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13 Uncomplicated Steps to Becoming a Healthier Person Today

From closing the blinds to creating special zones in your home, these strategies can boost your overall wellbeing.

13 simple steps on how to get healthy, healthy lifestyle advice and nutrition tips
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If you’ve been more focused on your health lately, you’re certainly not alone. An annual survey conducted by Mindbody Wellness Index found that 65% of Americans are paying more attention to their wellness as a result of the pandemic. Yet embracing a healthier lifestyle involves more than making smarter food choices. The true journey to becoming a healthier individual lies in developing routines and habits that will nourish you physically, mentally and spiritually. Here are the steps to take as you embark on a new path.

1. Allow yourself to shift a smidge

When we feel bad, mad or sad, it's easy to get stuck there. But simply letting yourself move slightly out of your frame of mind can set you up to be much happier. Gabby Bernstein, motivational speaker and #1 New York Times best-selling author of nine books including her latest Happy Days, suggests reminding yourself that it’s good to feel good. “Now this is not to say that feeling good is easy. We can’t just snap our fingers and go from complete despair to utter joy — nor should we,” she says. “However, if we can learn to find the next-best feeling in any given situation, then that willingness to feel good is enough to keep us in a high vibration.” For example, if you find yourself feeling bored, irritated or overwhelmed, think of a few things that are going well right now (Bernstein plays something she calls The Appreciation Game) or reach out to a friend, colleague, neighbor or family member for support. You might even ask if there’s anything you can do for them, since being of service has been shown to boost the giver’s health and happiness, according to a meta-analysis published in the journal Psychological Bulletin.

2. Do some mental yoga

Practicing what psychologists call "cognitive flexibility" can help manage everyday stressors and irritations, says Sheela Raja, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist, associate professor at University of Illinois at Chicago and author of The Resilient Teen. “Cognitive flexibility involves the ability to look at a situation from a lot of different angles,” she says.

Let's say you replay a bothersome interaction (perhaps an angry person had a few choice words for you while waiting in line at the grocery store). You feel yourself getting pissed off just thinking about it! Take a deep breath, and do something tactile, like washing your hands in warm water to relax and center yourself. Then try shifting to view it from an angle other than your own. “Think about what might have led them to that point, like their own bad day or some bad news,” she says. “It’s not about always letting people off the hook — it’s about calming your mind and body down enough to know what to do next and how to handle things more mindfully on your end. In turn, this technique builds your empathy for other people, which can help you take things less personally, ultimately decreasing your stress.”

3. Be your own cheerleader

Focusing on positive affirmations (a.k.a. brief uplifting phrases) each day is a ritual that Bernstein says has changed her life. "Creating a practice of reciting positive affirmations is a transformational way to bring your thoughts, energy and body back to peace,” she writes in Happy Days. Four of her favorite go-to affirmations include, “The Universe has my back,” “I am safe in my body,” “Everything is working out for me” and “I am truly taken care of.” Research has found that affirmations may minimize stress, increase wellbeing, improve academic performance and make people more open to positive behavioral changes, and a study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience suggested that self affirmations can stimulate areas in the brain that led to decreased sedentary behavior.

“You will know an affirmation is ‘right’ for you when it just feels good to say it out loud,” adds Bernstein.

woman smiling at herself in mirror
Kathrin Ziegler

4. Think small when it comes to exercise

“Small attainable goals are the best way to establish new habits into your daily routine and motivate yourself to keep going,” says Katie Dunlop, C.P.T., C.S.N., founder & CEO Love Sweat Fitness. She encourages giving yourself 10 minutes a day to do something physically active, whether it’s walking, stretching or doing a short HIIT workout. Then, challenge yourself by making new fitness goals over time. “I spent years trying to stick to extreme workout programs that never stuck and left me feeling worse,” says Dunlop. “But I finally realized the most important thing I could do was just move.” (If you’re looking for an online instructor to keep you motivated, Dunlop offers free daily at-home 10-minute workouts.)

5. Start with easy stuff that you enjoy

If joining a gym or taking a spinning class feels intimating, don’t do it. Instead, find activities you already like (maybe power walking around your neighborhood or dancing in your living room) and go from there. “I am all for challenging ourselves, but when you’re getting into a new routine and lifestyle, it's all about convenience,” says Dunlop. “If it's not convenient, it won't last.”

