10 Healthy Lifestyle Changes That Make A Big Impact
Our lives are based on the habits we create over time. Some habits are good for us such as brushing our teeth while other habits have a detrimental effect such as smoking cigarettes. The good news is that many of these habits can be changed by making small incremental adjustments.
Making small changes to your diet and lifestyle can have a big impact on your overall health and wellbeing. Here are 10 easy modifications you can make today that will help you live a healthier life.
According to healthline.com, there are preferred times to drink water depending on the effect you want. For example, if you are wanting to start your day off right, then start drinking water when you wake up. This helps to set the tone for staying hydrated.
If you want to avoid overeating, try drinking water 30 minutes before a meal. It can help create a full feeling and may limit the calories you consume. Lastly, when working out, it is important to drink water to replace any lost fluids.
Drinking more water can have a big impact on your overall health. According to a previous post we wrote, positive effects go beyond weight loss and replenishing lost fluids from a workout. According to the Mayo Clinic, benefits also include, but are not limited to:
It may seem like the only people who should be concerned with how much protein they are eating are those who regularly go to the gym. However, that’s not the case as we should all be taking the time to make sure we are getting enough protein in our diets.
Protein is important for all the functions our bodies perform, especially the ones we don’t think about. These functions include building and repairing muscle and bone, aiding in immune function, and helping our cells create energy.
In addition to all the uses of protein within the body, eating enough protein each day can prevent overeating by helping you to feel fuller for longer by reducing the hunger hormone ghrelin. One study even shows that increasing protein intake can reduce cravings and late-night snacking which can aid in any weight loss goals.
So just how much protein is enough then? It is generally recommended to eat a certain number of grams of protein based on how much you weigh, usually 0.7-1 gram of protein for every kilogram you weigh (check out this calculator to determine your weight in kilograms). This is not a strict recommendation though, and the amount of protein you eat each day can vary based on things such as fitness training and if there is any pre-existing kidney disease.
Processed food delivers a short-term boost in energy but offers little nutritional value compared to whole foods, which may not be worth the trade-off. Removing or processed foods can decrease your chance of developing or suffering from a chronic disease and even slow down the aging process. You can find more information about processed foods in our blog post, Processed Foods Vs Whole Foods.
While processed foods are quick, easy, available and most compelling, taste delicious, these processed foods contain additives, contaminants, and synthetic chemicals. Eating such foods on a regular basis can cause inflammation in our bodies.
Healthline.com offers some great advice on how to cut out processed foods from your diet. They include keeping healthy snacks on hand, swapping refined grains for whole grains, preparing meals ahead of time to reduce temptation, and making simple food swaps.
Easy food swaps that can make a big impact include:
Fruits and vegetables are a healthy way of getting the vitamins you need to maintain good health. Increasing fruits and vegetables can improve your overall health in several ways. One study showed that eating more fruits and vegetables can even reduce overall stress levels.
Another study states that adults who ate five portions of fruits and vegetables per day compared to two portions per day, lowered their risk for cardiovascular and cancer mortality by 10-13%. And respiratory mortality was lowered by 35%.
A diet rich in plant-based foods is believed to reduce risk factors for many ailments, including heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Because no single fruit can cover all nutrients, it’s important to vary the plants you consume daily.
There is a reason that many experts advise eating the colors of the rainbow when it comes to their fruit and veggie servings. This is because according to the Harvard School of Public Health, there are “at least nine different families of fruits and vegetables.”
Different combinations increase the beneficial plant compounds you consume and thus give your body a healthy balance of nutrients it needs to work efficiently. Just one of the many ways a small change of increased fruit and veggie intake can make a big difference in your overall health.
By now, most of us are aware of the importance of adequate sleep. Without enough sleep (7-8 hours), people without any history of depression have an increased risk of developing depression according to one study.. Not getting enough sleep can not only bring down your mood, but can also kill your productivity throughout the day.
Individuals who fall in the middle-age range, ages 50-60, and get less than six hours of sleep per night, increase their risk for developing dementia by 30%. That said, getting enough sleep has countless benefits including.
