We all know that improving your health and lifestyle long-term is a lengthy process that requires commitment over a period of weeks, months, or years. But what if there were quick fixes that could give you an immediate health and wellness boost?
We’ve compiled twelve of the best ways to improve your health and lifestyle almost immediately. Many of these recommendations can be completed in a day, in an afternoon, or in a few minutes. You don’t have to make drastic changes to improve your life. A small step here and there is a great place to start.
Best Ways to Improve Your Health
- Start a journal.
Spending time jotting down your thoughts by hand seems simple, but it is actually one of the easiest ways to improve your mood and control depressive symptoms. A study of depression-vulnerable college students showed that students who wrote on only three consecutive days experienced significantly lower depression symptoms.
- Go for a walk.
Get outside! Walking has a host of physical health benefits, including increased cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness. But walking is also terrific for your mental health, and the effects can be felt immediately. Walking is free, and it doesn’t require any equipment beyond a pair of shoes. You can also enjoy walking with a friend or family member.
- Focus on your breathing.
Many studies have shown that practicing stress-reducing breathing techniques can help banish negative thoughts, irritability, and overwhelming feelings. Try inhaling for four seconds and exhaling for eight seconds and repeating several times. You can count in your head or use a stopwatch. Your heart rate will slow, and you will begin to feel more relaxed after only a few breaths.
- Consider purpose and meaning in relation to your career.
We spend most of our waking hours during the week working, and it’s no secret that work-related stresses can bring us down. But if you’re doing work or pursuing a career that is truly meaningful to you, the everyday stresses won’t bog you down so much. A study summarized by the Harvard Business Review stresses that job satisfaction is most closely tied to being actively engaged in one’s work – being “positively absorbed by their work and fully committed to advancing the organization’s interests.” Does your career make you feel that way? If not, it could be time to explore other avenues. It could be time for a complete career pivot! You are never to old to go back to school and explore a new opportunity for a fulfilling, meaningful career.
- Splurge on time-saving conveniences.
Your time is the only thing you can never get back. Once you spend it, it’s gone forever. Our time is our most valuable resource, so we ought to put value on our time and how we spend it. A New York Times survey reports that people who spent money on time-saving conveniences, like getting takeout from their favorite restaurant or getting an Uber or cab when they needed it, were likely to be happier than those who did not. Though these luxuries may seem unnecessary, they literally buy us more time. We can then spend that time doing whatever will bring us the most joy.
- Dust off an old hobby, or start a new hobby.
There’s an old story about a 98-year-old man who practices the cello every day. When asked why he practices so much, he says that he is getting better! When was the last time you busted out the roller skates or the drum set? Pursuing activities that bring us joy on a regular basis can drastically improve your mental health and wellbeing. Studies show that those who practice hobbies regularly will be less likely to suffer from depression, especially if the hobbies they practice get them outside in nature.
- Read a book.
Reading a book that intrigues you for as little as six minutes per day can offer you a host of health benefits: higher quality sleep, reduced stress, and sharper mental acuity. What you read matters less than simply picking up a book that interests you and getting started. Not sure what to read? Check out the best books of 2021.
- Indulge in a stress-reducing activity.
Sometimes, you just need to turn off the world and relax. Whether it’s by going to a spa, soaking in a hot tub, or playing with your pet, you deserve to enjoy activities that serve no other purpose than helping you relax and destress. Even going outside and lying down in a field with the sun on your face can help you relax.
- Go to sleep earlier.
Sleep is one of the most important and least understood aspects of our health and wellness, and most adults in the United States don’t get the seven-plus hours of sleep that we need. Missing out on sleep can increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke, regardless of your age, weight, or exercise habits.
- Check your posture.
Are you sitting at a desk right now? If so, take a moment to straighten up your spine, engage your abdominal muscles, uncross your feet or legs, and take some deep breaths. By practicing good posture, you’ll decrease your risk of developing chronic back pain.
- Challenge your brain and stay sharp.
There’s a reason your grandma did the crossword puzzle from the newspaper every morning: It kept her brain sharp. It’s never too early to start engaging in activities that engage and challenge your mind. Chess is a great option. Not a puzzle or game person? Simply varying your daily routine and exploring a new part of your town can help develop new neural pathways in your brain.
- Make a few easy substitutions in your diet.
There’s so much conflicting information out there on the internet about what makes for the best diet, but there are a few tried-and-true substitutions you can make at your next meal that will make your meal healthier. Put away the salt and use different seasonings. Try whole-grain bread, rice, crackers, or pasta. Swap a sugary drink out with a glass of water. Try a snack that is high in protein instead of a bag of chips – almonds, cashews, or carrots dipped in hummus. These small shifts can boost your physical health, especially when implemented consistently over a period of weeks or months.
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Whether you have three hours or three minutes, you have time to make a small change that will change your life for the better. You are in charge of your own life, and you have the power to make decisions that will make you the happiest, healthiest version of yourself. Go forth and be well!