11 Simple Life-Hacks that Affect Your Physical and Mental Health
New Things are Hard
We are well aware here that making lifestyle changes in an effort to be healthier and happier can seem like a daunting and almost impossible task. Where do we begin? Can little changes even make a difference? What if I fail and I can’t stick with it? Oftentimes when we have questions like this before getting started with a goal or a change, we are making things too complicated! Pick one small thing to start with so it's not too overwhelming, and if that is maintainable then slowly add more over time. This way of building over a period of time helps to combat procrastination.
Today we have 11 ideas that can help improve your physical and mental health. They are all backed by strong research and wont be too difficult to get started with right away!
1) Lemon Water
We are sure you have had water with lemon plenty of times, but did you know that you could be getting some serious benefits from incorporating this simple drink into your morning routine? If you are not already doing this when you wake up, you are missing out! This first suggestion can be started without much inconvenience to your normal schedule, and it will help gain some momentum on your journey to take better care of yourself.
Lemons are packed with anti-aging, heart protecting, and digestion aiding compounds. Each lemon you use will contain about half (31mg) of the RDI (recommended daily intake) of vitamin C, which has been shown to have many positive effects, but lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke are some of the most impressive. It is also the main ingredient in collagen, the structural protein that gives your skin elasticity and prevents wrinkles and sagging skin.
The soluble fiber in the pulp of the lemon will help your digestion by slowing down metabolism of carbohydrates, and through this mechanism lower your blood sugar. There is a catch with this last benefit though! You have to eat the pulp or you will get no fiber! So if this is too unappealing to you, try another source for your soluble fiber, which has different benefits than insoluble fiber. Beans, oats, apples, and potatoes are some of the alternatives we recommend.
Feel free to drink your lemon water hot or cold, whichever temperature will get you to drink more of it is the right one! Some claim that warm lemon water will help more with absorption, flushing toxins, and digestion, but there really isn't any hard evidence so enjoy it however you like.
2) Blue Light Glasses
Blue light is emitted from screens of electronic devices, fluorescent lighting, and the sun’s rays. It has shorter wavelengths than a red, yellow, or green light and more energy than these colors.
The shorter wavelengths of blue and violet light delay the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, which usually would start to be released a few hours before bedtime. The tendency for blue light, like sunlight, to make you feel more alert is a big reason to wear blue light glasses. They can also help with eye strain, headaches, and provide a reduced risk of eye diseases. In the spirit of honesty, the research on blue light glasses is conflicting, and being a newer creation there isn't a ton of information out there. That being said, there has been some promising research, and a lot of professionals do recommend using them.
The first five results on an Amazon search of blue light glasses show prices anywhere from ten to twenty dollars. This low price combined with anecdotal evidence of positive results we think justify the purchase of these. While there may still be questions about the effective of these glasses, there is much more evidence of the impact of electronic screens on sleep. If you do not want to jump for the glasses, the National Sleep Foundation suggests ditching the screens at least thirty minutes before bed. Try reading, meditating, or stretching to fill this time and your tomorrow morning self and circadian rhythm will thank you.
3) Drink More Water
You might be surprised to learn that the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have found the amount of fluids women should be consuming daily is 11.5 cups (2.7L), and for men it is 15.5 cups (3.7L). This is for residents of a temperate climate, so if you are in more extreme conditions you will need to adjust accordingly. About 20% of the fluids will come from food they say, but to be sure you can get all of them from water and it will not hurt!
Look, we hate to assume, but we doubt you, or us for that matter are getting anywhere close to this daily recommended amount mentioned. We found some motivating selling points to help us try harder for it though.
Two separate studies involving participants drinking 500mL of water thirty minutes before each of three daily meals had fantastic results. They lost 44% more weight than their non-water drinking counterparts in the control group. This study was over twelve weeks, so good results will not take that long to see! In another study of overweight young women drinking the same amount of water, statistically significant weight loss and body fat percentage were noted in comparison to the control.
