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Five Small Steps To a Healthier Lifestyle

We all seem to know that diet and exercise are the way to a healthy lifestyle. Fasting, fad diets, and miracle foods often result in yo-yo dieting in which we initially loose weight, then after a few weeks gain it all back, and sometimes more than we started with. The truth of the matter is, there isn’t a way to miraculously lose weight fast and still remain healthy. Instead, the ultimate goal is to strive for a healthy lifestyle, as we’ve heard countless times from both our mothers and Dr. Oz. By setting a healthy lifestyle as your ultimate goal instead of hoping to lose weight or gain muscle mass, we can apply improvements to every area of our lives rather than just diet and exercise. Although these two things are very important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it’s essential that the rest of your habits follow suit.

1.  Exercise

Exercise is a huge part of looking great and feeling healthy. You’ve probably heard of, or even experienced, the “runner’s high.” What you may not have known is that exercise can affect the health of your brain almost as much as it can affect the health of your body. It’s often prescribed to people who are battling depression or memory loss. When working out, your brain releases neurotransmitters, which are tiny signals in your brain that allow communication between neurons. The particular neurotransmitters released during exercise offer many benefits to your mental health.

One transmitter in particular is called acetylcholine. This transmitter is especially important in the function of retaining memories. The depletion of acetylcholine has been linked to increased cases of Alzheimer’s disease— scary stuff! During exercise you also release amphetamines, which in turn release dopamine and serotonin. These both control mood levels and, in turn, happiness. Many drugs use these compounds to induce a state of euphoria, but who needs drugs when you have exercise!

2. Eat More

I know you’re probably surprised by this one. The truth is, although many Americans tend to overeat, we do it in the wrong way. Eating is very important, and realistically, we should be eating almost all day. The problem with this is that most Americans tend to gravitate toward three extremely large meals per day. When you overload your body with a large amount of food, your digestive tract often stresses out, especially if you’ve waited hours between meals. Your metabolism has likely already digested the huge meal you ingested for breakfast and then receives a major shock when another large meal is consumed.

By eating small meals and healthy snacks in between, you can maintain a constant blood sugar rate without crashing in between meals. This will actually increase your energy level throughout the day as well. When you eat small, healthy meals throughout the day, it’s likely your calorie consumption with drop dramatically.

3. Sleep

Sleep is often overlooked or dismissed. We find ourselves silently chanting no time for sleep, more important things to do. The truth is that sleep is extremely important in maintaining a balanced, healthy lifestyle. When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re affecting the chemicals that keep your brain working at it’s best. Just like a computer, your brain needs to shut down and take a rest every night so that it works effectively.

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You may notice that your speech begins to slur when you haven’t caught enough sleep the night before. This is due to the complex functioning of your frontal cortex, which can’t function properly when you don’t get enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep also impairs memory and learning abilities because sleep is the time for you mind to rehearse everything it has learned during the day. Without sleep, your brain doesn’t have time to file and process everything it has taken in throughout the day. Lack of sleep can cause you to look for an energy increase elsewhere— an afternoon soda or a late-night carb-filled snack. These tend to give you quick bursts of energy, but they ultimately keep you up even later, impairing your natural sleep cycle.

Sometimes it’s just plain hard to fall asleep at night. Easy and small tricks such as creating a set routine (for example, sleeping 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. everyday) can help trick your body into becoming tired at a regular hour. To help yourself fall asleep easier, try indulging in a warm glass of milk and stay away from bright TV or computer screens.

4. Mentality

Another underrated key to being healthy is the state of your mind. The more positivity you surround yourself with, the more likely you will grow mentally and emotionally into a happy and confident person. Taking up a hobby such as yoga or meditation can help to ease your mind and free your worries. Instead of condemning yourself at the end of the day because you haven’t scratched all your plans off your to-do list, praise yourself for what you have accomplished. Repeating to yourself that you are in control of your emotions is a great encouragement to sway those negative thoughts out of your mind. If you don’t have time for yoga or meditating doesn’t interest you, set aside a few minutes every day to just breathe and relax. Whether you choose to do this in your backyard or on the couch, rehearse to yourself everything that you are thankful for or proud of in your life. You’ll be surprised the effect that this can have on your mood!

5. Bare Minimum

Although we’re conscious of the chemicals in our own homes, in our gardens or clothes, this concern often flies out the window when we deal with our appearance. After-shave, shampoo, makeup, soap, and deodorant all contain chemicals. An easy way to improve the health of your body is to opt for natural products. When you first switch to these products, you may not find them as effective, but wait it out! Once your body adjusts to the major change, the natural products will be just as effective.

When I first experimented with using natural deodorant in the form of a rock, I was incredibly embarrassed to find out it was no comparison to my usual Lady Speed Stick. I talked to a friend though who assured me after a few weeks of sweating out the toxins I spent years layering on my underarms I would eventually smell fantastic. So I took her word for it and sure enough, after only a few days I noticed a huge improvement. My underarms have never looked better and no longer experience any itching, burning, or allergic reactions. This was my first clue that when it comes to your body, you shouldn’t sacrifice your concern for organic products.

Good luck, and a healthier life to you!

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