Whether it’s a new year or a new life you’re after, these three are usually included – health, fitness and happiness. January or June, these wishes all turn into various decisions, resolutions and commitments – positive steps to change, and towards improvement…
Unfortunately, many of these resolutions around improvement or change don’t quite manifest, or don’t quite last. While the desire to live our best, healthiest lives is almost always there, well – making those dreams real can get tricky.
There are many reasons for this: scheduling, cost, time, energy…and sometimes just plain ability. It’s challenging to stick to lifestyle changes that represent a radical shift in routine. Old habits tend to die hard, sometimes fighting back on what’s supposed to be their way out of your life.
As the saying goes: “beginning is easy…continuing is hard.”
Today, we’re here to help you both begin AND continue, and it’s going to be simple…
Clearly, the secret to a lasting and successful lifestyle change is to pick something you can easily start right now. Below we’ve got seven things you can start doing – TODAY – to begin your path to a healthier, happier you.
Best of all, these are things you control.
No crazy commitments, no gigantic investments, no back-breaking effort. All these steps are small, but each one counts towards a healthier, fitter and happier you.
You can choose just one, a few, or all of these…but how many is not that important.
As we said, these are easy to keep up, so what’s important is just getting started…
Off we go!
Monitor Your Caffeine Intake
This problem is more common than most people believe.
To some extent, we’re even right there with you…
What could be so wrong with what makes us feel so great (most of the time)?
If you have trouble winding down, falling asleep or getting up, however, you may be consuming too much caffeine. Rephrased, more than you actually need to receive its benefits.
By no means are we suggesting quitting – we’re actually big fans – but just to begin watching your own intake…
Often this suggestion is met with some anticipation and anxiety, as visions of falling fast asleep in public confront you. We’re asking for your trust here, and an understanding that some may be great, but more isn’t always better (source).
In other words, improvement doesn’t always mean something needs to be added…sometimes it’s really better to take something away.
If you’re finding your sleeping and general function suffering, it’s worth a try cutting back on highly caffeinated beverages. This can be done very easily by replacing your afternoon cup (or two) or two of coffee.
As an alternative, tea generally contains less caffeine and also conveys many health benefits. We cover the topic in greater depth in this article.
Plenty of these are just as tasty, and you may find you even like them better!
Unwind (and Unplug) About an Hour Before Bed
This idea is certainly not new…
In fact, it’s something of a classic.
In our current culture, however, it’s great advice – and it’s being followed less often than ever.
Most adults tend to remain wired into technology or other electronic devices right up until bedtime. These days, of course, it starts in college (source) and unfortunately can carry on for life…
Along with afternoon caffeine, this leads to unprecedented challenges in both falling asleep and staying asleep for most of us. In turn, that means a compromise (or even sacrifice) of the following day and this pattern repeats the following night.
To completely wind down and relax before bed, unplug at least an hour before you plan on sleeping. Your chances of success will easily double…
OK – so what does this look like, and how are you supposed to stand it?
Let us first say we understand it may mean an adjustment.
Let’s follow that up, though, by letting you know it will be alright…
Yes – it does mean going offline for the day (mostly).
You’ll let go of Email, YouTube and Social Media – in other words, anything involving visual stimulation, social or business activity.
Where your phone can remain useful, however, is in the realm of sound – and this could actually benefit you greatly.
Try reading or taking a bath while listening to relaxing music, or just enjoy those tunes all on their own. Taking things a step further, you could also try some guided mindfulness or meditation before you drift off…
Trust us. The world will still be there when you wake up.
The best part is you’ll be living that much better the next day, when you’re out there in it!
If you give this one a try and it works, we’ve got more info about unplugging here.
Try Some (Easy) Yoga
Whether it’s before a great day begins or once it’s winding down, you can definitely benefit from some stretching. To make a good beginning on this, we recommend some easy, at-home yoga…
It’s a great way to relieve stress, get fit, and just begin to feel better overall.
If you don’t want to get too mystic about it, no problem.
Just think of it as your “old-school” stretching routine (from about 5,000 years ago) …
As far as benefits go, it’s all low-impact and helps to elongate tight, stressed muscles while bringing them oxygen. As mentioned, it’s also just the thing to relieve stress and achieve relaxation after a long day.
Below are four very simple poses to learn, directions for how to do them:
- Downward Dog
Plant hands and feet on the floor in push-up position. Create an inverted V-shape with your body by elevating your hips in the air while keeping hands and feet planted. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
On all fours, switch between arching your back and looking up and rounding your back and looking down. Perform 10-15 repetitions of each.
- Downward Dog
- Figure Four
Sitting on the floor, cross one leg over the other above the knee. Slowly bending the straight leg, reach through and place your hands on that shin. Continue lifting until you feel a hip stretch. Perform on each side, holding for 20-30 seconds.
