It’s probably safe to say we all wish we lived healthier lives, with schedules that left room for impromptu yoga classes and plenty of nightly Zs. Alas, life. Still, bettering oneself is a noble pursuit, and we’re committed to seeking out small improvements that have big impacts. Even minor adjustments can produce major results. To inspire you to live healthier each day, we’ve rounded up 14 simple habits that make all the difference. Most of them take five minutes. We're reasonable people.
Bike to work. Do a set of jumping jacks in the morning. Buy a jump rope and spend five minutes perfecting your double dutch. Put on a playlist of four or five songs and dance. Set an alert for yourself for every hour or so and make a point to walk to the office kitchen for a cup of tea or stroll to a co-worker’s desk to say hi.
Though a hot, steamy shower is the stuff of daydreams, it can actually be damaging to your skin and hair health. Because no one really wants to take an icy shower, try to find a happy medium and cool it down a touch, or at least turn the temperature down during the last two minutes of your shower. Even this burst of cold will do your body good, closing your pores and hair follicles (and waking you right up).
Throughout the day, pay attention to your body, and stretch when you’re feeling cramped, tired, or just generally in need of a pick-me-up. Try a couple of sun salutations first thing in the morning to get your blood flowing, and end your day with a slow, seated stretch of bending at your hips to touch your toes. Hang out in these positions for as long as feels necessary.
The next time you’re walking down a street, put your phone away and allow your eyes to wander. Notice details, marvel at architectural achievements. Challenge yourself to pay attention to things you might normally ignore. Pause before going inside, and look up.
Drink an extra glass of water every day. Better yet, drink a few extra glasses. To help in this, try drinking a glass of water half an hour before every meal. Oftentimes we mistake thirst for hunger, and drinking a tall glass of H2O will actually help you feel fuller for longer.
Commit to Citrus
Have a cup of warm water with lemon juice in the morning. The benefits of sipping the antioxidant-rich beverage are numerous: It naturally reduces inflammation and aids digestion, to name just two.
Be One With Nature
Whether that means taking a break from your office to stand outside in the sunshine, waking up a little earlier to take a walk around your neighborhood, or beelining it to the beach at morning’s first light, it’s all good. The health benefits of nature are well documented, with studies suggesting being outside can ease depression, improve focus, increase creativity, and even strengthen your immune system.
Take the Stairs
At work or home, there’s always that moment of pause where you can opt to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Challenge yourself to get walking. While you’re at it, inject a little bit of training into your flight climbing. As you take a step, plant your foot more firmly into the floor, allowing the entirety of your foot to meet the step, then burst out of your step and into the next.
Perfect Your Posture
Bad posture has all kinds of negative health impacts, including chronic muscle pain, reduced circulation, headaches, and even bad moods. Sitting up straight and assuming the body language of victory actually has a proven-positive impact on your health, both physical and mental. Try a ballet bar workout to train your shoulders into prima ballerina physique.
Practice Mindful Eating
Many of us are in the habit of eating at our desks, in front of the television, or absentmindedly while we do another task (or two or three). Try to slow down the act of eating. Focus on taste, consistency, and your enjoyment. When you can, eat your meals sitting down at a table, where all you are doing is eating and reflecting.
The best times to take a stab at some meditation are first thing in the morning before you’ve caffeinated (but after you’ve gotten up and splashed some water on your face) and in the evening before dinnertime. Take some time to sit quietly and close your eyes. Find a comfortable spot to sit that has back support, and tuck yourself into a cozy blanket. Repeat a mantra, concentrate on positive thinking, focus on deep breathing, or just allow your mind to wander. The benefits of meditation are manifold, and even a “failed” attempt provides a much-needed break.
Turn off all your technology 15 to 30 minutes before bedtime. Even something as harmless as checking your phone just before going to sleep can disrupt your sleep pattern, as the bright screens excite optic nerves and make your eventual sleep less restful. Put your phone in airplane mode.
Give Your Eyes a Break
Eye health experts recommend the 20-20-20 rule in order to preserve eye health, cut down on eye strain, and reduce eye strain–related headaches. For every 20 minutes you spend on the computer, glance away from the screen for at least 20 seconds by looking at something 20 feet away.
Get Enough Sleep
Not getting enough sleep is one of the most consistent indicators of poor health. Though everyone is different, adults generally require between seven and eight and a half hours of sleep per night. If you aren’t sure how much you require, pay attention to your energy levels and mood each day, and tweak accordingly.
Cleveland Clinic. 7 Reasons to Start Your Day With Lemon Water. January 17, 2020
Kuo M. How Might Contact with Nature Promote Human Health? Promising Mechanisms and a Possible Central Pathway. Front Psychol. 2015;6:1093. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01093
Johns Hopkins Health and Wellness Center. The Impact of Poor Posture. June 15th, 2018
Cleveland Clinic. Put the Phone Away! 3 Reasons Why Looking at It Before Bed Is a Bad Habit. April 22, 2019
American Academy of Ophthalmology. Computers, Digital Devices and Eye Strain. March 3, 2020