We all had those well-intentioned moments when we decided to make major changes in our lifestyle: Quit smoking. Lower by 20 pounds. Join a gym and start exercising every day.
While we should always strive to achieve these kinds of health goals, the path to a better life does not always mean a big jump.
There are also a few small steps you can take to help improve your overall health and quality of life – and because they are something you can easily incorporate into your routine, it will be easier to take care of yourself for a long time. Even if you have only a few minutes, you can still use that time to improve your well-being.
Try to combine the following activities with strategies for your day. If these simple steps are the norm, they can be a powerful force for good in your life.
1. Enjoy reducing stress.
Experts recommend regular exercise, meditation, and breathing techniques to reduce stress. But even simple things — such as listening to cool music, reading a good book, immersing yourself in a hot tub, or playing with a pet can help you relax.
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That is the advice to take to heart because prolonged stress can cause or exacerbate many health problems, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, depression, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, and obesity.
Don’t have much time? Do not let that discourage you. Like exercise, even brief breaks are beneficial.
Spending even 10 minutes while doing something enjoyable can go a long way in overcoming the stresses of everyday life. Just reading one chapter or taking your dog a few times near a block will help you feel cool, refreshed and energized.
If you are not able to take a full break from whatever you are doing, try to just breathe slowly, deep in that moment. When you slow down your breathing, it helps you to relax. This relaxation response releases body-building chemicals that release stress and may improve body function.
Deep breathing can also lower your resting heart rate. People with low heart rate are generally in a better position than those with high rates.
2. Remove salt.
The saltshaker on the dining table makes it much easier to use excess salt, which can lead to high blood pressure. So put the shaker in a cupboard or pantry and only take it out when you cook.
It is also a good idea to taste your food before adding salt. You may find that you do not need more.
You can also try to spice up your food with lemon or lime juice, garlic, red pepper flakes, herbs or a salty spice mixture. Store your fridge and pantry with your favorite fresh and dried herbs so you can always have them with you to taste your food.
3. Go to bed early.
Most of us do not get the seven or more sleep hours adults need.
Over time, a lack of closed eyes can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke – regardless of your age, weight or exercise habits.
If you stay awake, getting even 15 minutes early each night can be helpful. Also, set a regular schedule for sleeping and waking up, and stick to it – even on vacation days.
For a healthy man, two drinks a day will not hurt; women, on the other hand, should limit their daily consumption of alcohol.
4. Check your posture and ergonomics.
The next time you are at your desk or on the phone, take a moment to reflect on your situation. Then straighten your back, place on your stomach and place your feet on the floor with your legs straight. You will feel more comfortable right away.
For a few moments, this exercise may help you to avoid back pain, one of the most common health problems in the United States and the leading cause of disability.
And if you work at a computer, check out your workplace ergonomics – how you fit and how you walk in your position – to help prevent back and neck strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, eye stress and other workplace injuries.
A few simple changes, such as resetting your computer monitor, switching to a seat that offers low-level support and taking regular breaks throughout the day to do simple exercises, can go a long way in creating a healthy and comfortable work environment.
5. Measure in half.
Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and other types of cancer. But for women, there is another reason to maintain a healthy weight: It will reduce the risk of future pelvic fractures.
Disorders of the pelvic floor are more common in women who have given birth through the vagina. However, recent studies have found that even women who have never had a vagina are at greater risk of losing control if they are overweight or obese.