Guest blog: Small, Budget-Friendly Changes That Can Make a Big Difference in Your Health


— by Jennifer McGregor

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Photo by Pexels

Making your health a priority doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon, eat nothing but vegetables, or make other drastic changes to your lifestyle. In fact, drastic changes — regardless of how healthy — could do the opposite. For example, think about how many times you have jumped on the bandwagon of the latest fad diet. You probably lost some weight rather quickly, but it’s unlikely the weight stayed off. That’s because those diets require you to make immediate, unsustainable changes to the way you eat. In order to make healthy habits that stick, you have to make slow, gradual changes that add into your life as opposed to adding on

Are you among the many people looking to incorporate some healthy habits into your everyday activities? It’s not as hard as you might think! Here are suggestions for small changes that can add up to a big impact — but won’t add up to costs!

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness means focusing on the present moment, instead of worrying about something in the past — that you cannot change — or fixating on the future — that you cannot predict. When you find yourself trapped in the past or the future, find a quiet spot to close your eyes and listen to your breath. When thoughts intrude on your solitude, acknowledge them, but don’t follow them. This will come in handy for those moments when you feel guilty for eating that extra cookie or frustrated when the scale isn’t falling fast enough. If you’re having trouble grasping the art of mindfulness, there are several free smartphone apps that can aid you in the process.

Smile Big 

Good oral hygiene can impact both your physical and mental health in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Visiting the dentist twice a year for check-ups and cleanings can help prevent diseases like periodontitis and gingivitis. But good oral health also plays a part in preventing illness in other parts of your body, too, like diabetes and heart disease. And, believe it or not, mental health is linked to oral health, too! If you are confident in your smile, you will smile and laugh more often. If you’ve been avoiding the dentist or need to find a new one, look to your dental coverage for direction and couple with an online search to find a dentist in your neighborhood. What’s more, by staying on top of cleaning and checkups, you’ll prevent serious — and costly — dental problems from developing down the road. 

Get on a Mat

Yoga is one of the most beneficial ways to boost mental and physical health. You can go to a class at a studio or at the gym, but you can also practice at home, too. You don’t need fancy clothes or gear — if you can breathe then you are already practicing yoga! Start simple with a 15-minute energizing routine in the morning or deep, relaxing stretches in the evening. Try to work your way up to a full 60-minute practice. Yoga is also a great healthy bonding activity to do with your kids — naturally bendy in mind and body— at home, in a class or at the park. If you’re unsure about poses, there are a lot of quality, free instructional videos online.

Of course, the one piece of equipment you might need to get started is pretty straightforward: a yoga mat. Fortunately, you can affordable yoga mats at a number of retailers, and using promo codes and coupons at stores such as Dicks Sports Goods can help you save money.

Cut Out One Food Vice

Healthy eating should be a journey. Start small and simple — and only make one change at a time. For example, you can stop putting sugar in your coffee or eat a salad before every meal. It helps to log your current food habits before you make changes so you know what you’re dealing with. For instance, you may think you only have one or two sodas a day, but after you log your food for a week you could see that the reality — at least on some days — is very different. Cutting out soda entirely at first may be too challenging, but cutting out soda at dinner could be an effective way to ease yourself into a soda-free life — and it can also help you add a few more dollars into your household budget at the same time! If you want to take on bigger diet changes, think about talking to your doctor about your plans. Since he or she knows your biggest health concerns, you’ll get good insight that you might miss on your own.

Make “Me” Time

Self-care is another angle for improving health and reducing stress. Self-care might seem selfish for someone with a busy schedule — school, work or kids will always have to come first. But carving out 15 to 30 minutes every day for yourself can do wonders for helping you manage stress and prevent burnout. If you’re always putting your own needs on the back burner, you’ll eventually have nothing to give. Self-care doesn’t have to be a big event (though it can be and that’s okay). Wake up 10 minutes earlier and enjoy a cup of coffee in silence. Take a bubble bath with music and a book at the end of the day. Walk in the sunshine and listen to your favorite podcast during your lunch break. Prioritize things that make you happy, so you are better able to spread happiness to others. Here’s the best part: Setting aside a little time for yourself doesn’t require you to spend any money whatsoever if you don’t want to!

