Our hectic, fast-paced lifestyles don’t always lend themselves to making healthy decisions. Studies show that Americans work more than anyone else in the world and that we take less vacation time, work longer days, and retire later. How can we reconstruct our schedules and habits in order to find something more sustainable? The answer lies in small, simple changes that can let you build a new lifestyle that works long term. Here are some changes that you can start to make right now.
Drink more water
Dehydration, even slight dehydration, can have surprisingly awful results — bad breath, muscle cramps, and sugar cravings to name a few. To make sure you are staying hydrated, always keep a filled water bottle at your desk.
Go to bed an hour earlier
It’s only an hour, right? But that hour is yours! On the other hand, considering how much impact adding an hour of sleep can have on one’s overall health, it’s so worth it! Beyond decreasing one’s risk of heart disease and inflammation, it also can give you a competitive edge, meaning that extra hour of sleep has the potential to do more for you than whatever else you might have spent that hour doing.
Wake up a half hour earlier and meditate
The statistics speak for themselves.
Those who meditate reduced the likelihood of being hospitalized for coronary disease by 87%, and the possibility of getting cancer by 55%. 75% of insomniacs who started a daily meditation program were able to fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed. 60% of anxiety prone people showed marked improvements in anxiety levels after 6–9 months.
Even if it’s just a homemade banana shake, eat real, whole foods. Our hormones control all of our body’s biological systems, but the effective production of hormones for the average person requires sleep, water, and good nutrition. For many, skipping out on breakfast altogether is just more convenient. But the benefits of a good breakfast make eating a good morning meal worth the extra time.
Park farther away in the parking lot
Groan. If you feel like the end of the parking lot might as well be Tibet, odds are you should park out there more often. It’s a small change, but parking farther away gives you that much more exercise than you would have had otherwise. And every little bit helps!
Bring your own healthy snacks to work
Workers experiencing the mid-afternoon slump frequently rely on whatever’s available in the break room or the snack machine. The vast majority of these “foods” have high amounts of artery-clogging fats, inflammation-causing sugars, and hypertension-in-a-bag salt levels for flavoring. If you want to make a small change that can have a huge impact on your health and your waistline, bring your own munchies to work with you. Opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese sticks, or protein bars (homemade, if you are really proactive).
Step away from the simple starches
Simple starches are quickly processed into carbohydrates (sugar) and cause insulin spikes, which put you at greater risk of diabetes. The simpler starches are also less nutrient dense, which means that pound for pound, you get less nutrients for the same amount of “food.” To avoid the insulin-depressed energy slump, try switching to quinoa or brown rice and whole grain pasta and breads. Also, replace potatoes with sweet potatoes or butternut squash.
Soak up the sun
Avoid the break room, unless it’s in a sunny spot that receives a lot of natural light. According to a study conducted by Northwestern University, office workers have better quality of life after experiencing natural light throughout the day — they reported having more and better sleep and greater physical activity.
Disconnect from negativity
We often take for granted how much we are exposed to negativity — on the radio, on TV, and from our fellow humans. Because of the mind/body connection, exposure to depression-inducing negativity has adverse effects on health. Much like a self-fulfilling prophecy, the worry regarding a negative thing about ourselves is often the causative factor in that very negative thing coming to fruition. Worry and stress depresses not only our mental and emotional state, but they also depress our immune system, our hormonal and endocrine response, and our circadian rhythm. To break the vicious cycle of negativity and negativity-induced ill health, prune out the negative influences as much as possible and introduce bright, energetic colors, positivity, live plants, and natural light.
Eat more chocolate
That’s right. Chocolate — and this would be dark chocolate with high cocoa content — is a potent anti-depressant and anti-inflammatory. It is also contains a host of antioxidants and is a significant source of vitamins and minerals, making the consumption of chocolate advisable. Small amounts on a regular basis ensure you get the health benefits without as many of the calories.
What small health changes have made a big impact in your life? Let us know on Twitter @ThaaSection or leave a comment below!