When it comes to health advice, many people have very different opinions. Sometimes you will hear people say you should eat keto and lift weights, while other times people will say you should do cardio and count calories. With the litany of different suggestions, it can be hard to find a routine that works for you.
Many people want to improve their health and are not sure which areas are most important – should sleep and nutrition be the main focus or should it be exercise? The real answer lies in developing a healthier lifestyle and improving various aspects of your life that can have a positive impact on health.
Some of the most obvious, according to Stanford, are sleep, nutrition, exercise, stress management (and with spring coming, sunlight helps), and relationships. Here’s how you can make small improvements in each of these areas.
How to improve your sleep
Improving sleep may seem like an impossible task. When you come home from school or work, time can fly by. There are a few things you can do to help you sleep better. Throw out the blue light first before going to sleep. As tempting as it may be to scroll through social media or text your friends right before bed, looking at blue light can negatively impact your sleep. Scrolling on your phone can also keep your brain active, making it harder to fall asleep, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Try turning off your electronics a few hours before going to bed and doing other activities, such as reading a book or meditating before going to bed, that can help you relax. Make sure to set your alarm before you put your phone down.
Another thing that can improve your sleep is avoiding caffeine before bed, according to the CDC. Try to stop drinking caffeine at noon every day so that its effects wear off by the time you go to sleep. Improving sleep is about making small changes that will benefit you in the long run. Sleeping well is important for hormonal regulation and overall health, and it can help you make good decisions in the long run.
How to improve your diet
Improving your diet can be a daunting task. An easy way to make changes is to think about making simple switches. If you eat chips for lunch, consider swapping them for carrots and celery. If you’re cooking a pasta dish, consider replacing the white-flour pasta with one made with chickpeas or red lentils. If you like fried chicken, try making a fried version.
A few of these switches can be helpful in making incremental, positive changes toward health. Also think about what you can add to meals you love. Say you really like mashed potatoes – consider making half a potato and then half a cauliflower. Or think of a pasta dish you like, such as baked ziti. Think about how to add broccoli and spinach to it. If your diet could use some improvement, chances are if you immediately switch to salads all the time, you won’t make lasting changes.
There are other minor changes you can make. Healthline suggests that you pay attention to protein intake and stay hydrated throughout the day. Another tip is to stay away from diet foods. Think about eating whole foods when you’re trying to improve your diet.
How to start exercising
If you’ve stopped exercising, it’s not too late to start doing it again. Real Simple suggests that when trying to get back into the swing of exercising, start small. Instead of trying to get right back to where you were when you exercised the most, get back into the habit of getting some exercise every day.
The best exercise you can do is the one you will do consistently and enjoy. Experiment with fitness classes or go to the gym or exercise at home or outdoors. Finding a routine that you enjoy can be helpful to start exercising.
Another way to start exercising is to create accountability for yourself. Talk to a friend about returning to a routine and develop an accountability plan. Even if you start small, getting a little exercise every week can help you feel better.
Why sunlight is important for stress management
Stress management can be a tricky thing to do. According to the Stanford Lifestyle Medicine Program, stress can be managed by identifying the source of the stress and responding accordingly. Sunlight can also be an important part of stress management.
According to The Wellesley News, sunlight can make us feel less stressed. There’s just something about the sun that makes us feel better. According to a study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, sunlight increases the amount of vitamin D you absorb – many people are deficient in this, so getting enough light every day can benefit your health.
When you work 9 to 5, it can be hard to find the time to get outside. Consider taking your lunch break outside. This is also a good time to take a short, brisk walk, which can help you get some exercise. Your mood can also be positively affected by spending more time in the sun.
How to focus on relationships
Focusing on relationships can improve your overall health. If you’re happy with your relationships, you may also be more inclined to devote more time to improving your health in other ways as well.
Improving relationships is more of an art than a science. Spending time with the people you love can help improve your relationships. When you’re with someone you love, take the time to listen to them – really listen to them – and think about what they are saying. Make sure you let people in your life know that you appreciate them. It can improve your overall mood and health to have strong relationships.