Did you know there was a U.S. National Cleaning Week? It begins every year on the fourth Sunday of March. It’s a way to raise awareness about what the cleaning industry is doing to create healthy environments for workers and consumers.
While businesses are doing their part to promote clean and healthy settings, it’s a good time for all of us to spring clean our health routines.
Spring is the perfect time to start fresh with healthy habits that improve your physical and mental well-being, boost your energy levels, and increase your overall quality of life. Here are nine ways to get you started.
Healthy Habit #1: Hydrate
Everybody tells you you should drink more water. But why?
Sixty percent of your body is made up of water. Water is required for various body functions, from lubricating joints and carrying nutrients and oxygen to your cells to keeping your kidneys healthy. The water in your body is constantly lost to perspiration, tear production, and urination. The only way to maintain a healthy water content is by drinking the right amount of fluids and consuming foods with high moisture content.
The U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine notes that to be adequately hydrated, women need 91 ounces of water a day (about nine cups) and men need 125 ounces a day (over 15 cups).1 But that’s for healthy sedentary people who live in moderate climates. If you are very active or live in a hot climate, you need to drink more. Athletes may need as much as 25 cups of water a day.
As days grow warmer and your body may require more water than it does in winter, it helps to keep a large water bottle with you throughout the day and refill it whenever it’s empty. You can also drink herbal teas and sparkling water with unsweetened fruit juice to fulfill your daily fluid requirement.
A good way to assess whether you’re properly hydrated is to check the color of your urine first thing in the morning. If it’s light straw-colored, you’re in good shape. If it’s dark yellow, you need to hydrate more.
Healthy Habit #2: Decrease Salt & Increase Potassium
Sodium (salt) and potassium are closely related and essential for maintaining physiological balance. Potassium helps maintain fluid inside the cells while sodium helps maintain it outside the cells. Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease, whereas higher levels of potassium help excrete sodium, decrease blood pressure, and relax blood vessels.
Most American adults consume roughly half of the recommended amount of potassium, putting them at higher risk of death from heart attack and any cause.REF#967
By creating a good ratio of sodium to potassium — reducing sodium intake and increasing potassium intake, The National Academy of Medicine expects we can reduce the age-related rise in blood pressure.REF#967 Daily intake should average:
- 1,500 mg of sodium for women and men 14 and over
- 2,600 mg of potassium for women over 19 and over
- 2,500-2,900 mg of potassium for pregnant and lactating women
- 3,400 mg of potassium for men 19 and over
For reference, one teaspoon of iodized table salt has 2,300 mg of sodium. So it doesn’t take much to go over your daily requirement. It’s important to check nutrition labels before consuming processed or fast foods to keep your sodium levels in check.
Making your own meals from fresh food gives you the most control over your sodium intake. Consider using spices instead of salt to flavor your food.
You can get most of the potassium you need from vegetables and fruits, which are also low in sodium. Options that are high in potassium include:
- Spinach: 167 mg/cup
- Potato: 897 mg/one medium
- Brussels sprouts: 342 mg/cup
- Butternut squash: 493 mg/cup, cubed
- Boiled lentils: 731/cup
- Mushrooms: 223 mg/cup, sliced
- Almonds: 200 mg/ounce
- Avocado: 708 mg/ cup, sliced
- Bananas: 422 mg/one medium
- Cantaloupe: 589 mg/half a medium melon
- Oranges: 174 mg/one small
- Grapefruit: 166 mg/half
Making your meals from fresh whole foods gives you the most control over your sodium and potassium intake.
Healthy Habit #3: Take a 30-Minute Brisk Walk Five Days a Week
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise (or 75 minutes a week of high-intensity exercise) as one of the most important things you can do for your health. Additionally, they recommend two days a week of muscle strengthening exercise.REF#968
Multiple studies have found that moderate-intensity exercise is not only good for your physical health but also enhances brain health, reducing risk of dementia.REF#969 Higher activity (150 minutes a week) has been associated with a lower risk, of cancer, cardiovascular disease and early death.REF#970 But new research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine indicates that even 75 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week provides a 23 percent lower risk of early death.REF#971
If you haven’t already established a healthy exercise routine, you can start slowly, with 11 minutes of daily walking and work up to 30 minutes daily. To add walking to your daily routine without it seeming like a chore:
- Make a recurring date to walk with a friend regularly.
