With a pandemic raging across the globe, many of us are taking a closer look at our own mortality. Being cooped up all summer long, with winter now facing us down, we are thinking about the changes we can make to live longer, healthier lives.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to get yourself healthier today, for more tomorrows in the future. Keep in mind that the best way to make big changes is to start small, and to set attainable goals.
It’s even better if you keep your goals about the activity rather than the outcome. If you set a goal to work your way up to exercising five days a week, rather than to lose ten pounds, you have more control over your ability to reach it. Being in shape is about the action you take toward a fitness goal, not an arbitrary number for what you should weigh.
You may already know that quitting tobacco use will add ten years to your life. Which is why it’s the first thing on this list. If you are still smoking or using dip, and now you are thinking about your lifespan, then quitting tobacco should be your top priority.
The addictiveness of nicotine makes quitting one of the hardest things you will ever do, so your hesitation and your struggle is understandable. But you don’t have to do it cold turkey. There are cessation aids available no matter what your tobacco preferences are—even non tobacco chew has satisfying alternatives these days.
Take a deep breath, set a date, and make a plan. It will be one of the most rewarding things you ever do.
While there is always an argument on which “diets” are the healthiest or most effective for weight loss, just about everyone recognizes that keeping your diet simple is one of the best transitions you can make for your health.
Try moving toward a plant-based eating style, making sure you get plenty of legumes, whole grains, and leafy greens. Reduce your meat intake to improve your health and the planet. Make sure you’re getting healthy fats, and stay away from refined foods and sugars as much as possible.
A mix of cardio and weight training is ideal for a healthier life. Being in shape extends your lifespan and makes your time on earth more enjoyable. It can expand your range of motion, give you more energy, and boost your mood.
Many find that exercise improves other areas of their life as well. It can be a helpful coping tool when you’re stressed, and increased physical activity during the day can help you get better sleep at night.
We’re not saying you have to completely quit drinking. However, drinking too much too often can shorten your life in a number of ways. The liver damage caused by years of excessive alcohol can increase your chance of becoming diabetic, and people who consume more are more prone to heart disease and stroke.
The threshold is different for everyone, and researchers still cannot necessarily come to an agreement on exactly how much alcohol is a healthy amount. Regardless, if you are having more than a drink or two every night, or bingeing on the weekends, you are probably drinking more than you should for a longer life.
Find ways to cut back on your consumption, and seek support if you find you are struggling to do so.
Getting the right amount of sleep allows your body and brain to clear out waste from day to day functioning, and it restores homeostasis. When you don’t get enough sleep, and the problem becomes chronic, you are more likely to have high blood pressure, headaches, mood problems, weakened immunity, and increased vulnerability to accidents.
Getting the sleep you need is serious business, and you should treat it as such. If you have a hard time with this, consider what you can do to make your bedtime more conducive to a restful slumber. If your bedroom has too much light, consider an eye mask or blackout curtains.
Take the TV out of your room, and turn all your screens off an hour or two before bed. Drink some herbal tea, take a soothing bath, listen to soft music. Do whatever it takes to get the rest you need.
Connecting with other people is a necessary part of human existence. When we spend time with our loved ones, we give and receive support, our spirits are uplifted, and we feel a greater sense of peace. Bonus points if we can laugh together with our friends for a boost in dopamine.
Try to work chances for connection into your schedule. Make a plan to call someone you care about once or twice a week. Go for walks, out to coffee, or veg out on the couch watching a movie together. It doesn’t matter so much what you do, so long as you are in the company of another person you enjoy being around.