Running a marathon. Going vegan. Eliminating alcohol. Attending weekly therapy. These are all ways to improve your health, but they aren’t realistic or attainable for everyone.
Improving your health doesn’t need to drastically alter your life. Small tweaks or additions can put you on the right track, enhancing your physical and mental wellbeing. Curious on how or where to start? Below, five simple steps to improve your health.
1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
One of the simplest ways to improve your health today is to drink more water. Hydration is essential for your body’s cells to thrive. It keeps your skin supple, your mind alert, and ensures your organs are functioning properly. Drinking water when you’re already thirsty isn’t always best because if you’re thirsty, that’s a sign that you’re already slightly dehydrated. Instead of trying to catch up on your hydration needs, look for ways to proactively drink water every day.
Carrying around a big bottle is one easy way to encourage daily hydration. If you find water to be too plain or boring, add a squeeze of citrus or a handful of cucumbers for a DIY spa water. Or for an extra tasty and nutritious boost, try adding a super greens powder to your water. Many of these powders provide essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, B, and C and minerals like magnesium, selenium, and zinc. It’s a win-win because you are meeting your hydration and nutrition needs.
2. Prioritize Sleep
Think of sleep as your daily recharge, a way for your body to reset and refuel. Without quality sleep, you are running on fumes and not giving your body the rest it needs to perform well. Poor sleep can impact your physical health as well as your mindset. Seven to nine hours of sleep is typically recommended for optimal health and longevity.
Of course, there are numerous distractions that will keep you from hitting the hay. And even if you do go to bed early, you may find yourself tossing and turning during the night. To set yourself up for sleep success, try creating an evening winddown routine. This can look like turning your phone off after dinner, relaxing with a cup of chamomile tea, or reading before bed. These habits can promote sleepiness and send you into dreamland in no time.
3. Eat High Quality Protein
There’s a major push in the nutrition world to hit your protein goals. Protein is made up of amino acids, which your body relies on for refueling, strengthening, and fighting off infections. Every part of your body — from your bones and tissues to your skin and nails — depends on protein. A good rule of thumb is to eat 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. So if you weigh 180 pounds, then you should aim for around 64 grams of protein per day.
While you could hit your protein goals by consuming blocks upon blocks of cheddar cheese, that isn’t necessarily the best source. Lean cuts of meat, fish rich in omega-3s, and eggs are examples of high-quality protein sources. Select grass-fed, grass-finished, or organic cuts whenever possible. If you are vegetarian or vegan, fill your plate with beans and legumes as well as tempeh and tofu. Certain vegetables like peas, avocados, and spinach are also protein-packed.
4. Move Often
When it comes to movement, many people think they aren’t doing it “right” if they aren’t taking a 60-minute cycle class or intense hot yoga session. While both of these are great forms of exercise, they aren’t your only options. Rather than beating yourself up for not making the early morning class, find ways to incorporate movement throughout your day.
Beginning your day with a walk around the block is a great start. Get in the habit of parking your car farther away from the store entrance and take the stairs instead of the elevator. Set an alarm on your smartwatch or phone to encourage you to get up from your desk every hour. All of these small actions add up, and you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to hit your daily movement goals.
5. Fuel Your Gut
Gut health and the microbiome are hot topics these days. What you eat — and even how you eat — can directly impact your gut health. Fueling your gut means looking for ways to boost the good bacteria found within the microbiome. Adding probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, and kimchi can increase the friendly bacteria in your digestive system.
If you are undergoing digestive distress, look at what you’re filling your plate with. The gut can be inflamed by eating too many highly-processed snacks or sugary foods. Also, eating too quickly and shoveling food into your mouth doesn’t give your gut the chance to break down the food. Sitting down for your meals and chewing your food will make your gut happier and healthier.
Better health starts with you. Making small adjustments to your daily routine makes a difference. Instead of overwhelming yourself by incorporating all five of these tips, just choose one to start. Once that habit is ingrained into your routine, add another one. This gradual approach will keep you feeling good and motivated, regardless of your starting point!