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Five Healthy Habits For a Healthier Life

Change is good, but if you make too much change too fast, you might not create meaningful change—not as good. Extreme, inflexible plans may be to blame for the number of people who get discouraged or thrown off course when trying to make positive changes! Whether it’s reducing sugar and alcohol, getting fit, or managing stress, any change is destined to fail unless you approach it one small step at a time. 

With a perspective on human health and behavior from my ten years in the ER, I’ve picked five tiny things that I think can make a measurable and sustainable difference in your wellness over the course of a year. I’ve also included thoughts on how you can incorporate them into your routines in a way that won’t feel overwhelming or burdensome, because chores are no fun. Pick one, two, or all five, and do your best to weave them joyfully into your days.

1) Hydrate better

Drinking enough water is HARD. There’s no magic number, but most of us should be trying to drink 70-100 ounces per day. If you drink caffeine or alcohol, you need to hit the higher end of that range. Here are my tips for training yourself to stay hydrated.

  • Get a water bottle you LOVE, and figure out how many refills you’d ideally like to drink in a day. Put stickers on it, take it with you when you travel—pretend it’s a little furry friend who never leaves your side.
  • Sip hot water throughout the day—it softens your intestinal lining, making it easier for your body to absorb the water. 
  • Drink water between meals, rather than during.
  • Add electrolytes or fruit slices to your water if you need a little flavor—just make sure you're not adding lots of sugar!

2) Eat fewer animals

I’ve been vegetarian for twenty-three years, which allows me to feel like I’m living in alignment with my ethics. But even if eating animals doesn’t upset your morals, it’s better for you and for this little planet to eat fewer of them, and to pay real attention to sourcing.

  • You don’t have to be vegan to make a difference. Pick one or two days a week to leave meat out of the picture.
  • Cook from amazing vegetarian blogs like Cookie + Kate or Love & Lemons so your tastebuds stay excited and happy. Our blog has some amazing recipes, too!
  • If and when you do eat meat and dairy, consider the source. Conscious meat and dairy consumption raises the ethical bar for the industry and grass-fed, free-range animals provide far more nutritious meat and dairy for you to consume.  

3) Move your body every day, outdoors when possible

The trouble with exercise is that we’re...American. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but we get ourselves into the all-or-nothing mindset, where we either join a CrossFit gym and do six classes a week or we flop on the couch and binge-watch something. What happened to taking a long walk? Why do we have to be so extreme? 

  • Commit to moving your body five days a week. This means a 20-30 minute session of walking, jogging, yoga, hiking, prancercise—you decide. 
  • Check out Alltrails and see what adventures might be hiding in your backyard!
  • Change one word in your vocabulary when it comes to exercise: you don’t have to exercise, you GET to exercise.

4) Conscious breathing

I won’t say the M word, because it know it sounds too scary. All I’m suggesting is five minutes of conscious breathing most days. It’s like a positive time-out for your brain and body. Here’s how I started a regular practice after many years of resisting.

  • Try sitting in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, close your eyes, and breathe for five minutes. Or do it in bed when you wake to start your day.
  • Understand that you don’t have to (and are not likely to) achieve perfect stillness of the mind or reach nirvana. You’re just taking five minutes to focus on your breath.
  • Once you’ve started to look forward to your daily sessions, you can spruce up your practice with a nice stool, cushion, candle, or essential oil blend. Not necessary, but a nice treat to reward yourself for building meditation into your life!

5) Read more fiction

Most of us feel the need to be very productive, even when we’re relaxing. We think too much and imagine too little. Self-help books and podcasts are fine, but we need stories to keep our brains healthy and happy.

  • Start a book club with people you truly enjoy. (And get out of any book clubs you dread.)
  • If you’re not a paper book person, try a Kindle or use the Audible app for your commutes.
  • Ask friends what books they loved and keep a list so you always have a new novel ready to roll.

With love and tiny (lasting) changes,