Want to be more alert, less anxious or depressed, improve your heart health, and help the body repair faster from the stress of daily life? Making sure to get enough sleep can put you on the fast track to major health improvements. Sleeping for more than seven hours most nights is beneficial to let your body repair itself in bolstering your immune system, memory, metabolism, and mood.
And quality counts as much as quantity: nine hours of restless or interrupted sleep can benefit you less than seven hours of deep, uninterrupted zzzs! For a list of tips on how to get a better night’s sleep, visit the Wellness Today blog at:http://www.wellnesstoday.com/wake-up-to-the-importance-of-a-good-nights-…
Stretching in the morning helps with blood circulation dramatically. Your heart rate is the slowest when you first wake up, by stretching, you’re helping your blood move faster and circulating it to the muscles. Stretching also helps to reduce tension and stress. Help your body start the day off on a positive feeling. Try out these 3 gentle wake up stretches, from livestrong:
3) MADE AN INTENTIONAL EFFORT TO MAINTAIN PROPER STRUCTURE, INCLUDING STANDING AND SITTING UP STRAIGHT, EVERY DAY THIS WEEK.
When sitting for prolonged periods of time, it can affect our workflow as well as our health. The longer we sit, the harder it is to concentrate, we get tired, distracted, etc. Getting up and taking a break every hour can help us reset to maintain an effective workflow. Also sitting for too long can lead to high cholesterol levels and an increased waist circumference, to name a few. Sitting or standing with poor posture can also create muscle imbalances that contribute to lower back pain and decreased ability to perform activities of daily living.
Don’t just get up to become more active, also try to get out! According to a Harvard study, spending time outdoors can boost your mood, improve your concentration, encourage more activity, and even help your body heal faster after an injury. Although weather can be a limiting factor, even the winter months can provide plenty of opportunity to enjoy yourself alfresco with a little strategic layering and waterproofing!
Eating a form of protein in the morning is a great way to stay full longer, regulate energy, and maintain muscle mass. Your body will feel the difference when filled with nutrient dense foods. Instead of a muffin, try yogurt with berries, nuts or seeds to satisfy that morning crave.
6) REPLACED SWEETS (CANDY, ICE CREAM, COOKIES, CAKE, PIE, ETC.) WITH A HEALTHIER ALTERNATIVE (FRUIT, NUTS, TEA ETC.) 5 TIMES THIS WEEK.
Most of us enjoy sweets such as cookies, candy, ice cream, cake, and pie that contain high amounts of sugar and are considered “empty calories” with little nutritional value. These goodies are okay to enjoy in moderation, 1-2 days a week. Cut your cravings for sugar by drinking plenty of water, eating enough healthy foods that fill you up and give you energy, and savoring alternatives such as fruit or even root vegetables (they’re called “sweet potatoes” for a reason!) instead of indulging in your usual treats.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3198517/
As recommended by the USDA’s MyPlate Guidelines, increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to improve your diet. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and dense in nutrients; the more colorful your plate, the higher the variety of vitamins and minerals you consume. Visit www.choosemyplate.gov for more information.
8) DRANK 6 OR MORE 8-OZ. SERVINGS OF WATER EVERY DAY THIS WEEK OR REPLACED SODA AND/OR OTHER SWEETENED BEVERAGE WITH WATER.
Drinking plenty of water flushes toxins from the body and can reduce cravings for other, less healthy beverages & snacks. Keeping a refillable water bottle with you at all times is a great way to ensure that you can sip all day long. More information on the health benefits of consuming the recommended amount of water above can be found at: www.mayoclinic.com/health/water/NU00283
Whenever the urge to drink a soda strikes, have a glass of water instead and avoid all those unhealthy, empty calories from high fructose corn syrup. Cutting soda out is one of the easiest ways to improve your diet and your health. Even though diet sodas don’t contain calories or sugar, they still come with risks: artificial sweeteners are associated with kidney problems, tooth decay (due to higher acidity than other sodas), cell damage, and even obesity! The chemicals in artificial sweeteners confuse the body’s metabolism, making it harder to control weight, even when you’re exercising more and eating healthy foods. Time to put down the can!
Perspective is all in the attitude. Being thankful can have an impact on your attitude, helping to change it from negative and complaining to content and positive. Having positive thoughts gives way to a healthier outlook and healing of the mind and body.
10) CONDUCTED AT LEAST ONE RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS FOR OTHERS AND AT LEAST ONE ACT OF KINDNESS FOR YOURSELF THIS WEEK.
Random acts of kindness are a great way to be generous with time, knowledge and resources. Beyond being kind, the benefits for one’s emotions are impactful in lowering stress levels and releasing endorphins giving rise of happiness and relief. Conducting a random act of kindness can also help us to be better connected to our community and the people around us, whether we personally know them or not. Sometimes getting a random compliment or receiving a free cup of coffee from the person in front of you is all it takes to brighten up your day.
