Everyone wants to feel healthier. You want more energy, less bloat, clearer skin, better digestion, and the ability to live your life fuller (and longer). But here’s the harsh truth: no workout routine will solve all your problems and no miracle diet will change everyone’s life. When it comes to health, there is no universal truth, which can make achieving optimal health difficult (and confusing!).
Because health is all about what works best for you, it should not be a stressful lifelong quest or a set of restricted guidelines. Instead, it should be a bunch of small habits and shortcuts that make you feel good. Say it with me now: wellness should be effortless. So to help you achieve optimal wellness, here’s a list of shortcuts to help you become your best self. Stick with the hacks that work for you, and ditch the ones that don’t. The biggest shortcut to health is that your body knows exactly what it needs, if only you listen to it.
1. Make sleep your main priority
Since we’re talking about shortcuts, sleep is the biggest bang for your buck. Getting enough sleep (7-9 hours) can affect your overall quality of life. Do whatever you can to get better sleep. If you have difficulty fitting more sleep into your schedule, start by going to bed five minutes earlier every night until you’ve gained an hour of sleep. If your problem is more quality of sleep and you have difficulty falling (or staying) asleep, make it your priority to figure out why. Talk to your doctor about improving sleep quality, try adaptogens or drink chamomile tea, and reduce screen time before bed.
2. Prep your veggies
Even if you’re not huge on meal prepping every meal for an entire week, make sure you prep your veggies. Schedule time on Sunday to chop veggies you eat raw and roast or steam veggies you prefer cooked. Also, think about how you can add more produce into your routine. Try washing and slicing lemons to keep in a glass container (to add to water throughout the week), or rationing greens and fruit for each serving of smoothies so all you’ll have to do the morning of is blend with water or almond milk. You’ll never feel the need to stop for a bagel on the way to work or skip breakfast for the sake of saving time.
3. Move for 10 minutes at least two different times in the day
“Exercise” doesn’t have to mean an hour-long HIIT workout. Hot yoga or a pilates class are great on the days you have an hour to yourself, but the truth is that most of us don’t have time for a workout every day. Shortcut your exercise routine and commit to moving for just 10 minutes at two different times every day, like at 10am and 3pm. Set an alarm on your phone and take a walk to a coffee shop, go through a quick yoga flow, have a dance party, or do some stretches.
4. Chew your food
While this probably sounds like a piece of advice your mom used to give when you were little, it’s also an important shortcut to digestive health that most of us aren’t doing correctly. I typically eat my meals in front of a laptop screen or during a Netflix binge, and can probably swallow a slice of really good pizza whole in under 30 seconds (not actually, but you get my point).
The problem with this is that not thoroughly chewing food is extremely hard on the digestive system. Experts say that you should chew every bite 32 times (admittedly, that’s a lot more chews than it typically takes me to finish a whole bowl of pasta). By the time you swallow, your food should be completely broken down and textureless. The more you chew, the more saliva (and therefore, digestive enzymes) are released to begin breaking down food.
5. Utilize apps
In the 21st century, we’re using technology to binge an entire series in one night and to eat restaurant-level food from the comfort of our homes (shout out to my Postmates delivery guy), so why not use it to shortcut your way to wellness? Technology could be negatively affecting our health, or we could be using it to become our best selves; achieving your health goals can be as easy as the touch of a button (or a touch screen). Check out the list of our favorite wellness apps that can help you achieve better sleep, hold you accountable with your goals, or even boost your reproductive health.
6. Try to drink three drinks at a time
To hydrate more, I challenged myself to have three drinks at a time. It’s usually for the moments when I’m drinking something other than water, to make sure I’m always hydrating as much as possible. For example, if I’m having a mimosa at brunch, I also order hot tea and water, hydrating while I enjoy some sparkling wine (bottomless, please!). Most of the time, the three drink rule looks like a smoothie, coffee, and water. Other times I sip on hot tea while drinking lemon water or make myself a celery juice. Whether it’s three drinks at a time or just making sure you have a glass of water with your cup of coffee, hack your way to hydration.
7. Cook in bulk
Healthy eating doesn’t have to mean home-cooking three meals a day (ain’t nobody got time for that). Instead, cook homemade, nutritious meals in bulk to eat throughout the week. Even if you’re just cooking for one, always make at least two or three more servings than you need to have for lunch on Tuesday or dinner on Wednesday. If you get tired of having the same meal, reinvent the dish. Throw on a different sauce, add a fried egg on top, or eat in a wrap.
8. Take the stairs
It doesn’t take much more time to take the stairs instead of the escalator or park a little bit further away from the grocery store, but the extra steps add up. If your schedule is so packed that fitting in a workout is causing you more stress, it might be hurting your health instead of improving it. Exercise can just be little shortcuts that add up to a more active lifestyle. If you move more often than you sit, it can make a huge difference in your overall health.
9. Limit your decision making
Think about the amount of decisions you make every single day, even just within the first few minutes of waking up: whether or not to hit snooze, what to wear (which is approximately 100 different decisions), when to turn on the coffee pot, to be or not to be (that is the question … especially when you didn’t get enough sleep last night). The little decisions add up to be subconsciously overwhelming. Decision fatigue is a real thing, and it’s often why we opt for Chinese takeout instead of finding a recipe to cook at the end of a long day, or forego the workout when trying to figure out which time slot works best.
You can reduce decision fatigue by planning ahead of time, so you make fewer decisions throughout the day. Meal prep all your lunches, sign up for workout classes in advance (or put a workout in your calendar so you can’t skip it), and try a go-to outfit formula so you don’t have to think about what to wear.
10. Stock up on frozen produce
In an ideal world, we would get fresh produce from local farmers at artisanal markets. In the real world, life looks more like running down the aisles of Trader Joe’s, 10 minutes before it closes. The good news is that you can eat more fruits and veggies without washing, chopping, and consistent grocery shopping (please notice the witty rhyme), and you don’t have to worry about produce going bad before you get a chance to eat it (anyone else feel like avocados are personally out to get you?). One study found that there is little difference in the nutrition value between fresh and frozen produce.
Don’t depend solely on frozen produce, but stock up on the basics like frozen berries, cauliflower, or broccoli so you’ll have fruits and veggies on hand when you haven’t had a chance to get to the grocery store or don’t have time to prep veggies. You can even buy frozen ginger or diced onions to save time when cooking.
11. Utilize the “Choose Again Method”
This last tip is not only a shortcut to wellness but a shortcut to happiness. I first read about the Choose Again Method while reading Super Attractor by Gabby Bernstein, but it’s essentially what my therapist has told me for years. It’s how you train your brain to shift out of negative emotions and focus on positive.
The first step is to notice the negative thought. We all have an inner dialogue and a cycle of thoughts we hear in our minds every day that might be self-destructive (“I’m not good enough” and “I’m not as pretty as her”) or based in worry and stress (“my to-do list is so full, I won’t be able to get everything done”). Once you notice your negativity, forgive the thought. Then choose a positive sentence or mantra to replace the negative one. For example, think of your full schedule as a result of lots of opportunities to live the life you want, or tell yourself that you are enough, because guess what? You are.