As we start the new year, we often set our new year’s resolutions with complicated goals and hopes that this year will be the year we focus on our health. What if I told you that improved health can come from 5 easy, uncomplicated steps….some of which we’ve heard before. Although we may not realize the true benefits, these steps are some of the keys to better health! No gym equipment or special shoes required.
- Breathe! We often live hurried lives and the first thing to hurry is our breath. Slow it down. Take a few breaks throughout the day to check-in with your breath. Are you breathing so fast that the air can’t even make it down to fully fill your lungs? Or, are you holding your breath when you are feeling stressed without even noticing it? Try taking a deep breath that fully fills you. Let your lower abdomen expand as it fills with fresh breath and then pause for a count of 2 before letting your breath out through your nose. If it helps, place your hands below your belly button to feel your lower abdomen expanding as you breathe in and flattening as you exhale. Deep breathing can switch on our parasympathetic nervous system. This in turn, elicits a relaxation response in our bodies which is when our bodies go into healing and repair mode. Practice so that it becomes your norm. This is how we were born breathing but without knowing switch to chest breathing which actually strains your muscles and can cause shoulder and neck pain from overusing smaller accessory muscles. Go back to the baby days. Breathing deeply, using your belly instead of your chest. Start now!
- Drink more Water. Most people are walking around in a dehydrated state. One of the easiest ways to meet your daily water intake is to start the morning with a few glasses of water. During the night, we tend to become dehydrated so waking and replenishing our fluids is vital. Consider drinking half of your body weight in ounces. If you exercise, sweat, drink caffeine, take certain medications or breast-feed, you may need to increase to more than half of your body weight in ounces. Try filtered water like Reverse Osmosis for clean water without toxins or chemicals.
- Get enough Sleep. “Yeah, yeah” I hear you saying…. but it’s true! Getting enough sleep is directly linked to a healthier body and mind. When we sleep our body restores and our cells become rejuvenated, our mind reboots and clears out the junk. Better sleep not only helps your energy levels but can help your mood as well as your weight. Aim for at least 8 hrs a night and note how you feel. Some need more than 8 hrs, particularly children.
- Laugh and Connect. Research shows a direct link between laughter and the increase of happy hormones in our bodies. Want to feel happier and healthier, find ways to connect with others and better yet…find ways to connect with others and laugh with them! Ha!
- Eat whole foods. Don’t have time to cook. No problem. Chop up some veggies and have a salad. Wash and peel some fruit. I’m not saying that we should omit some cooked meals, I’m just saying that the old excuse that we need to go drive-thru because we don’t have food and are in a rush won’t cut it anymore! Pack or buy a salad, grab some nuts, veggies or fruit and bring along for those moments of hunger. Consider using your slow-cooker to make healthy meals without having to stand by the stove-top all day. Plan and cook a few meals on Sunday or whatever day you can spare extra time and pack those foods for the week. Use organic whenever possible. Reduce the use of anything that comes in a box or has a label. Like I tell my boys, “If it grows on the soil or a tree it’s probably great!”
Of course, I can think of a few more keys that would be great additions to a healthier and happier year…like exercising (using gym equipment or special shoes 😉 ) but start with these 5 keys for now and after these are a habit, let’s add on some more. To your happiest & best health!