1) Eat (and/or Drink) More Produce. We know that fresh, raw fruits and veges are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and all kinds of good stuff. But it’s not easy to get them on our plates (and in our bellies) at the recommended rates. If adding greens to every meal seems boring and difficult, consider juicing your veges or blending them up in a smoothie.
2) Get Good ZZZs. The golden rule is still 8-10 hours for optimum functioning. Adequate sleep has been shown to reduce stress, improve mood, increase productivity, and generally make our bodies run more efficiently. A bedtime ritual (try camomile tea) or journaling can be enormously helpful to settle your body and mind for rest.
3) Exercise Everyday. I know this sounds like a tall order. But consider that dancing to a few of your favorite songs, taking a ten minute walk, doing a few early morning stretches...or even a little lovemaking all count toward your daily exercise quota. The most important thing here is to move your body and sweat a little every day.
4) Develop a Taste for Tea. Aside from the bottled, presweetened variety, tea is categorically healthier for you than soft drinks. Tea contains antioxidants and doesn’t come with all the negative side effects of drinking soda. You might just have to go cold turkey on this one, but you’ll be glad you did.
5) Focus On Gratitude. One of my favorite sayings is “Gratitude is the open door to abundance,” but it’s so much more than that. Research shows a positive attitude helps build a healthier immune system, speeds healing and boosts overall health. Your body hears and believes what you think, so focus on the positive and count your blessings!
6) Keep Great Company. If you are committed to better health, you may need to branch out and find some friends who share similar health-minded interests (think: yoga buddies, healthy cooking class companions...) and of course, making healthy changes with your existing loved ones is great for everyone and can bring you closer together. The healthiest people are those who have relationships with other healthy people.
7) Turn Off and Tune Out. Schedule mental health time by turning off phones and computers for a few minutes each day. Simple deep belly breathing, a few moments of meditation, or writing in a journal can all reduce stress and have a “reset” effect on our busy brains. Check out omharmonics.com or alphadeva.com for great meditation downloads for beginners.
8) Do Something You Love. Play with your pet, go for a bike ride or a swim, build a fort with a kid, or jump on a trampoline. Even just take a quiet bath with a little essential oil. Doing something you love gets you out of your head and can change a bad mood to good, or a good mood to great. Treat yourself right. You deserve it.
9) Focus on Service. When we are using our abilities to help someone else or accomplishing something in the world, we are rewarded ten-fold with a feeling of contribution and satisfaction. Consider volunteering to help animals, the environment or someone in your neighborhood who could use a hand. Giving back reminds us that we are all connected.
10) Don’t Forget to Laugh. Cultivate an open-minded attitude. Be laid-back, Dude! Be adventurous and silly. Don’t sweat the small stuff. We all have responsibilities and challenges, but it’s the attitude we bring to them that determines our level of mental health and happiness.
And most of all, keep in mind that there will be setbacks on the way to better health. Treat yourself with compassion, and know that you are growing healthier with each small step.
(As printed in the Orlando Sentinel, "A Better You" 2013.)