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6 Healthy Habits to Start Now

We are always seeking self-improvement, but what steps should you take right now to positively impact your health? See what our expert has to say.

We spend millions of dollars every year on self-help books and videos ranging from a number of topics, yet there are certain habits you should start now to reach your happiest and healthiest self.

Get Into a Sleep Routine

Not getting enough shut-eye can lead to an increase in ghrelin (appetite-stimulating hormone) and a decrease in leptin (appetite-suppressing hormone), which causes you to overeat. And not only does sleep loss cause you to eat more, it also causes you to reach for high-carb, high-fat fare. Research has found that sleeping fewer than six hours per night is associated with a 30 percent higher chance of obesity.

Improve your sleeping habits by going to bed and waking up around the same time each day — yes, even on the weekends. Establish a relaxing, calming bedtime ritual such as sipping hot herbal tea, meditating, listening to music, or reading. Avoid afternoon napping and lower your thermostat — studies have found that the ideal room temperature for sleeping is 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit.

Exercise In the Morning

Research consistently finds that if you commit to exercising in the morning, you are more likely to actually get your sweat session in because it won’t conflict with daily obligations that can arise. Think about it — most things you have to do don’t take place first thing in the morning (work, taking care of children, household chores, social commitments). Plus, exercising in the morning gives you more energy throughout the day, makes you feel more empowered at work, reduces workplace stress, improves your mood, stokes your metabolism, and possibly burns more fat (if you exercise in the morning before eating breakfast).

Eat a Well-Balanced Breakfast

You may get tired of hearing the old adage, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” but it still rings true. People who regularly eat breakfast have healthier diets overall, and they consume more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat or nonfat dairy. Research has also found that individuals who routinely eat breakfast enjoy a lower risk of heart disease (non-breakfast eaters had a 27 percent higher heart disease risk), and type 2 diabetes (non-breakfast eaters had a 21 percent higher risk).

Additionally, studies have shown that making breakfast part of your daily routine may improve your memory, reasoning, creativity, learning, verbal skills, and the speed at which you process information. Lastly, enjoying a well-balanced breakfast may benefit your waistline — more than a hundred scientific studies have shown an association between eating breakfast daily and a lower risk of being overweight or obese. Aim for a breakfast that combines complex carbs, healthy fats, and lean protein.

Resolve to Relieve Stress

A small amount of stress can actually be good for you as it helps motivate you to perform highly at certain tasks. But oftentimes, chronic stress can cause a host of health problems, both mental and physical. Chronic stress has even been correlated with an increased risk of heart disease, the number one cause of death.

Rather than relieving stress with a bad habit such as smoking cigarettes or overeating, seek out positive ways to release tension. Meditation, deep-breathing exercises, calling a friend, taking a warm bath, going for a jog, listening to music, and dancing are some examples of stress-relieving techniques — pick whatever works for you to help ease your body and your mind.

Get Cooking

Those who cook their meals at home instead of dining out tend to have healthier diets overall, consume less sugar and processed food, weigh less, and actually live longer. Restaurants and fast-food establishments alike are notorious for their over-sized portions of high-fat, high-sugar, high-sodium, refined carbohydrate-rich foods and their menu items often fall short on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Cooking at home allows you to control what goes into your food (or what doesn’t go into it) and how much to serve yourself.

In addition to the numerous health benefits of eating home-cooked meals rather than dining out, cooking at home saves you tons of money and is better for the environment. But most of all — cooking is fun!

Befriend Fruits & Veggies

Ninety percent of Americans do not consume enough fruits and vegetables, despite the fact that hoards of studies show how incredibly beneficial they are to your health. Make packing in produce part of the plan by adding them into dishes you already enjoy — toss some extra peppers, onions, olives, or mushrooms on that frozen pizza, or add some chopped broccoli, cauliflower, or asparagus into your pasta dishes. Grate carrots, zucchini, or sweet potatoes and saute them along with your lean ground beef or turkey for tacos. If you like eggs for breakfast, add some finely chopped veggies to the skillet as you scramble your eggs. Start by trying to add one more serving of fruits or vegetables to each day and slowly increase the amount until you reach that recommended nine servings of produce per day.


[Image via Shutterstock]

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