Has your body ever demanded you pay more attention to it? Sometimes this shows up as anxiety or depression. Maybe you just don’t feel good, or you can’t sleep, or you feel overwhelmed.
We can’t control everything about our lives, but we can control the way we treat ourselves. Taking good care of ourselves can be simple, and it will have a big ripple effect into the rest of our lives. These are the five most basic yet important things you can do to improve your well-being – and none of them involve fancy equipment, medications, or a lot of money!
Eat Better Food
What we eat has a huge effect on how we feel, but there’s a lot of temptation out there to eat things that can have a negative long-term effect on us. One of the best things we can do for our well-being is to learn to be very discerning about what we let into our bodies.
It’s no wonder so many of us struggle with feeling good when food that’s commonly found on store shelves is so hard on our bodies. Ingredients that are easily available may taste good, but can wreak havoc on how we feel.
Ingredients that are easily available may taste good, but can wreak havoc on how we feel.
Vegetable oils, processed sugars, and heavily refined carbs are some of the biggest culprits for not feeling well. Vegetable oil blends such as canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, and palm oil are found in a majority of pre-packaged foods and are known to cause inflammation, which shows up as fatigue, depression, or anxiety. If left unchecked, it can lead to worse diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, or cancer. Processed sugars like high fructose corn syrup can lead to weight gain and heart disease. Heavily refined carbohydrates (white flour found in bread, pasta, and breakfast cereals) raise your blood sugar and prompt your body to release insulin, which can lead to weight gain, osteoporosis, hypertension, or diabetes.
Start to carefully discern what you put in your body. Swap the vegetable oils for olive oil or avocado oil, the sugar for fruits, and the refined carbs for whole carbs like brown rice, fruits, and vegetables – and watch how you feel improve!
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is vital for feeling good. Sleep protects your mental health, quality of life, immune system, and helps your body repair itself during illness or after exercise. Sleep is often neglected, but it’s crucial for our well-being and prevents us from depression, weight gain, overeating, and losing focus throughout the day.
Sufficient sleep prevents depression, weight gain, overeating, and losing focus during the day.
One 2-week study monitored the development of the common cold after giving people nasal drops with the cold virus. It was found that study participants who slept less than 7 hours were almost three times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept 8 hours or more.
It’s recommended we try our best to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night. If you have trouble falling asleep easily or regularly, this leads me to the next most important way to take care of yourself...
Exercise can help us regulate our sleep schedule, improve our mood, and ward off diseases and illnesses. I saw a tweet recently that said “wow all the annoying people were right, exercise really is the key to happiness” with over 200,000 likes. Hilarious. It’s a cliché for a reason – exercise helps your well-being.
When you’re not feeling well, exercise can feel like the last thing you want to do. But how we feel is not always how we should behave – when we don’t feel well, especially emotionally or physically, exercise can be a way to shift what we’re experiencing into something positive. Exercise causes the body to release feel-good chemicals called endorphins. It keeps you in the present moment and keeps your mind off things you’re worried about.
When we don’t feel well, exercise can shift what we’re experiencing into something positive.
Think of exercise like the Fountain of Youth – the more you exercise, the younger you feel. It may seem contradictory, but the more energy you put into exercising, the more you have to spend. If you want to take better care of yourself, exercise is crucial. Go to the gym, take a long walk, join a dance class, or do another form of exercise you enjoy at least several times a week.
Unplug from Machines
Technology is one of the toughest things to manage when it comes to caring for ourselves. Our jobs often demand we sit at a computer for hours a day, and increasingly people are socializing using social media and messaging apps. Technology can be good for us and make life easier when it’s used moderately, but too much technology can have a negative effect on our health.
I find that listening to my body helps me know when it’s time to shut the laptop or put my phone down. Do my eyes feel cloudy and unfocused? Am I getting worked up over the news I’m reading, or angry at someone’s stupid reply to my tweet? Am I straining my eyes? Zoned out on Instagram reels for the last 30 minutes? Usually, these are signs that I’ve had enough internet to eat.
A break from technology reduces feelings of loneliness brought on by the lack of physical contact.
Technology causes us to be more sedentary, and it also disrupts our sleep cycle, impairs our vision, and even affects our ability to feel empathy (text on the screen is way more impersonal than talking face-to-face.)
Taking time every day to turn off social media and technology will allow your mind to rest. Most adults use technology for over 12 hours a day – that’s a long time to be stimulated by the bright light and graphics of a screen. A break from technology reduces stress and anxiety and reduces feelings of loneliness brought on by the lack of physical contact with other human beings. Closing your laptop and putting your phone away will help you foster crucial connections with people that will make you feel better.
Develop a Spiritual Practice
Spiritual practices are things we do to attend to things that affect the soul, as opposed to physical or material things. Spiritual practices are at the heart of every religion in the world. They’re specific activities you do to deepen your relationship with the divine or sacred, practices that help you connect with God, or whatever you choose to call the “something” that’s beyond yourself and the things on the earth. This involves activities like meditation, prayer, fasting, or joining a local church. They can be as simple as lighting a candle or incense, looking upon religious or spiritual artwork, speaking to a deceased ancestor, or doing a bow/prostration.
A spiritual practice can give you a greater sense of purpose and meaning.
Multiple surveys show that people who are actively religious tend to be happier and are less likely to smoke or drink. Having a spiritual life improves mental and emotional well being. A spiritual practice can give you a greater sense of purpose and meaning, and it’s a good way to enhance your personal growth.
Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be complicated – notice that this list of five most important ways involves saying “no” to certain unhealthy things (too much social media, junk food, staying up too late) and saying “yes” to healthier things (eating whole foods, exercising, or praying). We can level up our quality of life by paying attention to our bodies, learning our boundaries with food and activities, and adding some healthy habits to our daily routine.
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