- Invest in good airpods or headphones and walk with your favorite music or a podcast.
- Get a dog, who will remind you it’s time to take your daily walk.
- Investigate new parks to walk in or trails to follow to add variety to your exercise.
- Get a walking pad or make yourself a treadmill desk to walk slowly on while you work at the computer, reading, or watching TV.
Healthy Habit # 4: Plant a Herb Garden
You don’t need a big plot of land to plant an herb garden. In fact, you can create one indoors planting herbs in four-inch pots and placing them on a table or countertop that gets good direct sunlight for part of the day.
When you grow herbs that offer health benefits, you can use them to make your own herbal teas or oils to enjoy and have on hand when you need support for occasional inflammation, a cold or cough, or sleep.
If you have the space for a vegetable garden, you can also grow berries that are high in antioxidants and vegetables that supply many of the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy.
For a simple herb garden, consider planting the following to support your health:
- Oregano: Oregano is rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants and offers antiviral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.* You can use fresh oregano to make your own oregano oil to take when you have a cold or flu, apply to skin infections, or improve the health of your hair and scalp.
- Peppermint: Peppermint helps clear congestion and relieve irritable coughs.* It can also relax the digestive system.* A few leaves steeped in hot water make a soothing tea.
- Holy Basil: In Ayurvedic medicine, Holy Basil (also known as Tulsi) is believed to support a healthy stress response, maintain blood sugar levels within a normal range, promote longevity, nourish the mind, and elevate the spirit.* While more research is needed to confirm all its benefits, it’s a great herb to keep around and use to make tea.
- Chamomile: Long used for its calming effects, Chamomile is also thought to support a normal inflammatory response and help with occasional digestive upset.* Use its leaves to create a soothing bedtime tea.
Healthy Habit #5: Readjust Your Sleep Schedule
As we pass the Spring Equinox (around March 21 every year), the days grow longer and the nights become shorter. You may find your sleep patterns change and it’s hard to get enough rest. Adults aged 19 and over should sleep seven or more hours a night for optimum physical and mental health. You also may need to sleep longer if you’re recovering from a period of insomnia or an illness.
If you’re struggling to fall asleep at a decent hour or find yourself tossing and turning all night, it’s time to improve your sleep hygiene. Read our blog post, “How to Improve Your Sleep With Better Sleep Hygiene,” for ideas on how to avoid sleep deprivation.
If stress keeps you up, try a natural supplement to quiet your “monkey mind.” Valerian and Passionflower are two good options to help you relax.* Or try a blend, such as Gaia’s SleepThru® that pairs Ashwagandha with Passionflower, or Sleep and Relax herbal tea that combines Passionflower with Chamomile and Lemon Balm.
Healthy Habit #6: Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet
It’s easy to accumulate medicines, supplements, and personal care products over a year or two. Too often, by the time you start cleaning out the medicine cabinet, many of these items are past expiration.
Springtime is a great time to take everything out, review the expiration dates, get rid of anything you no longer use, and start the spring with only products that are good for your current health.
If you have prescription medicines past their “use by” date, don’t flush them down the toilet or put them in your garbage can. Some pharmacies will take expired or unused medications. The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers directions on how to dispose of unused medicines.
Healthy Habit #7: Invest in Healthy Cleaning Products
While you’re cleaning out your medicine cabinet, check the cleaning products you have under the sink. Many countertop and bathroom cleaners, laundry detergents, and even personal care products can be filled with chemicals that irritate our skin and lungs.
Often, the products that promise to clean the toughest stains or produce the whitest whites do so at a cost to your health. Even if you’ve invested in products labeled as natural, you can’t trust all labels. Most cleaning and personal care product manufacturers are not required to disclose all the ingredients in their products. (In the U.S., California and New York are the only states with disclosure laws.) A watchdog company, EWG, has created a verification program for manufacturers whose products meet their standards for health and wellness. These manufacturers can use an EWG Verified™ mark on their label.
If your cleaning and personal care products don’t have that mark and you want to know if they’re safe for your health, the Consumer Product Data Information Base links 25,000 consumer brands to known health effects and links all ingredients in the products.
