In preparation for my independence, I’ve been trying to adapt to a couple of new rituals that I find beneficial for my well-being and lifestyle. A lot of these practices are heard of for sure, yet I find that most of us often overlook them and proceed with our current lifestyles that fuel off of multitasking, stress and go-go-go. Problem is, stress accumulation is toxic for our mental and physical health.
And it’s a fact that college is going to be more like the latter too. My Food Science major in particular requires three different chemistry classes. YAY ME, not really, actually no. But anyways, with the crazy lives we lead and the commitments we have to keep, there are a couple of steps that all of us can take to heal ourselves. These steps have been proven to lengthen life, boost some benefits, reduce physical health concerns and even reverse them. Lately these steps have been part of my routine as often as possible. Since it’s unrealistic to complete all of these little habits every single day, I rotate between six or seven of them a day for best results.
- Drinking lemon water: I used to be such a huge lemon water skeptic. Actually, I was a skeptic for all fruit-infused waters. While researching on ways to improve digestion, I found that lemon water had magical diuretic and detoxifying properties that flushes out toxins and rejuvenated the body. It’s something I’ve always known but never really practiced until I developed inflammation from overeating peanuts. After my first glass of lemon water, my digestion improved literally in a snap. Bloating and stomach cramps almost disappeared and energy and satiety skyrocketed. Now this isn’t to say that lemon water will help you lose weight, but it motivates you to drink more water while reaping in so many benefits from lemons that you wouldn’t want to obtain by eating a whole sour lemon, including the rind. Putting a few fresh slices in plain water or green tea will improve your health in such surprising ways that you won’t even believe!
- Reading an hour a day: Here’s a confession: I’ve NEVER EVER been an avid reader. Ever. The only way I got my nose in a book was through assigned reading for school, and also in the past when my mother forced me to read other books outside of school and schedule blocks of time during the day to read. Talk about torture, except sometimes I’d genuinely like the book and come up with good papers and discussions for class. Since paying small visits to my local Barnes and Noble, my love for reading has blossomed. I just started with the category I love the most, and that’s cookbooks. They’re visually stunning, concise and heart to heart. Eventually, I nozzied my way towards lifestyle and wellness books, then to autobiographies and other categories that I wouldn’t even give a second to explore. Well, except for those teen romance novels that are way too unrealistic. I still have yet to figure those out. Anyways, what I’ve been loving so much about reading is that the simple feeling of holding a book and turning pages is so detoxifying. Honestly, I love blogging and everything, but the excess screen time really drains my energy and mental capacity to function efficiently. I’ve found that taking out an hour a day to read whatever I want improves my work efficacy so drastically it’s unreal. At the same time, I learn so many new things from reading, all in a way that helps me retain the information a lot more clearly than something a computer can do. Research has shown that reading does wonders for cognitive development, stress reduction, social skill improvement and of course, theory of mind. Knowing that not everybody has an hour to read like not everybody has an hour for exercise, even taking 45 minutes, 30 minutes, 20 minutes, 10 minutes, anything makes a difference. Start small and start simple.
- Listening to podcasts: Am I the only one who senses that podcasts are so freaking popular right now? Well depending on which podcast programs you favor, they for sure add so much knowledge to your life in such an easy way. If you don’t know what a podcast is, it is the child of an iPod and a broadcast (pod + cast), or an audio-based file that you can download from the Internet, iTunes or any other websites for your portable music player. Podcasts most often come in series that run on a regular schedule so that subscribers can listen to a new podcast every time they’re notified. A lot of podcasts generally run pretty long, almost up to an hour at the longest, which makes them amazing for long drives, nature walks, runs, work, chores, anything that needs a little something-something to feel more pleasureable. Like YouTube channels, you can listen to all kinds of podcasts, whether related to health, yoga, exercise, nutrition, business, wellness, life, relationships, work, self-improvement, meditation, politics, culture and so much more. My personal favorite podcasts are Beyond the Podcast run by one of my favorite YouTubers Brian Turner and The Skinny Confidential Him & Her Podcast by Lauryn Evarts and Michael Bosstick, both of The Skinny Confidential blog. They’re pretty different from each other but I absolutely love the personalities behind both and how they handle the subjects they talk about.
