Regardless of the path you take, every journey starts with a single step. That goes for quitting smoking, losing weight and cultivating patience. No matter the end goal you have in mind, you get there the same way: slowly, steadily and one day at a time.
The good news is that changing your life, even one step at a time, does not require fancy equipment or a team of professionals tracking your every bite, step and breath. In a lot of ways, it's about going back to basics and actually simplifying your life. The habits we're sharing are suitable for just about anyone, and they don't require hours and hours of time each day.
Drink more water. The general rule for hydration is to divide your weight in pounds by two for the number of ounces you should consume daily. For a 150-pound woman, that would be 75 ounces, or about 9 ½ cups. Staying hydrated can help you maintain steady energy levels, ward off hunger and even keep you regular. And, by drinking plenty of water you'll support your kidneys and allow to them to perform their natural task of flushing waste from the body.
If you're consistently coming up short, start by drinking a couple of extra cups today, then adding one more each day until you've reached your quota.
Take a breather. Most of the time, we don't think about breathing. It just happens, whether we notice it or not. So, right now, pay attention to that life-sustaining rhythm of inhalation and exhalation. How is your breathing? Does it get "stuck" anywhere? Is it steady or staccato? Labored or natural? Now close your eyes, and take three deep breaths, inhaling for the count of five, pausing at the top of your breath to feel that abundance in your lungs and then exhaling for a count of five. Deep breathing is like pressing the reset button on your laptop. It helps your body tap into your parasympathetic nervous system, which is in charge of the activities that happen while we're at rest.
Whether you're having a rough day or it's just another Tuesday, take breaks to check in on your breath. Regular deep breathing can support a healthy, calm mood, and it also keeps our healthy stress response happy. Try this technique any time you feel upset: Sitting in traffic, during a tedious meeting or while having a disagreement with someone.
Move your body. Exercise is always a good idea. Beyond its effects on the cardiovascular system and your body composition, physical fitness supports the body in countless ways. It releases feel-good endorphins, supports the immune system and keeps your bones healthy. (Find out other ways that exercise supports your health and wellbeing.) You don't need to get into CrossFit, running or whatever your super-fit and active neighbor does - unless that appeals to you. Walking at a moderate pace, while still being able to carry on a conversation, is sufficient to support your body, mind and spirit.
If you're new to exercise, consult with your health-care professional first, and start small. Even 10 minutes a day is enough for you to begin to feel the effects of exercise.
Make time for fun. Playtime is serious business, even for adults. According to a 2016 study of older adults, laughter really can be the best medicine. Researchers combined laughter "therapy" with a moderate exercise program and found that even simulated laughter supported physical and mental health as well as self-efficacy. Laughter, like exercise, releases endorphins and serotonin, and it supports a healthy balance of stress hormones. Watching funny cat videos online (in small doses) or joining your kids for a funny face-making contest can be beneficial, it seems.
It might sound counterintuitive, but start scheduling playtime if you're someone who can't seem to find the time to unwind. Set a reminder, and do something silly: spin in circles, watch a clip from your favorite movie or play with your pets.
Put yourself to bed early. Thankfully, we as a society are beginning to move past the idea that sleep deprivation is a badge of honor or a symbol of success. Sleep affects more than your mood each morning. It impacts your immune system, cognition and your stress response. Prioritizing regular restful sleep is a non-negotiable if you want to be your best self. Sleep is your body's regularly scheduled time to rebuild and recharge, so if you're catching Pokémon instead of catching z's, you're interfering with your natural growth and regeneration processes. According to a 2002 study, adults should aim for 6.5 to 7.4 hours of sleep per night on average.
If you're consistently getting less than that, start by counting backward from when you need wake up. Set an alarm for one hour before that time, and start to prepare your mind and body for rest. If that seems unreasonable in your current state, try going to bed 15 minutes earlier, then adding another 15 minutes each week until you've reached your nightly sleep quota.
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