In addition to assisting in weight loss, hydration has an effect on your cognitive ability and energy levels. A 2011 study of twenty-six young men found that a 1.6% fluid loss had a major impact on working memory and caused enhanced feelings of fatigue and anxiety. If you do not think you could lose this amount of fluid in a day, just know it would not be very uncommon, and it has probably happened to you plenty of times. If you are not hydrating properly while gardening, walking around, or even running errands you could easily lose this amount. Now imagine how much you'll lose during hot yoga or a weightlifting session, especially in the summer. A very similar study with young women showed about the same results with a 1.4% loss.
To keep your brain function, mood, and endurance where you want it to be, start keeping track of your water intake. Remember these studies to keep you motivated!
4) Take Magnesium
First off, when talking about any supplement, vitamin, or mineral you may not have experience with, we urge you to speak to your healthcare provider to learn more about if it is right for you or will interact with any medications you may be taking.
Magnesium is one of the top 5 most abundant minerals in your body, and is involved in around 600 reactions. Magnesium has been linked to many benefits including helping type 2 diabetes, lowering blood pressure, and boosting exercise performance. It is also used in treating depression and PMS (premenstrual syndrome).
PMS as we all already know can negatively affect your mood and cause all kinds of physical pain and discomfort. Some promising research showed that thirty-two women who were given supplements with 360 mg of magnesium per day showed significant improvement in these symptoms and an increase in magnesium content in their lymphocytes (white blood cells very important for the immune system).
Decreased levels of magnesium are also linked to low mood and depression. In 2008, a group of researchers found that 450mg of magnesium daily was as effective as a leading antidepressant drug. Another fascinating study mentioned how modern food and drinking water do not contain the amount of magnesium they used to, and suggests fortifying grains and the water supply with the levels they were before the twentieth century They believe magnesium deficiency is more common than you might think based on the decrease of it in our diet. They saw extremely fast (less than seven days) recoveries from major depression while supplementing participants with an average of 212mg at meal time and bedtime.
Magnesium is inexpensive, readily available, and can be found in tablet or powder form that you can mix with a beverage of your choice. Try it with lemon water!
5) Get Sun!
In Dr. Stephen S. Ilardi’s widely acclaimed book The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression, getting some UV rays is one of the steps that can make a huge difference in your mood, even if you do not struggle with any mental health issues. The fact is, we do not get as much sun as our hunter-gatherer ancestors and while we are grateful to not live outside like them, we spend entirely too much time inside! Your circadian rhythm is not a myth, and the sun greatly helps keep it in check, and your brain chemistry!
Sunlight will trigger the production of serotonin, one of the very important neurotransmitters that plays a crucial role in our mental health. The really cool part of all this is that the mood boosting effects of this added sunlight will usually only take about a week to show up!
Spending fifteen to thirty minutes in the sun each morning is enough to get the benefits of vitamin D, serotonin, and keep your circadian rhythm functioning. If your specialized light sensors at the back of your eyes do not get exposed to enough sunlight, your body clock will suffer. This is because your body uses the light to determine what time of day it is. This helps it know which hormones to release, and these hormones will affect your energy levels, mood, and sleep schedule. We want our bodies to know what time it is! If seeing the sun everyday is going to be an impossible task, consider investing in a 10,000 lux box. It is the most researched alternative to direct sunlight, and will help you get the benefits of the sun.
6) More Omega-3
Omega 3 fatty acids, like magnesium, are important for so many reasons, and we most likely do not get enough of them. There has been alot of research comparing our western diets and lifestyle to those of our ancestors and people living like our hunter-gatherer ancestors. We consume too many omega-6 fatty acids (grains,oils, nuts) and not enough omega-3 fatty acids. Our ancestors, who had on average a ratio of 1:1 (omega-6:omega-3) did not suffer from the rates of inflammatory diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease like we do today in the western world. These are the most common fatal diseases today. Currently, the average person may have a ratio of 10:1 on the low side, and 20:1 on the high side.
One of the things that omega-3’s are best at is reducing inflammation, and along with the previously mentioned diseases, inflammation in the brain is starting to be considered more and more the cause of many mental health problems. Unless your diet is extremely rich in seafood and grass-fed beef, you probably do not have a very good ratio of these fatty acids. If you want to try and improve this, a supplement is probably your best bet, and is very safe and effective. Again though, talk to your doctor and make sure this is ok for you. Taking a fish oil product in capsule or liquid form that will give you a daily amount of EPA fatty acid around 1000mg is a good place to start. You will see this listed on the nutritional facts label. Take it on a full stomach or at least with some food, and split up the amount during the day.
