We all want to live a long and healthy life, so here are 10 recommendations that will increase your health and well-being. Small changes can make a big difference in how you feel each day, so try out a few of these healthy living tips and see for yourself!
10 Tips for Healthy Living
- Eat breakfast
- Consider a gluten-free diet
- Laughter is the best medicine
- Drop a few pounds
- Join a group
- Mental stimulation
- Eat your fruits and vegetables
- Take your vitamins
- Manage your stress
1. Eat breakfast
Nearly all nutritionists and dietitians recommend that you start your day with a hearty breakfast that includes both protein and carbohydrates. Numerous research studies show that people who eat breakfast have more energy, better concentration and consume fewer calories throughout the rest of the day. Skipping breakfast can put you at risk for low blood sugar, and this can make you more likely to reach for unhealthy treats during your morning break. Though donuts or candy bars can give you a quick boost, they will not replace the solid nutrition that a good breakfast can provide, and can lead to metabolic issues. Here are some examples of a good breakfast that will carry you through the morning:
- Soft-boiled egg with a corn tortilla and fresh salsa
- Steel cut oats with chopped apples, walnuts, and raisins, topped with soy milk
- Gluten-free rice cake with peanut butter and sliced bananas
- Smoothie made with plain yogurt, fruit, and carrot juice
It’s very important for your health to get regular exercise. Exercise has been shown to increase blood flow to your brain, and strengthen your heart and lungs. In addition, regular exercise is great for bone density, and can improve your mood.
Fortunately, many studies have shown that it is not necessary to run a marathon or swim a mile every day. What is important is to try to squeeze in at least 20 or 30 minutes of exercise each day, and this can be broken up into 10-minute sessions throughout the day. So, start small, and begin by trying to walk at least one mile each day. This can be accomplished by taking a brisk walk around the block before work, and then again at lunch. Take the stairs whenever you can, and deliberately park far away from the stores when you are running errands. Ask a friend to join you for a walk on the weekend, and it won’t even feel like exercise at all.
A pedometer or a fitness band can be a great investment if you would like to become more active. These devices keep track of your steps, calories burned, distance traveled, and even can track the amount of REM sleep you get each night. Set reasonable goals (say 8,000 steps per day) and then work your way up. You can also set up group goals, and encourage yourself and your friends to meet your fitness goals, since many of these devices connect seamlessly to an app on your phone or can be accessed through the web.
3. Consider a gluten-free diet
If you have Celiac Disease, you must avoid eating foods with gluten for the rest of your life. However, many people have a sensitivity to gluten that is not easily diagnosed. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, gluten sensitivity can lead to a wide variety of health issues, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, low testosterone, migraines, anxiety, rashes, and other autoimmune responses. So, if you are experiencing any of these health issues, it may make sense to try a gluten free diet for a few months, and avoid all products that contain wheat, barley and rye. This includes all normal’ types of bread, cereal, pasta and many snacks like pretzels, crackers, and pizza.
This website includes some good resources for gluten-free eating. The most difficult thing about eating gluten-free is avoiding all of the hidden sources of gluten, such as food additives, starches, food coloring, flavoring, etc. So, we recommend that you do some research about a gluten-free lifestyle and read the labels of all items you consume, in order to maintain a gluten-free diet. If in doubt, it is generally safe to eat a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, rice, beans, and lean cuts of beef, chicken, pork or seafood. Most processed foods that do not explicitly state they are gluten free’, will contain some sort of gluten in them. You will probably need to eat gluten free for at least one month or longer, to see if there any noticeable benefits. But some people feel better immediately, once gluten is out of their system.
4. Laughter really is the best medicine
Having a positive attitude is extremely important for healthy living. Most of us lead busy lives, and have many responsibilities, though, which can lead to stress. One of the best ways to reduce stress is by laughing. If you have a fun group of friends, a night out with them can do wonders to improve your mood and will boost your immune system at the same time. Even if you are alone, you can find ways to laugh by watching a comedy sitcom on TV, reading some jokes, watching silly pet videos on YouTube, or calling a friend. Some studies have even proven that forcing yourself to laugh can have significant benefits. So, find something to laugh at every day to relax your body, reduce pain, release endorphins, improve your blood flow, decrease stress hormones, and increase your ability to focus.
5. Drop a few pounds
According to the World Health Organization, at least a third of adults are overweight. Carrying this extra weight around can have a negative impact on your health, causing cardiovascular problems, stroke, diabetes, and certain types of cancer (like breast and colon cancer). Fortunately, losing even a few pounds can lead to measurable improvements in your health. There is no need to go on a crash diet, which rarely works anyway. Replace any soda pop with water, skip the bread and butter, and eat fresh fruit and vegetables every day. By following these simple steps, you can reasonably expect to lose a pound a week.
Losing 5 to 10 pounds can have the following benefits:
- Lowers your total cholesterol by ten percent, by increasing your HDL (good cholesterol) levels.
- Lowers your blood pressure by a few points of more,
- Reduces your risk of sleep apnea, and can help you sleep better.
- Less joint pain – every one pound of weight leads to 3 pounds of pressure on your knees. By losing 10 pounds you save your knees, ankles and hips from about 30 pounds of pressure.
