Are you stuck in a rut? Not feeling quite like yourself? Or maybe you feel a general sense of being unwell. When it comes to feeling healthy, we need to consider the physical, mental, and social aspects of our lives. Yes, I’m talking about looking at the whole picture.
So where do we start?
Over the years, I’ve learned some super effective hacks that can greatly improve your health and sense of wellbeing. If you are ready to bust out of that funk and start feeling awesome, then read on.
1. Drink more water.
Being dehydrated can negatively impact everything from your mental focus to energy and metabolism. One trick I use to stay hydrated is to keep a 1 liter water bottle on-the-go and aim to drink at least two per day. Having a 1 liter bottle makes it much easier to track water consumption, compared to having a glass here and there, hoping you are getting enough.
2. Schedule workouts.
Working up a good sweat releases endorphins, which can turn even the worst of moods around. But the hard part is getting started! The best way to make sure your workouts actually happen is to schedule them into your calendar. Make a consistent, non-negotiable date with yourself and keep it. Fitness classes are great because you can schedule them in advance. Many charge a cancellation fee, which will help hold you accountable. Invite a friend to join you for a class, as it adds another layer of accountability. No one likes to be the one who bails! To really get that booty in gear, sign up for longer fitness programs, like an 8-week bootcamp. These run on a schedule, which will allow you to plan ahead and ensure you fit in a workout instead of leaving it up to a time that is convenient (and then making excuses to not go).
3. Go to bed earlier.
Did you know not getting enough sleep leads to junk food cravings? Don’t make things harder on yourself! Instead of staying up late to binge watch Netflix, develop a bedtime ritual that actually serves you. Try avoiding screens like your phone and the TV at least an hour before bed. Use this time to integrate self-care practices like meditation, journalling, a bath, or a calming skin-care routine. Know how many hours of sleep you need to function at your best (for most people it’s 8).
4. Dry brush your skin.
Dry skin brushing is an incredible daily health-boosting practice to work into either your morning or evening routine. Not only does it smooth, exfoliate and detoxify your skin, but also supports the lymphatic system, increases energy, reduces cellulite and improves blood flow. All you need is a brush with firm bristles and a handle.
Here’s how to do it: Start at your feet and work upwards. Brush towards your heart with long, smooth strokes. Take your time and invest about 5 minutes into this practice. You’ll feel like a million bucks when you are finished!
5. Make a meal plan.
When you set aside a few minutes at the start of the week to create a healthy meal plan, you set yourself up to feel incredible. If you are new to meal planning, start small. Even if you only prepare one healthy meal and snack at the beginning of the week, it will help save you from unnecessary spending and making poor food choices. Not so savvy in the kitchen? Try a meal delivery service. They do cost significantly more than buying your own groceries, but are usually cheaper and healthier than eating out every meal.
6. Eat more greens
One of the best things you can do for your health is to eat more greens! Whether it’s spinach, kale, swiss chard, arugula, broccoli or bok choy – it is pure life. Your skin will thank you. Your mood will thank you. Your digestion will thank you. Every single thing will thank you when you eat more greens. Opt for a salad instead of fries, or ask for extra vegetables in replace of potatoes. If you are cooking at home, select recipes full of greens that inspire you, and ones that you will actually be excited to eat, like this gorgeous Fall Harvest Quinoa Salad from Half Baked Harvest.
7. Eat more healthy fats.
Upping your fat consumption can help fight depression, improve your cognitive function, strengthen your bones and decrease your risk of disease (just to name a few). My favorite healthy fat sources are avocado, eggs, olive oil, coconut oil, fish and nut butters.
8. Up your fiber intake.
How does your house smell when you forget to take the trash out for a few days? This is exactly how your body feels when you, ahem, forget to take your own trash out. Fiber is imperative to keep things moving along our digestive tract and into “elimination station.” Up your fiber intake with things like ground flax seed, beans, raspberries, almonds, and kale.
9. Drink a smoothie.
Smoothies are the best way to quickly get your fill of all the important nutrients like greens, fat, and fiber. Try swapping out one meal or snack per day with a smoothie. Breakfast is a great smoothie meal as it can be made in minutes and can travel on-the-go. You can even make “smoothie packs” in advance to save you even more time. Portion out all the ingredients into containers or ziplock bags, dump into the blender, and add liquid when you are ready to enjoy. Here are 3 delicious meal replacement smoothies to get you started with a smoothie habit.
