By Adin Smith
When life gets challenging, it is human nature to seek comfort in the things that bring us immediate pleasure, like eating a doughnut or watching Netflix.
Enjoying some of the simple pleasures or distractions in life is not a bad thing; however when the motivation for making healthy choices starts to weaken it can have a detrimental impact on your health.
The challenge is knowing how to prioritize your lifestyle changes from the top-down. This list of five fundamental changes will help you make those long-lasting improvements you have been looking for.
It is hard to accomplish many things in life when you are stressed out and feeling down.
Exercise does an excellent job of fighting anxiety and depression. To ensure that your exercise regimen is sustainable, be sure to choose the physical activities that you enjoy. Keep in mind that exercising outdoors can improve vitamin D levels, a vitamin that many people are lacking.
In terms of activity, try to get
- at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week,
- or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise,
- or an equivalent combination of both.
Since your quality of sleep, stress levels, and mood can be improved by exercise, exercise deserves the number one spot.
Without enough sleep your life can quickly spin out of control. The risk of getting into an accident or injuring yourself is much higher when you’re not adequately rested. Furthermore, poor sleepers are more prone to developing health problems such as elevated blood pressure and high blood sugar levels. Insufficient sleep also impairs the immune system and increases the risk of catching a cold or the flu.
How to Achieve Optimal Sleep
For two hours before going to bed avoid intense exercise, looking at bright screens, listening to loud music, drinking alcoholic beverages, and conversations that evoke strong emotions.
Because your body’s temperature drops slightly during the initial sleep stage, it is crucial to keep bedroom temperatures between 15.5 and 19.4 degrees Celsius to support this process. For those of you who live in vibrant cities or suburbs, purchasing a white noise machine or air purifier may also help improve sleep quality.
3. Building relationships
Believe it or not, building successful relationships is critical for your mental and physical health.
Lack of close relationships can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation which may impair immune system function and increase inflammation in the body.
Feeling isolated and lonely are associated with a wide range of health problems.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help build your social network. For instance, there are many different types of free “meetup” events that can be found online – introducing you to other people who share similar interests.
If you haven’t met your neighbours yet, find ways to spark a conversation or build a connection. For example, you might post invitations for your immediate neighbours to come over for a happy hour gathering after work.
4. Healthy eating without dieting
For many, dieting involves adopting an extreme eating pattern such as drastically cutting calories or carbohydrates. Such an approach is not sustainable over the long haul for most people and may carry some risks.
For example, the ketogenic diet (a high-fat diet with very-low-carbohydrate content) may bring both short-term side effects such as insomnia, vomiting, and electrolyte imbalance, and long-term adverse effects such as kidney stones, liver damage, and certain vitamin deficiencies.
Intermittent fasting (eating during specific periods only) is another popular diet strategy that may not provide substantial benefits over the long haul and does not come without risks.
That being said, some of these “special diets” (ketogenic diet, etc.) can be helpful for certain people.
Still, it is strongly recommended that special diets are practiced under the guidance of a physician, nutritionist, or other health care provider.
So, what is the most sensible way to eat for the majority of people not participating in specialized diets?
The media likes to sensationalize the benefits of one diet over another, but do not stress out, there is enough research data to identify healthy eating patterns.
It has been established that consuming a plant-rich diet with minimally processed foods is considered the healthiest way to eat.
The best way to ease off from eating processed foods is to start by preparing your own meals at home. Begin by making just a few meals per week, with the ultimate goal of preparing most of your meals at home.
5. Daily naps
Are you surprised that naptime made our top-five list? Do not be.
Naps can benefit physical and mental performance so long as the length of the nap doesn’t exceed 20 minutes.
Taking a short 20-minute “power nap” is best when you need to increase work performance, as it will not make you feel groggy when returning to your tasks.
To become a successful napper, you will want to include it in your schedule. A perfect napping environment is one that’s dark, quiet, cool, and without distractions. Companies across the globe are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of napping, a reason why dedicated “nap rooms” are becoming more common in the workplace.
You may find it easier to nap at work if you invest in a sleep mask and noise-cancelling earphones. Listening to relaxing music while you nap may even provide the added benefit of lowering your heart rate, lowering stress hormones, and reducing anxiety levels.
Attempting to make too many lifestyle changes all at once can be overwhelming. Instead focus on one change at a time. Most people find that addressing their diet is the most challenging component, but it does not have to be.
By focusing on exercise first, stress levels will be lower and sleep quality will improve. If you’re well-rested, you will be in a better frame of mind, less hungry, and you will. Not be as likely to reach for those cookies as a quick-energy fix. Moreover, adding in naps can help improve your energy, focus, and work performance.
About the author
Adin Smith, MS is a Science Researcher and Writer for Nordic Naturals. He holds a Masters Degree in Nutrition, and believes that many health conditions are the result of suboptimal nutrient status. For this reason, Adin is committed to informing others about the latest research in nutrition, lifestyle modification, and dietary supplements.