Featured Image: @avajules_
Article By: Meghan Steel
You’ve probably heard it a thousand times: the easiest way to improve and maintain your health is to eat a nutritious diet and to engage in regular physical activity. But there are so many more activities that can help you maintain lifelong health. This list covers some of the simple things you could be doing to keep yourself happy and healthy.
Stress places you at an increased risk for developing a variety of diseases. It inhibits your immune system which makes you more vulnerable to infections and cancer. It takes up a lot of brain space, leaving little room for rational decision making. Minor stress can be useful for you; it keeps you alert and your mind active. When you feel like you have no control over your stress, however, is when it will start taking a negative toll on your physical and mental well-being.
A healthy diet and regular exercise will help improve your resiliency. Activities like meditation and yoga can help reconnect you with your own body and give you more control over your thoughts. Finally, spend some time doing something you love. A hobby is one of the best ways to reduce your stress levels.
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2. Make Friends
This tip is just another way of alleviating the negative impacts of stress on your health. Friends give us a chance to look at our struggles from a different perspective and can provide us with a distraction when we need it. What’s more, just the knowledge that we have access to a supportive social network can make the day-to-day stressors seem more manageable.
3. Spend Time Outside
The Japanese call it “forest bathing” because they recognized early on the negative impacts on our psyche of living in a concrete jungle. Hospitals have come to understand this concept and have switched the art on their walls to ones that display images straight from nature. Spending time outside can give your brain a fresh boost of oxygen. The sun stimulates vitamin D production which is critical to the development of a healthy bone density and immune system. Hiking is just as good for your mind as it is for your body as the changing environment keeps your mind open and the uneven ground exercises your mind-body coordination.
4. Get Enough Sleep
Adults need a good amount of sleep, about 7 to 8 hours. Adolescents and teenagers need a little more, up to 9 hours, while older adults over sixty need a little less, generally at least 6 hours. Getting too much sleep can leave you feeling groggy the next day and places you at a higher risk for depression and anxiety.
Meanwhile getting too little sleep does not allow your brain to clean and organize itself properly. Specifically, your mind needs to enter enough REM cycles for its local immune system to clear out the debris built up from a day of thinking and to create the neuronal pathways that will eventually form your long-term memory.
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5. Adopt A Pet
No matter what type of animal it is, mammal or reptile, pet ownership is one of the best ways to find a sense of purpose in life. High-end nursing homes have begun providing residents with dogs and cats because studies have shown that animals help us live longer. Dog owners are typically more active than those without a canine friend, while some have theorized that the sound of a purring cat can have a relaxing and healing effect. And even more, research has demonstrated that people have a less severe reaction to an acute stressor when in the presence of a pet, even lower than in the presence of a spouse.
6. Go to Church
You don’t have to believe in a God to enjoy the benefits of a church. The Unitarian Universalist church is specifically designed to appeal to theists, atheists, and agnostics alike. Church can provide you with the tools for self-reflection and can give you a ready-made and supportive community.
7. Brush Your Teeth
Your mom may not have been right about everything, but she sure was right about this. At one point, doctors were studying dentistry as yet another course in medical school. But with an ever-expanding curriculum, it got pushed to the side and is now studied as a completely separate discipline. Biologically, however, the health of your gums and teeth remain inextricably linked to your overall well-being. Brushing helps to remove the protective layer of plaque made by the bacteria living in your mouth.
Flossing removes the food between your teeth, so the bugs don’t have anything to eat. Finally, an antiseptic and fluoride rinse helps protect your enamel and kill any bacteria the brushing and flossing may have missed. Developing good dental hygiene now will save you a lot of money at the dentist in the future. Your doctor and your wallet can thank me later.
8. Wash Your Hands
This is probably another habit that made you roll your eyes every time your mom or dad reminded you, but hand washing is one of the most effective methods of preventing the spread of bacterial and viral infections. Even if you are a frequent hand washer, you probably aren’t doing it correctly. Use hot water whenever possible. Scrub with soap for at least twenty seconds. Clean your fingernails and in between your fingers. And feel free to supplement your hand washing with an alcohol-based sanitizer (I always keep one in my car, because I don’t know what that kid at the grocery store was doing when he was sitting in the cart before me).
9. Get Your Yearly Check-Up
Doctors want you to visit them when you’re feeling well, not just when you have a specific concern. They don’t do this to make more money; in fact, well-visits can save you money in the long run because your provider can catch possible developing conditions before they become a significant problem. Regular physician visits are listed as one of the potential reasons why women have better disease prognoses than men, and why married men live longer than single men (their wives are likely pressuring them to visit the doctor more). If you can be proactive about your health, it will set you up for a lifetime of well-being.