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Healthy Living

5 Simple Steps to Better Health

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 09/23/2010
Last Updated: 12/28/2010

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Face it; we’re all aware of the things we need to do to stay healthy; among them eating a balanced diet, exercising and not smoking. And we all know that being proactive about our health can add years to our lives - research backs this up. One study found that more than half of all deaths from chronic diseases among women are avoidable if women follow healthy practices.

But although we may be aware, we don’t always make the smartest choices. The reasons can be complicated and varied: stress, travel, busy schedules, caring for others, lack of energy or motivation. These can easily sidetrack every single good intention.

Searching for some easy ways to keep your health in check? Read on.

Take a time out. Do you sometimes feel anxiety and stress creeping up on you, but ignore it, only to find it exploding with such force it renders you a sniveling mess? Next time, catch it before it catches you by giving yourself a brief break. Take a few minutes to breathe deeply. Inhale deeply through your nose, then exhale forcefully through your mouth. Do this a few times, until you feel yourself relax. Or if you’re the type that needs to move, go out for a walk or run, punch a pillow or just run up and down the stairs in your house a few times.

Stretch. Sometimes it takes a while to realize your body is stiff and painful. That could easily be making you cranky. Take a look of comprehensive stretches. Stretching goes a long way toward making your body feel healthy and limber and helping you avoid injuries. It relaxes the tense muscles that often go along with stress (a health zapper).

Indulge in a nap. You might feel like this is an extravagance, but it’s a real boost for your health and can enhance your energy when it's lagging. Just 20 minutes is enough to energize you and make you more productive the rest of the day. The National Sleep Foundation says this on their : A recent study in the research journal Sleep examined the benefits of naps of various lengths and no naps. The results showed that a 10-minute nap produced the most benefit in terms of reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance. A nap lasting 30 minutes or longer is more likely to be accompanied by sleep inertia, which is the period of grogginess that sometimes follows sleep. On their site, I was especially intrigued to read this: More than 85% of mammalian species are polyphasic sleepers, meaning that they sleep for short periods throughout the day. Though it's not clear that this is the sleep pattern of humans, there's certainly no harm in a quick nap.

Speak up. If you eat out, you have every right to ask for your food to be prepared the way you prefer it. Don't be afraid to ask for grilled, even if the only word on the menu for that particular dish says "fried." If you'd rather not have the hash browns that come with the omelet you order (which, by the way, you can order "dry" so they don’t make it in a ton of oil or butter), request a substitute of sliced tomato or a baked potato. Never mind that the waiter or waitress rolls their eyes; it's your meal and it's your health. You can be in charge.

Laugh. Sometimes I don't realize how long it's been since I had a good laugh UNTIL I have a good laugh – and then I realize just how great I feel. Research has found some amazing benefits of a good laugh, including increased blood flow, a boost in the levels of immune cells, lower blood sugar levels and better levels of relaxation and sleep. I dare you to watch without breaking into at least a little smile.

This Matters>With some modest adjustments in your life, it’s easy to keep good health in check. You needn’t think about it 24/7, but a few simple reminders throughout the day should be enough to eventually make good health a habit.

You probably have some tips of your own to share. We’d all love to know.

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These are great reminders. Sometimes in the craziness of everyday life it is hard to remember to do these things!

These are all great, simple things we can all do. I think sometimes it's easy to get mired down in healthy/decompression activities that are a little more involved and time-consuming, so we don't do them.

But your list includes things we can do right now or as we're going about our day.

Now I know why I'm such a bear after I try and take a nap. Thanks!

oops - napping to long, eh? Maybe worth a try to shorten them up and see how sweet you can really be :)

I tend to run on all six cylinders, so this is a welcome reminder to slow down and take care of my health. Thanks for the tips, Sheryl!

I love this! I want to laugh myself into better health (since napping is not an option). Well, actually, I am already very healthy. But it's always good to remember to BREATHE and to LAUGH!

Stretching is key, especially as we age. I really have to remind myself to stretch. Naps...I'm good at.

The simply of this list is inspiring. These five things feel really attainable. Well, I have a hard time napping, but I've found that taking a 30 minute break from my work, even if it's to straighten the living room or unload the dishwasher helps to re-energize me. Thanks, Sheryl!

I think I need to nap more. I like that. Have you seen the recent study linking a virus to obesity? I wondered what your thoughts were on that. Certainly, the researchers still say that eating healthy, exercising is key to a healthy weight, but they're thinking some might have a predisposition to hanging on to weight as a result of this virus. Interesting stuff, but I think I better keep eating my apple a day.

No, haven't seen this study - but I'm really curious now! I know that too little sleep can lead to weight gain, but I need to learn about this link - thanks.

I realize in reading this how better health is so so so often related to better self care.

I never knew this about naps. Thanks!

That polyphasic sleeping stat is V. interesting - I always wondered if I'd be more productive if I could sleep for 4 hours, work for 6 hours, sleep/work, etc. Maybe it's worth a week's experiment!

Ooh, if you experiment with it, please report back! Inquiring minds want to know...

I should definitely stretch more -- I pay for it if I don't take care of my back & sit at the desk or day.

As for napping, what a concept. Would so love to work a little lie down into the busy work day. Yeah, right.

my husband can do the short naps. It takes me forever to fall asleep---once out impossible to wake up. I am envious of nap-takers.


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