- Walking frequently: Okay, I admit that I’m not always a trooper on this one because sometimes, I feel like plopping on the bed and blogging and movie-marathoning all day. However, I try to walk as often as possible when I am out, usually for more than an hour at least four to five times a week. What I do is walk my dog, choose to explore new places that demand a lot of walking, and/or park my car as far from my destination as possible–usually half a mile–so I can get in a lot of steps in for the day. All three of these are incredible life hacks to move your body and circulation, but there are so many others ways to incorporate walking into your routine. In order to really motivate yourself to walk, try investing in a steps counter and stick to a daily goal. You’ll find that depending on what you do, it’s actually very easy to add more steps in.
- Eating until you are 75-80% full: In Jason Bussell’s book called The Asian Diet: Simple Secrets for Eating Right, Losing Weight, and Being Well, there is a chapter based on weight loss that provides a tip that emphasizes “filling your stomach half full with food, a quarter full with fluids (including soup) and leave the last quarter empty for processing” (Bussell). While this is intended for weight loss, Bussell actually explains that our stomachs work like washing machines: if we jam too much clothes into our machines, there will not be enough room for the washing machine to operate properly and wash all of the clothes completely. The exact same thing works with our digestion–overeating leads to inner congestion, hence putting a lot of pressure on our stomachs and draining our energy because our digestive system has been delayed. This definitely does not–I repeat Kevin Hart-style–NOT, mean you have to starve yourself or feel hungry after your next meal; it just means that you have to be mindful when you eat and really treasure every single bite. Don’t keep eating for the sake of eating. Simply eat until you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, and be sure to drink plenty of water either before or during your meal.
- Following a regular schedule: Not to be mistaken with knowing everything that you’re going to do every day, but it simply means adapting to some routines. Do you wake up around the same time, complete the same tasks accordingly and efficiently and go to bed around the same time every single night? Well if you don’t already, you should. Sporadicalness puts so much stress on your body because it won’t adapt to basic bodily functions such as rest, digestion, etc., and also your mind since you may find yourself rushing through tasks you shouldn’t normally be worried about. Start by setting an alarm for every morning to wake up and go to sleep, or you can also record your daily routines/tasks the night before so you always have something to follow.
- Writing everything down: Speaking of recording your daily routines and tasks, it has been proven by Psychological Science that writing yields stronger memory retention than typing on a screen since the action of writing takes longer than typing and it strengthens the sensorimotor part of the brain in a way that enables easier letter recognition. But anyways, writing is such an amazing way to truly establish your ideas, which is why a lot of personal trainers, therapists, coaches and psychologists recommend that you write down many essentials, whether it be your exercise regimen, your diet, your mood fluctuations, your to-do list, gratitude list, bucket list, etc. However, it is also a great way to just release energy. If you’re feeling anxious, jittery, angry, depressed, confused or scatterbrained, simply write what is on your mind. Don’t worry about creating a Dickinson work. Just write. Whenever I have an idea that I know would be very useful or creative, I write it down somewhere. Knowing that possessing a notebook isn’t always possible, don’t fret–you can use your phone, a laptop, the back of a newspaper, a magazine, or even a napkin. If you can’t write or type at all, just speak out loud or in your head.
- Spending time in nature: By going out more frequently, I’ve embraced lots of walking, sunshine and fresh air enthusiastically. I was absolutely thrilled when one of my friends told me that I looked tan, because for my entire life I’ve sported very, VERY pale skin, and I’ve been so desperate for some color. Running around my neighborhood and walking in Santa Monica has helped me appreciate the natural atmosphere our Earth offers. Sitting underneath an umbrella isn’t quite the same as sitting under a tree, even though both provide shade. One has the fresh, fragrant oxygen that we need to breathe and exist! Plus, trees and flowers look absolutely beautiful, and you may also encounter nature’s beautiful creatures such as honey bees, squirrels, jackrabbits and butterflies. Walk outside with caution if you are severely allergic to pollen.
- More cooking, less restaurant hopping: Unfortunately, yes, eating out a lot isn’t that healthy for you. Note that I say a lot, meaning every day or every other day. It’s because no matter how healthy a restaurant is, you don’t know every single ingredient that goes in your food. Most of the time, you’re probably consuming at least one thing that you would not use if you were to make the recipe yourself. Many restaurants also use hydrogenated oils, refined sugars, MSG, excess salt, flours, and other ingredients that can trigger common allergens in their food to make the dishes tasty. That is why it is important to consume your own crafted meals the majority of the time and reserve dining out for special occasions. You’ll find yourself loving the ability to get creative in the kitchen, improving your cooking efficacy and possibly enjoying your food more than those from restaurants. The best part? There are plenty of copycat recipes out there that are way more nutritious for you, and you can replicate them in your own home.
