Committing to small changes to create lasting health benefits.
We all know that living a healthier lifestyle can help us feel better and live longer, but making the necessary changes can be intimidating. We often think of healthy living as involving major, sudden changes that completely transform our daily lives, but it doesn’t have to be that way; you can actually make a huge difference in your overall health by making small changes. These small changes are easier to adjust to, meaning you’re more likely to stick to them, and plenty of seemingly minor changes still make a surprisingly large difference to your overall health. Plus, small changes build upon each other and quickly become significant healthy lifestyle changes. Here are 10 small changes you can make to improve your overall health.
1. Walk for 10 minutes a day.
Whether or not you need to lose weight, exercising keeps you fit, is good for your heart health, and has been shown to benefit your mental health by encouraging the production of endorphins, the brain’s feel-good hormones. Unfortunately, finding the time, energy, and motivation to complete a full workout routine can be hard when you’re just starting out. Instead of immediately trying to fit a lengthy or intense workout into your schedule, start by committing to a 10-minute walk every day. This is a short enough walk that you’ll likely be able to sneak it in on all but your busiest days. If you’re worried about sticking to the routine, find a workout buddy for accountability. Even if they live hundreds of miles away, you can check in with each other to make sure you did your walks—or call each other during your walks to make it more entertaining.
2. Choose healthier snacks.
When you reach for a midday snack, grabbing a healthy option like nuts, yogurt, fruit, or a vegetable sneaks in essential vitamins and minerals and reduces your daily calorie intake. Doing this regularly can help you lose weight and is better for your oral health. It can also combat the sluggish feeling you get in the middle of the day by boosting your energy, mood, and concentration, helping you stay productive for the rest of the day.
3. Drink more water.
Staying hydrated is important for your overall health, as our bodies contain a lot of water and we need a steady supply of it to survive. Water helps flush waste from your body, enables you to regulate your body temperature, protects sensitive tissues, and lubricates your joints. Even mild dehydration can affect you by causing fatigue and a nasty headache, so it’s important that you drink enough every day—this means drinking 15.5 cups of water a day for the average man and 11.5 cups of water for the average woman.
Additionally, drinking more water instead of sugary drinks like soda is a great way to cut down on your daily calorie and sugar intake, especially since these drinks don’t have any nutritional value. For example, cutting a single 12-ounce can of cola every day eliminates 980 calories and just over a cup of sugar from your diet each week. You can still have soda for an occasional treat, but cutting back on it can help you lose weight and feel healthier.
4. Practice mindfulness techniques.
Your mental health is an important factor in your overall health because your anxiety levels have a very real impact on your daily life and can result in physical health issues. Practicing mindfulness techniques for a few minutes at the beginning or end of every day, or even simply when you’re beginning to feel stressed, can help reduce your anxiety levels and help you feel more relaxed. There’s evidence that it’s good for your heart, strengthens your immune response, and may decrease cognitive decline from Alzheimer’s disease.
5. Don’t skip meals.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or simply think you’re too busy to stop for a lunch break, skipping meals is bad for your health. Not only can it affect your mood and your ability to think clearly in the short-term, but it can cause you to overeat the next time you do eat. Even if you avoid this pitfall, skipping meals messes with your metabolism and puts your body into a “feast and famine” mode; because it doesn’t know when the next meal is coming, your body begins to hold onto calories instead of burning them.
This means that even if you successfully lower the total number of calories you’re taking in, your body holds onto more of those calories—making it incredibly difficult to lose weight this way. If you do lose weight, it often doesn’t last once you start eating regularly again because your body packs the weight back on in preparation for another lean period. As a result, it’s much healthier to lose weight by choosing healthy meals and controlling portion sizes.
6. Start flossing once a day.
If you’re not flossing, you’re simply not cleaning entire sections of your teeth, which lets bacteria sit at your gum line and can lead to cavities and gum disease. Periodontitis, or severe gum disease, is a particular risk. It’s the biggest cause of tooth loss in America, but it also allows bacteria underneath your gum line and into your bloodstream, weakening your immune system and increasing your risk of serious health conditions like stroke, heart disease, infections like endocarditis, and more. As a result, it’s worth it to spend a couple of minutes every day flossing your teeth.
7. Read food labels and crunch the numbers.
When you go grocery shopping, take the time to read the nutritional labels on food and crunch the numbers to find out how many calories and how much fat or carbs a food contains before you buy it. At face value, many nutritional labels don’t look too unhealthy because the serving sizes are often kept small, so doing the math can be enlightening. It can help curb your desire to buy a few of your regular snack foods, saving you money and helping you avoid unhealthy foods.
8. Visit the dentist twice a year.
Just like you should go to the doctor for a regular checkup, you should visit your dentist twice a year for a thorough dental cleaning and an evaluation of your oral health. This regular cleaning removes hardened tartar from your teeth, helping to prevent oral health issues from arising in the first place, and allows your dentist to spot oral health issues early—before they become a big deal. If you’re suffering from a more severe issue like periodontitis, your dentist can recommend periodontal therapy to resolve the issue. Since poor oral health can negatively impact your overall health, getting these regular checkups and keeping on top of your oral health is incredibly important. We know life can be incredibly busy, so our dental office can work with you to schedule your regular appointment at a time that works for you!
9. Get enough sleep.
The average adult needs between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. If you’re not sleeping enough, it can impact your mood, anxiety levels, ability to concentrate, and even your physical health, weakening your immune system and increasing your risk of serious health issues. As a result, it’s worth it to make a few small changes to your nightly routine to ensure that you’re getting a good amount of sleep each night. If you’re struggling, give yourself a bedtime and stick to it—your body will naturally fall into the rhythm, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up when you’re supposed to.
10. Exercise your brain through reading or word puzzles.
Keeping your brain active and engaged by reading a book or completing word puzzles is fun, relieves stress, and improves your vocabulary, but it’s also good for your long-term cognitive health. There’s evidence that exercising your brain by reading a little every day can help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Regardless, even reading a fiction book for a few minutes every day can be a fun way to relieve stress, build empathy, and strengthen your mind in both the short- and long-term.
Thankfully, you don’t have to turn your life upside down to start living a healthier lifestyle. Making a series of small, easy-to-manage changes can combine to shift your lifestyle, helping you feel healthier and more energetic than ever. If you’re ready to start your journey by searching for a “dentist near me” or “dentist St. Albans,” feel free to call our office to schedule your appointment at any time!