It’s just a quick pit-stop. You’ve got your grocery list, you’ll be in-and-out in no time.
You’re cruising through the aisles, you turn the corner and there’s FREE SAMPLES! Do you want to try some kombucha? Heck yeah. Your gut biome could use some diversity. How much is that, $12? But, it’s organic.
Want to sample a protein shake? It’s supposed to stabilize your blood sugars and keep you full for hours. Sign me up. Wait, it’s $50. Hmm… maybe you can use it as a meal substitution.
Do you need a B12 shot? What about those probiotic pills? How will you know if they’re working?
You want to be healthy, but you’d rather spend your money on real food. Your thoughts are spinning.
But, you really want it. You’re worth it. Sigh. Forget it, you can’t afford healthiness.
The dilemma between health and affordability is a constant in our culture. The packaging and marketing of health products has reached new heights.
Some products might be beneficial, but they are most likely overhyped. They are merely material goods that scratch your consumer itch.
You’re too smart for that. Let’s get back to basics and work with what we’ve got. Below are 7 easy inexpensive ways to take care of yourself, that will have life-long positive effects.
1. Put One Foot In Front of the Other
Take a stroll. I’m talking about ambling along for leisure’s sake. Stop stressing about your 10k steps; don’t focus so much on the numbers. If you’re not enjoying it, you’re not doing yourself any favors — relax.
Learn to appreciate your surroundings, take a look around and notice any patches of nature, birds or animals scurrying about. I like looking at the sky, not only because it’s different every day, but simply because I can.
Maybe I’ve watched too many dystopian sci-fi flicks, where chaos reins, and the sky is nothing but gloom and doom. My earliest memory harkens back to the third grade. My teacher showed us a film called, “All Summer in a Day,” based on a short story by Ray Bradbury.
It’s about a group of children living on Venus, where the sun is only visible once every seven years. The only child who remembers the sun, Margot, gets locked in the closet (by a bully) moments before the sun appears. It’s heartbreaking, but it left a huge impression on me.
So, go outside and enjoy yourself.
2. Stay Limber
You may not have hopped on the yoga or pilates bandwagon, but good old-fashioned stretching is just as beneficial. I stand a lot for work, so keeping myself limber helps relieve lower back pain. I’m always surprised by how good stretching feels and how it helps with posture.
Stretching in the winter months is especially important. Colder weather means tighter muscles, which are more susceptible to strains and tears. Start out with dynamic stretches, which help get the blood flowing. Once you’ve warmed up your muscles, you can move onto longer static stretches.
A lot of people have tight hips, due to standing or sitting too much for work. I like this circuit of hip stretches, but it’s fine to focus on perfecting a few at a time. Additionally, these stretches are good for those of us who have sciatica flare-ups.
Perform some YouTube searches and find what works for you. Look for videos where they explain the right and wrong way to stretch.
3. Ease into ZZZs
Sleep is a natural remedy, take advantage of it. Oftentimes, when I see a sick coworker or friend, it’s because they’ve run themselves ragged. They’re not getting enough sleep, whether it’s too much work or play, and they’re paying the price.
There’s loads of studies that show how critical sleep is for optimal health. A few important functions include: your body repairs itself (cells, tissues), consolidates memory (essential for learning), and regulates hormones (metabolism, weight).
You should strive for 8–9 hours of sleep each night. Here’s some ways to get yourself into bed and onto faster zzz’s:
- Reduce blue light exposure and use your phone’s (or tablet) night shift mode feature. Program it to turn on at least three hours before bedtime.
- Install f.lux onto your computer, which also minimizes blue light based on your location.
- Use a sleep app (I use Sleep Cycle) to get you on a regular sleeping schedule. Look for apps that offer sleep aid sounds (e.g., white noise, rain, ocean) to help you fall asleep.
4. Laugh It Up
It’s important to cap your viewing time to about 10 minutes, so you don’t end up getting sucked down that rabbit hole. Get a chuckle or two in and then get back to work.
5. Free Your Mind
Meditation is a great way to put your brain on pause and relax. I won’t say it’s easy, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor. If you’re skeptical and think it’s a fad, like Zumba or jade eggs, rest assured that this is a timeless practice.
You don’t have to go anywhere or pay anyone. All that’s required is your patience and presence. Even a few minutes of silence can help you feel calm and centered. It’s a great way to start and end your day.
If meditation seems too daunting, try listening to binaural beats (with headphones) for 15–30 minutes. Repetitive beats positively impact your brain state depending on their frequency. There are five brainwave states and you can select sounds based on the desired state.
I use a free app called BrainWave, but you can also sample sounds on YouTube.
6. Drink to Good Health
Drink water. Like it or not, you can’t drink coffee all day. The average person consumes way less water than the recommended amount. In fact, the Mayo Clinic recommends 11.5 cups (92 oz.) for women and 15.5 cups (124 oz.) for men, which is higher than the oft touted 8 cups per day. But you can include juice, coffee, and foods with a lot of water weight (watermelon, spinach), as part of your cup count.
As always, there are apps to help you keep track of your water intake if you need that kind of motivation. Carrying a water bottle ensures you’ll never fall behind. Plus, I despise paying for water, and avoid it at all, ahem… costs.
Water is your body’s oil, it keeps things running smoothly. If you find water boring, try putting a slice of lemon, lime or cucumber in it.
I find that drinking out of a 16 oz. glass helps me keep track of my water. That way, I only need to drink 5–6 glasses, and by mid-day, I check-in to see if I’m on glass number three or four. Come up with a system that works for you.
7. Plan to Relax
Autumn signals a lot of things: school season, holidays, family, work deadlines, shopping, exams, parties, and the dreaded flu season. The last two months of the year are a whirlwind of activity, the only way to survive is by planning ahead.
Planning takes effort, but front-loading the work now, allows you to relax later. Flying by the seat of your pants is how you end up stuffed to the gills with egg nog, sugar cookies, and regret. Avoid bad decisions by planning now, while you have the energy.
So much is expected of us that it’s easy to get stressed out and thereby run the risk of getting sick. Do yourself a favor and start marking up your calendar now, so you don’t overcommit yourself.
I use my phone calendar to preview each week, and then I carefully plan each day, the night before. My top priorities are food, water and sleep. If I’m not fulfilling those basic needs, I’m failing myself.
If I’m tired, I’ll cancel my plans, so that I can rest. Don’t let FOMO takeover, pick which events you really want to attend and be done with it. You have a finite amount of energy, so treat it like a precious resource.
Stay Healthy Without Buying into Consumer Crazes
The next time you’re deliberating over an impulse buy, like an energy shot, pause and think about how you’ll feel once it’s purchased. The thrill of shopping is so fleeting, it dissipates within seconds.
Once the moment is over, you realize you’ve wasted your hard-earned money. I hate being disappointed, so I prefer to take a second before I buy anything with health claims.
Sometimes it’s fun to try new products and see what all the hype is about. But, it’s important to remember that some of the old ways are still beneficial in today’s world.
There are no shortcuts to good health, so stop buying into the consumer culture. True lasting health takes time, effort, and some money, but it shouldn’t break the bank