Everyday, Sustainable Steps to Better Your All-Around Health

Taking steps to improve your overall health can do wonders in boosting your happiness and well-being. Where many people fall short in regard to their health, however, is that they get so busy that they can’t imagine how they could fit anything else on their plate. This often leads to one of two conclusions: taking extreme measures for fast results (only to fizzle out after a short time) or simply not trying anything. But what if there were practical, sustainable steps you could take each day to improve your all-around health for the long-term? Fortunately, there are.

Young man at home writes in a journal.

Looking Into Tech Gadgets

 Practicing self-care is essential to your physical, mental, and emotional health. Nowadays, there’s a lot of technology that can provide self-care, thus benefiting your health in the process. One of the best gadgets out there to help you wind down in the evening is a foot massager. According to the experts at Smart Style Today, if you want to relieve soreness and get id of knots in your muscles, consider investing in a quality foot massager. Not only will it help your muscles feel better, it will help you to de-stress as well.

Start Prepping Your Meals

Another practical way to benefit your health is to meal prep. By spending a couple of hours on the weekend (many people like Sunday), you can prepare your meals for the whole week. This allows you more control of your nutrition and portions. Quick access to your lunches and dinners — whether it’s already cooked or the ingredients are ready to cook — means you will be less likely to eat fast food and other processed foods out of convenience. Also, by making a detailed grocery list, you can save a lot of money when it’s time to go shopping.

Create a Fun Exercise Routine

Exercise is necessary for anyone who wants to achieve peak health, but it’s not reasonable for you to expect yourself to spend hours at the gym every morning doing something you absolutely hate. The key to creating a fitness regimen that lasts is creating a routine you like. There are so many different ways to get in your exercise, and if nothing sounds appealing, consider trying out a few different activities until you find one you like (or at least don’t hate). From weightlifting, running, and yoga to racquetball, swimming, and golf, breaking a sweat for 30 minutes a day can do wonders for your health and well-being.

Take Time to Rest

It’s also essential to make time in your schedule for rest. While it may seem like you’re spending your time wisely by working late and never taking time off, you can be much more productive if you get seven to nine hours of sleep each night and set aside time for vacations. Allowing your body and mind to recover and regenerate will also help prevent you from burning out.

Write Down Your Story

Finally, start keeping a daily or weekly journal where you write about your journey of improvement. Journals provide an opportunity to vent your emotions and thoughts, but they can also be used to keep track of your progress. They can help you set goals and lay out strategies; then, you can routinely review and readjust your strategies if you’re not hitting your goals. Plus, looking back and seeing how far you’ve come over time can give you a boost in self-confidence.

Taking practical, everyday steps toward better health is the best way to maintain it for the long term. Explore all the self-care tech available these days, and try meal prepping once a week. Develop an exercise routine that you enjoy, and make sure rest is a part of your life. Lastly, consider keeping a journal that documents your journey. Making these habits a part of your routine will give you the peace of mind knowing that you are prioritizing your all-around health.

Fighting Obesity Through Wellness-Focused Action

Obesity is one of the major health concerns in the United States. Currently, the world population is 7.5 billion, and about 10 percent are obese – and about 10 percent of people in that category live in the US. In other words, 73 million Americans are obese, which is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. So if you’re one of the 160 million Americans struggling with your weight, here are some tips on fighting obesity through wellness-focused actions.

Bowl of oatmeal and yogurt with fruit, nuts and seeds.

Eating a Balanced Diet

Eating Between 2001-2009, the percentage of Americans who were physically active increased – but so did the percentage of people who were obese. The lesson may be that exercise alone doesn’t stave off weight gain. So if you want to slim down, prioritize eating right. Think of it this way: 30 minutes of intense exercise can torch 350 calories. But simply cutting two 16-ounce sodas out of your diet each day can achieve the same caloric deficit. Now, let’s re-examine the word “diet.” Starving yourself on saltines and soda water will only deplete your energy. Instead, try to avoid sugar and opt for low-carb veggies (kale, spinach, lettuce), lean protein (salmon, chicken, beans) and healthy fats (avocado, olive oil).

Enjoyable Workout Routine

That said, don’t neglect exercise. A regular fitness regimen has been shown to give you energy, boost your mood, sharpen your memory, and strengthen your muscles and bones. The specific exercises that you do don’t matter so much as that you enjoy the exercise; that way, you’ll be excited about doing them again and again. Also, remember to track your progress. Personal trainers often tell clients to keep an eye on the scale but not to worry all that much about it. Scales often measure muscle mass, bone density, or water weight, but we’ve been trained to think of the number that blinks back at us as simply a calibration of our fat tissue.

