16 Simple Ways to Quickly Improve Your Health
In a fast-paced world, it's harder than ever to monitor our health and wellness. Time for self-care is difficult to come by. With obesity, diabetes, depression, and autoimmune diseases at an all-time high, the time to start paying attention to our body and mind is now.
I know what you're thinking. "Another health and wellness article to tell me how I should eat, exercise, and organize my life." While this is true, I want to make this a fun task, not a chore. I provide not only a daily checklist but also daily choices that are a breeze to follow.
Everyone's busy, and time is minimal. The kids keep you on the move, jobs are demanding, and relationships erratic. In my 52 years as a mother of four, nurse, runner, and queen of late-blooming, I've learned the importance of catering to one's mental and physical well-being. If we don't, we're on a chaotic path to poor health in the golden years.
Our to-do lists get longer, while our bucket lists grow shorter. Our waking hours are spent feeling overwhelmed, sick, and tired. These are the facts of how most Americans live today.
Americans are overworked, unrested, generally overweight, and eat terribly. When I started traveling abroad back in 2016, my eyes opened to how terrible we treat our bodies compared to other parts of the world. My husband and I spent three weeks in Eastern Europe, touring seven different countries. There are five things we noticed they all had in common:
- Very little obesity
- Movement; both on foot and bicycles
- Less fast food sources, more fresh produce and meats, and smaller portions when dining
- Social climate; gathering to eat and listen to music with friends is commonplace
- Wine, coffee, and still or sparkling waters drank over soda with meals.
Based on these observations, I made a list of over 16 easy ways to change your life for the better.
Use a Simple Daily Log to Track Your Daily and Monthly Goals
One way to hold yourself accountable to all of your goals is by tracking your progress. When it comes to mental and emotional wellness, it can be especially helpful to record your thoughts and feelings too.
Here’s a handy log you can print out to track your progress.
1) Drink Coffee or Tea Daily (Without Refined Sugars or Artificial Sweeteners)
It's a no-brainer that starting your day with a sugar bolus sets you up for a mid-morning crash. If you cut out the sugar, your pancreas will thank you. You'll also learn to enjoy the authentic flavor of coffee that's amiss when masked with sugary calories or fake sweeteners. The healthiest way to drink coffee is black, but most folks do not enjoy the bitterness and turn to sugar and sugar-infused creamers. I prefer a splash of half and half, a touch of butter, and sprinkled cinnamon in my morning latte. Ditch the sugar bowl, artificial sweeteners, and those five pumps of your favorite syrup at Starbucks, for these healthy and straightforward substitutes instead:
- Butter (grass-fed)
- Almond or Coconut Milk (unsweetened)
- Cinnamon Powder
- Monk Fruit
- Vanilla Powder
- Cocoa Powder
- Raw Honey
- Organic Half & Half
2) Eat Organic Fruits and Vegetables
Organic means: Free of pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, cruelty-free, and humanely raised. My favorite motto is "you are what the animal or plant you just ate, ate". Do you really want that stuff inside your body? I hope not!
Eating healthy and organic isn't always easy when traveling or eating out. You can pack your organic snacks and meals when possible, on road trips or when flying, and be as selective as you can. It's nearly impossible to do anything at 100%, but your best efforts can make all the difference in how you look and feel in your body. Your skin and internal organs will thank you for the strong efforts, and so will your wallet with less medical bills!
Grow your food when the season permits. Most of us don't have the luxury of land and growing space. You can improvise by building raised bed gardens or using multiple large containers with organic soil. Here's the I have. It's easy to assemble (be sure NOT to use pressure-treated lumber due to the toxic chemicals infused into it. Cedar, cypress, or redwood work best for longevity, but expect to replace the boards every five years or so). I bought my organic garden soil in bags from Home Depot. I plant tomatoes, peppers, green beans, lettuce, eggplant, onions, carrots, radishes, celery, and an herb garden. I always have plenty to share and freeze what I can't use right away. I even got a free rain barrel from my city, so watering my garden is always easy and inexpensive. 4x8 foot raised garden
3) ...Eat Organic Dairy and Meat Whenever Possible
Visit farmer's markets. The small farmer works hard to bring you the best and most wholesome produce and meats. Cut out the middle man and buy direct from them whenever possible. Research suggests that organic foods may have higher nutritional value. This is due to the absence of pesticides and fertilizers that allow the plant to produce more vitamins and antioxidants. Some studies have linked pesticides in food to everything from headaches, cancer, and congenital disabilities. Even low-level pesticide exposure can be significantly more toxic for fetuses and children (due to their under-developed immune systems) and pregnant women.