Healthy habits don’t have to be major changes in order to be life-changing. You want to make your effort stick so that these changes turn into habits, which simply turn into the way you live. Find joy in making healthy, budget-minded decisions by thinking about the short-term and long-term benefits, both for you and your family.


About the author:

Jennifer McGregor co-created Public Health Library to write about health and wellness topics. She is a pre-med student who aims to make it easier for people to find high-quality health info in one place.

Guest Blog: Self-Care: A Priceless Gift For You


by Brad Krause

selfcare

Who doesn’t appreciate an hour—or two—to relax and let your mind wander, indulge in a good book or your favorite TV show or chill in a hammock guilt-free? Alas, with all of life’s demands, whether it’s your job, family and other responsibilities, we tend to cancel or put off those activities that give us time to recharge. But self-care is critical for maintaining good mental, physical and emotional health.

Why?

Self-care helps you to stay connected with yourself and remind you of your self-worth, produce positive feelings, boost self-confidence and self-esteem. When you take time to take care of yourself, you’re setting a good example for your family while reminding them that your needs are important, too.

Self-care staves off stress that stems from working too much; contrary to popular belief, workaholism is not a virtue. Workaholism leads to mistakes, decreased productivity and utter exhaustion. Overworking becomes a slippery slope that can invite serious health issues including anxiety and depression, insomnia and heart disease.

Self-care prevents burnout from too much work, too many demands on your time and too many areas in which it’s all too easy to spread yourself too thin. When you’ve pushed yourself beyond that proverbial breaking point, you’re simply going through the motions and, let’s face it—everything suffers. Plus, taking that step back and physically taking a break, can often lead to a breakthrough. In fact, science has proven that taking breaks—and ensuring that you’re getting consistently restful sleep—will enhance your performance.

Self-care habits like taking breaks from work—eating lunch with a colleague or taking a stroll during a break—improve energy levels and your mood. Mobile technology makes it all too easy for us to stay connected 24-7, so make a conscious effort to unplug and set boundaries between work and personal time.

How to start

Whether you’re trying to cultivate a new self-care routine or looking for other ways to increase your mental and physical mojo, check out this list of stress management hacks. Try them out and tweak as you need, because it’s not a one-size-fits-all proposition:

Schedule time to exercise. Put it in your calendar like your kids’ activities and work meetings. If it’s already part of your daily routine, you’re more likely to follow through. Need help with accountability? Join the gym or a class with a friend or two. Too busy to hit the gym? Download  self-care apps, which will give you suggestions to get your move on—even if you only have five minutes to spare.

Eat well. It’s way too easy to hit the drive-through or grab a slice of leftover pizza. Instead, use your Crockpot or instant pot for easy meal cooking. Take a few hours on the weekend or a weeknight to plan and prep meals for a week or a month. If you find yourself reaching for comfort foods because they taste good (and they make you feel good), think about changing how you eat, too. Are you reaching for a box of cookies to reward yourself for a rough day, or consuming too many carbs at dinner because you skipped breakfast and lunch? Check out these suggestions on how to eat well.

Practice mindfulness to manage stress and help your body to relax. Think about it: What do we do, daily, to maintain our psychological health? During the day, take a minute to look at a picture or listen to a song that makes you happy and recharges your batteries. Take a stroll around the block, electronics-free, to feel the sunshine and connect with nature.

These resources from the Positive Psychology Program include worksheets and exercises to build mindfulness, including the self-compassion pause, self-inquiry meditation, five senses exercise, and mini-mindfulness exercises. Deep breathing techniques are another good way to reduce stress by turning off the chemicals your body releases when the fight or flight response activates.

Change your perspective

Value yourself—guilt-free. Prioritizing and taking care of yourself improves all aspects of your life. As you’re evaluating where and how to prioritize your self-care, also think about your social, financial, and workspace needs, too.

Photo Credit: pixabay.com