10. Take 5 minutes to de-stress.
Yes, just five minutes. It can make a world of difference. Try developing a meditation practice—all you need is a quiet place and a chair or floor. Minimize distractions, get comfortable, and sit quietly for five minutes. Focus on your breath and breath slowly in and out of your nose. When your mind begins to wander, bring your focus back to your breath.
Not so into meditation? No problem. Try taking a one-minute nap or simply dishing out an act of kindness. Here are some other easy, practical ways you can de-stress in minutes at no cost!
11. Get outside.
Guys, “forest bathing” is actually a thing. Being in nature improves your mental health so instead of sitting at your desk for lunch, reap the benefits of getting outside. Most cities and towns have at least one green space, whether it’s a park or trails. Do a workout with a friend or plan a picnic, hike, or ultimate frisbee game. It’s free and you’ll de-stress with social time and exercise all at the same time. And hey, if you really want to maximize your forest bathing experience, plan a camping weekend to explore a national park.
12. Practice gratitude.
Being grateful forces you to shift your focus from the bad to the good and wonderful. Gratitude has been scientifically proven to improve relationships, self-esteem, mental health, and even sleep. A gratitude practice can change your life. Get started by committing to a consistent time (like during your bedtime ritual). Cozy up with a pen and paper, or even a gratitude journal. Think, “I am grateful for…” and just start writing. Let it flow. Depending on the day, you may not be able to think of anything right away, so give it time. Keep this going day-after-day and you’ll find a lot of negative emotions like fear, anxiety, anger, and depression become harder to feel when you are practicing gratitude.
13. Smile often!
A smile can improve your mood and reduce stress. So turn the corners of your mouth upward, even if you don’t mean it. Only good things can ensue!
14. Sit up straight.
When we feel tired and depressed, our shoulders tend to curl inward, our spines round out, and we basically collapse into ourselves. Sitting up straight can instantly improve confidence, open lungs for more energy, and boost your mood. Ready, set, posture check!
15. Detox your home.
We are exposed to many toxins on a daily basis and many of them we have no control over. But what we can control are the toxins that come into our own homes. Start small to detoxify your home and work your way up. Some easy first steps are to leave the windows open as much as possible for better ventilation. Replace beauty products with less toxic and chemical-free options. Use glass instead of plastic where possible and filter your water. Another easy and super efficient way to eliminate toxins is to switch from your standard household cleaners to environmental friendly versions. Try easily DIY-ing toxic-free cleaners at home.
16. Get together with a friend.
Sometimes when the going gets tough, we isolate ourselves. But there’s nothing like a good chat with a friend to reduce stress and increase our feeling of belonging. Make it a priority to connect with at least one friend. Turn it into a sweat date with yoga or a jog to get endorphins flowing. Double whammy!
17. Eat without distractions.
We are all guilty of sitting in front of the TV or mindlessly tapping on our phone as we eat. But eliminating distractions and instead being mindful when we eat has been shown to reduce overeating, promote weight loss, and reduce anxiety.
18. Volunteer your time.
Ghandi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” It’s easy and natural to get caught up in our own problems. The best way to turn this around is to focus on helping others.
19. Wash hands and floss teeth.
Two simple, highly underrated hygiene practices I can’t stress enough: washing hands and flossing teeth. Wash your hands every chance you get and keep them away from your face. This simple habit is single handedly the best way to avoid picking up those nasty viruses going around! And don’t forget to floss those pearly whites. Keeping your gums clean will not only help you avoid bad breath, but also helps you avoid heart disease. The American Dental Association recommends we floss once per day to remove plaque that isn’t eliminated by brushing.
20. Read labels.
Food manufacturers tend to sneak sugar, chemicals, and fillers into our food, which we definitely don’t need. Take control. Less is more when it comes to ingredients so read labels to ensure you are putting premium fuel into your body!
What do you do every day to feel your best? Let us know in the comments below!
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This article was originally published on November 1, 2016.