Still in the midst of a pandemic with mental health issues widespread, there’s never been a better time to improve your own health and wellness. Eating nutritious food, sleeping enough, and effectively dealing with stress are just a few of the ways you can make your body and mind feel better, day in and day out.
Below, we’ve curated eight tips to improve your health. Start with just one, creating a habit, then add another. Before you know it, you’ll feel better than you’ve felt in recent memory.
Eat more fruits and veggies.
Fruits and veggies are chock full of important stuff: antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, water and fiber, all of which help your body work optimally. And, because of their high water and fiber content, they have a low calorie count relative to the volume — this means you can eat loads of them without guilt. Most fruits and veggies are also low in sugar and low on the glycemic index.
“Foods that are low in sugar and low on the glycemic index can help sustain energy for a longer period,” explains Nicole Thompson, an ACE-certified Personal Trainer, Medical Exercise Specialist, Group Fitness Instructor and Health Coach. “Foods low on the glycemic index are digested slowly and keep blood sugar levels steady, which provides more energy and helps feeling full in between meals.”
Plan your food.
Stylists are notorious for skipping meals or eating whatever’s available during the few minutes in between clients. One of the best approaches for eating healthy, especially when time is limited, is to plan. Don’t wait until the last minute when hunger is high, which typically results in poor meal choices.
“Taking time to plan out snacks, grocery shop, and prepare meals ahead of time can result in healthier eating habits,” says Thompson. “Meals that include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts would be beneficial.”
Pack snacks and small meals that are easy to eat on the go or between clients, or try to throw a healthy meal in the crockpot before you leave for work; as much as you can take the guesswork out of food choices, the better.
Add strength training to your weekly routine.
Strength training — even just using bodyweight — has plenty of benefits. It:
● Keeps bones strong and healthy: By stressing your bones, strength training can increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
● Boosts metabolism and fat loss: Lifting weights is one of the most effective exercise strategies for gaining muscle and increasing metabolic rate. Strength training helps you build muscle — muscle burns a much higher percentage of calories at rest. It also improves overall body composition.
● Improves sleep and energy levels: All exercise boosts mood because it increases endorphins. But for strength training, additional research that’s looked at neurochemical and neuromuscular responses to such workouts offers further evidence it has a positive effect on the brain. And there's evidence that strength training may help you sleep better, too, according to a study published in the January–February 2019 issue of the Brazilian Journal of Psychology.
● Improves balance: Adding muscle mass, specifically in your core, helps balance tremendously.
● Helps prevent aches and pains common in hairstylists: Many stylists complain of back and neck pain — specific strengthening exercises for these areas can help treat these complaints.
Aim for 2 sessions per week to get started. If you’re unsure of what to do, work with a personal trainer, or utilize free resources online from reputable sources.
The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends that women drink at least 11.5 cups of water daily, while men should consume a minimum of 15.5 cups. Different factors can affect this — like where you live and how active you are — but this is a good rule of thumb to start.
While this may seem like a lot of liquid, the good news is that most 0-calorie fluid can count toward this goal, as your body knows no difference. This means sparkling water, tea, and even coffee can help you reach your daily target. Be aware, however, that caffeine is a diuretic, which means it likely negates many of the hydration benefits.
Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
Sleep is so important, not only to feel your best mentally but to achieve health and fitness goals as well. When you sleep you’re allowing your body to recover and restore itself, which is crucial for your energy levels and performance.
Consistent lack of sleep has been shown to poorly affect your metabolism and stress levels, promote the tendency to make poor food choices, and an increased appetite overall. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep nightly. For many people, this target will require effort — in planning, in your schedule, and in self control when it comes to putting your phone down or turning the TV off — but your body will thank you for those extra zzzz’s.
Take time for you.
Between work, family life and other responsibilities, it may feel like there’s no time left in the day for anything else. Despite this, it’s important to take time out of each week to do something that fills your cup. Maybe it’s dinner with a friend. Or a long bike ride. Or a relaxing bath. Do something just for you to increase your happiness, improve your mood and make you better for your clients.
Meditating — a practice in awareness and learning to observe your feelings without judgment, according to Headspace.com — has gained mainstream popularity for its stress-relieving benefits. In a world that’s more connected and distracting than ever before, taking a moment to sit with your own feelings, and learning how to calm yourself is more important than ever.
To meditate, simply find a quiet place to sit, and just start with 5 minutes. Get into a comfortable position, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. When your mind starts to wander, redirect your focus to your breath. If you struggle with stress or anxiety, meditating could be an effective outlet.
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