4) Say No to Sugary, Salty, Processed, and Artificial Snacks
I have one word for this: poison. I can list 100 reasons why sugar is the devil in disguise, but I will spare the lecture and touch on the big ones.
- Sugar affects the body's ability to regulate insulin. It's taxing on the body and can lead to Type 2 Diabetes, which is chronic, life-altering, and even life-threatening.
- Sugar causes fat storage, which leads to obesity, which can lead to diabetes and other diseases, not to mention fatigue and depression. The recommended maximum daily intake of sugar, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), is six teaspoons/100 calories for women and nine teaspoons/150 calories for men.
- Artificial sweeteners can mimic the action of sugar when metabolized by the body. They contain non-natural ingredients research shows to be harmful to our health.
Names for added sugars on labels include:
- Brown sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrates
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Malt sugar
- Raw sugar
- Sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)
The Dangers of too Much Salt
Salt is another demon that contributes to increased blood pressure, thirst, water retention, and bloating. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends no more than 2300 mg of sodium intake per day.
Salt is in just about everything, including canned and bottled vegetables and sauces. Be sure to read labels carefully, even if you don't think an item contains salt, go easy on the shaker. Taste your food first before adding salt.
5) Drink Between 7 and 8 Glasses of Water Daily
Water is my number one healthy choice I make every day and have my whole life. I attribute my life-long hefty water consumption to why I have healthy skin, hair, nails, and overall general good health. I don't look my age and have healthy, bright, wrinkle-free skin. I have been an avid water drinker since childhood, to the point I annoy family and friends with my water rants! In addition to the benefits I mentioned, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states these reasons why water is essential. Water helps your body:
- Keep your temperature normal
- Lubricate and cushion joints
- Protect your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues
- Get rid of wastes through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements
Flavored Water Makes Drinking Water Fun!
If you can't stomach drinking 64+ ounces of water throughout the day, try flavoring it with fruits such as lemons, limes, strawberries, or oranges. I make a two-gallon mason-type jar of water every few days and keep it in the refrigerator. There are a plethora of fruit-infused water recipes on Pinterest to prevent water from being boring. My faithful 30 oz Yeti tumbler is always full of water and at hand, day and night. I recommend the Yeti for its ability to keep water, with or without ice, cold for over 24 hours.
6) Cook With Only Heart-Healthy Fats and Oils
Not all cooking oils are created equal. Use this guide from the Cleveland Clinic to prepare your favorite recipes. It's quite helpful to print and hang this handy guide inside a cupboard door for easy reference.
7) Prepare Your Lunch For The Next Day
The biggest reason for daily bad food choices is lack of preparation and planning. It leads to frequent trips for fast food or unhealthy cafeteria choices. I make something on Sundays that gets my husband and me through the first few workdays. Our favorite healthy, wholesome lunch to pre-make is my 20-ingredient soup that's packed with nutrients and fantastic flavor. I also make extra food when cooking dinner, so we have leftovers to take for lunches.
8) Consider Drinking 5 oz. of Red Wine Several Evenings Per Week
According to the CDC, red wine, in moderation, is heart-healthy. The alcohol, resveratrol, and antioxidants in red wine may help prevent coronary artery disease. The link between coronary artery disease and red wine is not entirely understood. However, part of the benefit may be from antioxidants. Research suggests an increase in high-density lipoproteins (HDL), aka good cholesterol that protects against bad cholesterol buildup with the consumption of red wine.
I discourage red wine consumption to those with a personal or family history of alcohol abuse, as too much alcohol can have many harmful effects instead of helpful.
9) Exercise at Least 30 Minutes Each Day
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise over a week.
10) ...and Avoid Sitting For More Than 50 Minutes!
Reducing sitting time is essential to decrease your risk of metabolic issues and blood clots. Many folks have sedentary jobs, so set a reminder on your phone to get up and move and stretch every hour, or take a stroll around the building.
11) Spend Time Outdoors
Spending time outdoors has numerous benefits to overall health, the first being Vitamin D exposure. There’s nothing like the feeling of sunlight hitting your skin, which activates Vitamin D in our bodies. Vitamin D is vital for healthy bones and to fight off cancer, osteoporosis, depression, and heart attacks. Be careful about getting too much of a good thing; wear sunscreen! I also recommend using natural sunscreen like this aloe-based one from Aruba Aloe.
Fresh air is good for the mind as it alleviates stress, symptoms of depression, brain fog, and the staleness of being indoors. A hike or walk in the woods can be a fabulous reminder of how incredible our planet truly is. It also makes us more environmentally aware, so even if it's cold, bundle up and get outside!