6. Pretty up your plate

“The simplest, most effective way to optimize your health is to include the colors of the rainbow through fruits and vegetables in your weekly food routine,” says Sarah Koszyk, M.A., R.D.N., registered dietitian sports dietitian and author of 25 Anti-Aging Smoothies for Revitalizing, Glowing Skin. She explains that both fruits and veggies are rich in fiber (which fills us up and helps aid in digestion), as well as antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, all of which support the immune system. Since each vibrant color offers different nutritious benefits, she recommends adding at least one color from a fruit and/or vegetable on your plate at every meal in order to nourish your body. “Perhaps focus on having something red on Monday, orange on Tuesday, yellow on Wednesday, etc., so that over the course of the week, you’ve consumed every color.”

colorful vegetables and fruits vegan food in rainbow colors arrangement full frame
TONO BALAGUER

7. Eat more omega-3s

“Studies have shown omega-3s [a type of fat the body cannot make on its own] can reduce depression and anxiety and improve brain health, while other studies have shown omega-3s reduce the risk of heart disease,” states Koszyk. Plus, these essential fatty acids can also improve eye health, reduce the risk of macular degeneration, reduce inflammation and improve skin health. Eating 4-ounces of fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, at least three times a week will provide the essential fats DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), while tossing chia seeds, hemp seeds, ground flax meal, walnuts or edamame into a smoothie, oatmeal, yogurt or salad will offer ALA (alpha-linolenic), the type of “good” fat found in plants.

8. Order! Order in your space!

A messy house can stress you out, while organizing your home or office makes for a more calming space and may even be associated with higher activity levels, one study from Indiana University found. Decluttering and getting things in order can also encourage better rest and more productivity, says Raja. “Human beings respond to cues in the environment,” she explains. “If you have a desktop or workspace — even a small one — where things are clean, and the tools you need to do work are readily available (like pens and a laptop), it’s a signal to your mind that it is time to concentrate.” And with more people working from home than ever before, creating a dedicated work zone under your roof is a must. “So no laptop on the couch or on your bed — those zones are for resting.”

9. Go dark

It’s no secret that adequate sleep (which is between seven to nine hours a night, according to the Sleep Foundation) is vital for physical, emotional and mental wellbeing, and now researchers from Northwestern University have recently discovered that ambient lighting could be harming your health. The reason: A moderately lit room during sleep can activate the nervous system and impair glucose and cardiovascular regulation — risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. The senior study author advises wearing an eye mask or shutting the curtains (even installing blackout shades) if your bedroom receives too much natural outdoor light.

10. Practice mindful eating

Say goodbye to eating on-the-go. “Mindful eating includes slowing down as we eat by taking the time to chew thoroughly and savor the flavors of the foods,” explains Koszyk. Eating at a slower pace also allows the brain to receive the “I’m full” message from the stomach, which gives the body a natural solution to controlling portion size. One way to increase mindful eating in your nutrition plan is to enjoy meals without distractions, which means turning off the TV and silencing the phone, says Koszyk. “Also, place the utensils down between bites — yes, this can be hard to do, yet it’s highly effective — to slow down how fast you eat. If you’re dining with others, keep the conversation going so the eating experience lasts longer.”

11. Just move — even if you're not "exercising"

Moving throughout the day, says Dunlop, “is such an important, yet often overlooked, part of starting a healthy routine.” That means looking for ways to sneak in a bit of motion here and there, such as doing squats in the kitchen as you wait for the coffee to brew, stretching your legs as you brush your teeth or making several trips to the car to unload the groceries, rather than trying to do it all in one swoop. “Adding more physical activity into your day will increase endorphins, as well as improve flexibility, mobility and strength,” she continues.

close up of a senior woman exercising at home
Marko Geber

12. Cut negative people loose

You might have a few people in your circles that take way more from you emotionally than they offer. Review your support system, suggests Raja. “We need different people for different things — those who give us emotional support, those who are willing to lend a hand and those who are fun to hang out with and bring out the best in us,” she says. If you realize that someone in your circle fails to meet any of these support needs, it might be time to set some new boundaries. “As a result, this could mean decreasing contact with them and eventually letting them go.” This strategy may even add years to your life: One UCLA study found that stressful friendships can increase production of the protein cytokine that causes inflammation, which could increase your chances of being diagnosed with a chronic condition, such as heart disease. “After all, you only get so much time in your life — it’s important to choose who you spend your time with.”

13. Have a daily sit-down with yourself

Yes, the ancient practice of meditation can do wonders for your mind and body. The numerous benefits that may come from meditating each day, says Bernstein, include reducing stress and anxiety, unleashing creativity and increasing lifespan. Furthermore, the National Institutes of Health reports that meditation has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and flare-ups in people who have been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and help ease insomnia.

And it doesn't need to be a big to-do. “Your meditation can be as simple as sitting comfortably with one hand on your heart and another hand on your belly,” explains Bernstein. “If you want to make joy a part of your reality, inhale and say silently to yourself, ‘I am in joy.’ As you breathe out, say, ‘I am at peace.’” She suggests repeating this cycle for at least 10 breaths. (For a guided session, check out her five-minute positive energy meditation.)

“By feeling it and envisioning it, you become it.”

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