- Not setting an alarm: This is probably one of the most controversial tips because a lot of trainers and life coaches out there do recommend setting an alarm clock so you’re forced to wake up and conquer the day. I find that dragging myself out of bed puts so much stress on the body, and I’m constantly yawning, my muscles are fatigued, my cravings skyrocket, my head hurts, and I just don’t feel as refreshed as I should. It’s because when you fend off sleep, you fight against your circadian rhythms, or your internal body clock. That being said, take a break from your alarm clock and embrace sleeping in once in a while, making sure that you go to bed earlier as frequently as possible. However, if you live by a work or school schedule that demands your time in the morning, then keep the alarm, but be sure to find some time to nap in order to rejuvenate your energy levels.
- Talking out loud: Personally, I used to be the quiet little worm sitting in the corner of my classrooms. Every day, I’d pray for the teacher not to call on me to recite something out loud, and it was so terrifying trying to come up with something to say because I feared of rejection. On top of that, I wouldn’t talk elaboratively about myself or anything in general, just because my train of thought ran so short. But my fitness journey actually enabled me to really look within myself and accept my subconscious thoughts–basically everything I oppressed and wasn’t aware of–and allowed myself to open up about them without fear. Ever since I started to fully acknowledge these subconscious thoughts and memories, I have grown more comfortable discussing myself openly towards other people and even alone. While I still keep some thoughts to myself and I don’t always feel 100% confident in sharing how I truly feel, I’ve come a long way. Talking out loud can serve as an alternative or a second step from writing down your thoughts whilst learning how to experience the world on a much more spiritual level. You’ll be surprised as to how many people will actually try to help you solve your problems if you talk to them. Of course, be sure that these individuals are people you absolutely know that you can depend on for an honest, thoughtful and beneficial answer.
- Letting go of resistance: Often, I believe that our society puts too much emphasis on restriction, elimination, reduction, resistance, or just saying no. We resist trying something new, we avoid eye contact with strangers, we restrict our free time, and we always reject whatever interferes with our personal comfort zones. The problem is, when we find ourselves in a sticky situation, we ultimately panic and fear for our future. I used to have a serious problem with this because I’ve adapted to an internal locus of control. I was responsible for everything I did and what happened to me, which isn’t always true. Life hits us with roadbumps, sometimes unexpectedly. But instead of resisting these roadbumps, look to them as a challenge for you. To let go of resistance means to understand that everything happens for a reason, one that may take years for you to discover. Go with the flow. Be spontaneous. You don’t always have to plan things out so specifically. The point where you find yourself struggling so much that you don’t see the joy in life is the time where you need to be the most open to change. Besides, you’ve got absolutely nothing to lose.
- Thinking about the bigger picture: By nature, humans are prone to obsessing over every little thing. It is a lot more prevalent here in our Western culture bombarding us with stress and the images of precision and perfection. We tend to fixate on the teeny-tiny, ranging from the bruises on our fruits to the freckles on our face, or even the reduction in our paychecks. But eliminate everything in between the time you wake up and the time you fall asleep. At the end of the day, you have the amazing privilege of life. You’re still breathing, gifted with the chance to wake up and start anew the next day. Always picture what is the worst that can possibly happen if you’re stuck in a problem. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be sad, especially if a loved one passes away, you’re laid off, your partner breaks up with you, or you find yourself completely lost in life. Allow yourself to grieve healthily, and when you are ready, proceed as a stronger, more empowered person.
Those are pretty much all of the simple habits I’ve incorporated into my lifestyle, whether daily or weekly, in order to benefit my long-term health and lifespan. I know that I have barely scratched the surface of what you can do to improve your health in such a small, effortless way, and there are so much more that I probably have forgotten or don’t know of. So, do let me know what tips you have to improve health and if you follow one of the steps I’ve listed above!
What steps do you take to improve your long-term health?
Bussell, J. (2009). The Asian diet: Simple secrets for eating right, losing weight, and being well. Findhorn, Forres, Scotland: Findhorn Press.