Instead, consider ditching the scale. Instead of the scale, check how your clothes fit, exercise with a heart rate monitor, or see how easy it is for you to sit up from a cross-legged position. Logging these measurements will help you note whether your strength and endurance are increasing, your mobility is improving, or if your stress is easing away.

Getting Enough Rest

Another technique to monitor your progress without a scale is tracking whether your sleep improves. Regular quality sleep is one of the cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle. Clinicians recommend that adults sleep for 7-9 hours per night. Sleep makes your skin glow, sharpens your memory, helps you retain information, and regulates your weight. Getting enough sleep has also been shown to stave off anxiety, depression, and mood disorders that have been linked to obesity.

Addressing Mental Disorders

Researchers have found such strong links between obesity and mental illness that they have termed the two conditions “a double epidemic.” Studies have shown that people with mental illnesses are at a higher risk of becoming obese, and people with obesity are much more likely to develop mental illnesses. Gaining weight often saps your energy and takes a toll on your self-esteem. Conversely, someone who’s anxious may “stress-eat,” and people who suffer from depression can make poor dietary choices because so much else weighs on their minds.

If you have a mental disorder, seek counseling and talk to an expert about developing some of the wellness-focused actions above. You may not see results overnight, but integrating these habits into your routine should help you trim your waistline and improve your outlook.

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Photo credit: Ana Azevedo

Cold-Weather Fitness Tips to Keep You Fit, Happy, and On the Right Path

Fight Winter Blues with Indoor Workouts

The days are short, the nights are long, and the temps are less than desirable. Colder months tend to sap our energy, and when it comes to keeping up with a fitness routine, many of us can’t afford to have one iota of energy taken from us. Though working out is usually more fun when it’s warm outside, staying fit and healthy is not only possible when it’s cold out, but it’s not that tough (and yes, even enjoyable). Here are some tips for working out indoors.

Group of women working out with resistance bands.

Buy a set of resistance bands

One option for getting a total-body workout indoors is to join a gym. But that’s pricey. Another is option is to build a gym in your own home. This can add up, too, when you think about buying free weights, dumbbells, kettlebells, a treadmill, and other home gym equipment. The solution is resistance bands. These are cheap and versatile and can be stored in a closet or drawer when you’re not using them. You can get a total body workout with resistance bands. Click here for a great resource on different exercises.

Don’t scoff at indoor cardio

Strength training is fine and good, but what about cardio? If you think you can’t get a solid cardio workout indoors, without a fancy machine, you’re dead wrong. Stationary sprinting, squat thrusts, and planking can give your heart a workout. Rapidly switching between certain exercises? Even better. Throw in some shadowboxing to really get your blood pumping. Check out this 20-minute routine that you can do in your living room.

Stairs are your friend

Even though you’re doing your best to schedule designated indoor workout time, it helps to build some working out into your daily routine. In this regard, stairs are your best friend. Here’s your new rule: When it’s cold outside, I will never take an elevator or an escalator. You’ll be amazed at how much walking a half-dozen flights of stairs every day will do.

Why is this all so important?

Why can’t you just wait out the winter, and when things thaw, get outside and get back on the proverbial horse? Why is keeping up with your exercise routine so important during the winter months?

For one, exercise isn’t something that you can “catch up” on. You can’t make up for lost time in the spring by working twice as hard. Your body needs at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every single day, according to doctors. Another reason is that physical exercise helps to promote better mental health, and that is more important in the winter than it is in any other season. Lack of daylight, the inability to be outdoors, bad weather, and even the holidays are all triggers for depression and seasonal anxiety disorders. The bottom line is you need exercise in the winter.

Beyond that, it’s vital to keep up with physical activity if you’re in addiction recovery. When seeking therapy for substance use, many counselors also recommend pursuing a physical wellness plan to combat not only the physical effects of substance use, but also to promote the general well-being of patients. 

So what are you waiting for? You can fight the cold-weather blues and keep your body fit for the upcoming warmer months without even leaving your house. Of course, working out in the cold won’t kill you either. It’s actually quite healthy! If you do decide to venture outside, make sure you check out some cold-weather exercise tips.

 About the author

Jason Lewis is a personal trainer. In 2002, he became the primary caretaker for his mother after her surgery. He realized, as he helped her with her recovery, that there is a special need for trainers that can assist the seniors. He worked with his mother’s physician, as well as other personal trainers, to create programs that are considerate to the special health needs of those over the age of 65. He is the founder of www.StrongWell.org

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Self-Care is Not About Being Selfish

Are you a single parent?

