The path to greater health and well-being needn’t be as grueling as many make it out to be. While rigorous exercise and healthy dieting are of course important, there are all sorts of small and simple things you can do daily to boost physical and mental wellness.
1) Give a Hug
That warm feeling you get when you hug a person is not just emotionally satisfying: it has measurable benefits to your physical health. That is because physical touch and affection help release hormones like oxytocin, which make us feel relaxed, lower blood pressure, and improve heart rate.
2) Have a Good Laugh
The old saying about laughter being the best medicine has a lot of truth to it. Laughing is actually one of the body’s natural stress relievers, helping to vent out a lot of negative energy. It also imitates, to a small but noticeable degree, the same physiological responses to physical activity.
Like laughter, smiling triggers aspects of your nervous system that relate to relaxation and positive feelings. If you are a feeling stressed, try cracking a smile regardless: just a few seconds, if not a minute, may be enough to help.
4) Indulge in Some Dark Chocolate
Treating yourself once in a while never hurts, especially if it is dark chocolate. Cocoa has natural compounds that are good for the heart in many ways, including lowering blood pressure, raising levels of “good” cholesterol while lowering the “bad”, and even helping with circulation. It is also a mood booster.
5) Count Your Blessings
Frequently take time from your day to reflect on the things in life you are grateful for, no matter how small. Not only will this help your emotional health in the long-term, but it will reduce stress and in turn lead to a healthier heart and stronger immune system.
6) Minimize Screen Time
Whether at your desk job or just glued to your smartphone, recent studies show that too much exposure to screens can negatively impact your eyes and brain. Thankfully, you do not have to quit your job or toss out the phone. Just follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for just 20 seconds.
7) Wash Your Hands
This may seem like an obvious one, but a lot of people neglect how important this childhood lesson is. Twenty seconds of hand washing is all you need to prevent all sorts of nasty ailment. According to CDC research, it can reduce the chance of diarrhea by 31 percent and the likelihood of getting colds and other respiratory illnesses by 21 percent.
8) Buckle Up
Another seemingly obvious lesson is also neglected by one out of ten people. It may not sound like a lot, but over 2 million adults treated for car accident injuries annually – and more than half of teens age 13 to 20 who died in car crashes – were not wearing seat belts at the time. It can make a world of difference.
9) Rest in Child’s Pose
This yoga pose is easy, gentle, and reinvigorating, helping to stretch the back and neck and relieve pain. Sit back with your buttocks on top of your knees, then gently extend your arms forward and stretch out until the palms touch the ground. Hold that for just one minute to feel the effect.
10) Wear Sunscreen
Skin cancer affects over 5 million Americans each year, and sun exposure is one of the biggest causes of the disease. It takes just one minute to lather up with about an ounce of sunblock to prevent harmful UV rays from affecting your health.
11) Try Planking
It might seem like a funny fad, but holding a one-minute plank – in which you lie face down straight and still with both hands to your side – can help workout your midsection, improve posture, and reduce back pain.