If you discover that you have unhealthy cleaning or personal care products you want to get rid of, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers directions on how to dispose of household hazardous waste safely.
Healthy Habit #8: Find a Healthier Way to Deal with Allergens
Spring is allergy season, when flowers bloom and grasses begin to grow. If you suffer from allergies, read Gaia’s “7+ Drug-Free Options for Seasonal Allergies.” A few of those options include:
- Start the season by changing the filter in your HVAC system.
- Invest in an air purifier with a HEPA filter to ensure that pollen, dust, smoke, pet dander, and other hazardous particles are filtered from the air inside your home. If you already have one, change the filter.
- Make sure your diet is rich in vitamins, minerals, and probiotics. Scientists are studying the effects certain foods have on allergies. While there is no definitive list of foods that affect or reduce allergies, consuming a full complement of macronutrients and micronutirients will make you feel better overall.
- Use supplements to treat allergies naturally.
- Try using a saline nasal rinse or neti pot daily.
It may be possible to get through allergy season without medications that cause unwelcome side effects. But before you give those up, discuss your options with your healthcare provider.
Healthy Habit # 9: Add Natural Supplements to Your Diet
Unless you have the time to ensure that every meal you eat provides the perfect balance of nutrients, you may lack certain vitamins and minerals and miss out on the antioxidants you need for optimum wellness.
Gaia Herbs provides a matchmaker quiz to help you determine the right mix of herbs for your unique needs. For instance, as we enter spring, you may want to maximize your strength and vitality so you can enjoy the great outdoors. A good combination for supporting peak performance, healthy weight, and stamina would be:
- Maca Root: Caffeine-free support to keep you energized all day*
- Green Tea: Antioxidant support with some caffeine*
- Cordyceps Mushrooms: Adaptogenic properties to help your body cope with stress*
Your own perfect combination will depend on your age, needs, and goals. Take the quiz and find out what herbs might benefit you the most.
By taking time to prioritize your health and wellness this spring, you set yourself up to feel more energized, focused, and productive, and can also improve your overall well-being and quality of life. Whether you choose to start a new exercise routine, prioritize getting enough sleep, or focus on eating a healthy, balanced diet, taking steps to prioritize your health this spring can have lasting benefits that extend far beyond the season.
- 1. , "Report Sets Dietary Intake Levels for Water, Salt, and Potassium To Maintain Health and Reduce Chronic Disease Risk", National Academies, February 11, 2004. https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2004/02/report-sets-dietary-intake-levels-for-water-salt-and-potassium-to-maintain-health-and-reduce-chronic-disease-risk 1 1. , "Report Sets Dietary Intake Levels for Water, Salt, and Potassium To Maintain Health and Reduce Chronic Disease Risk", National Academies, February 11, 2004. https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2004/02/report-sets-dietary-intake-levels-for-water-salt-and-potassium-to-maintain-health-and-reduce-chronic-disease-risk
- 2. , "How much physical activity do adults need?", Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm 2 2. , "How much physical activity do adults need?", Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm
- 3. Jianwei Zhu et al, "Physical and Mental Activity, Disease Susceptibility, and Risk of Dementia: A Prospective Cohort Study Based on UK Biobank", PubMed, August 23, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35896434/ 3 3. Jianwei Zhu et al, "Physical and Mental Activity, Disease Susceptibility, and Risk of Dementia: A Prospective Cohort Study Based on UK Biobank", PubMed, August 23, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35896434/
- 4. Borja del Pozo Cruz, PhD, "Prospective Associations of Daily Step Counts and Intensity With Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease Incidence and Mortality and All-Cause Mortality", JAMA Internal Medicine, September 12, 2022. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2796058 4 4. Borja del Pozo Cruz, PhD, "Prospective Associations of Daily Step Counts and Intensity With Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease Incidence and Mortality and All-Cause Mortality", JAMA Internal Medicine, September 12, 2022. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2796058
- 5. Leandro Garcia et al, "Non-occupational physical activity and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and mortality outcomes: a dose–response meta-analysis of large prospective studies", 2022. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2023/01/23/bjsports-2022-105669 5 5. Leandro Garcia et al, "Non-occupational physical activity and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and mortality outcomes: a dose–response meta-analysis of large prospective studies", 2022. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2023/01/23/bjsports-2022-105669