We’ve all been there: After a long day at the office, you pick up takeout on the way home, zone out in front of the TV and fall asleep scrolling through your social media feed. It can happen to the best of us, but the lack of a healthy evening routine can be a serious saboteur when it comes to accomplishing your overall wellness goals.
However, getting into a solid groove while juggling work obligations, family time and a social life is often easier said than done. Incorporate these seven easy tweaks into your daily schedule to establish a positive post-work routine — one that will benefit you for the long term.
1. PREPARE MEALS AHEAD OF TIME
After a stressful day at work, the last thing you want to do is spend hours cooking a healthy, nutritionally balanced gourmet meal — which is exactly what drives so many of us to the calorie-laden takeout menu. Rather than give in to temptation, get the best of both worlds by preparing healthy meals ahead of time. A little meal prep on the weekends will mean avoiding those diet derailers and coming home to a healthy, balanced, microwavable meal.
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2. EAT EARLY
Having your meals prepped ahead of time will also help you eat earlier, which is a much healthier alternative to late-night meals. According to the most recent research, it’s best to have the bulk of your daily calories by 3 p.m., and when it comes to your final meal, the earlier you eat, the better. Aim to cut off your calorie intake a few hours before you fall asleep so your body has plenty of time to digest.
3. TAKE YOUR VITAMINS
Taking a multivitamin may seem like take-it-or-leave-it advice, but according to the Environmental Working Group, you’re better off taking it. According to their estimates, almost half of adults aren’t getting enough of vitamins A, C, D and E, calcium and magnesium. To work this health booster into your daily ritual (and nix any nausea that sometimes comes from taking supplements) take your vitamins with your evening meal.
4. SKIP THE NIGHTCAP
As tempting as an after-work cocktail can be, it’s not good for your sleeping habits — that grogginess that comes with a glass of wine is really a false sense of sleepiness. Research shows that alcohol negatively impacts the quality of your sleep, so even if you drift off easier, you won’t get as many restful zzz’s.
5. SCHEDULE SOME ME TIME
If your brain is still buzzing long after you’ve left the office, make time to decompress from the stress of the day. Whether that means listening to a guilty pleasure podcast on your way home, committing to a candlelit yoga class or scheduling regular sunset runs, “me time” is an essential part of a healthy evening groove.
6. DO A DIGITAL DETOX
Aside from the sleep-disrupting stress that accompanies answering emails and scrolling through your newsfeed late into the night, it’s the light from your phone that can really prevent you from getting solid sleep. Your screens — including your TV, phone, tablet and laptop — all emit a frequency of blue light that messes with your body’s melatonin production, which is the chemical responsible for lulling you to sleep. Most experts recommend unplugging an hour before bed, but if you can’t break the habit, at least activate an app or setting on your device that will swap the harsh blue light for a more natural (and bedtime-friendly) reddish hue.
7. GET TO BED
The most important part of your nighttime ritual is actually, you know, getting to bed. Most experts recommend getting seven to eight hours of sleep — a goal that seems nearly impossible to many of us. To work toward it, treat your bedtime with the same level of priority you give your regular workouts. To help keep you accountable, enlist a “bedtime buddy,” who can help you stave off bedtime procrastination the same way your workout buddy makes sure you show up at the gym.
Written by Macaela Mackenzie, a writer based in New York City with a passion for all things active. To see Macaela’s latest work, visit macaelamackenzie.com.