When you hear the word health, what do you think of? You might think of swapping the chips out for some vegetables or getting some exercise in your day. While eating right and exercising are part of being healthy, it is important to remember that other facets of health should be explored. Health encompasses other factors such as mental health, financial health, and developing healthy habits. To live a truly healthy lifestyle, it is important to see how each of these can impact your life. Below are some traditional and uncommon ideas about how to prioritize your health.
A great place to start in any new journey is to reflect and take note of what your current health habits are. Over the last year, your health routine and circumstance might have changed; you might have started eating differently, you might have stopped working out due to gym closures, or you might have found yourself more stressed than usual. To start, make a list of your current habits. Some questions to consider are:
- Do you tend to eat when you are stressed?
- Do you take on addictive habits like smoking or drinking?
- Do you have a healthy financial plan in place?
- Do you tend to sit most of the day?
- Do you take care of your skin?
- How Is your overall health, and what are you looking to improve on?
Evaluating where you were, where you currently stand, and where you want to be is a fantastic way for you to set goals for yourself that you can stick to. This also makes it easier to develop a plan for how to make any changes along the way to be the best version of yourself.
As discussed above, health is so much more than just eating well and caring for your physical body. Part of health is the financial health that you carry. Financial health can be described as the state of your financial affairs or the kind of financial shape you are in. While you might not see the immediate need for financial health, it is crucial to understand how prepared you are for possible future events and reduce your stress regarding your financial security.
One way to start thinking about your financial health is to create a needs versus wants list as part of your budget. This can incorporate large purchases, like new appliances or upgrades to your house, or smaller items such as recurring costs like pet food or baby items. Once you’ve gotten this information, you can incorporate it into your monthly budget to make better-informed spending decisions. As an example, you might want to upgrade your refrigerator to a newer model, but your current refrigerator is working just fine. Keeping the refrigerator upgrade on your “wants’ list can provide you time to save enough money to buy the new refrigerator without using credit or spending outside of your means.
Another way to think about your financial health is to consider what kind of financial legacy you will leave behind when you pass away. Do you have enough money in your bank account to help your children, spouse, or other dependents you might have? If the answer is no, you’re not alone, and while it is unpleasant to think about, it is a necessity of good financial health. As a starting point, review your best options for life insurance based on your current age, health, and location. The earlier on you secure a policy, typically the better rates you will be able to lock in due to your health and low risk of becoming sick or terminally ill. By planning ahead, you can create more peace of mind in the present knowing your loved ones are protected no matter what. Ensuring you have the financial protection needed during an unexpected circumstance can help reduce worry or uncertainty about the future and allow you to focus on enjoying the present you .
Chances are, you’ve probably heard the key to being healthy is “eating right”. While what you put into your body is important and directly impacts the way you feel and the way you are able to live your life, it can be more complicated than that.
One way to instill healthy eating habits is to reduce added or unnecessary sugars, salts, and fats from your diet. While all of those ingredients are okay in moderation, having too much can lead to health problems such as an increased risk of stroke or high blood pressure. An easy way to help reduce these is to choose baked or grilled food over fried, such as chicken or fish. This simple step can still provide the food you want without the added junk. Another easy way to combat this is to compare labels on the packaged foods that you buy; aim for these that list a low or sodium-free option. Doing this is not eliminating food that tastes good completely, rather reducing where you likely won’t see a huge difference.
Another option for eating right is to prepare your meals and snacks ahead of time. Too often it is easy to grab unhealthy (and unfulfilling) junk food on the go due to convenience. As a way to combat this, you can keep pre-prepared produce like carrots, orange slices, or celery in the refrigerator as a healthy “grab and go” alternative. You can also prepare your meals (or at least the menu for the week) so that you are less likely to eat out. Finally, understanding the difference between everyday snacks such as fruits and vegetables and occasional snacks like cookies and sweet treats is important to not only your health but the continued health of your family.
Rethink What You Drink
Just as it is important to be aware of what you eat, it is also important to your health to be mindful of what’s in your drinks. While you might be tempted to have that third cup of coffee or pop open a soda, take a moment and consider a different alternative without the added sugar and caffeine.
You likely know that drinking water is important for your health. But do you know how much water you should be drinking per day? According to health experts, you should be drinking 11.5 cups of water a day if you are a woman, and 15.5 cups per day if you are a man. This of course can change based on your activity levels, the season, and your overall health. Having an adequate amount of water can impact your focus, reaction speed, and mood.
