Sometimes the task of getting healthy can feel like a giant mountain that's impossible to climb. Most people don't have lives that allow them the time or resources to make radical changes to their diets or exercise routines. Luckily, there are a few easy ways you can be immediately healthier, both mentally and physically.
When I get even a little time to exercise, I feel more balanced, but it's not so easy to grab that time. Each morning I vow to get on the stationary bike before my kids go to school (I don't). Then I promise myself I'll do it after work (I still don't). Then I say I'll sneak it in while I watch TV after dinner (no, still nothing). Suddenly it's 11 p.m. and I fall into bed, exhausted and angry with myself for not exercising. This causes me to fall down a rabbit hole of negative thoughts, which keeps me from falling asleep. You can see how that leads to an unhealthy lifestyle.
In an ideal world, I'd have hours to dedicate to improving my health but that's not my reality, nor is it the reality for others. Making changes a little at a time is way more palatable than a global reset. Here are some other things you can do right now to lead a healthier life.
1. Get Outside
A series of studies by psychology professor Richard Ryan of the University of Rochester showed that spending time outside leads to increased vitality. Need an energy boost? Step outside! Additionally, a 2009 study found that being outside not only rejuvenates the body's oxygen, but that pine and floral scents can be relaxing and even boost the immune system.
According to Psychology Today, Indian yogis discovered that there were physiological and psychological benefits to laughing. As a result, they developed Hasya yoga, where self-initiated laughter would become contagious, bringing genuine laughter to the whole group. Even 10 minutes of laughter a day can improve your health. Hang out with your funniest friends, watch a new comedy on Netflix, download a humorous podcast, and take a little time out of your day to laugh.
3. Practice Gratitude
In an interview with The Today Show, professor of psychology Robert A. Emmons said gratitude can "lower blood pressure, improve immune function, and facilitate more efficient sleep.” The article also notes that gratitude leads to improved heart health, sleep habits, and overall well being. It might take some mental discipline, but there are simple ways to bring gratitude into your daily life.
4. Drink More Water
Here's another no cost way to do something healthy. According to WebMD, adding more water to a daily routine can maintain the balance of body fluids, energize muscles, improve skin, and help with digestion. Eating more fruits and vegetables, which have a high liquid content, helps, too.
Sometimes the best way to destress is to write. According to licensed clinical social worker Maud Purcell, writing for PsychCentral, there are many health benefits from journaling. Writing your thoughts down on a regular basis has been shown to strengthen immune cells and decrease the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Processing stressful events in this way can also help you come to terms with them, which can reduce the effect of these stressors on your physical health.
6. Stand Up
You don't need to undertake triathlon training or join a fancy gym to add some physical activity to your day. In an interview with the BBC, sports physician Dr. Mike Loosemore said that spending three hours a week standing is equivalent to running ten marathons a year. Additionally, advocacy group JustStand noted standing can minimize back pain and has a beneficial effect on muscle tone, blood flow, and metabolism.
7. Spend Time With A Furry Friend
What could be more relaxing than snuggling with a puppy? According to Health, time spent with animals can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as lower blood pressure. If it's a dog that needs to be walked, that takes care of getting some fresh air and exercise, too. Offering to dog- or cat-sit for someone, or asking friends with pets to stop by and play for a little while, can be an alternative to the commitment of full time ownership.