Making the changes for a healthier lifestyle is a gradual process, contrary to popular belief. New Year’s resolutions rarely result in completely new healthy you. Instead, the move toward a better health is often a gradual transformation that starts with a decision and moves forward with education and effort. Some healthy habits are common sense. Others are counter-intuitive because of the dissonant nature of our modern world. It takes time to get the hang of it, especially if you have not been living a wholesome life before. And there are so many different things that we can do for better health and wellbeing that advice can become confusing or just plain overwhelming. Beyond this, some lifestyle changes are simply more practical than others. These healthy living tips are ranked by practicality and expense, with number ten requiring more effort and number one being the absolute easiest change to make. Some of these healthy tips are simple, free and easy. Others may be very difficult depending on your circumstances, but worth their effort in gold for the payback you will receive in health, longevity and quality of life.
1) Do A Job You Love
Some healthy living choices don’t involve preventing possible harm as much as improving the quality of your life. How do you feel when you are at work? Are you happy? Do you have a sense of accomplishment or fulfillment? Or do you dread the moment your foot crosses the threshold and the hours of your life that belong to others? Most Americans spend the largest portion of their waking hours working at their jobs, preparing for work, or driving to and from work. All these hours are spent just to pay for the place where they rest their heads for the 8 hours and start again. Many go from a hectic work life to a hectic home-life with literally no time for themselves. When put in this perspective, is it not important to ensure that the largest part of your waking day, your working hours, involve doing something that you love?
How to start: If you are not happy on your current career path, consider what you would rather be doing. Does it involve gaining more education? Then go back to school. It’s never to late to learn. Learning is also healthy for the brain at any age. Recent research shows that learning can greatly improve brain function, even in the elderly. If you like what you are doing, but just not who you are doing it for, consider finding a different employer or even going into business for yourself. A study by the Pew Research Center shows that for the most part, job satisfaction is higher among the self-employed, even when they work more hours and make less money.
Practicality: Making a change of this magnitude is definitely complicated. It takes a lot of work to change jobs and an almost herculean effort to gain a higher education while working full time. This falls into the category of wanting it more than you mind the inconvenience.
Expense: This can be one of the most expensive, or most profitable changes that you can make in your life depending on the circumstances. Yet financial gain is not the point of this tip. The point is that money can’t buy you happiness, but doing what you love every day is a way to guarantee it.
2) Stay Home When You’re Sick
This tip will not only benefit you, it will benefit others around you as well. Infectious diseases are just that-infectious. When you go to work or school sick, you not only risk worsening your own condition, but also spreading it to others. Influenza and pneumonia are among the ten leading causes of death in America. Every year, the flu virus spreads like wildfire through schools and offices. This has the sad result of multiplying lost workdays or schooldays exponentially, rather than simply allowing the time for one valuable employee or student to recover properly.
How to start: Develop a great relationship with your employer and don’t skip school when you aren’t sick. Save those days for when you are. Those with good work/school attendance records are less likely to find themselves in the bad position of making an appearance when contagious. If you are an employer, respect your employees’ sick days. Some will naturally have more than others, but punishing an employee for absenteeism isn’t worth catching what they have or spreading it to the rest of your workforce.
Practicality: This is a tradeoff. It’s more practical for employers to lose a little bit of labor that risk their entire workforce. As far as losing money without sick leave, you will recover faster if you rest while you are ill, resulting in less work lost overall.
Expense: There is no denying that it is expensive to lose days of work to illness. Negotiate with your employer for sick leave, and if this cannot be accommodated with your current job, save up for the unexpected. You are virtually guaranteed to face sickness at one time or another, whether contagious or not. This should be a part of your budget just like groceries or gas.
3) Reduce Stress
A little stress is good. It gives your life excitement. Too much of the wrong stress however can be downright deadly.
Here’s how excess stress can harm your health:
- decrease in immune system function – Stress lowers the production of natural killer cells and seriously depletes T-cells, both of which kill infections and cancer
- damage to blood vessels and heart – Stress constricts blood vessels and causes faster heartbeat, thus increasing blood pressure
- weight gain – Stress causes the release of cortisol which triggers overeating and storage of fat
How to start: Foster healthy connections with other people. If a situation is causing you stress and you can’t solve it alone, don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help. Do not ignore your problems. Confront them in a positive way. Meditate. Meditation does not involve sitting cross-legged and humming unless you want it to. There are many great ways to meditate. Sitting quietly by a lake or reading poetry can be just as beneficial as doing power yoga.
Practicality: Implementing these changes can be very difficult. The problem with making these changes is that it involves addressing life relationships, problems at work and personal habits. It takes bravery to confront the things that cause us stress in a productive way. It can help to seek professional help if stress is severe or life problems cannot be handled individually.
Expense: This can go either way. If handling stress involves changing jobs, it can be very expensive. If counseling is needed, insurance may absorb the costs, but perhaps not all of them. Some life changes, such as meditating and spending more time on things you enjoy are easy and free. Soak up the good moments. Life is for living well.