If plain water is not your thing, consider drinking seltzer water. This fizzy and flavored alternative can still help you hit your hydration goals while giving you something tasty to drink. Or, you can add slices of lemon, cucumber, or apple to your water to give a more refreshing taste. To help hit your hydration goals, consider using a reusable water bottle to keep track of how much you’ve already had and how much more you need. Whatever you choose, just remember to limit the number of sugary drinks (like soda or sports drinks) and opt for water as often as you can.
Care For Your Eyes…
Depending on your job, you might have experienced an increase in screen time over the last year. Between Zoom meetings, instant messages, text messages, and a lack of in-person breaks, your eyes have been introduced to a new level of eye strain. As part of an overall healthy lifestyle, eyecare is especially important.
If you are staring at a computer screen all day, try the 20-20-20 rule. This rule states that for every 20 minutes of screen time, you should look at something that is 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This will help reduce eye strain, which in turn might reduce any headaches you might be having. This is also a perfect time to stand up, stretch, and walk away from your electronic devices for a moment.
Another way to care for your eyes is to make sure that they are nourished. For example, if you wear contacts, consider only wearing them when needed and wearing your glasses more frequently. Along the same lines, remember to change your contacts when needed, as well as confirm your prescriptions are up to date. Furthermore, consider keeping eye drops nearby, and make sure you are keeping your eyes moistened throughout the day. Taking these simple steps will ensure the longevity of your eyesight.
…And Your Ears
Just as it is important to keep your eyes cared for and protected, the same goes for your ears! Hearing is an important part of everyday life, and healthy hearing can connect you to others in ways that your other senses cannot. While you might feel that your hearing isn’t as great as it used to be, there are a few things you can do to improve your hearing and maintain good ear health, which is a vital part of your overall health.
One easy way to retrain your ears is to simply turn down the volume! While this might not be your favorite solution, this is a great way to gain back some hearing loss. As an example, if you normally keep your television at a volume of 50, try to listen to it at a volume of 45 for a week, then scale that down to 40, and so on. This might be difficult to hear at first, but after a while your ears will readjust, making noise-induced hearing loss a minimal risk.
Another way to have good ear health is to take care of any excessive ear wax buildup. While you should not clean your ears out with q-tips as this can be dangerous, it is advisable to contact your doctor if severe earwax builds up. Remember that earwax is a barrier for your ears and a little is okay, but if it starts to impact your hearing, it needs to be addressed.For minor cases of buildup, you can buy over-the-counter eardrops to help break up the excess earwax, or you can purchase an ear irrigation kit.
Limit The Bad
It is all too easy to fall into habits and routines that might not be the healthiest, especially during a challenging year facing a global pandemic. Between uncertainty, sickness, work-related stress, and ever-changing routines, it’s not uncommon to lean into certain vices to help cope.
One way to lead a healthy life is to limit the number of alcoholic beverages you consume per day. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking in moderation is defined by 2 drinks or less in a day for men and 1 drink or less in a day for women. Health benefits of limiting alcohol consumption include a healthier blood pressure level, healthier liver, and improvements in digestion. As a way to limit your drinking, try to reserve having your drink with meals or for special occasions.
If you are a smoker, now is a good time to put your health first and try to kick the habit. As far as health concerns, smoking can lead to cardiovascular and cancer deaths but can also lead to diabetes and stroke. Furthermore, smoking can increase risks for some eye conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, and tuberculosis. While quitting can seem daunting, the first step is to acknowledge that you are ready. Speaking with your doctor about programs, patches, gums, and other alternatives is a great way to scope out your resources. Finally, planning to quit during a calm period can help set you up for success.
Another way to consider your health is to limit your unprotected exposure to the sun. Sunburns and too much unprotected sun exposure can lead to skin cancer and premature aging of your skin, including wrinkles, freckles, and discolorations. To combat this, make sure that you use a high SPF sunscreen when outdoors, even in the winter. Make sure to wear sunglasses and possibly a hat when outdoors in the sun for long periods of time. Also, as attractive as indoor tanning can be, avoid tanning beds, as these only increase these risks. Instead, opt for an organic self-tanner when necessary.
Get Your Steps In
As part of a healthy lifestyle, you cannot avoid the inevitable need for exercise and movement. At its core, this can help control your weight, but did you know that there are several other benefits of daily exercise? These can include:
- Increased mood
- Increased energy
- Reduced chances of some health conditions
- Improved muscle strength
- Improved brain function
While these are just a few benefits, it goes to show that exercise is needed, no matter your age. While you might think that you don’t have time in your busy schedule to start an exercise routine, there are some simple things you can add to your day to work it in.
