Happiness, health, and wealth are the three great pursuits of the modern person. And while being happy or wealthy won’t necessarily make you healthy, good health certainly contributes to your overall well-being. For someone looking to optimize his or her life, health is a great place to start.
But how to start?
With so many recommendations coming from so many different professionals — doctors, nutritionists, dieticians, yoga instructors, personal trainers — figuring out how to be healthy can be a real mind teaser. From choosing the right foods to exercising at the right cadence and frequency to banishing negative thoughts, being healthy seems to require the commitment of a full-time job.
In a way, this is true: commitment to well-being and health should be as real as your commitment to your job. But it’s a far more important job and only you can do it right. The plus side is that you are your own boss, set your own hours, and decide how you want to work towards a healthier you.
This article outlines the essential steps you should be taking to being healthy. We cut through the noise can tell you three simple features of your life you need to modify to ensure vibrant, good health. Being healthy isn’t complicated and it’s all about gradually shifting habits to a better place. Read on to learn about the simple changes you can make today, tomorrow, and beyond for your health.
A Simple Guide to a Healthy Diet
You may believe that the only healthy diet is one that is hard to follow and unenjoyable. The truth is that it’s impossible to create a long-term, healthy diet based on foods you hate. You are what you eat, so you should love what you’re eating.
A healthy and enjoyable diet is very much within reach. There are so many foods and cuisines to choose from and many different food cultures have been shown to produce good results, with the exception of American food culture, which is quite destructive to good health.
The Mediterranean diet has shown the most robust results for long-term health and disease prevention. If you’re already at a healthy weight, switching over to a Mediterranean diet is a great option. The diet is high in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and olive oil with a bit of lean meat and fish. Cuisines that fit into the Mediterranean diet include Greek, Italian, and Moroccan.
Make Small Adjustments
If you don’t want to overhaul your whole diet, start by improving whatever diet you are following. The main culprits in the American diet are processed food, too much sugar, and an overemphasis on meat.
Red meat may be especially bad. A large study looking at the diets of 37,698 men and 83,644 women found that red meat consumption, whether processed or unprocessed, was associated with significantly elevated risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other causes of mortality. The more red meat participants ate, the higher the risk of dying from any illness.
The study found that getting protein from fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, dairy products, and whole grains posed a far lower risk of dying early from disease. Eating a lower amount of processed and red meats is a great way to improve your health right away.
While you lower your red meat intake, start increasing your vegetable intake. Vegetables are a great source of essential nutrients, including a wide array of vitamins and minerals. A diet high in vegetables lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and vision issues later on in life.
Leafy greens — such as kale, lettuce, spinach — are especially nutrient-rich and should be consumed at least daily. Emphasis should be placed on vegetables instead of fruit, and you should work up to eating between 7 to 8 servings (about 1 cup) of vegetables and fruits a day.
This amount can be daunting, but remember that this serving size is for fresh vegetables and fresh fruits, which cook down quite a bit. A serving of cooked vegetables or fruits is closer to 1/2 cup. But because fresh foods contain more nutrients, make sure that you’re getting plenty of fresh vegetables along with the things that you are cooking.
Overconsumption of sugar is also an issue you need to grapple with in order to move your eating in a healthy direction. Sugar causes many of the same health issues as alcohol and is a leading driver in obesity. Especially if one of your goals is weight loss, sugar should be drastically cut from your diet. Take steps such as limiting your consumption of dessert to once a week, not snacking on sugary foods and candies, and learning to enjoy beverages without sugars. Even overconsumption of fruit should be avoided: one or two pieces of fruit a day is best.
Overprocessed foods are bad for you because they tend to be loaded with salt and calories. Avoid destroying otherwise healthy food with poor preparation habits. Deep frying a healthy lean protein such as chicken makes it into a junk food.
The bottom line is this: less meat, low sugar, and plenty of fruits and vegetables is the basis of a healthier diet.
