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#1 Sleep. (Yes, sleep!)

Does this sound familiar?

When live gets busy, sleep is often the first thing that we let go. Maybe you sleep in later on Saturday and Sunday and then have a hard time getting back into your week-day schedule. When you don’t have a regular sleep pattern, it’s the equivalent of jetlag from west coast time to east! Here’s where a sleep schedule can come in handy, even on weekends. Strive to go to bed and wake up at nearly the same time every day. Consistency is one strategy for improving your sleep, and it helps make sleep transitions easier.

We often focus on the number of hours we sleep, but sleep quality may be even more important than quantity. Try some of these additional strategies to enhance your sleeping environment.

  • Avoid screens before bed. The blue light from screens blocks sleep-inducing melatonin production in the body and can reduce sleep quality. If you can’t avoid some screen time at night, adjust the brightness and try enable “night mode” which provides a gentle warm amber glow. Additionally, try to have a designated “bedtime” for your phone every night. This will help you wind down before it’s time to hit the hay.

  • Make your bedroom a sanctuary. I prefer the room I sleep in to be as dark as possible and as quiet as possible. Experiment with a white noise machine or app to create a calm environment. I have my “sleep factory;” which is an eye mask, ear plugs, and white noise machine. White noise or meditation apps are also effective and much cheaper than the physical machines.

  • Don’t Snooze. Sleeping after hitting snooze on your alarm is not quality sleep, you’ll only feel groggier when you wake up. Try disabling the snooze function on your phone or alarm to break the snooze habit.

  • Limit Naptime. Napping longer than 30 minutes is more likely to leave you feeling dazed. It will also make falling asleep more difficul

#2 Eat well to feel well.

No matter what your diet looks like, there is one universally undisputable rule that anyone can benefit from. Eat more produce. Especially, dark colored vegetables such as arugula, chard, kale, spinach, etc. To get the full range of nutrients, eat the rainbow. If there’s not color in your diet from fresh produce, it’s time to paint a different picture. Vegetables have the best nutrient per calorie ratio and a high nutrient per dollar ratio. At the very least, more vegetables will increase your fiber intake, which the average American needs to double.

Here are some ways to get more greens in your day:

  • Salad for Breakfast. Have your veggies in the morning and feel good the rest of the day. While vegetables are great at any meal, making your first meal of the day centered around vegetables is easier than you think. Throw your “salad” in a blender. Smoothies are a great way to start your day with a wider spectrum of quality nutrition, complex carbs, healthy fat and protein that you need to fuel your day.

  • Don’t Underestimate the Microwave. Greens and other veggies are simple to prepare in a microwave. Top with your favorite seasoning, and you’ll have all your phytonutrients for the day.

  • Fresh. Local. Organic. Yes, it does matter (listed in order of importance), and you get what you pay for. Produce starts losing nutrients and flavor from the moment that it’s picked. No one should be surprised to find kale that has been shipped from across the country is not as good as kale grown locally. If you think you don’t like the taste of vegetables, try the farmer’s market in August. Or if you’re brave, sign up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share all summer long.

  • Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t try to completely overhaul your eating routine overnight. When it comes to healthy eating, every bite counts. A transition over time will help you reach your goals.

#3 Your best groove is to move.

The human brain evolved for the complexity of human movement. Your body is meant to move!

Focus on quality and frequency over time and intensity. Moving throughout the day is just as, if not more, beneficial as 30-60 minutes of more intense exercise. So, how can you move throughout the day?

  • Walk as much as you can. Take the stairs, park in the farthest parking spot, have a walking meeting, walk while you’re on the phone, set a timer and stand up a least twice an hour if you work at a desk, walk to the grocery store, walk to work, walk to the bus stop, …make walking a part of your day.

  • Daily. Put as many mini-movement-challenges as possible into daily life. Instead of bending over, use a squat technique to reach the bottom drawer in you dresser, the bottom rack in your fridge, or the bottom shelf in your pantry. Try doing lunges and stretching in front of the TV. And my favorite of all, stand on one leg while brushing your teeth!

#4 Just Breathe.

Simple and easy. Yet, easy to forget. Take more time to focus on your breath, especially when you need to relax, destress, or just feel a sense of relief at any time of day.

  • Belly breathe. When taking deep breathes, try expanding at the abdomen instead of the chest. Test yourself by putting one hand on your belly and one on your chest. Keep the chest still and move the belly hand with your breath.

  • Exhale. Completely empty your lungs. A full exhale is more important than a full inhale. Breathe in through your nose slowly and relax.

  • Get Outside. The air you breathe matters. Outdoor air is cleaner than indoor air. Get out into nature and practice forest bathing.

#5 Create true connections.

As more longevity studies emerge, it’s becoming clear that relationships and connections make us happier and healthier. Humans are social, tribal, beings that need real connection – remember the days before social media? Yes, the old-fashioned kind of connection where you talk, meet and create community beyond a thumbs up or thumbs down emoticon.

  • Communicate with others instead of scrolling a newsfeed. Stay in touch through Facetime or phone calls with a friend or relative who lives long distance.

  • Plan activities or meals with family members and friends who live within close proximity to you.

  • Give hugs, hold hands, and embrace the ones you love. Human touch is powerful.

  • Join a club or team within your community that aligns with your interests, this will open the opportunity to meet new acquaintances with mutual interests.

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