It’s no secret healthy habits are important and necessary for a life of well-being. But according to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-being Index, in 2017, Americans still had a poor state of wellness, despite more access to wellness services than ever.
Remember, however, that health and wellness is not just about weight or blood work. It incorporates all aspects of a person including mental, emotional, spiritual and physical elements. For some, improving healthy living seems overwhelming, complicated or too hard to work into a busy life, but it helps to take the pressure off by breaking it down to small things and incremental change.
Fortunately, achieving a better state of wellness might be easier than you think. Research has found several activities that are simple to implement, enjoyable and effective for improving overall health and wellness. These ideas might even have you saying “I can totally do that.”
LAUGH A LITTLE MORE
When was the last time you had a really good laugh? Purposely looking for fun and laughter in your day might feel indulgent, but it’s actually very important. Researchers found “humor is not only entertaining, it’s replenishing.” It’s so powerful, in fact, it can positively impact personal persistence, whether at work, in fitness, achieving a goal or in any personal situation.
Humor is vital for recovery in the everyday stress of life. Next time you are tackling an intense project at work, schedule a laugh break by watching a funny YouTube video or a family video. You may find you return to your work refreshed and ready for the next challenge.
If exercising feels more like a chore or your motivation is lacking (which happens to everyone at some point), humor can be the secret weapon to help you stick to it. Instead of listening to music during your workout, try a funny podcast. Personally, I’ve been listening to The Popcast and it truly makes the time fly because I’m laughing so hard.
We all know drinking water is good for your body, but it can also change your outlook. Research suggests that when you are even mildly dehydrated, you might experience more fatigue, feelings of depression, anger and confusion than when properly hydrated. Simply staying hydrated throughout the day can help you feel more energized, positive and clear-headed.
One of the best, quick-reference ways to know if you are hydrated is the color of your urine. Pale yellow-to-clear is ideal and means you are likely adequately hydrated. If your urine is dark or smells of your last beverage, say coffee, it’s time to drink some pure water.
EAT BLUE EVERY DAY
In an ideal world, we’d aim for 7–11 servings of vegetables and fruit a day (recommended to reduce cancer risk), however, most of us aren’t even getting the bare minimum of five servings. That’s where the ever versatile and so-darn-simple-to-eat blueberry comes in.
Besides washing, blueberries require zero preparation, making them easy to include in any meal or a simple snack, especially on the go. They are also a good source of fiber, helping you feel full and stay regular. In addition, blueberries are currently being studied for their impact on cardiovascular health, insulin response, brain health, cancer research and the gut microbiome. So, while the evidence is limited at this time on the full health benefits, blueberries provide a hassle-free way to eat well and work for your whole well-being.
PAUSE AND BREATHE
We all probably know it’s good to take a deep breath when we’re stressed, but you might not realize just how powerful the effect can be. Research now suggests deep breathing can benefit your brain and literally flip the switch on your body’s operating system.
Specifically, deep breathing for 5–9 minutes has been shown to actually change your brain waves, shifting your body from the sympathetic (fight or flight) system to the parasympathetic system (a restorative response). This could mean you are able to think more clearly and stay grounded in the face of stressful situations.
If sitting quietly and breathing seems like an impossible task, let technology help you. Apps like The Breathing App and Breathing Zone count breaths for you or enable Deep Breath on Alexa to guide you through. To ensure the best, most efficient experience, turn your mobile phone to “do not disturb” and silence your computer. Take this one step further by scheduling a breathing break in your day to help manage stress. A great time to do this might be right before you head home for the day or pick up your kids.
BECOME A WALKER
Incorporating more movement in your day is important for your health and wellness, but it doesn’t always need to be intense to be effective. In fact, going for a short walk before indulging in anything could be a helpful tactic for setting yourself up to make better choices. A study found 15 minutes of walking helped lessen food cravings and reduced some of the stress people experience related to them.
Make your walk even more impactful by going with a friend and talking. Regular group walks, even those considered “low intensity” have been effective at improving many aspects of health including lower blood pressure, better cholesterol and lower risk of depression.
Do these strategies seem doable for you? Pick one to implement this week and cultivate a higher state of wellness in your life.