12) Take Some Time Out to Treat and Pamper Yourself
Each day, do one thing to take care of your outer layer. Our skin is our largest organ, and most days, we ignore it. If we pay attention to one part of our skin each day, imagine how beautiful and glowing we would look and feel. Skincare doesn't only apply to women. Soft skin and self-indulgence are for everyone!
In addition to the monthly indulgences of haircuts, manicures, facials, or massages, I recommend the following pampering treatments, which include some of my favorite, inexpensive products. You needn't spend a ton of money to indulge in daily delights:
- Give yourself a facial weekly to cleanse, exfoliate, and moisturize.
- Exfoliate your entire body in the shower with a sugar or salt scrub (it's also quite easy to make your own body scrub).
- Exfoliate and moisturize your feet with a foot mask that peels away dead skin (the reviews don't lie, this product really works!).
- Deep condition your hair (you can get 3-4 treatments per packet. This will leave your hair silky and smooth the fly-aways).
- Give yourself a mini self-massage. (I love the Fascia Blaster for my legs and back and the mini one for arms, neck, and feet).
- Take an Epson salt and lavender bath. While not scientifically proven, the use of Epson salts does seem to have many benefits. It's my go-to remedy for sore muscles after a hard workout or post-marathon.
13) Step Away From Your Computer, Phone, and Other Devices For Two Hours
Take a two-hour "digital detox" each day and connect with your family and friends or partake in the other activities mentioned above. Being unplugged is the perfect time to prepare a healthy dinner, interact with your spouse and children, take a walk, a long bath, or exercise. The act of receiving a notification, even if you don’t reply to it, is enough to distract you from doing something productive.
A U.S. survey found that over 73% of young adults (under 30) suffer from symptoms of digital eye strain from screen overuse including dry, irritated eyes, blurred vision, neck and back pain, and headaches.
14) Meditate or Relax Quietly For 15 Minutes
Mediation has an essential place in my daily regimen. I cannot stress how much meditation has helped me cope with life's dysfunctions. I love Body Scan Meditation for achieving total relaxation and often find myself able to disconnect and fall asleep faster, especially when hyper-stimulated by a computer screen or watching a movie before bedtime. There are many wonderful body scan meditations on Youtube, and I've embedded two of my favorite videos/practitioners in this article.
15) Keep a Daily Journal
What better way to commit to new habits than by diligently tracking your wellness? Whether it be a digital journal or a handwritten one, writing your thoughts, musings, and daily experiences is therapeutic and validating. It's also a lovely memoir to leave so your children and grandchildren can know and feel closer to you. Now that we've got a method to keep the madness organized, what follows is a list of suggestions for an easier, healthier lifestyle.
Social Media for Journaling and Tracking
I use Facebook as my journal. I don't post every day, but I do always try to post useful and relevant statuses. I have been having customized books printed of my Facebook entries in five-year intervals using a company called My Social Book.
16) Get 7 to 8 Hours of Sleep
Sleep is a vital indicator of overall health and well-being. We spend roughly one-third of our lives asleep. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) completed a two-year study to determine how much sleep people need by age category.
The NSF recommends the following to help you get a full night's sleep, which I also learned when enrolled in a Cognitive Behavioral Program for combatting insomnia:
- Stick to a sleep/wake schedule, even on weekends.
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual.
- Exercise daily.
- Evaluate your bedroom to ensure the ideal temperature, sound, and light.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
- Beware of hidden sleep stealers, like alcohol and caffeine.
- Turn off electronics before bed.
Blue Light Before Bed
In a US study, 95% of adults admitted to using some form of a screen in the hour leading up to bed. (Artificial blue light increases alertness and suppresses the hormone melatonin by up to 22% which negatively impacts sleep.) That is yet another reason to unplug from those devices, especially as bedtime approaches.
Bonus: Additional Wellness Goals (Once You Complete all the Others!)
In addition to tending to your diet, exercise, and mental health, here are extra things you can do throughout the month for yourself and others. You can organize and declutter your life and further add to a lifestyle of overall wellness and happiness.
- Take a “free day” to indulge in a few of your favorite foods
- Reach out to a friend or family member and make plans with them
- Do a random act of kindness
- Plan a date night with your partner
- Plan a road trip or a weekend getaway that is within your budget
- Make a monthly budget and debt reduction plan
- Plant a garden
- Purge, toss, and clean one room in your house
- Organize your digital photos
- Make a digital scrapbook of a special event or collection of favorite photos
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Debra Roberts