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If your health fails, it can overshadow everything else that’s going on in your life. From relatively minor health issues such as aches and pains, lethargy, and indigestion to major health problems that can threaten your existence, health can really affect happiness and stress levels. Making a commitment to hacking your health for healthier habits this year can have a far-reaching payoff: you’ll feel better in everything you do.
This is particularly important as it relates to stress. The stress that comes from poor health is significant because when you’re facing a health challenge, it affects so many areas of your life. Daily tasks become more challenging, health expenses can pile up, and your ability to earn a living can even be in jeopardy. And stress itself can exacerbate health issues from the common cold to more serious conditions and diseases, so it really does pay off to maintain healthy stress management habits not only to be able to manage the stress of poor health, but to help avoid it altogether by staying healthier longer.
7 Ways You Can Hack It
Intermittent fasting is especially helpful if you feel as if you’ve tried everything to lose weight, heal digestion, and balance blood sugar, and the results have been less than satisfactory. Intermittent fasting involves restricting or eliminating food in a very specific pattern, which creates a process call autophagy— the body’s response to perceived starvation. In autophagy, the cells appear to clear out waste more efficiently, the result being protection from disease, reduced inflammation, enhanced cellular energy, and even an overall resistance to aging.
One way to do it: alternate-day fasting, in which you fast or reduce caloric intake to 500 calories every other day, with normal eating on non-fasting days. Or try time-restricted eating, in which you limit eating to a set number of hours. For example, you might stop eating at 6 p.m. and then not eat again until 10 a.m. the next day. This method assumes that you’re following a clean, whole-foods diet based on abundant vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats.
We spend countless hours sitting at our desks, in our cars, or on the couch. That takes its toll on the body— extended periods of sitting are strongly linked with chronic disease and increased mortality, as well as psychological concerns including depression and anxiety.
If your job requires long hours of sitting, consider a standing desk. High-end versions include treadmills, but you can get an adjustable standing desk for as little as $100. If you use a standing desk, be sure your posture’s good, vary your position, wear comfortable shoes, and consider an anti-fatigue mat. Also, alternate between standing and sitting, ideally every 45 minutes to an hour.
Shake It Up
Wanting a fast way to boost your workout? Try whole body vibration training (WBV), a system that involves sitting, standing, or working out on a machine with a vibrating platform. The intense vibrations from the machine activate motor neurons in the spinal cord and force the muscles to contract and relax dozens of times each second. The end result, according to some studies, is increased strength, improved stability, and possibly enhanced weight loss. It is also suggested that WBV could help prevent bone loss. Most health clubs and gyms have vibration plates or machines, so work with a qualified trainer to set up a regimen that works best for you.
Good nutrition is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle. Combined with physical activity, your diet can help you to reach and maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of chronic diseases (like heart disease and cancer), and promote your overall health.
There’s a lot of advice out there on how to eat healthy, and if we’re being honest, it can sometimes feel like too much to think about. Especially when you’re hungry (AKA always). Remember when you were a kid and eating was as simple as open, chew, and enjoy? Yes, those were simpler times. Now, knowing how to eat healthy doesn’t seem quite as straightforward. Between the diet fads, gourmet trends, and a rotating roster of superfoods, eating well has gotten, well, complicated.
However, eating healthy doesn’t have to be convoluted. What’s important is that you stick to the basics, which is easy to do as long as you do your research.
Are you looking for a quick and effective way to improve your mood, focus, and stamina? Sleep better. Not necessarily more— just better. During sleep, the body repairs cells, consolidates memories, and flushes out toxins associated with neurodegeneration.
Start by turning your bedroom into a sleep cave; total darkness can affect melanopsin in the eyes, pigments in the retina that impact the circadian rhythm— the body’s biological clock that regulates sleep/wake cycles. Invest in blackout shades or curtains, install low-wattage light bulbs, unplug any electronics that emit LEDs, and be sure that the room is temperature-controlled— between 60 and 68 degrees is optimal.
Additionally, earplugs and an eye mask can help shut out light and sounds or use a white noise machine. Disengage from electronics at least two hours before bed— the blue light they emit has been shown to disrupt sleep— and dim lights. Studies show that exposure to electric light before bedtime suppresses melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep. And try using an Oura Ring so you can track your sleep patterns to see if you are getting into REM sleep. This is a stage of your sleep that is associated with dreaming, but also with memory consolidation, learning, and creativity. In other words, this ring can help you see what your sleep patterns are and how to get better sleep for a healthier lifestyle.
Watch What You Put Into Your Body
Avoid putting unhealthy substances into your body; nicotine, excess alcohol, and even excessive caffeine can take a toll on your health in the long run, and can also make you feel lousy overall in your day-to-day life. In fact, it helps if you can avoid toxic thinking patterns from exacerbating your stress levels as well. Find healthier ways to manage stress, and you’ll enjoy double health and stress management benefits.
The Right Fitness Habit That Works For You
We’ve all heard the advice to “eat right and exercise,” but can be difficult to fit in workouts around a busy schedule, particularly when you’re feeling exhausted from stress. One proven strategy for making fitness a regular part of your life is to build an exercise habit around your other habits— either attach a workout to your morning routine, your lunchtime habits, or make it a regular part of your evening— you get the idea. If you make a morning jog part of your getting-ready-for-work routine, for example, it’s much more likely to happen than if you wait until you feel like jogging and happen to have a free half-hour, especially if you lead a busy life like most of us and are tired at the end of the day. Look for something you’d like to do, find a time when you can make it work with your schedule, and go!
Now, these are 7 ways you can take control of your health and hack it. If you set goals to make these ideas a reality in your life, you’ll feel the difference immediately, but will also see results in multiple areas of your life in the coming weeks and months. Few habits come without effort, but these can make a significant impact on your life, and are well worth the effort.