6 Simple, Accessible Ways To Start To Feel Healthier
Some of the most effective methods people can use to improve their health are also the most accessible. The following six practices demonstrate how valuable it can be to go back to basics when it comes to well-being. Prioritizing outdoor time, sleeping, staying moving, drinking plenty of water, and eating the right food can be a fast track to feeling your best.
1. Get some sunshine.
While you shouldn’t spend all day in the sun, moderate amounts of direct exposure to sunshine can be very healthy. (Just don't forget the sunscreen!) Sunlight primes the body to produce vitamin D, an incredibly vital nutrient that's not often readily available in food. Vitamin D supports cardiovascular health, bone health, the immune system, and hormone production. Aim for up to 30 minutes of direct skin-to-sun exposure at least a few times a week.
2. Breathe clean air.
Around the country and the world, people are breathing in air that's various levels of clean. Unfortunately, many communities—mainly low-income communities and communities of color—are exposed to incredibly high levels of outdoor air pollution. And according to the Environmental Protection Industry, indoor air is a huge concern too. Luckily, there's more we can do to improve the air quality in our immediate surroundings.
First and foremost, ditch the synthetic air fresheners. It may seem counterintuitive, but many of these contain chemicals that make air quality worse. Other sources of indoor air pollution include furniture, paint, flooring materials, mattresses, and some cleaners. To avoid them, run fans or exhaust hoods regularly, buy cleaning products that have recognizable ingredients, and open windows often if you're lucky enough to live in an area with clean air. (Not sure how your community's air quality stacks up? This map can help you find out.)
3. Stay hydrated.
Dehydration affects health in more ways than one: It flattens energy levels and can impair immune function. There's no substitute for good-old H2O, and you'll want to aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water a day. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, drink 90 ounces of water on a daily basis. If you are constantly dehydrated (one surefire signal is chapped lips), cut back on coffee, soda, or sugary drinks, as they are probably making the problem worse.
4. Get enough rest.
The deep and restorative sleep you've always dreamt about*
Have you noticed that in some circles, sleeping a few hours a night is viewed as a badge of honor and sleeping the full, recommended eight hours is seen as a weakness? This type of thinking is completely backwards. Adequate sleep—which is defined as about eight hours a night—is absolutely necessary for a healthy body and mind. If insomnia is keeping you up at night, try adding meditation, a natural sleep supplement, a paper book (no screens before sleep!), aromatherapy, or a calming tea to your nighttime routine. (Here are some more science-backed ways to fall asleep naturally.)
5. Exercise often.
You don’t need to become a fitness model, a triathlete, or a marathon runner to get healthy. Even light activity can offer tremendous health benefits. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise a few times a week can boost energy levels, help you sleep better, sharpen your mind, and even strengthen your gut.
To maximize the benefits, exercise outdoors. Studies have shown that exercising outside promotes better vitality, enthusiasm, and self-esteem and can help reduce depression and fatigue. Another study found that people who exercised outside exercised longer and more often—not to mention, exercising outdoors can also help you get your daily dose of sunshine.
6. Eat clean.
You can exercise and sleep twice as much as anyone else, but without a clean and balanced diet, those efforts will be in vain. Most of your grocery list should consist of whole, raw foods from nature—vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. I won’t say every prepackaged food is terrible, but it’s definitely a minefield of suspect ingredients. Get in the habit of making your own meals and avoid the mass-produced items that are largely found in the center of the grocery store—boxed, packaged, and loaded with sugar and refined carbohydrates.
While these six habits alone won't guarantee well-being, they will form a great foundation on which to build a happy, healthy life.