Sure, we all want to be healthier. But sometimes, swearing off this or that and shelling out tons of money on a gym membership isn't really an option.
Still, as a doctor for over 15 years, I've learned that are a few simple things you can add or subtract from your life to leave you happier and healthier — without putting a strain on your time or wallet. I'm sharing them here:
1. Designate a "sugar-free"day.
As you’ve probably heard, sugar is the downfall to a healthy body, and not to mention the culprit of many diseases down the road.
But instead of going cold turkey, start off easy: gradually decrease your intake with "sugar-free days." Try doing this for three days in a row, and you'll find your cravings will go away after three days. And if you must imbibe, eat one square of dark chocolate with sea salt and almonds. But just one.
2. Stand up at work — right now.
Did you know sitting for long periods of time is associated with an increased risk of mortality? Nine to 5’ers, don’t fret!
Instead, set an alarm to remind yourself to stand up every hour at the office. Better yet, ask for a standing desk. When you stand, stretch, do small hip swirls, and shake out your limbs … whatever you need to keep that blood flowing!
3. Stick to one cup of Joe.
Caffeine is a stimulant drug and anything more than one cup suggests self-medicating for low energy.
In truth, most people drink coffee for the comfort and the taste. If it’s the warmth you crave, try hot water and lemon. If you like your coffee with cream and sugar, try making a promise to drink it only black. This way you're less likely to have more than one cup, since you aren't drinking it simply for the sweet creaminess.
4. Chew your food slowly.
Good digestion starts with good chewing. Not only does it aid in the mechanical breakdown of food, it signals our body to release enzymes to further break down food, which enhances the absorption of nutrients we get from the food we eat.
So practice mindful eating: slow down, chew properly and really savor every moment.
5. Take the stairs.
If you don’t have the time or money for a gym, that doesn't mean you can't exercise! Taking the stairs is a simple way to get in a workout.
If you work or live on a higher floor, then start by taking the stairs partially and work your way up to the whole distance. Or, if you drive everywhere, take the farthest parking spot available.
And if you live in a walkable city like NYC, don't assume that you're automatically getting enough exercise — most people don't. Getting a pedometer to measure the amount of steps you take in a day is a great way to keep track.
6. Hydrate smarter.
If you know you don’t drink enough water — typically half your weight in ounces — here are some tricks to help you hydrate more efficiently: Drink a green smoothie and add chia seeds; the gel is especially hydrating.
Or, pair your bottle of water with an apple — it’s more quenching than two bottles of water! Plus the fiber and nutrients from the apple helps move the water into your cells.
7. Head to bed 30 minutes earlier.
Sleep is as important as food, shelter and water! If you're a night owl, put yourself to sleep a half hour earlier than normal. And if you typically fall asleep with the TV on, set the timer for it to go off, so it doesn’t wake you in the middle of the night.
Best of all: If you get the proper amount of sleep, you won't need to worry about #3!
8. Laugh out loud.
Laughter is the best natural medicine — and it’s free and enjoyable!
Get out of your comfort zone and try something you wouldn’t normally do once a day. If laughter doesn't come easy, seek it out on YouTube, where there are thousands of hilarious videos at your fingertips!
9. Commit to one thing on this list.
There’s a difference between saying you’re going to do something and actually doing it. So commit to one just one health move on this list starting tomorrow, and eventually build to two, three or all!
Everything in moderation is key to achieving your goals.
Dr. Dana Cohen is a renowned Integrative Medicine practitioner based in New York City, with over 15 years experience in this field. A Program Director for The American College for the Advancement of Medicine (ACAM), she has helped train more than 1,500 master-level healthcare providers in integrative medicine. Learn more at http://www.drdanacohen.com.