easily switch off. But similar to how lack of sleep affects our health, carrying stress wreaks havoc on us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Though it’s unattainable to make stressors magically disappear, it is possible to become increasingly aware when stress is invading your headspace, giving you the opportunity to combat it.
Similar to creating a bedtime ritual, lessening stress and restoring balance to your life is all about discovering what works for you. For some, it could be engaging in a new hobby, meeting a friend for coffee, going for a run outdoors, or being still to meditate or practice being present and mindful about your surroundings. Journaling is by far one of the best practices you can do for your emotional health. Try implementing a digital detox one day a week (or even just for a few hours), and see how it affects you mentally. For me, practicing relaxation techniques, prayer, yoga, writing, and talking with my therapist have proven to be life-changing. When stress hits (which it will), having that list of calming techniques will be incredibly beneficial to you.
3. Increase Movement
Body movement doesn’t necessarily mean spending hours at the gym. In fact, if exercise is seen more like a chore for you, it might be time to reframe the term by focusing more on moving your body throughout the day. Have a sedentary job that keeps you bound to a chair most of the day? Try taking standing breaks every 60 minutes and do some body squats, or a brisk walk to the restroom, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or any sort of movement you can get away with while at work. Walking (try to get in at least 10,000 steps a day), playing tag with your kids, 15-minute H.I.I.T. workouts, stretching, yoga, lifting boxes, vacuuming, swimming, cycling, and doing anything that entails movement improves our immune systems, energy levels, and overall well-being.
4. Boost Nutritional Density
I will save you from the long list of cons from eating a diet full of processed foods and sugar—I’m positive you’re already well-aware of the negative impacts these foods have on your health. While there’s no denying that our diets play a pivotal role in our energy levels, sleep patterns, hormones, and gut health, when it comes to making massive shifts in our diets and lifestyles, it may be more helpful to think in terms of adding in or boosting versus a mindset of deprivation. Start your day off with a nourishing smoothie made with greens, fruit, hemp seeds, protein powder, and almond milk. Eating pizza? Add-in a side salad and lots of veggies on top of that pie. If budget allows, choose grass-fed or wild-caught meats, organic vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. Swap pantry items with artificial ingredients, sweeteners, refined oils for natural forms of sugar (like honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar) and unrefined oils (some of my favorites include extra virgin olive oil, coconut, and avocado oils). It won’t take long for you to feel the difference in eating whole foods that fuel and nourish your system.
5. Drink H2O
Drinking water throughout the day is one of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to make positive changes to your health. Water promotes cell health, flushes out toxins, and hydrates our bodies; drinking more of it will satiate hunger, plump skin, and aids in digestion. Some of my favorite ways to drink more water are infusing it with different fruits and herbs (strawberry + fresh mint; cucumber + basil; lemon + thyme are refreshing combos). Are you a coffee addict like me too? That’s fine; just drink two glasses of water for every one cup of coffee. Since coffee is a diuretic, the extra water will restore hydration.
While none of these tips is a panacea in themselves, their impact done together will be felt. A few additional tips include having annual blood-work and panels run by your GP, talking with a naturopathic doctor, and adding How to Make Disease Disappear to your reading list. It may take some time to start reaping the full benefits, so be patient and extend yourself grace as you discover what works best for you and your body. You are worth taking care of, so enjoy the journey toward greater health!
Want to cultivate a healthy lifestyle? Check out:
You Can Start an Exercise Habit, Here’s How to Do It
Can I Be a Hippie in Heels? Balancing a Healthy Lifestyle
7 Easy Swaps to Make Your Meals Clean and Healthy
6 Practical Tips When You Want to Get Healthy
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