Get the Exercise You Need
Your body was intended to run, walk, jump, and climb trees, not to sit around watching Netflix. The unnatural, sedentary lifestyle that modern life encourages wrecks havoc on our waistlines, blood pressures, and mental wellness.
There is “irrefutable evidence” of physical activity’s ability to prevent diseases of all kinds and help us live longer. The more fit you become, the longer and healthier you live, period. And the health benefits go beyond your body and affect your mind as well. Physical activity helps manage and release stress, stave off depression, and increase your self-esteem. If you’ve got a problem, it’s probably one that exercise can improve, if not completely fix.
The recommendation for exercise is 30 minutes, five days a week or more, of “moderate” activity exercise, plus two days of resistance exercises. Moderate exercise means that your heart rate is increased to at least 65 percent of your maximum heart rate, which you can figure out by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you are 37, your maximum heart rate would be 183, and you should be exercising enough to increase your heart rate to 119 beats per minute. If you don’t want to count your heart beats or use a heart monitor, just make sure that whatever you’re doing is causing you to breathe a bit heavier and break a sweat. You should be able to exchange a few words, but not sustain full conversation. Some examples are taking a brisk walk, jogging, and biking.
Resistance exercises, like lifting weights or bodyweight exercises, help keep your muscles toned and your bones strong. These are important components to healthy ageing, as age reduces both bone density and muscle mass.
But if even if you’re unable to reach the minimum recommendation, every little bit counts. One study of more than 250,000 older adults found that getting less than an hour of moderate physical activity each week was linked to a 15 percent drop in death.
Doing smaller amounts of vigorous activity, namely high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be effective as well. One 2013 study showed that as little as 3 HIIT sessions per week of 30 minutes or less (involving 10 min of intense exercise, with warm-up and cool-down) improved bone and heart health.
The bottom line when it comes to exercise is that a little is far better than nothing.
Stressless Stress Management Tips
Feeling stressed now and again is normal and can even be invigorating. Feeling stressed a lot of the time, as with chronic stress, is a bad news. Even if you are eating well and exercising like a workhorse, stress can make you susceptible to ill health.
Chronic stress has been linked to issues such as heart disease, a weakened immune system, cardiovascular issues, and troubled sleep. But one the most nefarious things about stress is that it can encourage unhealthy behaviors and make it harder to follow an healthy diet and exercise regimen. It can push people to take up bad habits such as overeating and smoking.
Stress also wears down your heart and blood vessels by stimulating increased blood pressure. Anxiety keeping you up at night or reducing your quality of sleep can lead to sleep deprivation, which has been linked with poor outcomes like obesity, diabetes, and mental health issues like depression.
Just as your body needs exercise and nutrition, your mind does as well. Your mind thrives off of quiet reflection and focus. One of the best and most accessible stress management tactics is incorporating meditation into your daily routine. There is good evidence that as little as 10 minutes a day of meditation helps reduce anxiety and increase a sense of well-being.
It’s easy to get a meditation habit started with guided meditation. Check out these guided meditations from guru Deepak Chopra and beginners tutorials for relaxation meditation. If you’re interested in getting into self-guided meditation, get started with these seven 5-minute meditations.
Stress management shouldn’t be restricted to only a small part of your day. You should attempt to reduce stress at regular intervals from start to finish. An easy way to do this is with Spire. Spire tracks your breathing all day to help you understand when you are becoming stressed, and sending you signals for when it’s time to take a break. Something as simple as quick breathing exercises can calm you and recenter your focus on positivity.
Being Healthy Is Easier Than You Think
Breaking through the inertia of unhealthy habits can be a bit difficult at first. Thankfully, the body is very resilient. It can take a literal beating and still bounce back. So don’t hesitate to be forgiving and patient with yourself if you falter along your way to creating healthier habits.
Being healthy is not about forcing your body to adopt strange and exotic practices. It is about returning your body to its default state. Your body was made to be well-nourished, well-exercised, and well-rested.