April 7th is World Health Day. It can seem daunting to attain your health goals, but small, consistent changes lead to big results! Below are five simple life changes you can make to set you on the path to long-term health.
1. Get More Sleep
“Human beings are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent gain,” says sleep scientist Matthew Walker.
When an animal feels tired, it simply lies down and goes to sleep, and for good reason—lack of sleep is the root of several mental and physical malfunctions. Skip out on sleep and you could develop memory issues, mood changes, weakened immunity, difficulty concentrating, high blood pressure, risk of heart disease, and poor balance, just to name a few. You may also start to gain weight, become depressed or irritable, and greatly increase your risk of a car accident. Sleep deprivation causes a 40% shortfall in the brain’s ability to learn new information. And, if these facts aren’t frightening enough, long-term sleep deprivation (specifically less than five hours of sleep per night) reduces your lifespan by 15%. Try to get 7-9 hours of sleep every single night. Find tips to help you fall asleep faster here.
- Drink More Water
Everyone knows that water is essential for the body, but did you know that most people walk around in a state of partial dehydration? Almost everyone can benefit from drinking more water. Lack of water consumption leads to fatigue, mental fog, mood swings, overeating, slowed metabolism, increased skin wrinkles, and a higher risk of stroke. If you struggle to drink water throughout the day, try adding sugar-free flavorings to incentivize yourself to hydrate. Aim to drink at least eight cups of water per day. If you are very active, you’ll likely need to drink even more.
- Make Food Substitutions
Everyone wants to be healthier, but no one wants to give up their favorite foods. Well, maybe you don’t have to. Try shrinking the portions you eat when it comes to your guilty pleasure foods, or consider swapping them out for similar, lower-calorie alternatives. For instance, you could swap your morning bagel for an English muffin—it’s still a tasty carb, but it’s much lower in calories. You can swap burritos for burrito bowls (tortillas, especially the kind you get from restaurants, are loaded with calories). If you like to drink a glass of orange juice in the morning, consider eating a whole orange instead. There are countless, small changes you can make in your diet without losing the pleasure of eating.
- Add Movement to Each Day
Maybe you haven’t worked out in over a year and the very thought of heading to the gym makes you want to lie down. The least you can do is add a little more movement to your daily routine. Here are a few examples:
- Stand up to fetch the TV remote instead of asking someone to hand it to you.
- Take stairs instead of elevators or escalators whenever possible.
- Park far away from buildings to increase your steps. If you’re shopping at a strip mall, walk from store to store rather than driving.
- Swap out your office chair with an exercise ball—it’s surprisingly fun and engages your core.
- Stand up and walk around when you take phone calls.
- Invest in a standing desk.
- Do squats while you brush your teeth.
- Turn on music and dance while you wait for the oven to preheat or for water to boil.
- Stand up and do a quick chore during each commercial break while you watch TV.
- If you’re feeling ambitious, set up a stationary bike in front of your TV.
5. Laugh More!
It sounds cheesy, but laughter has proven health benefits. Laughing can increase blood and oxygen flow, reduce physical pain and stress hormones, prevent disease, and even exercise the abs—not to mention how much it can improve your emotional health. Make humor a priority in your life. Throughout the week, hang out with people who amuse you, or turn on a comedy before you go to bed.
What are some simple habits you’ve developed to stay healthy?
“5 Surprising Health Benefits of Laughter for Your Spirit, Soul, and Body”
Kenneth Copeland Ministries
“The Health Benefits of Laughter”
Elizabeth Scott, Ph.D.
“How to Sleep Better”
“Laughter: A New Prescription for Good Health”
Kendal at Oberlin
“What Happens to Your Body When You Don’t Drink Enough Water”