As the world begins to open up again, we have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves—or to restart healthy habits we let lapse.
Cultivating healthy habits is the most powerful thing we can do to care for ourselves both physically and mentally. These simple lifestyle shifts are sure to bring you more vitality and joy.
1. Expose your eyes to sunlight before looking at a screen.
Early morning sunlight is rich in infrared rays, which contribute to healthy skin, steady energy levels, and mental health. Getting outside in the morning is also an excellent way to regulate your circadian rhythm, which will help you sleep better at night.
[Check out our free ebook, “Sleep Better Tonight.”]
Blue light (that’s the light from the screen in front of you) has been linked to circadian disruption, poor eye health, and increased stress. Sit and enjoy the sunrise or take a morning walk before turning your eyes to a screen.
2. Eat a real-food breakfast.
Get a strong start to your day by enjoying a real meal. If you don’t have the time or energy to cook an elaborate breakfast, this can be as simple as reheating some leftovers. However you accomplish it, aim for eating a solid meal before you drink caffeine or leave home for the day.
3. Connect with the earth.
The earth provides us with an endless supply of free electrons that have the potential to reduce oxidative stress in our bodies. This leads to reduced stress, decreased inflammation, more energy, and less pain.
All you have to do is touch the earth. Walk on the sand, sit in the grass, swim in natural bodies of water. The more time you spend outside (with no rubber, plastic, or other non-conductive materials between your body and the ground), the greater the benefits will be.
4. Grow your own food.
Gardening has been shown to increase cognitive function, mood, and more. Even something as simple as tending an herb garden on your balcony or growing sprouts in your kitchen is a wonderful way to reconnect with nature and add valuable enzymes and phytonutrients to your diet.
[Read: “5 Ways Gardening Is Good for Your Mental Health.”]
5. Move your body.
Movement stimulates the circulation of the lymphatic system, which is necessary for healthy detox. Daily movement will also strengthen your heart, improve your energy levels, improve your memory, and decrease your risk of disease. Find several forms of movement that you actually enjoy, and commit to moving every day.
6. Let the sun shine on your bare skin.
Sunshine has powerful and innumerable health benefits. One study found that women who habitually soak up some sunshine experience lower mortality rates than those who don’t, to such a degree that “avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for death of a similar magnitude as smoking.” Preliminary studies suggest that the health benefits of vitamin D gained through sun exposure outweigh adverse effects by a ratio of fifteen to one.
Still, it’s important to avoid overexposure, which can lead to various skin cancers. Know your limits when soaking up sunshine, and find some shade before you burn. Also avoid carcinogenic chemical sunscreens. Hats, long sleeves, and zinc sunscreens are all good alternatives to toxic sprays.
7. Relax outside.
The average American spends 93 percent of their time indoors, which has devastating impacts on our health. Time spent in nature lowers cortisol levels and improves memory, concentration, and creativity.
Spread a blanket in the grass and relax with a book instead of sitting slumped on your couch. Get together with friends out in nature. Join your kids as they splash in the water and climb trees. Every hour that you spend in nature will enhance your health and wellbeing.
8. Breathe deeply.
Just a few deep breaths can reduce your blood pressure, improve your mood, and decrease stress. Slow, controlled breathing maximizes vagal tone, which helps the body maintain or return to a state of relaxation and optimal health.
9. Practice gratitude.
Find a daily gratitude practice that works for you. It might be journaling, prayer, or a mindfulness practice. Your health and overall mood are sure to improve.
[Read: “14 Gratitude Affirmations That Will Bring You Joy Everyday.”]
10. Eat nutrient-dense food as often as your body needs it.
Many women find that eating every two to three hours improves their metabolism, regulates their hormones, and gives them more energy. While it’s been shown that intermittent fasting has a range of health benefits and can assist weight management for women during menopause, it’s equally important to regularly eat enough healthy foods. Experiment with the timing of your meals and see what works for you.
11. Hydrate with something besides water.
It’s important to stay hydrated, but unless you have access to pristine spring water, consider drinking something else.
According to the Environmental Working Group, three out of four homes in the United States have tap water contaminants in amounts exceeding safe limits. Over eighty percent of water systems have carcinogenic contaminants, and 250 million Americans are drinking hexavalent chromium (the chemical made famous by Erin Brockovich).
Filtered water isn’t ideal either, because it’s been stripped of all of the beneficial nutrients and electrolytes that our bodies expect. Adding a squeeze of lemon, a pinch of high-quality salt, or a few drops of trace minerals to your water helps your body to make good use of it.
You’ll receive far better hydration and a host of side benefits from drinks like herbal tea, cold-pressed juice, coconut water, or broth. You can also choose to eat hydrating foods like oranges and cucumbers for a dose of living water.
12. Eat probiotic and prebiotic foods.
Probiotic foods provide us with the beneficial bacteria that we need for proper digestion and overall good health. Eat a small dose of probiotic foods at each meal. This might include kefir in your breakfast smoothie, a dash of fermented hot sauce at lunch, and some kimchi with your dinner. Making your own ferments is an easy, cost-effective way to enhance your diet.
Prebiotic foods are important too! These are foods with fiber that feeds the beneficial microbes in our gut. Prebiotic foods include green bananas, onions, garlic, and honey. Potatoes are an excellent prebiotic food if they’ve been cooked and cooled—think potato salad!
The benefits are endless, and there are countless guided meditations available for free. Just a few minutes a day can make a huge difference.
14. Sing out!
Singing is a powerful tool for nervous system regulation. Whether it’s joining a choir, belting karaoke with friends, or just singing your heart out alone in the car, this daily habit has been shown to increase oxytocin production and generate a feeling of wellbeing.
15. Connect with loved ones.
Humans are social creatures. Make a point of really connecting with people every day. If you don’t know many people in your area, consider finding community through volunteer work or a community garden project.
16. Maintain healthy boundaries.
Connection is vital, but so is self-respect. Healthy boundaries protect your energy by allowing for interdependence without overcommitting to things that drain you. Take care of yourself first, and get comfortable with saying no to things that don’t enhance your wellbeing.
17. Prioritize restorative sleep.
Your body needs adequate sleep to function. Make a habit of going to bed early enough to wake up feeling recharged. It will make all the difference.
Whether you embrace all 17 of these healthy habits or just a handful, summer's here and the time is ripe for restarts and reinvention.