When it comes to health advice, many people have very different opinions. Sometimes you’ll hear people say they eat keto and lift weights, while other times people will say you should do cardio and count calories. With so many different suggestions, it can be difficult to find a routine that works for you.
Many people want to improve their health and aren’t sure which areas are more important – should sleep and diet be the main focus, or should exercise be? The real answer is to focus on developing a healthier lifestyle and improving various aspects of your life that can have a positive impact on health.
And according to Stanford University, some of the most obvious ones are sleep, diet, exercise, stress management (and with spring approaching, sunlight helps), and relationships. Here’s how you can make small improvements in each of these areas.
How to improve your sleep
Improving sleep may seem like an impossible task. After you come home from school or work, the time can pass. There are a few things that should be done to help you sleep better. First, get rid of blue light before bed. As tempting as it may be to scroll through social media or text your friends right before you go to bed, looking at blue light can negatively affect your sleep. According to the Cleveland Clinic, scrolling on your phone can also keep your brain active, making it harder to fall asleep.
Try turning off electronic devices two hours before bed and doing other activities, such as reading a book or meditating before bed, that can help you relax. Make sure to set the alarm before leaving your phone.
Another thing that can improve your sleep is avoiding caffeine before bed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Try to stop drinking caffeine around noon each day, that way when you’re asleep, the effects of it have worn off. Improving sleep is about making small changes that will benefit you in the long run. Good sleep is important for hormonal regulation and overall health, and it can prepare you to make good decisions in the long run.
How to improve your diet
Improving your diet can seem like a daunting task. One easy way to make changes is to consider making simple switches. If you eat potato chips with lunch, consider replacing them with carrots and celery. If you’re cooking a pasta dish, consider substituting white flour pasta for chickpea or red lentil pasta. If you like fried chicken, try making a baked version.
A few of these keys can be helpful in making gradual, positive changes toward health. Also consider what you can add to meals that you like. Let’s say you really like mashed potatoes – think of doing half a potato and then half a cauliflower. Or think of your favorite pasta dish, like baked ziti. Think how to add broccoli and spinach to it. If your diet needs some improvement, chances are that if you immediately switch to salads all the time, you won’t make sustainable changes.
There are other small changes you can make. Healthline suggests paying attention to your protein intake and staying hydrated throughout the day. Another tip is to stay away from diet foods. Consider eating whole foods when trying to improve your diet.
How to start exercising
If you stop exercising, it’s never too late to start exercising again. Real Simple suggests that when you’re trying to get back into your exercise swing, start small. Instead of trying to get back to where you were when you were exercising so much, get into the habit of doing a few moves every day.
The best exercise to do is one that you will do regularly and that you like. Try fitness classes, go to the gym, or exercise at home or outside. Finding a routine that you love can be a great way to start exercising.
Another way to start practicing is to create accountability for yourself. Talk to a friend about getting back into a routine and creating an accountability plan. Even if you start small, getting a little exercise each week can help you feel better.
Why sunlight is important for stress management
Managing stress can be challenging. According to Stanford Lifestyle Medicine, stress can be managed by identifying the cause of the stress and then responding accordingly. Sunlight can also be an important part of stress management.
According to The Wellesley News, sunshine can make us feel less stressed. There is just something about the sun that helps us feel better. According to a study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, sunlight increases the amount of vitamin D you absorb — many people are deficient in this, so getting enough light each day can help your health.
When working 9 to 5, it can be difficult to find the time to go outside. Consider taking a lunch break outside. This is a great time to go for a short, brisk walk, too, which can help you get some movement. Your mood may also be positively affected by spending more time in the sun.
How to focus on relationships
Focusing on relationships can improve your overall health. If you are happy in your relationships, you may also be more inclined to spend more time improving your health in other ways as well.
Improving relationships is more art than science. Spending time with the people you love can help improve your relationships. When you’re with someone you love, take time to listen to them — really listen to them — and think about what they’re saying. Make sure to let the people in your life know that you value them. Having strong relationships can improve your overall mood and health.