7) Eat Slower
This is a relatively simple suggestion that you could even implement a couple of times today! There has been a good deal of research on this topic and it seems very promising. Sometimes we eat too fast when we are really hungry, and our brain does not have time to process the food coming into our bodies until it is too late, and we are REALLY full. Your body needs time to release fullness hormones that let you feel full which basically act as a signal to your body to say stop eating. One particular study showed young overweight individuals ate less and had an increase in fullness hormones when they ate slower. A similar study echoed these results, but had the same group eat ice cream two different times at two different paces. They ate less and felt more full when they had to eat the ice cream in a span of thirty minutes instead of five.
This might sound difficult, especially when you are very hungry. But maybe reading or listening to an entertaining podcast when you eat will help your body have time to catch up to you.
Out of everything on this list with too many benefits to cover here, this one might have the most. We encourage you to read a lot further on meditation than this article if you are interested in starting. There truly is worlds within worlds when it comes to meditation. But don't let this overwhelm you. Apps on your phone like Calm and Headspace create a very welcoming environment for meditators of every level. One minute a day is all you need to get started and see benefits!
Normally, mental and physical stress cause increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This produces many of the harmful effects of stress, such as the release of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. These effects can disrupt sleep, promote depression and anxiety, increase blood pressure, and contribute to fatigue and cloudy thinking.
In an 8-week study, a meditation style called “mindfulness meditation” reduced the inflammation response caused by stress. Furthermore, research has shown that meditation may also improve symptoms of stress-related conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and fibromyalgia.
Try some of our essential oil inhalers for some aromatherapy before your meditation or during a smell meditation. Focusing on the scents and the sensations while inhaling is a great way to bring yourself into the present moment.
Yoga and meditation kind of go hand in hand, and the more you learn about them the more you won't know where one stops and the other begins. The U.S. military, the National Institute of Health and other large organizations are listening to, and incorporating scientific validation of yoga’s value in health care. Numerous studies show yoga’s benefits in arthritis, osteopenia, balance issues, oncology, women’s health, chronic pain and other ailments.
The stress-relieving effects and positive effects on health are becoming more and more acknowledged and accepted in the western world. It is currently being utilized as supplementary treatment for many physical diseases and psychiatric disorders. If you are too intimidated to go to a class to start off, check out Youtube! There are many great channels aimed at every level of yogi and they will help ease your fears. You will quickly notice the benefits in your life and this will hook you!
This ties in a little bit to the previous suggestion, but if you want the absolute quickest way to feel better about yourself, and everything else in your life, exercising for thirty minutes at least every other day is your best bet. If this is totally new to you, try and think of what will motivate you to get started. Do you like forests, the beach, cycling, playing tennis? Giving yourself a good view or a fun activity to get you moving is a huge help to overcome the hurdle of starting.
So many of the studies showing the massive benefits of exercise do not even have the participants doing extremely rigorous workouts, so if you think you have to hit the ground literally running, you are wrong! Just doing light exercise can relieve anxiety, depression, and might even help you live longer!
11) Keep a Journal
We are so serious! This might seem like it couldn't possibly make you healthier and happier but it has demonstrated the ability to do just that. The effects of journaling have been studied and now show that it reduces stress, improves your immune system (neat right?!), boosts your mood, strengthens your emotional functioning, and keeps your memory sharp.
It is another item on this list that you can start very small with, and don't have to write too much. If it is one sentence a day at least you started a new positive habit! Check out this article to see how to get started and get some tips. There are plenty of resources on Youtube and social media as well that share interesting journaling techniques.
If you can find just one or two of these items attractive enough to make a habit of them, we would be happy to hear from you about it! Sometimes in life these small steps toward a new habit or hobby are the beginning of a journey that enables you to live a fuller, more passionate life. This is what we are all really after, and life is too damn short to not try new things that could make a big difference in our outlook and physical health.