How to be healthy
You don’t have to take drastic measures to be healthy. In fact, small lifestyle changes are more effective in the long run than sudden changes in eating or exercise habits. Taking a small step today is far less overwhelming than overhauling your diet or activity program, and probably has more impact than you think. A few minutes of sunshine or physical activity can make a big difference in your mood and overall well-being – and that kind of positive response can reinforce healthy habits.
Try one of these “little things” today.
1. Get outside
According to a 2019 study, people who spend two hours a week in green spaces – local parks or other natural environments – are more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than people who spend less time in nature. It doesn’t matter whether the two hours are spent in one sitting or spread out over several short trips; time in nature can lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, improve mood and boost immune system function.
2. Move your body
We all know that exercise is linked to good health. But you don’t have to run a marathon or go to the gym to reap the benefits of physical activity. Any form of body movement can improve mood, flexibility and strength. Simply getting up from your desk chair and taking a five-minute walk can improve circulation and creativity. Dancing in your kitchen and gardening (or dancing in your garden!) are also beneficial. Health experts recommend 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) of moderate activity each week, and you achieve this goal by moving about 10 minutes each morning and evening.
3. Be friendly
According to the Mayo Clinic, social interaction prevents depression and stress, and can promote brain health and prevent premature death. (Socially isolated adults are nearly 2.5 times more likely to die of heart disease, and numerous studies have linked healthy social connections to physical well-being.)
Want to eliminate three things from this list at once? Call a friend and ask them to take a walk with you in a local park.
4. Train your brain
Intellectual stimulation helps our brains stay sharp. You don’t need to embark on a specially designed brain training program either. Reading is great brain stimulation, and problem-solving activities, such as putting together a puzzle or doing a crossword puzzle, also work the brain. Creative activities, including crafts and music, are also good for the brain.
Instead of turning on the TV or scrolling through social media immediately after dinner, spend five minutes learning, problem-solving or being creative.
5. Add fruit or vegetables to your meals
Changing your diet is intimidating. If you’re like most people, you know you should be eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains (and less fatty, processed foods), but your daily eating habits don’t necessarily reflect that knowledge. You can immediately improve your health by adding a little fruit and vegetables to each meal. Consider adding raisins or dates to your morning oatmeal, or spinach to your scrambled eggs. Put romaine lettuce on your sandwich or eat fruit before or after dinner.
6. Make sleep a priority
Many adults (and children!) don’t get enough sleep, which increases their risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Lack of sleep can also lower immunity and creativity, so a little extra time in bed can actually increase your productivity. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night for adults and 8 to 10 hours per night for teens. Try turning off your phone and going to bed a half hour earlier than usual.
Chronic stress can have negative effects on your immune, digestive and cardiovascular systems. You can’t avoid stress completely, but you can take steps to de-stress. Meditating for just 1-2 minutes can lower blood pressure and promote feelings of calm (you can simply close your eyes and focus on your breathing, or you can use one of the many meditation apps available). Laughter is another effective way to reduce stress, so put on your favorite comedy or get silly with your kids or friends.
8. Make an appointment with a doctor
Regular physical exams and screenings (such as mammograms and colonoscopies) are essential to a healthy life, but many of us forget to make time for them. If it’s been more than a year since your last physical, call your healthcare provider and make an appointment. Don’t neglect your dental health or vision either. If it’s been a while since you’ve had your teeth or eyes checked, pick up the phone today.
Concerned about the cost? Contact your local health department, which may be able to point you to low-cost options in your community.
9: Stand on one foot
Balance is increasingly important as we age. Balance training exercises can reduce the risk of falls – and the injuries that often accompany them. Both yoga and tai chi, a gentle Chinese martial art, promote balance, but you don’t have to take classes or spend a half hour or more improving your balance. Simply standing on one foot for a few moments each day – increasing the time as you are able – can improve coordination and health. (At first, you may need to hold onto a chair, counter or railing for support.)
10. Make music
Making music is good for the mind and body. Research has shown that singing can improve breathing and posture and decrease muscle tension. Playing an instrument promotes focus, well-being and cognitive function, and can help individuals express and release emotions. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure and pain, and improve sleep, mood, alertness and memory. Turn on your favorite music and sing along!