23 Simple Ways To Help You Become Happier, Healthier, And More Fit
From morning mindfulness sessions to adding turmeric to your diet, this guide can help you be your best self.
Managing a household of little kids is a full-time occupation: Wake, wash, dress, feed, repeat. With all that needs to be done, finding time to take care of your own physical and psychological wellness can feel impossible. These quick and easy wellness tips can help you help yourself.
1. Walk in the woods.
One study shows that a 20-minute stroll through your local park can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and increase the feeling of happiness. Scientists have found that natural environments activate our parasympathetic nervous system (feelings of relaxation) while suppressing the sympathetic system (fight-or-flight feelings). If the park is too far, consider filling your favorite reading nook with more plants.
2. Commit to 27 minutes of daily mindfulness.
That’s the amount researchers found resulted in measurable changes in the gray matter of people’s brains, increasing density in areas responsible for feelings of compassion and decreasing it in areas related to stress and anxiety. You don’t have to practice mindfulness for 30 minutes straight — sit quietly and contemplate your breathing for 10 minutes in the morning and a few more at night.
3. Add turmeric to your cooking.
You might know it as the spice that turns curry dishes yellow, but turmeric also helps with life’s ills. To wit: Studies have found it to be a powerful anti-inflammatory (good for sore muscles), antioxidant (can help you feel and look younger), and a protector against heart disease. Whew.
4. Sprinkle lavender essential oil on your pillow.
Just a drop or two can help induce a sense of calm.
5. Set up a relaxation zone in your home.
It’s important to have a stress-free space in your life, so make sure there’s a comfortable, distraction-free space in your home where you can exercise, nap, and relax.
6. Limit blue light before bed.
If you’re checking texts and email right up until lights out, you’re setting yourself up for a lousy night of sleep — and not necessarily because you’re stressing about work. The blue light emitted by your tech devices sends signals to your brain that inhibit the production of melatonin, a chemical that makes you feel drowsy. Put away your phone and laptop an hour before bed to help your night be a restful one.
7. Carve out your own space.
Contrary to what early 21st-century architects thought, it turns out that open seating plans can inhibit productivity. Workers in open offices spend an undue amount of time making phone calls from stairwells and empty conference rooms instead of sitting at their desks, research shows. Find yourself a little piece of personal space at work or home where you can take a minute for yourself to just breathe.
8. Build the perfect breakfast bowl.
Oats + walnuts + berries + cinnamon + milk = Awesome way to start your day
9. Do planks.
Planks are an essential, effective workouts move, if you do them right: Start lying face-down on the floor, torso propped up on your elbows. Engaging your core, raise your body up onto your forearms and toes, making sure your body forms one long line from shoulders to feet. Hold this position as long as you can, working your way up to 90 seconds.
10. Exercise for 51 minutes … a week.
For as little as seven minutes of sweat a day, you can reduce your risk of dying by 33 percent, according to research. Walk, jog, ride a bike, or jump rope. Anything that gets your heart rate up counts. If that’s not motivation enough, scientists found that people who exercised for 10 minutes a day were, yes, happier than those who did not. So, you know, get after it!
11. Eat earlier.
If you’re trying to drop a few pounds, consider pushing up the hour for your evening meal: People who ate dinner earlier in the afternoon felt less hungry while raising their body’s fat-burning potential, according to a new study.
Start with this great lower back stretch: Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Spread arms out to either side for support. Gently let your knees drop to the right side while you rotate your head and torso to the left. Return to center, repeat the stretch on the opposite side
13. Do a crossword.
Challenging your mind can stave off the accumulation of a compound known as beta-amyloid in the brain, responsible for diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Puzzles are a great way to do just this, so be sure to include the whole family.
14. Bring your neighbor flowers.
Why? Because generosity sets off a neurological chain of events that results in feeling happy. Here’s how it works: When you perform an act of kindness toward others, it activates the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) in your brain. TPJ is associated with feelings of empathy. In turn, the TPJ sends signals to the area of your brain known as the ventral striatum, which is responsible for producing feel-good emotions designed to encourage you to continue being generous.
15. Eat dark chocolate.
Scientists in London have discovered that certain psychoactive ingredients in dark chocolate act as a buffer against depression, lowering feeling of sadness by 70 percent in people who snacked on the sweet compared to those who did not.
16. Do 40 push-ups in 60 seconds.
That’s the benchmark for superior heart health in a study of 1,104 active men: Scientists found that those who could drop and do 40 in under a minute were 96 percent less likely to develop heart disease than those who squeaked out 10 or fewer. The push-up test was even better than the traditional treadmill test in determining cardiovascular health in the study.
17. Get a family dog.
Man’s best friend is also man’s best motivator: New research shows that people with dogs exercise 58 percent more every week than those without, and also have significantly lower markers for heart disease and diabetes. Bonus: You now have at least one member of your household that won’t talk back to you.
18. Have a guy’s night in.
In your 20s, it was all about the boys’ night out. But you’ve moved on (that’s a good thing) and while you still enjoy an occasional night out with the lads, it’s more relaxing (and less of a wallet drain) to have the gang up to your spot for a chill evening of good food and a throwback game of foosball.
19. Learn these four yoga animals.
Downward Dog: Create an inverted V-shape with your body by hiking your hips in the air while keeping hands and feet planted on the floor.
Cat-Cow: On all fours, toggle between arching your back and raising your face toward the ceiling and rounding your spine and dropping your head toward the floor.
Pigeon Pose: From a low lunge, place your hands on the floor and lean sideways, allowing the hip of your front bent leg to contact the floor. Create an L-shape on the floor with your front leg, keeping the back leg straight behind you. Lean forward to feel a stretch in your hip.
Cobra Pose: Lie face-down on the floor. Place your hands on either side of your shoulders, elbows bent. Push up through your palms, lifting chest off the floor and straightening your arms.
20. Power nap.
Keep your snooze to 20 minutes: More than that and your brain heads off into deeper sleep stages known as REM, which will leave you feeling groggy and out of sorts when you wake up.
21. Wear yellow.
It’s the color we associate with energy and optimism (possibly because it reminds us of the sun) and wearing it could give your mood a boost. Another option: Paint the walls of your bedroom or bathroom in the feel-good hue.
22. Listen to music.
For an instant pick-me-up, crank up the techno tunes or dance beats in your car on the way to work. Just 12 minutes a day of upbeat music can bring about a lasting positive effect in your mood over a two-week period.
23. Go heavy at the gym.
To see real change in your muscle growth, you need to add at least one heavy lift day to your weights workout. That means instead of your usual four sets of 10 reps, you’ll be looking to do three sets of 3 to 5 reps. Guys don’t like to do it because the low volume makes it feel like it’s not a “real” workout. But give yourself three weeks, and your biceps will be telling you otherwise.
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