Do you accept yourself as you are? It’s a simple question that many people find extremely hard to answer. Practice some form of self-compassion or self-acceptance every day of this week. It can be so easy sometimes to compare ourselves to others, rating who we are and categorizing the good and bad parts. Healthy U Wellness is encouraging you throughout these next 5 weeks to become more aware of your mindless habits. When you notice yourself comparing, judging, or criticizing, gently bring yourself back to self-acceptance. Let go of the judgement inside and remember that we are all made different but all have unique qualities and personalities. Everyone deserves to be fully seen and heard without judgement, even the bias and prejudice we so often put on ourselves. Don’t participate in this form of self-critique.
12) SPENT TWO HOURS THIS WEEK PARTICIPATING IN SOMETHING YOU GENUINELY ENJOY OR ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT.
While it might feel uncomfortable to step outside of the busyness of school or work and due dates and deadlines, keep in mind that your body and brain sometimes need a rest. Take part in something you’re passionate about; where you can unwind and express yourself. Maybe for you, it will be creative writing, painting, running, hiking, or even gardening. After you take a mental vacation indulging in something you’re passionate about, you’ll be amazed at how refreshed you might feel.
Actively practicing deep breathing/meditating/relaxing has numerous health benefits from lowering blood pressure, to increasing immunity, to giving rise to emotional balance. Additionally, research shows that the more often one engages in relaxation practices such as meditation and deep breathing, the more noticeable the benefits become. We found these articles (which include a video of guided meditation) particularly informative:
Attending a spiritual event gives amazing results for the immune system and mental state, in addition to lowering blood pressure. It’s also a great way to feel a sense of belonging to a group and to bolster confidence and make connections. The resulting sense of community and oneness can also reduce stress and anxiety.
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.” Buddha
Being in the present can be hard, especially because our society is so future oriented and we are always looking forward. Try every day this week, even a short while, to pause in your tasks, take notice of your surroundings as well the people you are around or the conversations you may be having, and find happiness and contentment in those small moments.
16) CONSCIOUSLY REFLECTED ON A QUOTE, EXCERPT, OR BOOK THAT INSPIRES YOUR PERSONAL DIRECTION AND PURPOSE FOR AT LEAST ONE HOUR THIS WEEK.
Take advantage of the small free time you find through your week, and find an outlet for inspiration; that may be a certain book, a devotion, or a quote of the day. Contemplate its true meaning and how you can apply it to your daily life to find motivation and meaning for your week!
If everybody picked up even 1 piece of trash, the world would be a much cleaner place, even if it is something as little as a gum wrapper. Any trash that does not get disposed of properly can eventually end up in our water.
Is your focus elsewhere when you try to work, study, or do other tasks around your house and/or office? Look around, is it a bit messy? This could be the source of unease and fidgeting; tidy and clean areas offer more clarity and less distraction from the true task at hand. Give it a try this week and see if you notice your productivity and/or focus increase.
19) BIKED, WALKED, OR TOOK PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION INSTEAD OF A CAR TO GET AROUND AT LEAST 5 TIMES THIS WEEK.
We know biking and walking provide more exercise for the body compared to driving, and in general these choices, in addition to public transportation, are good for the environment. What are other reasons for taking public transportation? In this source we can find several more reasons: http://www.fta.dot.gov/14504.htm
20) MADE A CONSCIOUS EFFORT AT LEAST ONCE THIS WEEK TO PURCHASE ONLY SUSTAINABLY-PRODUCED ITEMS, SUCH AS FAIR TRADE, LOCAL, ORGANIC, AND/OR MINIMALLY PACKAGED ITEMS AND TO MINIMIZE UNNECESSARY PURCHASES.
Need some ideas?! Try: saving your plastic bags or glass jars for re-use later; purchase food in bulk which requires less packaging; put some money towards buying a thermos or mug for your coffee or tea to reduce the amount of paper cups we throw away each week; etc. Read about “The Sad Demise of the Paper Coffee Cup,” within the link below to learn about the unnecessary environmental side effect of the coffee craving.
Stimulating your mental state by engaging in new activities and/or skills is great for the brain and can benefit other areas of work, school, and home. Trying something out of your comfort zone is a good practice to stretch the limits of your intellect, boosting neurons and sharpening memory. Ever wanted to learn to paint, sing, learn a foreign language or gain better skills in Microsoft Office? Now’s the time!
22) ENGAGED IN A CREATIVE OR ARTISTIC ACTIVITY (MUSIC, ART, WRITING, PHOTOGRAPHY, ETC.) FOR AT LEAST 2 HOURS THIS WEEK.
