Dr. Susan Slipacoff, ND
Let's take a moment to focus on how to to increase your happiness. You’ve got this! How do I know? Because we’re going to work together on making sure you know exactly what to do in order to be your best self.
Here’s a quick list of simple, proven tips that can help. Of course, when you’re making changes like these, it’s important to start off with realistic expectations. Remember that new habits can take a while to “click.” (One study found that 66 days is the average time to establish a new habit, although there’s a wide variation.) So be patient with yourself. Don’t give up if you have little slips now and then. You’re only human, after all.
Also, be sure to set yourself up for success by creating an environment that minimizes distractions. For example, if you’re trying to cut back on alcohol, you might find it easier to meet up with friends on walks instead of at pubs. That’s an obvious example, but you can take that philosophy further by taking a good look at your routines, your companions, and your home to make sure you’re supporting your goals.
1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Did you know many of us walk around in a state of permanent dehydration? It’s true. And when we’re feeling tired or hungry, we often don’t realize that what we really need is just a big glass of water.
How much water should you drink? There’s no universal answer. One good indicator is the colour of your urine: It should be the colour of pale straw. And pay attention to your thirst cues. Often when we become conscious that we’re thirsty, we’re already dehydrated.
2. Take five minutes to meditate
If you find the concept of meditation too intimidating, focus on achieving just five minutes of stillness. Yes, just five minutes of mindful meditation can make a difference to your physical and mental health. In the time it takes you to scroll through Facebook, you could take an important step towards lowering your blood pressure, your risk of depression, your anxiety, and much more.
You can find many apps and videos on the Internet, but here’s a short primer:
Meditate in a quiet spot.
Close your eyes.
Inhale through your nose and into your lungs.
Fade outside noises out.
Set your focus internally.
Begin breathing with your diaphragm.
Focus on rhythmically breathing.
Defocus your thoughts for internal tranquillity.
3. Focus on whole foods
The world is full of complicated diet plans, but this one step is key. Eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. (So instead of a piece of apple pie, have an apple.) Think about your average grocery store trip: You want to buy as much food from the outside edge of the store as possible. (That way, you buy more things like produce and lean healthy protein, instead of boxes of crackers.)
One thing that can make this step a bit easier is to buy local as often as possible. Check out the local farmer’s market or farm store, for example. You’ll be eating produce that hasn’t travelled from who-knows-where, so it will be fresher. Plus, you’re helping the environment!
What’s the first thing you do when your electronic device is experiencing problems? Unplug it. That’s also good advice for humans. When you’re stressed, overwhelmed, or just tired, consider putting your phone away for a while. You might be surprised by the results.
In fact, more and more research is pointing to the negative effects of screen time on our mental health, as well as our physical health. (“Tech neck” is just one example.) If you find device detox challenging, don’t hesitate to get help. This may be a bit ironic, but there are apps that can help you cut down on screen time.
5. Eat for gut health
Scientists are learning more about the importance of the gut-brain-axis connection. What does this mean? In simple terms, the bacteria in your gut can influence your moods - and vice versa.
When your gut microbiome is out of balance, you can experience many health problems, including that annoying “brain fog” feeling. You can also suffer from the effects of a weakened immune system.
Fortunately, the solution is simple. And delicious. Eating fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and natural yogurt like kefir will help restore the balance of bacteria in your gut. Eating foods high in fiber will help fuel that bacteria.
6. Rethink the sweet treats
The harmful effects of sugar extend far beyond what you may realize. Your skin, your heart, your moods, your teeth, your immune system are all hurt by this tasty poison.
However, what makes avoiding sugar particularly tricky is that it’s often hidden. You probably know to avoid donuts, but sugar can also be found in everyday items like salad dressing and spaghetti sauce. So when you’re trying to cut down on sugar, start by reading the labels on all processed foods.
It might feel like stretching at the end of the workout is a waste of time. After all, you’ve done the important stuff, like build strength and improve your cardio, right? However, stretching can improve your flexibility and mobility, reduce your risk of injury, and reduce stress levels. So take some at the end of your workouts, or when you first wake up, to stretch out your muscles.
8. Help others
Looking for a way to improve your physical health, boost your overall life satisfaction, and reduce your risk of depression? The solution may lie outside of yourself. In other words, if you place more attention on helping others, you could be the one who benefits.
9. Take a walk outside
Just a short walk every day can improve your:
Risk of heart trouble
Vitamin D levels
Just 30 minutes a day is enough to reap the benefits. Look for excuses to get outside in place of driving, or start the day with a nice stroll.
10. Smile and have fun!
Sometimes it can feel like the road to health is paved with work and sacrifice. However, simply choosing to view a healthy lifestyle with attitude of gratitude can make it easier to carry out your plans. After all, things like eating well, resting, and getting some exercise add to your life. Focus on the fun aspects: try new recipes, walk with friends, find a volunteer job that lets you explore a long-buried interest. You’ll be happy that you did