How to make healthy choices in your daily life
Coined in the 1950s, the term “wellness” has been associated with everything from the food you put in your mouth to the way you perceive the world. It has spawned an entire culture of experts dedicated to creating lifestyles that facilitate greater health and success.
But not every aspect of the world is so accommodating. Though you might want to make healthy choices, the consumer model makes that very difficult. At times you’ll be faced with deciding between saving money and promoting your health. You may need to give up free time in exchange for some time spent on being healthy.
Whatever your situation may be, knowing how to cater your decision making to support your wellness is essential. From diet and exercise to sleep and activity, here are 4 ways to really keep your decisions on track.
The Value of Sleep
Our busy lives keep us up later than ever.
Due to information technology, we have constant access to the world at large. That makes it more difficult to unplug and focus on things that really matter. Yet no matter what your occupation may be, sleep is still one area you absolutely shouldn’t compromise.
Understandings of why we sleep are still debated, from the restoration of key neurotransmitters and energy to repairing body function and organizing memories. Yet one certainty is that studies have demonstrated that a lack of sleep is harmful. Besides the obvious drowsiness associated with sleep deprivation, a growing number of ailments have also been linked with spending too much time awake.
One particular issue to note with poor sleeping habits is an increase in appetite. There are several theories—most involving regulatory peptides—that suggest why this occurs. Regardless of the reason, loss of sleep appears to increase cravings for lower quality, higher calorie foods – making it tough to make healthy choices.
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To that end, the first step in wellness is getting to sleep on time and sleeping through the night. Choosing a consistent bedtime helps build a circadian rhythm that your body can be used to and makes each day consistent. And while sleeping in a cool, dark room is fairly common knowledge, less known is the need to eliminate sources of blue light before bed.
Focus on keeping technology away from your sleep area. Blue light stimulates wakefulness and makes it more difficult to sleep. Furthermore, sleep areas should be free from other activities; using your bed exclusively for sleep allows your brain to build a better association between getting in bed and going to sleep.
Maintaining a Healthy Diet
Eating well isn’t as simple as it once was. So many temptations exist from the checkout aisle to fast food locations that it can be easy to cheat on your healthy diet. What’s important to realize is that it’s actually okay to occasionally eat poorly.
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That said, nine out of ten times your focus should be on eating real food. In terms of grocery shopping, that means avoiding decorative packages and focusing on the outer horseshoe of the store (where the fresh vegetables, meats, and dairy are kept). The sole notable exception would be oats, which are usually in the cereal aisle.
Not only is shopping for these foods better for you, it’s also likely to save you money. Prepared foods come with value added costs and are much more likely to be filled with preservatives or ingredients you otherwise shouldn’t really be eating. The bottom line is that the healthiest foods don’t have nutrition labels because there are no ingredients—just the food itself.
Newcomers to healthy eating may want to consider using a companion app to track your diet or recommend recipes. Following blogs is another great way to keep up on food varieties and the latest info on what’s good for you. If you’re utilizing these services at the supermarket over WiFi, consider installing a VPN on your smartphone to keep your session private and secure.
If you’re more interested in being environmentally conscious, consider one of the many farm apps. Farmstand, for instance, helps you find local farmer’s markets and farms where you can buy your produce fresh and local.
Posture and Ergonomics
Easily one of the most neglected areas of long-term wellness is how we carry ourselves each day. Thanks to desk jobs, smartphones and a seemingly endless parade of sedentary careers, many of us lead a lifestyle flexed forward looking at screens or paperwork.
In many cases, this leads to what has been termed “upper cross syndrome.” Because the muscles used to make your body lean forward become dominant, the muscles in the back start to shut off (this is called reciprocal inhibition). As a result, your shoulders become rounded out and your entire body tilts forward, causing the head to extend upwards to keep your eyes level.
Accompanied by the infamous “text neck,” the evidence shows that this flexed lifestyle leads to headaches, loss of curve in the spine, and eventually degeneration. Yet the solutions are relatively simple.
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Designing your work environment so that you aren’t required to hunch forward is crucial. If possible, some amount of time should be spent standing. Ergonomic chairs can help provide support, but be careful not to rely on them too much.
Acute cases may require manual therapy for correction, but the preferred method is prevention. It’s a choice you can make each day to reduce pain and keep you from moving from wellness into dysfunction.
An important decision for anyone to make each day is how you’ll be getting your exercise. Your situation may not allow you to wake up at 5 a.m. every morning to go for a run for a half hour. If it’s pouring rain or you’re snowed in, those plans simply aren’t realistic.
Yet there are plenty of exercises you can do no matter the situation. In fact, walking is actually preferable to running because it puts less strain on your joints (particularly the knee and hip). Strength exercises from planks to squats can be done both at home and in the office.
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Ideally, you’d like to exercise every day without exception. It may be a twenty-minute walk or it could be an hour bike ride. Keeping your body moving will stimulate endorphins and keep your mind sharp. It’s a necessary element to wellness because our bodies were meant to move.
Will you make the choices needed to stay well? Tell us what motivates you and how you plan to make healthy choices.
About the Author: Cassie is knowledgeable in both nutrition and fitness, having spent time studying the human body and what it needs to function at its best. Besides health, she’s also interested in technology and how it can be used to make our lives easier and safer. Check out her site, ehealthinformer.com