Breaking unhealthy habits is difficult. Though unhealthy behaviors can seem small and inconsequential, they can add up to a person's detriment. While you don't necessarily need to eat copious amounts of superfoods or be at the gym 24/7 to be healthy, people with a clean bill of health tend to share similar everyday habits. Here are five simple and easily-to-adopt ways you can become healthier.
1. Take the stairs or walk whenever possible.
Exercise is a given in a healthy lifestyle, but busy schedules can make it difficult to get to the gym. However, the benefits of a gym session can be achieved through moderate walking, according to a 2009 study by Harvard Medical School. Their meta-analysis tracked participants for an average of 11.3 years and recorded cardiovascular events, such as angina, heart attacks, heart failure, coronary artery bypass surgeries, angioplasties and strokes. Their results showed that "walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31%, and it cut the risk of dying during the study period by 32%."
With that said, the benefits of exercise fluctuate depending on duration, intensity and frequency. A gym workout doesn't have to be the only way to get a workout in; you can get a lot of exercise simply by going about your daily routine — the morning rush of getting ready and commuting, walking around your workplace or heading outside during your lunch break. For some added resistance, try climbing the stairs.
2. Eat more slowly.
The speed at which you consume your meal can be affected by environmental factors such as music or your very short lunch break. When you scarf down your food too quickly, you risk indigestion. You can also trick yourself into thinking that you're still hungry after you've consumed enough nutrition and calories to refuel.
According to Harvard Health contributor, Ann MacDonald, the delay has to do with the time it takes for your stomach to tell your brain you're satiated. "Stretch receptors in the stomach are activated as it fills with food or water; these signal the brain directly through the vagus nerve that connects gut and brainstem. Hormonal signals are released as partially digested food enters the small intestine," she writes.
The more slowly you eat, however, the more likely you will stay within a sensible caloric range – and the less likely you'll get bloated. Get into the habit of putting down your utensil or food item while you're chewing to help facilitate a slower pace.
3. Drink water – or rather, don't drink your calories.
If you're dehydrated, drinking water is usually your best best for a whole host of reasons. The best is that water has no calories or sugar, whereas empty sugar-packed sodas and soft drinks are filled with empty calories.
Water can also aide with digestion – more specifically, it combats constipation. Studies have shown that both regular still water and equally guilt-free carbonated water can help things move along in your digestive tract.
Finally, if you're dehydrated, a headache or migraine is probably not far behind. Studies have shown that rehydration with water can help alleviate symptoms of a headache such as impaired concentration and irritability.
"Laughter is the best medicine" is a cliche for a reason.
First and foremost, it's the best way to improve your mood, but there are deeper mechanics at work. Research by Lee Birk, preventive care specialist and psychoneuroimmunologist at Loma Linda University, showed that the anticipation of "mirthful laughter" inhibited stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine and dopac.
Furthermore, Birk's studies have suggested that mirthful laughter, can be used as preventative therapy to high-risk diabetic patients with hypertension, helping in lowering inflammation while raising good cholesterol.
5. Get enough sleep.
Getting too little sleep can negatively affect your whole day. According to Harvard Medical School's Division of Sleep Medicine, sleep plays a major role in memory, both in terms of reception and recollection of newly learned tasks. Sleep deprivation contributes to carelessness, lack of focus, poor decision-making and risk of serious injury because "Neurons do not fire optimally, muscles are not rested, and the body's organ systems are not synchronized." Long-term effects of sleep depravation include "obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early mortality."
According to the Sleep Foundation, the recommendation for most adults is seven to nine hours of sleep per night. So feel free to oversleep for your health!