  • Stay at home Mom or Dad?

  • Do you work extra shifts or two jobs to provide for your family?

  • Are you a caretaker, a giver, always helping others?

Too often we become so focused on our jobs, or kids, or other people needing us that we forget to take care of ourselves.  

Have you ever heard the term “Self-Care”? Self-Care includes any intentional actions you take to care for your physical, mental and emotional health. Self care isn’t about being selfish, its about addressing your own needs so you can continue your work to help others.  

A recent client reported her struggle with self care:

Young woman takes time for herself with exercise as she gets ready for a run.

“I don’t know how I got here.  I am not happy with myself at all.  I’m two years post baby and I still haven’t lost the baby weight.  I feel like there is such incongruence with myself.  I work so hard for my child to eat healthy and have nutritious snacks, and I am shoveling a pop-tart and an iced-coffee down as were flying out the door.  My child has become my whole life - and while I love it, it’s consuming me.  I do not get a break until she’s asleep and then I have a house to clean and the feeling of everything that needs to be done that I can’t get done during the day. I spend so much time being a mother, a wife, house cleaner, laundry washer, family chef, that I find I’m becoming not very
good at any of my jobs”.  

This client’s story is all too true for many individuals.  We often get so busy helping everyone else that suddenly we aren’t good at any one thing.  Think of it like a gas tank - you first start out with a full tank and your engine is running well.  You can be busy and help so many people on a full tank.  Over time, you start burning up your fuel and your tank runs empty.  Now if you were a car with an empty tank you’d just stop completely.  As humans we do not come to a complete stop, but functioning on empty isn’t healthy.  You need to put fuel back into your engine for you to be back to running again.  

What are some things you can do to refuel your tank?
The wonderful part of self-care is that it is completely unique and varies from person to person. 

Sometimes, 20 minutes of quiet with a hot cup of coffee can be enough to reset your tank and allow you to continue through the day.  Self-care does not always need to be grandiose or expensive.  But maybe you are so burned out from your job that you do need a weekend away to unplug from technology and
breath the salty sea air. 

Here are some other ways to incorporate self-care in your life:

Food - As the client above stated, she works so hard to make sure her children are eating nutritious food that she is neglecting herself.  There are many research studies showing the link between good nutrition and mental health.  You actually feel better when you eat better.  In order for you to get your healthy breakfast in, maybe you wake up for your day 30 minutes earlier.  By making your nutrition a priority, you are actually feeding your brain and refueling your body.

Exercise - Do you just sit in your break room at work and eat your lunch? What if you ate at your desk for the first few minutes and then used the remainder of your lunch period to walk outside around your business complex? Of course going to the gym and maintaining good physical health is important,
but a simple lunch break walk can give you some fresh air and vitamin D to get back to the task at hand.  Walks around your neighborhood are another good way to get out and learn about your surroundings.  

Hobby - Do you have something to look forward to when you get home from work? Do you have a project or task that is just yours? It’s important to find something that fills your tank.  Maybe you work all week, and your hobby is volunteering at a soup kitchen.  You come back from that feeling good about yourself and ability to help others.  Maybe you work with people all week, and painting by yourself helps boost your creativity.  Whatever it is, make sure your hobby is something enjoyable and refills your tank and not something that causes you more stress.

Schedule - Are you someone who schedules appointments back to back? You come home from work to be off to your spin class etc.  If you are good at scheduling then it will be important for you to schedule self care.  Yes, actually put time in your calendar where you aren’t committed to anyone and then keep it.  This self care appointment is just as important as all your other appointments.  If you aren’t a big scheduler, then start with a general frame of your day.  Maybe you aren’t planned down to the minute, but create some time each day for your own refueling.

Counseling - Counseling or therapy is great self-care time.  It is a safe place for you to process what’s happening in your life.  You are the only subject, and you get to decide what your time is spent on.  Counseling also offers many ways to help you incorporate self care into your life, and strategies to learn how to balance our care for ourselves and the care for others. 

Do not wait for your gas tank to reach empty! Self-care is not a one time thing.  Try incorporating one new idea into your life and see how you feel afterward.  Maybe find something small you can do each day to help you take care of yourself. 

If you need help with self care, or learning how to set boundaries so your gas tank isn’t always on empty - Therapy can help instill good self-care, contact Hope Therapy Center today and consider counseling as good self-care.