Habits for a Healthy Self (Without Exercise)
Making the commitment towards a healthier you is an arduous journey to begin.
I get it.
Excuses are available in bulk and are easily justified by our rationale.
Maybe you tell yourself the timing is wrong. "I have so much going on right now; I'll make that change once I get more free time."
Or perhaps, you paralyze yourself by overanalyzing where to start. "Should I jump in head first and completely overhaul my lifestyle or change one step at a time?"
The unfortunate truth is that change is hard; really hard.
In fact, not only is change hard, we are remarkably frightened by the notion of it. In the book, The Art of NonConformity, the author, Chris Guillebeau eloquently explicates this connection.
The fear of change is a result of knowing that, no matter the outcome, when something changes, our live's will be different. Knowingly or not, this creates a form of paralysis within us; hindering us from ever even attempting to begin meaningful change. It is only when the pain of making a switch becomes less than the pain of remaining in our current situation, that our mind expands and is willing accept something new.
Think about it. When was the last time you made a real change? What sparked such a sudden switch?
Personally, I changed when the emotional pain psoriasis was inflicting became unbearable. That was when I internally pledged to control the things I could and let go of things I could not. Committing to transforming my body and becoming healthier was my saving grace.
But, that doesn't mean it happened overnight. Every day, I strive to become a happier, healthier, and overall better version of myself.
Change is hard, yes. But it is not impossible.
For some, making real sustainable change requires methodical and intelligent switches introduced slowly over time.
These minuscule switches seamlessly added into your existing daily routine are easy to adhere to and can eventually lead to bigger ones later on. It doesn't even have to include any exercise, at first.
To help you get started on your personal journey, I have laid out five of the smallest and simplest habits I do every day to ensure I am always prioritizing my health and working towards a "better me."
1. Drink 20 ounces of water upon waking
Hydration is one of the most important, but often overlooked, components of living a healthy life.
Our bodies are composed of anywhere from fifty to sixty-five percent water. Responsible for essential bodily functions, water is a vital nutrient for every cell.
Whether water is serving as a shock absorber for the brain and spinal cord, lubricating joints, flushing waste via urination, transporting macronutrients, regulating body temperature, or manufacturing hormones; it is reasonable to say water should be a focal point of your day. Nevertheless, however, approximately 75% of Americans are said to suffer from chronic dehydration.
Dehydration isn't just dry mouth, either. Dehydration can be responsible for energy crashes, food cravings, irritability, and dry skin.
Would you like to take a guess as to when you are most dehydrated? You guessed it, upon waking from a full night of six to eight hours of sleep.
By consuming 20 ounces of water upon waking, you are giving your body the jumpstart it so desperately desires. Adequate hydration in the morning can help increase mental alertness, fend off food cravings, stimulate the digestive system, and an array of other benefits.
Starting your day off in this manner will set you up for easier and more successes as the day progresses.
2. Practice 5 minutes of focused breathing
When was the last time you took five minutes strictly for yourself? Absent of distraction or interruption. Without your kid tugging at your shirt or iPhone pinging to indicate a new message.
Nowadays, everyone has become fixated on how to maximize their time; partaking in the endless quest to master the impossible task of multitasking. From the moment the alarm rips us away from our cozy sheets and deep slumber, we're all systems firing.
Doing so, however, causes us to be incessantly engaged, overly stimulated, and chronically stressed. Leading our sympathetic nervous system to become dominant and its parasympathetic counterpart neglected.
When healthy and optimally functioning, the body toggles back and forth between our two nervous systems to maintain homeostasis, providing the body what it needs for the current situation. The parasympathetic system, known as "rest and digest," enables the body to focus on recovery. In this state, digestion enzymes release, the heart rate lowers, and muscles relax. Giving us the sensation of "calm, cool, and collected." Spending quality time in this state is vital for maintaining long-term health. The sympathetic system, on the other hand, is known as "fight or flight." With the body's central focus on survival, the heart rate elevates, pupils dilate, muscles contract and digestive enzymes cease.
Both nervous systems are vital to optimal human performance and overall health. Focused and mindful breathing gives the brain a much-needed stress break and allows itself to get back into a parasympathetic state.
Practice your five minutes at any point during your day. It can be as soon as you wake up, before you go to bed, or amidst a stressful situation to calm yourself down.
