Health and happiness, no matter how automatic they seem for others, aren’t randomly bestowed on anyone.
Even though some people may seem effortlessly jovial and fit, they almost certainly work at it like the rest of us.
The key is to find fun, challenging activities that can push you toward a lifestyle kinder to your mind and body. Below are 10 tips for healthy and happy living–ideas that even if not right for your lifestyle, can help spark inspiration for activities that fit you well.
They call them man’s best friend for a reason
Dogs are demonstrably and measurably awesome for you. Dog owners exercise more and live more social lives, and dogs are even known to sniff out cancer! Better yet, owning a dog can lower stress and help treat depression.
Though it should of course be cautioned that dog ownership doesn’t fit all lifestyles. If you’re not prepared to take care of a dog (maybe you work long hours living in a tiny Brooklyn apartment), then a rambunctious dog probably won’t make your life any easier.
Inject some natural beauty into your home and office
Air quality usually makes being outdoors better for you than indoors. Adding some indoor plants to your home or office, however, can tip the scales in your favor. Plants have been shown to remove harmful toxins for the air we breathe, and simply being around plants (real or fake) can boost our mood. Here’s a list of plants most efficient at cleaning our air, according to NASA.
Check yourself on alcohol
Even if you’re not imbibing like you were in college, your drinking habits might be weighing down your health and happiness more than you realize. A report by UK’s NHS showed that even if you’re not binge-drinking or getting drunk, you might be doing your body considerable harm.
There’s a surprising new study out, if you can believe it, that shows regular exercise corresponds strongly with improved health! But really, in addition to the obvious health benefits of regular exercise (3+ times each week), studies show improved mood, reduced stress and better memory.
Poor sleep and weight gain go hand in hand. More importantly, poor sleep can both result from and result in heightened anxiety, irritability and lack of focus. Most people need between 6 and 8 hours of sleep a night, but not enough of us get that.
While the once-prevalent recommendation that you need to drink eight glasses of water each day carries less weight than it used to, there are still great benefits to be had from regularly drinking water throughout the day. Healthy skin and more energized muscles are just a few of the benefits.
Yoga and meditation
Nothing blends happiness and health quite as harmoniously as yoga and meditation. In fact, yoga’s original form was largely to prepare the body and mind to enter a meditative state.
Today, yoga is much more recreational than spiritual, but yoga’s huge spectrum allows you to tailor it to your current mood. If you want to relax before bed, gently wake up in the morning, or work your abs to death, there are great yoga classes for each.
Meditation is a harder practice to quantify, but studies have linked meditation to better mood, eased depression and sharpened focus. Many yoga classes end with a short meditation period, which is a good introduction to the practice.
Tailor your workspace to your health
Most of us spend long stretches of our day working in front of our computer. Short of switching careers, there’s not a lot we can realistically do about that, but tailoring how you work can make a world of difference for your long-term health and happiness.
First, to jump back to an earlier tip, adding a bit of natural beauty can brighten your mood, even if fake plants are your only option. Second, add some light (natural is ideal, but we can’t all have a window magically appear). A lamp next to your screen will also reduce strain on your eyes. Here are a few other good tips for workspace design.
Finally, try not to slouch in your desk for eight hours a day. This is detrimental to your health, your mood and even your productivity. A few short walks around the office or building throughout the day can do a world of good for blood circulation and energy.
And the hype around standing desks seem to be fading, but thinking about how your chair and desk impacts your health is definitely worthwhile. Read more about that here.
Check out your local farmer’s market
Splurging on all the strange fruits and vegetables I find at my local farmer’s market has become one of the best parts about my weekly routine. In addition to getting outdoors, meeting new people and trying something new, the benefits of adding fruits and veggies to your diet are great and varied.
Watch less TV
Nothing beats a good Netflix binge, but habitually sitting in front of the tube can be doing more damage mentally and physically than we realize. For one, every additional hour or two spent watching TV each day dramatically increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and dying young. And unsurprisingly, happy people report watching 30 percent less TV than others. It’s a hard habit to break, but you’ll thank yourself later for turning off the TV and doing something engaging.
There’s no automatic formula for happiness and health. Everyone needs to find their own homeostasis for what activities fit best into their own lifestyle. Be proactive, and hopefully these tips will get you on your way to healthy, happy living.