Roll over to lay downward on the floor. Place your hands in push-up position on either side of your shoulders, elbows bent. Keeping hips on floor, push up with head up, chest out and shoulders back, stretching your midsection. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
- Figure Four
Overall, this mini-routine takes about 3 minutes to run through, nice and easy…
Consider repeating once or twice, as you like.
If you find you start to develop a taste for it, we’ve got a few more poses for you in this article…
Either way, keep it up!
Eat More Superfoods
In contrast to the above, people try this one pretty often, but it also gets out of hand pretty quickly…
For the record, then: it’s not necessary to completely upend your diet in order to feel better and healthier.
Instead, incorporating just a couple more superfoods into your diet can work wonders.
It’s also very easy to do.
Superfoods generally help with your overall health and energy; most of them also enhance digestion, increase metabolism, and reduce stress source.
Commit to incorporating a new superfood ingredient – anything you want – into at least one of your daily meals. Do this on a weekly basis and get a good rotation of foods going….
Within one month, you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel, and how easy this is to do.
Some popular-yet-simple superfoods you can try:
- Green Tea
- Nuts and Seeds
…and these are just a few.
Remember: food is supposed to be fun, so let your own tastebuds be your guide…
Eat Dinner Earlier
Plenty of us have heard (and said) “don’t eat right before bed”.
In fact, in different forms this phrase is actually a long-standing proclamation from parent to child…
Where did that time-honored advice go, with so many of us now filling up and (basically) passing out (source)?
It may be that few of us actually understand the reasons behind this old saying.
To be fair, the prior generations giving the advice weren’t aware either, but now it’s all pretty clear. Primarily, it’s related to the science of chronobiology – more commonly known as Circadian Rhythm.
While people maintain different schedules, certain metabolic patterns are common to all of us in response to the day/night cycle. This also extends to our cycles of eating, activity and rest.
Metabolically, eating dinner too close to bedtime results in your body not having enough time to digest food properly. Often, this is the real culprit behind bloating, heartburn and other issues.
These are all bothersome in themselves, but of course they also interfere with your getting a good night’s sleep. That means we’ve got the same basic issue as with the unplugging above, but with a slightly different solution.
Even if you happen to go to bed feeling alright when full, it’s still not without long-term consequences. As your wake/sleep cycle shifts, available research indicates you’re less able to keep that food from turning into fat (source).
If you are trying to lose weight – or just generally be healthier – consider making your evening meal a little earlier. For most, an hour or two can make all the difference.
This simple step does more than cooperate with your metabolism to help keep you healthy and fit. It also provides time to prepare and enjoy a balanced, healthy meal before winding down for the night (by unplugging).
See what we did there?
In all seriousness, we really encourage you to give this a try…
It’s amazing the difference just one hour can make!
(also: tips on how to make all this faster and easier are covered in this article)
Practice Daily Mindfulness
Research has consistently shown practicing daily mindfulness results in positive changes to both your brain and your behaviors.
Most people would agree on the subjective, behavioral aspects of mindfulness and/or meditation for making people less stress-prone and happier. Many of us may have known practitioners who swear by the practice, and who certainly seem to have benefitted…
Well beyond that, however, the more interesting aspect is what modern science has to say about it.
These changes seem to include actual increases in the density of all brain areas responsible for compassion and happiness (source). It also results in measurable decreases of all the negative feelings of isolation, stress and anxiety so common nowadays.
We’re thinking this is enough for you to at least want to give it a try…
In our experience, Cultivating Mindful Compassion rises to the top among the best programs available, especially for beginners.
As the saying goes: when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change...
Free Your Mind!
Another popular topic that’s been mentioned in a few of our previous posts
(you’ll find the best one right here)…
It’s so important for overall health and well-being, however, that it deserves some special mention in this article as well.
The majority of Americans have jobs that require they spend much of their day sitting. Also, for many, when they are not sitting at their desks they’re sitting in their car (or train, or bus). In most cases, all this commuting is directly to that desk chair.
Clearly, such amounts of sitting don’t help your posture, and neither does it benefit mind, body or general attitude. Most of us know this part firsthand, but the importance of countering it can get lost…
We’re telling you now: there’s no question.
If you work a sedentary job, it’s highly advisable to get up and walk for a few minutes daily (source). If the weather doesn’t happen to allow for a walk outside, a brief stroll inside works just as well.
Even a short 10-minute walk helps to stretch your muscles and get your blood moving and increase your energy levels. It works every bit as well – and on the whole is better for you – than that afternoon coffee.
Also, out of all of today’s fixes, this one is probably the fastest…
After all, you just stand up and move.
That’s as “anytime, anywhere” as it gets!
And there we have it.
We started this article off nice and easy; we’ll go ahead and finish it that way.
As we promised: the above health, fitness, and wellness improvement ideas are indeed easy to start, and (more importantly) maintain.
No overhaul in schedule.
No classes to attend.
Through these little changes and additions to your day, however, you can see significant results. When it comes to successful self-improvement, it’s almost always the details that make the difference.
Keep that in mind as you look over these and decide which to try first.
Most importantly, though: start TODAY!