It’s hard work, getting and staying healthy. And with so many different bodies and so many different diets, exercise regimens, and fitness apps all vying for your attention, the world of health can be confusing and intimidating. But the good news is that when it comes to getting healthy and developing better habits, you don’t have to have a fancy diet or spend three hours at the gym. There are a few simple things you can do to live a healthier lifestyle—and you can start doing them today.
Tip #1: Get Enough Sleep
The exact number of hours the average person needs to sleep is pretty widely debated. Some people say eight hours, some people say less. It seems, though, that the National Sleep Foundation is finally putting this debate to rest with a new study that came out after no less than two years of research. The study indicates that your age plays a large part in how much sleep you need. Adults and young adults typically need about seven to nine hours.
These numbers, of course, come with a caveat. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that the amount of sleep a person needs is best measured by—well, by how they feel. Some people may feel better on seven hours of sleep, some people may do better on more.
If you have trouble getting to sleep at night, consider improving your nighttime routine. Stick to a sleep schedule, even on the weekends; develop your own bedtime ritual, like listening to calming music or lighting your favorite scented candles; reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake; and finally, keep away from electronics at least an hour before bed, especially screens that emanate blue light, like cellphones and tablets.
Tip #2: Learn to Enjoy Moving
Thirty minutes of light to moderate exercise a day has been found to improve heart health, sleep quality, creativity, self-confidence, and overall mood. It’s even been found to increase your productivity. Light to moderate exercise can mean anything from taking a brisk walk once a day to having a boogie by yourself in your living room.
The most important thing about consistent exercise, it’s been proven, is to enjoy what you’re doing and to change it up so you don’t get bored. Try different things. Do yoga, jump on a trampoline, walk your dog, go to a silly dance class—anything that makes you move and smile at the same time.
Remember that too much exercise is actually detrimental to your health. If your goal is weight loss, also consider that muscle weighs more than fat and that weight often fluctuates. Take a healthy and balanced approach to weight loss and make sure you don’t over exercise. Always check with your doctor about the right amount of exercise for you.
Tip #3: Learn to Relax
Anxiety is an epidemic in this day and age of constant connectivity. For the very fortunate, relaxing can be as simple as vegging out in front of Netflix for a few hours or getting a pedicure, but a lot of people actually need a little help learning to relax. There are apps to help you with guided meditation techniques, cognitive behavioral therapists to teach you how to deal with anxiety, and supplements on the market that help with relaxation.
Supplements like melatonin, magnesium, valerian root, and vitamin B complex are said to aid in relaxation and stress relief. CBD oil can also be very useful for people with anxiety disorders as well as any number of health problems (and much better for you than smoking). It’s an anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, antioxidant, antiemetic, anxiolytic and antipsychotic agent.
The downside to CBD oil is that the plant it comes from, cannabis, is still considered illegal in a few states (though medical marijuana is legal in many). People who react well to CBD oil might also try detox kits if they’re in states where the use of medical marijuana is illegal.
Tip #4: Do Something New
Psychologist Ben Fletcher, a professor at Hertfordshire University, made a study that suggested changing one thing you do every day helps shake you out of routine and kill bad habits. You can change your route home, for example, or wear your hair a little differently. The idea is that doing something different every day helps you take control of your behaviors. Doing something different helps you break barriers to change, sparks fresh thinking, and studies have shown that it helps people improve their overall health.
Tip #5: Stay Hydrated
Water is something a lot of us take for granted. We’ve all heard the common wisdom that we should drink eight glasses of water or two liters of water a day. But a lot of us forget to hydrate or skip water in favor of sugary drinks and soda.
Water helps you maintain the balance of fluid in your body, and while it may seem counterintuitive, drinking lots of water when you’re bloated actually helps get rid of the bloat. Bloating is often caused by water retention, which happens when you’re not getting enough fluids.
By drinking water instead of fizzy drinks or ultra-sweet coffee, you’re reducing your calorie intake by a lot, as well, which will help you keep you at a healthy weight or help you to lose some excess weight (which can help reduce the risk of heart disease, among other things). Water also helps your muscles recover after exercising, lubricate your joints, and regulate your temperature.
Water keeps your kidneys healthy and in working order. It keeps your skin looking young and can decrease the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. It even helps your bowel movements regular.
To help you get enough water, carry a bottle with you everywhere. Keep a bottle in your car and at your desk. And remember, the bigger your bottle, the more you’re likely to drink!
The most important thing about getting healthy and staying healthy is keeping a positive attitude and forgiving yourself for slipping up every now and then. Be nice to yourselves, please, and every now and then, treat yourself. You’re awesome. It’s the least you can do!