Once you become comfortable with five minutes, you can slowly increase the duration one minute at a time.
3. Stand up at least 3 times per day
Sitting down for extended periods of time is exponentially decreasing your lifespan. It's the cold, harsh truth.
Don't believe me? How's this? Extended periods of sitting have been determined to be so detrimental that you are at a higher risk of dying fifteen years earlier. FIFTEEN years. This was concluded in a study that compared people who sit for six or more hours per day to people who sit for three or fewer hours.
Let that sink in. Rather than passing away peacefully at the age of 80, your time will expire at 65. I don't know about you, but that terrifies every single piece inside of me.
But, if living a full prosperous life isn't enough to make you stand up out of your chair right now, then what about the quality of your life?
No matter how long you live, sitting too often will have damaging effects on how enjoyable those years could be. In a slumped over poor postural position, sitting wreaks havoc on your shoulder and back health. As well as nearly eliminating the chance for any additional caloric expenditure; making it effortless to gain unwanted body fat.
Luckily, addressing and fixing this issue is effortless and costs exactly zero dollars. Simply get up from your desk or couch as much as possible. At an absolute minimum, you should do it three times a day. No exceptions.
To help make this habit stick, I want you to grab your phone right now and open the clock application. If your typical work day is from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, I want you to set three reoccurring alarms for 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, and 3:00 pm.
Every day, when that alarm goes off, I want you to perform any activity. Take a quick walk to the bathroom, go to the break room and grab a glass of water, or spend five minutes to shake out and move your body.
Start this immediately. Incorporating this simple habit just may have the highest ROI.
4. Commit one act of gratitude
Have you ever been complimented by a random stranger completely out of the blue? Maybe it was on your outfit or haircut? Perhaps on your gorgeous blue eyes? Hell, maybe it was just a compliment on your awesome dog.
No matter the praise, how did it make you feel afterward? Probably pretty amazing, right? I'm willing to bet that it made your day a little better and put a smile on your face.
In fact, researchers discovered that the region of the brain that activates when we receive monetary compensation also lights up when we receive a compliment. You read that correctly. To the brain, receiving a compliment is the same as being rewarded money.
It is something that is completely free but yet carries so much weight. The world needs much more of this.
From both angles, after all, complimenting each other is a two-way street. For a healthier life, not only do we need to receive more compliments; we need to express more compliments to those around us. Acts of kindness and gratitude can go a very long way.
Make it a priority to give one person a compliment every day. It can be someone close to you, an old friend, a co-worker you don't interact with much, or a complete stranger. Mix it up.
By paying it forward and making someone else's day better, I promise you that yours will inherently become better because of it too.
5. Put down your phone thirty minutes before bed
We all are well aware by now that sleep is vital to leading a healthy lifestyle. Even if you accomplished all four of the daily habits above, your health would still undoubtedly suffer from an inadequate amount of shut-eye.
Furthermore, it's not just the quantity of sleep that's important, but also the quality. Poor quality slumber will negatively affect your body and health just the same as not getting a sufficient number of hours.
Luckily for you, the culprit that impacts the quantity and the quality of your sleep is one in the same. Blue light.
From a quantitative perspective, exposing to yourself to blue light while you're attempting to fall asleep, via a cell phone or TV, can disrupt your body's natural cycle and eliminate the production of the hormone, melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep.
From a qualitative perspective, once asleep, blue light can impact your ability to reach REM sleep [the deepest stage of sleep needed for recovery] and make it harder to wake up in the morning.
To combat the ill effects of blue light, turn off all devices thirty to sixty minutes before bed. Rather than watching another episode of your newest Netflix obsession or mindlessly scrolling through your social media feeds, spend some time reading. If you absolutely must use your phone, most newer phone models have night time settings that turn off blue light.
Give up blue light for a solid week and pay close attention to how you feel waking up every morning. Chances are, you'll start hitting the snooze button less and less.
Start right now!
These five habits are something that I strive for each and every single day. Am I perfect? Absolutely not. There are plenty of days that I choose Netflix over a book, spend far too much time sitting or fail to drink as much water as I should. But, that is the minority. The majority of the time I am successfully achieving everything listed above. And that is precisely what a healthy lifestyle is about--consistency.
How often do you experience brain fog?