Never has the old saying “Health is wealth” rung truer than today, when becoming and staying healthy have become more challenging for most of us. Our plugged-in lifestyles keep us sedentary, and the need to constantly keep up with priorities, tasks, and deadlines ensures stress is just around the corner.
This is where healthy lifestyle habits can make a significant difference. By adopting these early on, we don’t have to wind up suffering from disease and disability. Plus, taking charge of our health isn’t a complicated process at all. Even little tweaks like learning how to sleep better will help us lead healthier and more productive lives.
To help you achieve just that, here are five everyday habits to jump-start your journey to a healthier lifestyle:
1. Get enough sleep
Quality sleep is crucial to our well-being and how efficiently we function. When we sleep, the brain has time to reset by clearing away the mental debris of the day. This is also the time when it restores nerve networks, so by the time we wake up, we feel alert, refreshed, and energized for the day.
However, a lot of people struggle with getting sufficient snooze time. And we all know what happens when we don’t get enough sleep — it leads to:
- Lack of focus
- Slow reaction times
Studies have shown that the long-term consequences of sleep deprivation in otherwise healthy persons include low immunity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, weight gain, dyslipidemia (abnormal or high lipid count), and hypertension. Chronic inadequate sleep has also been known to increase one’s risk of developing certain cancers, depression and anxiety, and a variety of gastrointestinal disorders.
To prevent these potential threats from developing, try to get seven to nine hours of regular sleep (longer for kids and adolescents). If you have trouble dozing off, try to stay off digital devices at least an hour or so before bedtime.
Make your sleeping area conducive to sleep by keeping the room temperature optimal — about 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit or 15.5 to 19 degrees Celsius. Consider installing blackout curtains if you are sensitive to light, change your pillows, and use a natural mattress for a more comfortable, restful sleep.
2. Start moving
Whether it’s walking, hiking, yoga, Zumba, running, or biking, regular exercise is an essential aspect of a healthy lifestyle. It not only helps with weight management but also improves one’s mood, helps control appetite, and supports quality sleep.
Other long-term gains of routine physical activity include a reduced risk of developing life-threatening health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and stroke. It also helps with maintaining healthy muscles, bones, and joints.
All you need is 15 to 30 minutes of exercise five to six days a week. It doesn’t have to be intense, as even just a brisk 30-minute walk is sufficient. If you can’t exercise daily, you can walk or bike to work (if it’s within reasonable distance) or take the stairs whenever you can.
3. Eat healthy and mindfully
Energy intake or eating is a bigger factor in weight loss than exercise. What we eat pretty much determines how healthy (or unhealthy) we are.
For a diet to be considered healthy, there are certain recommendations you can follow:
- Have as much variety in your meals as possible. Try to include more fruits and vegetables, some whole grains, and dairy (not unless you have certain food intolerances). For protein, go for fish (especially fatty fish for their omega-3 fatty acids), lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts.
- Read food labels and choose products that have little to no saturated fat, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), refined grains, artificial sweeteners, and added sugar.
- Choose nutrient-dense foods or foods that are low-calorie yet rich in nutrients, such as shellfish, salmon, potatoes, kale, quinoa, and nuts.
- Exercise portion control at all times, so you don’t have to deprive yourself. Prioritize vegetables and fruits as these are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fibre.
- Chew your food thoroughly to reduce it into its most digestible form and ensure the body absorbs the nutrients you need — not to mention that doing so can help to control your calorie intake.
4. Drink adequate amounts of water
Staying hydrated is crucial to overall wellness as water is a crucial element in all our bodily systems. Although we’ve been told by our folks to drink eight glasses of water every day, this need usually increases the more physically active we are.
If you’re wont to forget drinking water especially while at work, keep a drinking bottle on your table and resolve to drink from it regularly. Bring a water bottle with you while on the go, as well. And since there’s no clear scientific basis for how much water is enough for health, listen to your body. When you feel thirsty, drink.
Additionally, avoid getting your fluids from sugary or caffeinated beverages, such as soda, energy drinks, and juices as these not only will add to your thirst, but also contain empty calories.
5. Learn to manage stress
Stress is part of life. It’s a survival mechanism that has helped compel humans to find solutions to their everyday problems. However, when stress becomes chronic, it can do a lot of harm.
Stress affects nearly all the systems of the human body. It can affect how the body produces hormones, what and how much we eat, and the quality of our sleep. Chronic stress can lead to cardiovascular disease and other health conditions. It also affects people emotionally and leads to anxiety and mood disorders.
To manage stress, you can practice the healthy habits mentioned above, plus the following:
- Try to cultivate a positive mindset.
- Practice self-care and pamper yourself.
- Strive to do better next time.
- Reach out; talk to friends and family.
- Accept that there are things you have no control over.
- Avoid unhealthy habits such as smoking and alcohol dependence.
- Learn some relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, etc.
- Challenge yourself and learn new things.
Adopting a healthier lifestyle is not complicated at all.
However, it does require focus, commitment, and discipline. So, if you want to enjoy your life well into old age, start now and you’ll be reaping the benefits sooner than you think.