I’m too busy. I don’t have the time. I’m on a budget. If you want to improve your health, it doesn’t have to be complicated, involve a lot of time, or cost a lot of money. The journey to change begins with a single action. Here are five simple steps that can alter your well-being for the better.
Just Breathe To Improve Your Health
People breathe in and out all day long and often don’t give it a thought. It automatically happens, which makes sense because breathing is part of our autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary actions. However, it is one of the few functions that we can perform either involuntarily or voluntarily. This may sound basic, but breath plays a huge role. It’s such a simple thing that can easily be used to improve your health. Breathing:
- Provides oxygen
- Removes toxins, including carbon dioxide
- Impacts motor control
- Influences posture stability
- Affects heart rate
- Impacts blood pressure
- Influences digestion
- Downregulates our stress response
Many times we take short and shallow breaths and miss out on some of the key benefits of deeper, diaphragmic breathing. However, learning how to breathe more productively is easy and can be accomplished in 5-10 minutes a day. Just follow these steps:
- Sit upright either in a straight chair or on the floor.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Gently open your mouth and let your jaw be soft.
- Inhale through your nose for a count of four. As you do so, feel your bottom hand move as your abdomen expands.
- Hold for a count of four.
- Exhale very slowly through your mouth for a count of eight.
This simple exercise costs nothing and is packed with health benefits!
This post is sponsored by Encompass Integrative Wellness.
Avoid Binge-Watching To Improve Your Health
Unlike years ago, where a person might watch a thirty-minute show, we now can binge-watch shows. This extended time watching television, even more than the time sitting at your desk, is not helping your health. A 2019 study of African Americans found that watching 4+ hours of television daily, versus less than two hours, was associated with a 50% increased risk for cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality. Instead of binge-watching a show, try to limit your watching to less than two hours a night and break up watching television with some other activity such as reading a book, working on a household goal or craft, or get out of the house entirely and attend a fun event. You may be thinking there is just no way that you cannot binge-watch the latest season of the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel one week. If you must, then aim to offset the risks associated with binge-watching by engaging in 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity for that week.
Be Intentional About Eating
Have you ever reached into a bag of chips, grabbed a few, then reached in and grabbed a few more until before you know it, the bag is nearly empty? When you eat from a bag or a box, you can’t really see how much you are eating; that is until it is too late. By being intentional about how much you are eating, you can avoid mindlessly overeating. To become more intentional, follow these three steps:
- Serve the food you plan on having into a small plate or bowl.
- Put the remaining food away.
- Take your time to eat whatever you’ve served. This may mean putting your fork or the food down between bites.
Putting your serving into a defined container will give you a much better idea of what was eaten. A smaller plate or bowl will naturally reduce your portions. With the food away and out of sight, you are less likely to refill your serving. Lastly, when you slow down your eating, you may find that what you’ve eaten is more than enough.
Eat A Rainbow To Improve Your Health
Plant foods come in a wide array of colors. These foods not only contain vitamins and minerals, but they also contain phytonutrients or phytochemicals. There are an estimated 25,000 phytochemicals. These chemicals help to protect plants from threats such as bugs; in humans, they have been shown to:
- Prevent and fight cancer
- Support detoxification pathways
- Reduce inflammation
- Reduce cardiovascular issues
- Act as antioxidants in the body
- Alter estrogen metabolism
Eating a rainbow of color in terms of vegetables and fruits will allow you to reap the benefits of the phytonutrients. As a side bonus, this increased diversity of plants will also aid overall gut health, which is a fundamental basic of health and well-being.
Try a New Food or Dish Weekly
Often, we eat the same things daily or even weekly. We have our routines, our standard “go-to” foods. The problem with this is that when we eat the same things repetitively, we may miss out on crucial vitamins and minerals. By making a goal of trying a new food or dish weekly, you increase the likelihood that you will intake nutrients currently lacking in your diet. Here are a few ways to put this into action:
- Try a new restaurant
- If out with a friend, have them pick your dish for you
- Go to the grocery store, select a vegetable or a protein you’ve never tried, and create a meal around it
- Try a cooking class that has an unfamiliar menu
Change begins with conscious thought and focus. Rather than working on everything at once, pick one of the suggestions above and take another step to becoming healthier!
This post is sponsored by Encompass Integrative Wellness. Encompass Integrative Wellness is an integrative clinical nutrition practice focused on educating and empowering people to embrace food and lifestyle modifications to help them achieve real, sustainable change and live more vibrantly. They offer 1:1 nutritional counseling, group programs, custom educational talks and presentations, and corporate wellness programs.
Minich, D. M. (2019). A Review of the Science of Colorful, Plant-Based Food and Practical Strategies for “Eating the Rainbow.” Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2019, 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/2125070
Types of Sedentary Behavior and Risk of Cardiovascular Events and Mortality in Blacks: The Jackson Heart Study | Journal of the American Heart Association. (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2020, from https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/JAHA.118.010406