- Lowers the amount carcinogenic hormones circulating in your body, reducing your risk for certain types of cancer.
- Lowers the amount of medication you may need to treat diabetes or high blood pressure.
6. Join a group
Humans are social beings, and we all need to feel connected to a group or cause. This can give us a deep sense of belonging that is essential to our well-being and mental health. So, make time to join a group and participate regularly. The options are endless, from joining a book group, political cause, or church, to sports teams, local meet-ups, a theater group or hiking club. Pick an activity that you enjoy, and you will quickly make new friends based on your shared passions.
Even if you don’t have time to regularly participate in a group, consider volunteering one day per month at a local school, homeless shelter, humane society, or museum. Volunteering can give you a deep, personal sense of satisfaction, that can be a real boost to your mental health. Volunteering is also a great way to gain life experience, meet diverse people, and find out what really motivates you.
7. Mental stimulation
It turns out, the old adage ‘use it or lose it’ is true. In order to maintain a healthy brain, and help prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s, it is essential to keep your brain active. Studies show that mentally challenging activities increase the brain’s ability to maintain the connection between neurons in your brain, and to even create new neurons that will help maintain these connections. Brain exercise means doing activities that require you to solve problems and that provide an increased level of challenge over time. So, you can do crosswords or sudoku puzzles, but they must become increasingly more difficult in order for your brain to continue to be stimulated. Other ways to accomplish this include playing games like bridge, Scrabble, or chess; learning to play a musical instrument, picking up a new language, or enrolling in continuing education classes or discussion groups at a local community college. Computer-based cognitive games can be a good way to squeeze in some mental stimulation while you are on the subway, or waiting between appointments. Even driving home a different way can stimulate your brain, so pick a new route home today!
8. Eat your fruits and vegetables
Your mom wasn’t wrong! Fruits and vegetables are essential for a healthy life, because they are the best source of a wide variety of vitamins and micro-nutrients, as well as antioxidants and fiber. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, a diet that contains a wide variety of fruits and vegetables can help reduce your risk of cancer, lower blood pressure, keep your blood sugar levels steady, prevents snacking on unhealthy foods (due to the fiber that makes you feel full), lessens constipation, and can reduce your risk of cardiovascular issues and strokes.
The best types of produce to eat are those that are brightly colored, or a deep dark green. Skip the iceberg lettuce, and try new greens including kale, swiss chard, beet greens and collard greens. When you are at the grocery store, make an effort to pick out a new fruit or vegetable each time you shop. Variety is key to getting the widest possible range of nutrients. Also, even if you are not a vegetarian, it’s wise to skip eating meat at least twice per week. Try these vegetarian options instead:
- Veggie fajitas with sliced Portobello mushrooms, onion, bell peppers and zucchini
- Cajun-style red beans and rice
- Homemade lentil or split green pea soup
- Gluten-free pasta tossed with fresh tomatoes, basil and shredded parmesan cheese
- Grilled cheese sandwiches with a garden vegetable salad
- Veggie stir-fry with broccoli, julienne carrots, onions, and green beans, served over rice
9. Take your vitamins
We could fill an encyclopedia with the amount of conflicting information about vitamins. But, most experts agree that it is very difficult to get all the vitamins you need from your diet alone. Even if you make very healthy food choices, there will still be gaps in the nutrients you need to stay healthy. And frankly, most of us do not have a perfect diet.
We all have different needs though, based on our gender, existing health issues, lifestyle, and stress levels, to name a few. So, this tip will take some research on your part to determine what your dietary and nutritional deficiencies are. If you constantly get colds in the winter, you may need extra vitamin C and zinc. If you are a woman and suffer from premenstrual syndrome, you may benefit from Vitamin E and primrose oil. And if you have gastrointestinal issues, you may need additional B-Vitamins, like thiamine, niacin and biotin, as well as Vitamin D. In fact, many physicians now recommend Vitamin D for most of their patients. If you live anywhere north of Los Angeles’ latitude, you do not get enough Vitamin D from the sun, and it is nearly impossible to get enough from your diet.
You know yourself best. Take some time to do some research on conditions that may be impacting your health, and pick up a few new vitamins. Taking a multivitamin can’t hurt either.
10. Manage your stress
One of the most important things you can do for your overall health is to learn to manage your stress levels. Stress is a natural part of life, and can motivate us to do our best. But, too much stress can be very detrimental to your health, causing high blood pressure, headaches, vision problems, insomnia, anxiety and depression, to name a few conditions. So, take control of your health and your stress levels by learning some stress management strategies. Start by clearing your calendar of unnecessary obligations, and getting regular exercise, which will naturally increase your endorphins. Then, learn how to relax. This can be very difficult for most of us, and will require some practice. Here are some ideas for you to try:
- Take a yoga class that ends with guided meditation.
- Listen to your favorite music, and visualize what the music is ‘saying’ to you.
- Sit is a warm bath and light some candles.
- Learn how to meditate or practice deep breathing.
- Take a walk and contemplate nature.
- Take charge of your health today, by trying a few of these tips!
What are your tips for healthy living? We would love to hear about them below in the comments.