Physical activity can be as intense as kickboxing or weightlifting, or as calm as walking around the block or gardening. If you are having trouble scheduling out 30-60 minutes as one block of time for physical activity, try to break it up into smaller chunks, like three 10-minute sections or four 15-minute sections of activity. This can help structure your activity within your day without making it seem like a chore to tack on at the end of a long day.
If you have an employer that allows you to flex time in your workday, consider flexing time during your workday to work in some activity; this will not only open up time in your schedule, but it can also give you the brain boost needed for that afternoon slump. Or if this is not possible, try an under-the-desk elliptical that you can use while sitting. Especially if you have a lot of meetings, this can be a quick way to get your workout in, all from the comfort of your chair.
Getting enough sleep is crucial to your overall health and the way your body is able to operate during the day. Besides the obvious point of being alert and having a better mood, having a good amount of sleep can help in other aspects. For instance, getting enough sleep can lower your risk for major health scares such as diabetes, but it can also keep your risk of getting sick with the common cold and flu minimized. Furthermore, getting the appropriate amount of sleep can help you focus more clearly in school or at work, which can help tame stress levels.
To make sure that you’re getting enough sleep, there are a few steps you can take that are easy to follow nightly. First, if you tend to stay up late or have a varied sleep schedule, try to set an alarm to remind you when to go to bed. This creates a routine, which will help you fall asleep naturally at a certain time. Another way to sleep better at night is to limit the amount of exposure to electronic devices at night. While you might think that scrolling through social media before bed is relaxing, it actually can be hindering your sleep quality. If you must use electronic devices before bed, consider turning off the blue light on your phone with a blue light filter, or wear glasses that block the blue light. While it might take time, implementing these tips will cause you to not only fall asleep easier but to have a better overall quality of sleep.
Mind your Mind
Just as physical health and wellbeing are important to your everyday life, it is critical to also consider your mental health. Mental health is defined as “a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being” and plays a huge role in daily life. Maintaining stable mental health doesn’t mean that you don’t have stress or any concerns; it simply means that you are taking the appropriate steps to ensure that you are taking care of your emotional wellbeing and watching for warning signals telling you something is off.
One way to promote good mental health is to find ways to decompress. Life can bring about stressors, and it is beneficial to know how to tackle these as they arise. For example, incorporating a yoga or meditation routine into your daily life can help reduce stress and focus your energy on breathing out negative thoughts and feelings. More so, breaking up the monotony of your routine can break the cycle of boredom, lack of motivation, or fatigue.
Another way to focus on your inner wellbeing is to create and maintain a journal. While you might think that this activity is adding more to your already full plate, journaling can help you make life decisions but can also help you reflect on how you were feeling on a certain day and what caused you to feel that way. Unlike sharing these thoughts with someone else, these are personal and can be used to create a strategy to overcome any negative thoughts or emotions you might be dealing with.
Focus on Your Relationships
No matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert, relationships are important. Relationships can be in the form of:
- Working relationships
For families, this past year might not have included a lot of in-person interactions or bonding time. While nothing beats the hug from your parents or adult children, you can implement some things to make the time pass quickly. Try scheduling a set time per week to call your family to do check-ins. This structure will provide support for all parties and can make the call meaningful, as opposed to hurried or rushed.
While you might not be going out to restaurants and events as much with friends, this is a perfect time to try some new routines. You can host a socially distanced game night at your house by playing games like charades or phone-based games, or try a virtual Zoom baking night! Not only is this a fun way to connect, but nurturing this friendship can provide many mental health benefits, including increased happiness and reduced stress.
Cultivating your romantic relationship during uncertain times is especially important to your emotional health. While it can be easy to take this relationship for granted, fostering a healthy romantic relationship with your partner can improve your own health in quite a few ways. Not only does this promote a healthy emotional and mental wellbeing, but it can also impact you physically. To help make this connection stronger, consider setting aside time with your partner every day to discuss your thoughts and feelings for the day, or try having deeper conversations with intimacy cards.
There are several ways to incorporate health into your lifestyle. Focusing on making small improvements to these various avenues of your overall health can have many benefits to you and your life. While many might promote health as good nutrition and exercise alone, expanding your understanding of how different factors can influence your health will only make you that much healthier and wealthier.