When it comes to adopting new healthy habits and making them stick, there are lots of little things you can do that will make a big difference in the long run (and not make you crazy in the process). Instead of trying to upgrade your health with a huge makeover, try these nine small, practically painless moves instead for long-lasting results.
1. Ease yourself into getting more sleep with five-minute increments.
Completely abandoning your to-do list, whether it’s business or personal, to go to sleep three hours earlier just isn’t feasible. But if you do it bit by bit, you’ll acclimate yourself to your new, well-rested reality in a manageable way, Christine Carter, Ph.D., senior fellow at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and author of The Sweet Spot: How To Find Your Groove At Home And Work, tells SELF. Try going to bed five minutes earlier each night (or every few nights, if this is really tough for you) until you hit the seven to nine hours the National Sleep Foundation recommends for adults.
2. For every hour you spend sitting, get up and walk briskly for five minutes.
Sitting all day isn’t good for your butt or your heart. Physical activity is extremely important for your longevity, and it all adds up, women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D., tells SELF. Sometimes it can feel impossible to fit in a ton of exercise when you’re not used to it, but peppering movement throughout your day is much more doable.
For example, if you follow this rule while sitting for eight hours a day, you’ll wind up walking for 40 minutes, putting a commendable dent in the minimum recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week.
3. To double down on the mindfulness, chew each bite thoroughly before swallowing.
The “reasons you need to slow your roll when eating” list is about as long as your arm, Langer explains. Wolfing down food can lead to bloating because of the extra air you’re swallowing, that way-too-full feeling because you don’t give your body a chance to process satiety before you clean your plate, and completely missing out on how delicious the food actually is.
You can choose a number of chews to abide by per bite, like 20, or you can go for a less regimented approach, like making sure you’re swallowing naturally, not gulping hard to get down barely chewed mouthfuls.
4. Call food “healthy” and “less healthy” instead of “good” and “bad.”
“When people label food as ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ it carries over into a judgment of themselves—if you eat ‘good’ food, you’re a good person, if you eat ‘bad’ food, you’ve been badly behaved,” Langer says. That couldn’t be further from the truth, so stop putting yourself in emotional timeout just because of what you eat.
“Truly, no foods are really bad and no foods are really good—some are healthier than others,” Langer says. Reframing your thinking like this will likely help you learn the art of indulging in moderation instead of bingeing on “bad” foods, plus it’s just a better way to treat yourself.
5. Put your food away when you’re done serving yourself.
“Anyone will eat more if the food is staring at them,” Langer says. Always feel free to grab more if you’re truly hungry, but this way, you’ll know it’s because of a physical need for more food instead of pure convenience or temptation.
6. Drink a glass of water before each meal.
Drinking the amount of water you need each day is necessary for all of your body’s systems to function smoothly, but it will also keep you from overeating due to hunger, making it easier to take a more mindful approach to your meals, Langer says.
7. spend time alone
Spending regular time alone helps to get to know and stay in touch with yourself (we’re all constantly growing and changing!). Alone time is an opportunity to check in with how you’re doing and what you want, so you can live your most intentional life. Some people enjoying hiking, going for a walk or run, meditating, or even sunbathing as a healthy source of alone time.
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