When it comes to health advice, a lot of people have very different opinions. Sometimes you’ll hear people say to eat keto and lift weights, while other times people will say that you should do cardio and count calories. With the litany of different suggestions, it can be difficult to find a routine that works for you.
Many people want to improve their health and aren’t sure which areas matter the most — should sleep and diet be the main focus or should it be exercise? The real answer is focusing on developing a healthier lifestyle and improving different aspects of your life that can have a positive impact on health.
Some of the most apparent ones, according to Stanford, are sleep, diet, exercise, stress management (and with spring coming around the corner, sunlight helps) and relationships. Here’s how you can make little improvements in each of these areas.
How to improve your sleep
Improving sleep may seem like an impossible task. After getting home from school or work, time can just fly by. There are a couple things to do to help you have better sleep. First, ditch the blue light before sleep. As tempting as it is to scroll through social media or text with your friends right before going to bed, looking at blue light can negatively impact your sleep. According to the Cleveland Clinic, scrolling on your phone can also keep your brain active, which will make it harder to fall asleep.
Try turning off your electronics a couple of hours before bed and doing other activities, like reading a book or meditating before bed, which can help you to relax. Make sure to set your alarm before you put your phone down.
Another thing that can improve your sleep is avoiding caffeine before bed, per the CDC. Try to stop drinking caffeine at noon each day, so that way when you go to sleep, the effects of it have worn off. Improving sleep is about making small changes that will benefit you in the long run. Good sleep is important for hormonal regulation and overall health, and it can set you up to make good decisions in the long run.
How to improve your diet
Improving your diet can feel like a daunting task. One easy way to make changes is to think about making simple switches. If you eat chips with lunch, consider swapping them for carrots and celery. If you’re cooking a pasta dish, consider switching the white flour pasta for a chickpea or red lentil pasta. If you love fried chicken, try making a baked version.
A few of these switches can be helpful in making incremental, positive changes toward health. Also consider what you can add to meals that you love. Say you really like mashed potatoes — consider doing half potato and then half cauliflower. Or think about a pasta dish you like, such as baked ziti. Think about how you can add broccoli and spinach to it. If your diet could use some improvement, chances are if you immediately switch to salads all the time, you won’t be making sustainable changes.
There are other small changes you can make. Healthline suggests that you pay attention to protein intake and stay hydrated throughout the day. Another tip is to stay away from diet foods. Think about eating whole foods when trying to improve your diet.
How to start exercising
If you’ve stopped exercising, it’s not too late to start doing it again. Real Simple suggests that when you’re trying to get back into the swing of exercising, start small. Instead of immediately trying to go back to where you were when you were exercising the most, get back into the habit of doing some movement each day.
The best exercise to do is the one that you will do consistently and that you like. Experiment with fitness classes or going to the gym or exercising at home or outside. Finding a routine that you like can be helpful to start exercising.
Another way to start exercising is to create accountability for yourself. Talk to a friend about getting back into a routine and develop an accountability plan. Even if you start out small, doing a little bit of exercise each week can help you to feel better.
Why sunlight matters for stress management
Stress management can be a tricky thing to do. According to the Stanford Lifestyle Medicine Program, managing stress can be done by identifying the cause of the stress and then responding accordingly. Sunlight also can be an important part of stress management.
According to The Wellesley News, sunlight can make us feel less stressed. There’s just something about the sun that helps us feel better. According to a study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, sunlight increases the amount of vitamin D that you absorb — many people are deficient in this, so getting enough light each day can help your health.
When working a 9 to 5, it can be hard to find the time to go outside. Consider taking your lunch break outside. This is a great time to go for a short, brisk walk as well, which can help you get some movement in. Your mood may also be positively impacted by spending more time in the sun.
How to focus on relationships
Focusing on relationships can improve your overall health. If you’re happy with your relationships, you may also be more inclined to spend more time improving your health in other ways, too.
Improving relationships is more of an art than it is a science. Spending time with the people you love can help you improve your relationships. When you’re with a person you love, take time to listen to them — really listen to them — and think about what they’re saying. Make sure to let people in your life know that you value them. It can improve your overall mood and health to have strong relationships.