We understand that getting enough sleep comes with its own set of challenges as we live in a world that doesn’t stop. But, simply making small changes such as not using a screen at least one hour before bed, adding in some meditation during the day, and not eating close to bedtime can help improve your overall sleep patterns.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a long list of the health effects caused by smoking. “More than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking,” and “for every person who dies because of smoking, at least 30 people live with a serious smoking-related illness.”
These illnesses include cancer, heart disease and lung diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis (collectively known as COPD), just to name a few. It also negatively affects the immune system, lowering your ability to fight off diseases you may encounter.
Quitting smoking can have a huge impact on your physical and mental health. When you quit smoking, your body is no longer taxed by the toxins and can start to detoxify various biochemical pathways to bring your body back to functioning the way it did before smoking was started. This helps with healing from injuries or illnesses that occurred because of all those toxins being released when you do smoke.
While smoking is one of the hardest habits to quit, you don’t have to try to quit alone. Doctors and pharmacists are here to help the process of quitting smoking a little bit easier . Every person will have their own journey, but the idea the suggestion that cutting out one cigarette per day may lead to quitting altogether. At the very least, you will end up smoking less!
Cutting back on alcohol can do wonders for your physical and mental health. Even reducing your drinking by one night per week could help you feel better in general - even if diet and exercise stay the same.
When we drink, our body releases dopamine which makes us feel good. When someone drinks regularly, their brains, depending on their genetics, may adjust to this extra dopamine by breaking it down faster. This causes less dopamine in the brain when there is no alcohol present leading to moodiness, irritability and a desire for more alcohol.
According to drinkaware.ie, the benefits to cutting back on alcohol consumption include a boost in mood, lowering overall blood sugar levels, potential weight loss, and an improved immune system.
Your liver may also function better, as it can focus on its essential tasks rather than the removal of alcohol from your body. Making this small change now will lower your risk for developing future health problems, such as cancer, heart, and liver disease.
We are inherently wired to crave sweets from an evolutionary perspective. As a result, our brains will encourage us to choose sugary foods over protein and fat. Similar to an alcohol addiction, excessive sugar consumption also triggers a dopamine release increasing our addiction. Cutting out refined, or processed sugar can do wonders for your health, including evening out mood swings and helping with weight loss goals. Replacing sugar in your diet, as we previously discussed in this post relating to 7 sugar alternatives, doesn’t have to be complicated.
People often see the following improvements when they reduced their sugar intake:
Mindful eating is a growing trend that focuses on being fully attentive to the food we eat, from picking it out to preparing it and even to the flavor and experience of the prepared food. The concept behind "mindful" cuisine was created by Buddhist monks.
Mindful eating can help you lose weight, maintain a healthy lifestyle by reducing sugar cravings, and can help manage stress levels. It also can help reduce inflammation in our bodies and will create a better understanding of self-awareness.
Healthline.com provides suggestions for approaching mindful eating such as eating slowly, without distraction, listening to physical hunger cues, and understanding true hunger versus bored eating. You begin to notice if you are bored or if you are actually hungry.
When you eat, engage in all of your senses and notice the colors, textures, flavors and more that you experience. Appreciate your food and notice the effects it has on your feelings and waistline.
Making these small changes can prevent you from overeating or eating when you are not hungry. It also helps to prevent us from treating our bodies like they are garbage cans, and appreciate them for the amazing vessels that they are.
If you're finding it hard to make time for exercise, try scheduling an exercise time. This makes it so that no matter what happens in life or how stressed things might be at work, you have a set day or time for getting into shape.
Declare it by telling others or scheduling it in your calendar. Then it's easy enough to simply show up to your ‘appointment’. It also helps to have a specific workout outfit that you change into. Studies have shown that simply putting it on is a great motivation to actually work out.
It also doesn’t have to be an hour of activity that makes the difference. Small exercises such as squats, planks, or lunges, can all have a great impact on our bodies without being time consuming. Exercises don’t work if you don’t show up, so make the time.
As former Olympian Jim Ryun said, “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” What will it take for you to introduce these small changes and make them your next habit? Why not start with one today and see how far you can take it?
My Toolbox Genomics empowers individuals in their healthcare journey by creating reports focused on genetic predispositions derived from published research. Test results and suggestions are intended to lead to consultation with one’s healthcare practitioner. MyTBG reports do not diagnose disease or medical conditions. Any lifestyle changes should result from consultation with qualified healthcare practitioners.