If you feel overwhelmed trying to build a healthier life for yourself, stop stressing. You can perform the simplest tasks and still create a more active, flourishing life. Plus, executing such small activities can put you on a path toward accomplishing your larger health and fitness goals.
If you struggle with any of these issues, try incorporating these easy actions into your daily life and you should begin noticing encouraging changes:
If you’re ever feeling unproductive, a power nap could help. In a study published by Sleep, researchers found a nap lasting as little as 10 minutes mitigated short-term performance impairment. “What’s surprising is how little sleep is necessary for better focus,” says Martin Rawls-Meehan, CEO of Reverie, an organization that creates sleep systems. Plus, he says a nap can reduce your body’s levels of cortisol — a stress hormone responsible “for a lot of the negative physiological effects.”
If you’re ever lacked the motivation to work out, spend a moment thinking of friends and family. In a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers asked 220 sedentary adults to complete one of two self-transcendence tasks: reflect on what matters most to them (such as friends and family) or make repeated positive wishes for both strangers and people they know. A control group reflected on what mattered least to them. Then, everyone viewed health messages encouraging physical activity. Results showed those who thought of others decreased their overall sedentary behavior versus those who did not think of others.
Researchers looked at data from almost 92,000 middle-aged people and found that those with disturbed sleep patterns were more likely to experience depression or bipolar disorder. Worse yet, one of the culprits of bad sleep was something completely within people’s control: scrolling the internet in the middle of the night on their cellphones, according to a study published in The Lancet Psychiatry. To negate the negative effects of disrupted sleep, Rawls-Meehan suggests using an old-fashioned alarm clock and charging your phone overnight in the kitchen — completely out of reach.
Feeling sluggish and bloated? Dr. Brian Levine, the founding partner and practice director of CCRM New York, says to avoid foods like white rice and white sugar that cause inflammation. Although you might crave these foods, swapping them for a healthier alternative just one meal per week can help you begin a healthy diet transformation — you don’t need to make sweeping food changes right away.
For example, instead of chicken and rice, try chicken with cauliflower. You can pulse the vegetable in a food processor until it resembles the consistency of rice, say Jessica Jones, RD, and Wendy Lopez, RD, of Food Heaven Made Easy. Or, swap one cup of white sugar for a half a cup of honey. According to a review published in Pharmacognosy Research, “honey can act as a natural therapeutic agent for various medicinal purposes” such as diabetes and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
You don’t need meditation experience to begin a compassionate meditation practice. In fact, all participants in a study published in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience had no background in meditation. But in 20 minutes a day for two months, researchers found people who practiced compassionate meditation increased their social support, felt more purpose in life, decreased illness symptoms and enhanced their life satisfaction. To start such a practice, simply sit with your eyes closed, concentrate on your breathing and think of someone you love. As you get more comfortable, expand your thoughts to more people you know, then on to strangers and on to the world. Although you will still hear bad world news, you should start to achieve a healthier ability to digest negative information.