Bring more happiness and confidence into your life by discovering what induces your “flow” state; a loss of self-consciousness when you are completely absorbed in an activity. Flow can be brought on by engaging in all kinds of activities, such as a beloved hobby, meaningful tasks, or fun challenges. “A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that flow is highly correlated with happiness, both SWB (Subjective well-being) and PWB (Psychological well-being). Furthermore, it has been found that people who experience a lot of flow in their daily lives also develop other positive traits, such as high concentration, high self-esteem, and greater health.” (http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/getting-in-the-…)
23) AT THE BEGINNING OF EACH WEEK, DEVOTED AT LEAST 1 HOUR TO REFLECT ON WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU AND PRIORITIZING HOW YOU WILL USE YOUR TIME IN THE COMING WEEK.
To begin to maximize your time, you must learn how to manage yourself. The key to being successful is knowing how to properly prioritize your responsibilities and engagements. A great resource is your PSU planner or your PSU Google calendar; both of which include important dates and deadlines for the term. Create a to-do list, written in order of importance, to help you determine how much time to set aside for your most important tasks. Don’t forget about time for yourself and your health!
24) LIMITED YOUR RECREATIONAL SCREEN TIME (FACEBOOK, TV, INSTAGRAM, ETC.) TO NO MORE THAN AN AVERAGE OF 1 HOUR PER DAY THIS WEEK.
“We’re born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. It’s been happening for a long time. Technology is not changing it much – if at all.” —Steve Jobs
Technology has some wonderful benefits. That being said, it is becoming increasingly obvious that our world is developing an unhealthy attachment to it. Joshua Becker, the enthusiast for living a minimalist and intentional life, seen on NPR and Wall Street Journal states in one of his articles, “7 Important Reasons to Unplug and Find Space,” powering-down helps remove unhealthy feelings of jealousy, envy, and loneliness. Researchers recently discovered that one in three people felt worse or more dissatisfied with their lives after visiting Facebook. Read more about the important reason for unplugging in his article: http://www.becomingminimalist.com/unplug-please/
25) LEARNED ABOUT ONE AREA OF FINANCIAL HEALTH THAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU THIS WEEK (E.G. BY READING AN ARTICLE, ATTENDING A WORKSHOP, ETC.)
Are you interested in expanding your financial knowledge in retirement, portfolios, IRA’s, debt, or student loans? Learning about these to plan for the future and get a better idea of how to manage your finances will reduce stress, anxiety and/or insomnia, and give you a jumpstart to being confident in money matters.
26) USED AT LEAST ONE RESOURCE (WEEKLY SALES, COUPONS, ETC.) FOR SAVING ON GROCERIES, CLEANING SUPPLIES, OR OTHER ESSENTIALS THIS WEEK.
Saving money in certain areas, even in small amounts, can in turn go towards other important things in life. The money you save from using coupons at grocery stores can be put towards a trip, bills, project, or hobby. Sales and coupons are also a wonderful way to plan healthy meals for the week or month. Try to avoid dining out and instead bond over cooking a good meal with roommates, friends or family.
27) DETERMINED AND COMPLETED AT LEAST ONE STEP TO ADVANCE YOUR CAREER (ATTENDING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOPS, MEETING WITH A MENTOR, UPDATING YOUR RESUME, ETC.) THIS WEEK.
Visit Advising and Career Services at PSU and find out what next steps you need to take to advance your future goals. You can find great resources on their website to help answer questions about your major or the career you want to pursue, internships, graduate school, and more. http://www.pdx.edu/careers/for-students
It’s important to evaluate spending and set priorities. Success in saving is a matter of self-control, planning, and restraint. Be disciplined with your spending and set up a plan, leaving room to treat yourself every once and awhile.
Physically spending time with somebody whom we are close to can have a positive reinforcement in our lives, especially if you know that person has that kind of influence. Being in good company can help improve moods and lower stress. This gives us time to slow down, live in the moment, and really engage ourselves with those we care about. One-on-one time is a tremendous opportunity for each person to be listened to and heard, especially in an age of immediate technology. The time we spend with each other speaks more than anything else in showing we care.
30) CONSCIOUSLY FOCUSED ON HELPING OTHERS (IN A NEW WAY THAN WHAT YOU TYPICALLY DO) FOR AT LEAST ONE HOUR THIS WEEK.
Great information and statistics about volunteerism, such as how Oregon compares to the rest of the United States, where we spend our time volunteering, and how many people volunteer in Portland can be viewed here:http://www.volunteeringinamerica.gov/OR/Portland
For help with finding volunteer opportunities check out volunteer.org, AllForGood.org, or United Way.
Take time out of your busy school and work schedule to have a conversation with somebody; really listen to that person; get to know them better. Step out of the rush of life and common small talk. Cambridge’s definition of listen is “to give attention to someone you can hear or to a person who is speaking”. Giving attention to a particular person is the act of directing the mind to understand what is being said; not just hearing people speak but attentively listening.
Reaching out may be intimidating and hard at first, but can reap massive rewards for both parties. Forming new relationships with neighbors, coworkers, or classmates can expand your network and forming new relationships improves confidence, self-worth, and encourages a healthy lifestyle.