Everyday stressors, time constraints, ingrained eating habits, sedentary lifestyle, technology overload, and environmental toxins (just to name a few) are obstacles that make the path to healthy living feel like an insurmountable mountain. The good news is it does not have to be. Try these simple and easy to implement solutions for healthy living.
Fill ½ your plate with vegetables and fruit at every meal. This will ensure getting the recommended 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Mix different colored fruits and vegetables together as each one has different phytonutrients that enhance immunity, and many of these provide even more powerful benefits when combined with others. Buy organic whenever possible to reduce exposure to pesticides. Incorporate whole grains such as quinoa or bulgur, and legumes (beans, lentils, peas), at least a few times a week and aim for filling ¼ of your plate when you do. Snack on nuts (in moderation) such as almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower. These whole foods (also known as Super Foods) are also rich in different vitamins and minerals, so by eating a variety you get just the right dose of the vitamins and minerals your body need for optimal functioning and balance.
Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid your body does not make on its own so you need to get from food sources. Omega 3 is known as anti-inflammatory whereas the other essential fatty acid Omega 6 is pro-inflammatory. You need both and the ratio is important for your body to stay in the right balance and to reduce the inflammation throughout your body that in excess can lead to chronic diseases. The best sources are fatty fishes such as sardines, wild salmon, herring, and albacore tuna. Plant sources include flax seeds and walnuts. Try to eat one of the fatty fishes at least two times a week. Salmon is an easy one as you can go with the canned wild salmon that is easy to prepare. If you like avocado (main ingredient in guacamole) mix some in with the salmon to get in a serving of fruit.
Life is stressful. The key is to find ways to manage stress to prevent or reduce the potential harmful effects on your overall well-being, especially from everyday stressors. Relaxation exercises such as meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, and deep breathing all provide a more relaxed state of body and mind that transcends the moment in time you are doing the actual exercise. Even just a few minutes of a deep breathing exercise twice a day can alter how you react to and respond to stressful and emotionally charged situations.
Any exercise or physical activity you do will benefit your body and mind in both the short and long term. Our bodies are meant to be in a state of movement. Aim for at least 30 minutes per day of some type of physical activity. Start with small steps such as taking the stairs instead of an elevator or walking to a co-worker's desk instead of emailing or calling if you have something to discuss. Do 25 jumping jacks in the morning and evening or dance around the house to your favorite tunes. Carve out time for a 30-minute brisk walk every day, or two 15 minute brisk walks. Explore your local recreation or community center to see what they provide. Many public libraries also offer free yoga and other exercise classes. Once you start experiencing the endorphins that exercise brings you will want to do more.
Disconnect from all technology and anything work or school related at least one hour before you go to sleep. Read a book where you can get lost in the story, but does not involve taking in new data or facts to remember. The key here is to disconnect from the stressors of the day and relax your mind and body. Taking a hot shower or bath can also do this. Aim to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. 7-8 hours is considered to be optimal for most adults. If you are feeling energized, productive, and clearheaded the next day you likely got the amount of restorative sleep your body needs.
If the ingredient lists sounds like a chemistry experiment, best to avoid whenever possible. As a general rule, if there are more than 4 or 5 ingredients, the packaged food you are buying and eating is processed. If your current diet is heavy on processed foods, try to first integrate the healthy whole foods before eliminating all the processed foods. Over time, your body will begin to crave the healthier foods and it will make it easier to walk by that box of doughnuts.
Buy personal care and household cleaning products that have a reduced list of chemicals. It is hard to avoid chemicals completely, but do the best you can in buying products with a shorter list. With household cleaners Some “keywords” to look for are “non-toxic”, “no fumes”, “no phosphates”, “biodegradable,” Avoid laundry detergents with dyes and perfumes, and try skin care lotions with natural oils. Chances are that if a product is better for the environment, it is better for you.
Life is hard and challenging. It is filled with ups and downs, joys and sorrows, failures and successes. Be kind and compassionate to yourself. At the end of each day, count your blessing and what you are most thankful for. Congratulate yourself on what you did that day that you are most proud of and cut yourself a break for anything that day, that did not go well or as you had planned.
Healthy living does not need to drastically alter how you live your life. By just implementing healthier food choices, physical activity, daily relaxation exercises, getting the restorative sleep your body needs, reducing your exposure to the chemicals in food, household, and personal care products, and being more kind and compassionate with yourself you are on your way to a healthier life.
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