Here’s a collection of 10 simple health hacks anyone can do with minimal effort, time and cost. Start with the one that appeals to you most, and aim to make it a habit before moving on. Soon you’ll be “hack stacking” and experiencing big breakthroughs in your health and well-being without feeling like you sacrificed anything at all.
1. Drink lemon water.
If you’ve ever sipped hot lemon water when you’re down with a cold and your throat feels like it’s stuffed with a Brillo pad, you know its soothing powers. Otherwise, you probably don’t give lemon water a second thought. But there’s a surprising body of evidence that supports drinking a glass of lukewarm water mixed with the juice of half a lemon on a daily basis, ideally right after you wake up. Lemons have all sorts of wonderful vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants that can boost energy, reduce inflammation, improve your immune system, clear up your skin, and aid in digestion. The only downside: the acid in the lemon juice can erode tooth enamel. So make sure you dilute it well with lukewarm water.
2. Eat or drink something fermented.
Thanks to processing and preservatives, our modern Western diet is sorely deficient in natural sources of probiotics. Probiotics are live “good” bacteria that keep your digestive system healthy and your body functioning optimally by helping food move through the gut. Fermented foods — such as miso, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, soy sauce, kombucha, ginger beer, or anything pickled — are probiotic powerhouses you can find almost anywhere.
3. Stop eating before you get full.
Even if we don’t regularly eat ourselves into a Thanksgiving-like food coma, many of us do often eat to the point of discomfort and regret. The human stomach is mighty stretchy! Problem is, overeating leads to weight gain and digestive problems. Want to finish a meal feeling light and energetic instead? As you begin each meal, pause to assess how physically hungry you are on a scale from 0 (ravenous) to 10 (overstuffed) and aim to put down your utensils when you’ve reached a 7. At that point, make a gesture to signify you’re finished: Cover your plate with a napkin, nudge your plate forward, cross your silverware over your plate, or simply declare out loud, “I’m satisfied”.
4. Take a walking break every hour.
If you arrive at your desk at 8 a.m. and hardly get up until 5 p.m., you’re not only being unproductive, you’re also compromising your physical and mental health. The human brain isn’t great at focusing for extended periods, and the human body wasn’t designed to sit all day, so why not parlay those two facts into a killer hack for health and productivity? The most productive people work with intense focus for 52 minutes and then break completely for 17 minutes, according to research from the Draugiem Group. Using those 17 minutes to take a walk will not only counteract the stresses of sitting (or standing) but will also increase blood flow to the brain, leading to creative thinking and problem solving. It’s a win-win!
5. Have a mindful moment.
Mindfulness meditation is all the rage, so you probably know all about its many benefits. But if you really don’t enjoy meditating or can’t seem to practice consistently, take a daily mindful moment instead. Pick an activity so mundane that your mind typically wanders while doing it: brushing your teeth, walking to the bus, washing the dishes, blow-drying your hair, taking a shower. As you go through the motions, stay in the moment by using your senses — notice the soap bubbles glistening on the dishes, the hum of the blow dryer, the sensation of your feet making contact with the ground. When you catch yourself thinking about your boss or your lunch plans, gently bring yourself back to the task at hand.
6. Scrub with sea salt.
About 96.5% of the world’s water is salt water, containing roughly the same concentration of minerals and nutrients as the water in our own bodies. So, it’s no wonder sea salt is a natural ally to balance, protect, and restore the body and skin. One of the major differences between sea salt and ordinary salt is the mineral content. Sea salt is rich with magnesium, calcium, sodium, and potassium; minerals vital to our skin’s health and function. If you’ve ever returned from an ocean vacation with clearer, more radiant skin, you can credit sea salt. Mix a good quality fine sea salt (no sharp edges!) with a light oil or a gentle cleanser like Cetaphil, and start scrubbing.
7. Look into the distance.
When you look near (like you are right now), the ciliary muscles in your eyes contract and stay that way. Eventually those muscles tire, triggering eyestrain and headaches. When you look into the distance, however, the ciliary muscles relax. This is because we evolved as hunters and gatherers; our eye muscles are most relaxed when we use our distance vision. So, for every 20 minutes you’re glued to a computer, phone, book, or TV, make a habit of taking a 20-second break to look as far into the distance as you can.
8. Brush your teeth with coconut oil.
Coconut oil has become popular for its seemingly endless list of uses (coffee creamer! deodorant! sunscreen!). One of the lesser known uses is as a toothpaste, either straight up or mixed with baking soda. Coconut oil boasts both antibacterial and whitening properties while being free from the chemicals, foaming agents, and artificial flavors found in most commercial toothpastes. If you live in a hot climate, keep your coconut oil in the fridge so it stays solid, and if you don’t want clogged drains, avoid spitting it down the drain.
9. Breathe into your belly.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that breathing is something you already have the hang of. Yet most of us take shallow breaths, inhaling just as much oxygen as we need to stay alive. Breathing deeply into your belly — “diaphragmatic breathing” — for just 5 to 10 minutes a day can lower blood pressure, slow the aging process, and improve mental focus and sleep quality. Lie on your back, close your eyes, think good thoughts, and send big, deep breaths to your belly. To enhance focus, place a moderately heavy object, like a kettlebell or encyclopedia, on your belly, and notice it rise and fall with each breath.
10. Eat without distractions.
For most of us, mealtime is spent multi-tasking: We mindlessly munch on chips while scanning Facebook or inhale a plate of pasta while watching Netflix. Mindful eating is the opposite. It’s the practice of paying full attention to the eating experience: recognizing your hunger and fullness cues, noticing your emotions, observing the aromas, flavors, and textures of the foods. When you eat mindfully, you naturally slow down, eat less, and enjoy improved digestion. The first step toward becoming a mindful eater is to remove distractions, so close your laptop, put away your phone, shut off the TV, and turn your full attention to the food in front of you.
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