Small Shifts for a Healthier Life
Samvida Patel, IIN Content Editor, Class of February 2015
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but the actions you take each day – no matter how small – add up over time.
When you feel frustrated, stuck, or like you could use a self-care pick-me-up, take a look at the list below and challenge yourself to try something. They’re simple yet significant, and they can empower you to keep moving forward on your health journey.
Eat light at night.
If possible, eat larger meals earlier in the day and opt for a lighter dinner. If your body is busy digesting a large, energy-dense meal later in the evening, it will be less able to get the rest it needs at bedtime.
If you’re really hungry at night, odds are you didn’t eat enough to stay satisfied during the day. Have a light snack and figure out what works best for your body, while staying mindful of your overall eating patterns and whether they’re supporting your health.
Up your gratitude game.
Starting your day in a more positive light sets the tone for the day, and ending it with mindfulness helps promote more restful sleep. Plus, chances are that connecting with one source of gratitude will pave the way to thinking of other sources of gratitude in your life.
Regardless of how non-ideal your current life circumstances may be, think of one thing you’re grateful for. What nourishes you in body, mind, and spirit? What inspires you? What fuels you? Write it down on a piece of paper and place it on your nightstand so that it becomes the first thing you see when you wake up and the last thought you have before sleeping.
Fork up, fork down.
It’s common knowledge that chewing your food helps you eat less and feel full faster. But how likely are you to count to thirty (or forty!) as you chew in the name of slowing down? An easier practice is putting your fork down between bites. Consciously pausing after each bite increases your mindfulness of how much you’re eating. It also helps you really enjoy the food!
Treat it like a game! Challenge yourself to not take another bite until you’ve thoroughly chewed what’s in your mouth.
Go (in the) green.
In addition to environmental sustainability, green spaces support health by providing opportunities for exercise and social interactions. It’s amazing – and somewhat still a mystery –how being in nature can have a profound effect on our well-being.
Go for a walk in a nearby park after work, stroll through a flower garden, have an outdoor picnic, or step outside for a few minutes to take a breather if you’re strapped for time.
Be here now.
Multitasking is a coveted skill in the professional world, and it’s often considered essential to boosting productivity. While that might hold true for a handful of functions, multitasking is really just dividing your attention between different tasks. It usually ends up decreasing productivity, not to mention mindfulness.
The next time you’re tempted to check your phone while working a task or talking with a loved one…pause. Finish what you’re working on, listen without distraction, and see how it helps you be present in work, personal relationships, etc.
Set aside “me time” minutes.
A daily moment of joy, whatever that looks like for you, is enough to reduce stress levels and uplift your spirits – both of which support health!
No matter how busy you are, squeeze in a few minutes of something you look forward to, whether it’s playing your favorite song on the piano, spending time with your kids or partner, or popping into your favorite café for your favorite beverage.
Drink with a twist.
Simply drinking more water is great if that comes naturally to you. If not, find ways to jazz it up! Just a couple of ingredients can boost water intake while facilitating clearer skin, improved energy, and a host of other benefits.
Try throwing in a few slices of your favorite fruits or adding some seltzer for a fun twist.
Especially on days when you don’t know how to make sense with how you’re feeling, carve out five minutes from your day to check in with yourself.
Ask: “What am I feeling right now? Why am I feeling this way?” Write down your thoughts in a journal, vocalize them to a confidant, or say them to yourself and be your own listener. Either way, you’ll be making active effort to not bottle up your emotions.
Exercise isn’t limited to going to the gym, playing sports, or running endlessly. Anything from walking and taking the stairs to dancing and biking are fair game. Adding in the joy factor should help ensure it sticks!
Challenge yourself to fit more movement into your day, even if it’s as small as standing up and walking around the room for a few seconds every hour or parking the car a little farther away from the store.
Of course, you don’t need to be doing all these things all the time. As a Health Coach and member of the Integrative Nutrition community, remember that optimal wellness is about doing what makes you happy and finding a balance that works for you.
So tell us, what are your go-to steps for better health?