It’s that time of year again. Resolutions are made with the best intentions, and although we usually start off strong with the motivation to make some major changes to our health and lifestyle choices, we tend to divert back to our old ways over time. (Maybe that’s already happened in your case, and that’s OK.)
Instead of choosing one resolution that requires big changes, consider making a few small, very easy improvements instead.
By adding a few little habits to your everyday routine, you can work to boost your health for the long-term. And guess what? These health boosters will only take a few minutes and could potentially add years to your life.
15 Health Boosters to Work into Your Life
1. Ditch Artificial Sweeteners
It’s tempting to reach for the low-carb, no calorie artificial sweeteners that are marketed as good sugar alternatives. But please stop using these synthetic, non-nutritive sweeteners that come with a handful of dangerous side effects. From increasing your BMI weight and risk of developing type 2 diabetes, to causing headaches and mood disorders — artificial sweeteners aren’t doing you any favors. This means ditching all the big names, like Equal, Nutrasweet, Splenda, Sweet N’ Low and Truvia. Opt for natural sweeteners instead, like stevia, raw honey and coconut sugar.
2. Be Still
Life can get a little crazy, or a lot crazy. That’s exactly why you need to set time aside in your day to just be still. Not able to get to a yoga class for some much-needed relaxation? You can still have your own little shavasana at home. Stillness — if only for a few minutes a day, can help to relieve stress, improve sleep and boost your mood. And when you practice stillness for an even longer period of time, it can benefit back pain, arthritis symptoms and blood sugar levels, too.
3. Stand Up
Did you know that short and frequent standing breaks are more effective at burning fat than standing for a longer period of time (or not at all)? University of Glasgow researchers published a study suggesting that standing up throughout the day, even for short intervals, resulted in more bodyweight benefits. Researchers believe this is due to the larger amount of muscle activity and energy expenditure required in the sit-to-stand transition. So be sure to switch it up throughout the day.
4. Buy a House Plant
Looking for an inexpensive, practical and downright pretty way to clean the air inside your home or office? It’s time to buy a (or another) house plant. Research shows that houseplants work to remove pollution from your home by stripping particular volatile organic compounds (called VOCs) from the air. VOCs can be toxic and detrimental to your health, causing headaches, dizziness, eye irritation and tiredness. The best houseplants that remove pollution are the spider plant, jade, bromeliad and dracaena.
5. Try Kefir
By now, you’ve probably heard about the many benefits of probiotics. Consuming foods and drinks that are rich in probiotics helps to improve the health of your gut and boost your immune system. Drinking kefir or adding it to a smoothie is one of the easiest ways to consume more probiotics every day. You may even prefer water kefir, which is a fizzy, fermented drink that’s made by adding kefir grains to sugar water. It’s totally dairy-free and vegan-friendly.
6. Choose Organic
I know you’ve heard this before, but recent research conducted in France shows that eating organic foods reduces your risk for developing cancer. According to researchers, eating a higher frequency of organic foods correlates to a 25 percent lower risk of being diagnosed with cancer. This goes for major foods, including fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, fish, eggs and vegetable oils. So if you aren’t doing it already, choose organic whenever possible. Even small changes, like going organic for the dirty dozen foods, can make a big difference.
7. Stop Phubbing
Phubbing (or phone + snubbing) is something we’re seeing all around us on daily basis. When we choose technology, specifically our smartphones, over human interaction, we’re negatively impacting our relationships and overall life satisfaction. Let’s all make an effort to take a break from texting and checking Instagram and engage in real life, in-person interactions. Phubbing is a relationship killer and it can damage mental health. For starters, try scheduling a phone-free hour every day. Okay, that’s longer than a few minutes, but it will only take you a few seconds to turn off the phone or put it away.
8. No TV Right Before Bed
Did you know that when you watch TV or a show on your computer while sitting in a dark room, you’re being exposed to artificial blue light that has a higher color temperature than daytime sun? That means that the screen feels brighter to your internal circadian clock than being out in the sun at noon. To avoid sending your brain misleading messages about when it’s time to sleep and make melatonin, skip the show right before bed. Instead, do some reading, chat with a loved one or take time to reflect quietly. This will set the tone for a good night’s sleep, which is one of the most important aspects of good health.
9. Skip the Ice in Your Water
It might feel strange to ask for your water without ice at a restaurant, but drinking water at room temperature may actually be better for your digestion. In Ayurvedic medicine, your agni, or digestive fire, is what gives your body power to digestive and absorb foods, maintain body temperature and think clearly. It’s this heat or fire within us that makes this possible, according to Ayurveda, and drinking ice water will open dampen the fire. To boost your digestive health and your internal energy, stick to plain ol’ water next time.
10. Ditch the Dried Fruit
It’s easy to go overboard on dried fruit, especially when it’s thrown in with your trail mix. But dry fruit contains a lot of sugar, which is not only harmful to your waistline, cardiovascular health, kidneys and skin, but your teeth too. In fact, when we eat foods high in sugar, even seemingly healthy ones, the harmful bacteria in our mouths will feed on it. Plus, dried fruit can easily get stuck in your teeth, inviting even more bacteria to the sugar fest. So opt for fresh fruit instead next time — your choppers will thank you.
11. Add a Little Cacao
Need an excuse to eat some chocolate? Cacao, the original and natural chocolate, is a superfood that’s loaded with phytonutrients and antioxidants. But researchers are learning more and more about cacao’s influence on the endocannabinoid system, which plays a huge role in many cognitive and physiological processes. Cacao contains anandamide, a “bliss molecule” that works to improve your mood, appetite, memory and fertility. It’s easy to use cacao in everyday recipes. Just add cacao powder to your smoothie, breakfast bowl, baked goods or energy balls.
12. Join a “Moai”
A “moai” is a special kind of social network that plays a role in the lives of people living in Okinawa, Japan. Okinawa is one of the world’s “Blue Zones,” where the average life expectancy for women is around 90 years. Children in Okinawa join moais from a very young age and share a lifelong journey with these special friends. They offer one another emotional, social and even financial support. They even encourage each other to exercise, eat a healthy diet and stay positive. To boost your own health this year, join or form your own moai that fosters positivity, or lean in to supportive relationships that encourage healthy habits.
13. Throw in Some Chia Seeds
Did you know that there’s a superfood you can simply sprinkle on top of your breakfast bowl or into your smoothie to boost digestive and cardiovascular health? Hello, chia seeds. Chia seeds are versatile, going well in so many recipes, from oatmeal, to pancakes, and even right on top of fresh fruit. These tiny little seeds are packed with antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber and protein. Incorporating them into your meals is a super easy way to increase your nutrient consumption for the day.
14. Do a Down Dog
One of yoga’s most recognized poses, the Downward-Facing Dog works to stretch your entire body and build strength. It serves as a resting pose, strengthening pose and inversion pose. Doing a down dog every day can reduce back pain, elongate your shoulders, reduce headaches, decrease anxiety and increase circulation.
15. Go Outside
The cold, dark months of winter can be hard to get through. Your energy levels may plummet and the winter blues take full effect. That’s exactly why you need to bundle up and get outside, especially during the day when there’s natural sunlight. Spending some time outside, even if it’s just a few minutes here and there during the winter months, will help to boost your energy levels and fight the urge to hibernate until spring time.
Read Next: 10 Signs You Aren’t Aging Well
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