16 things you should do every day to improve your health and wellbeing
Often, we tend to complicate things, imposing strict routines and high standards on ourselves. However, not everything works for everyone. According to Dr Michael Mosley, you don’t need to overhaul your entire life to feel better.
Small changes can make a significant difference. In his book, “Just One Thing: How Simple Changes Can Transform Your Life,” he outlines 16 ideas to improve mood, sleep, brain function, and reduce the risk of disease.
Coffee is fine, just not when you first wake up
Dr Mosley suggests having one to three cups of coffee a day, but not immediately upon waking up. Coffee contains flavanols and antioxidants called polyphenols, which have anti-inflammatory effects and contribute to brain and heart health.
However, it’s advisable to wait a few hours after waking up before indulging in that morning cup of joe. Poor sleep raises cortisol levels, the stress hormone, which can lead to unhealthy spikes in blood sugar. Drinking coffee immediately after a restless night can exacerbate these issues.
Stand up every hour
Most of us spend a significant portion of our day sitting, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, aging, and mortality. Our bodies are designed to be active, and prolonged sitting can negatively impact our health.
Dr Mosley recommends standing up for a couple of minutes every hour. Embrace your natural “hunter-gatherer” instincts and keep your body in motion as much as possible.
Slow your breathing down
By altering the pace and depth of your breath, you can slow your heart rate, lower blood pressure, reduce stress levels, and combat anxiety. Dr Mosley recommends different breathing techniques, such as the 4:6 method (inhale for four counts, exhale for six), the 4:2:4 method (inhale for four counts, hold for two, exhale for four), and the 3:4:5 method (inhale for three counts, hold for four, exhale for five). Slow breathing may even alleviate pain.
Eat more oily fish
Consuming oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring, twice a week is highly beneficial says Dr Mosley. Oily fish is rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce chronic inflammation and promote heart health.
Some research suggests it may also lower the risk of cancer and dementia. Dr Mosley advises against tuna and cod.
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Take a nap
Dr Mosley recommends taking a nap after lunch. Studies have shown a correlation between regular napping and good heart health. One study even revealed a 48 percent lower risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure among those who occasionally took naps. Aim for a 20-30 minute nap in the early afternoon, but avoid napping later than 3pm.
Daily squats and press-ups
Just two minutes of squats and press-ups each day can help maintain muscle mass as you age Dr Mosley said. After 30, muscle mass decreases by around five percent per decade. Preserving muscle mass is crucial for bone protection. Squats, in particular, stimulate blood flow to the brain’s learning and memory centre.
Embrace a green space
Spending a few hours each week in a green space can reduce stress and anxiety. It also offers potential benefits to the immune system. Dr Mosley encourages engaging all your senses while in nature: listen, inhale, sniff, touch, and observe. Inhaling phytoncides, the essential oils released by trees, has been shown to boost mood and the immune system.
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Eat an apple a day
Dr Mosley said there is truth to the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples, especially when consumed with the skin, lower blood pressure due to their flavonoid content. These compounds, located just beneath the skin, reduce inflammation, improve blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of diabetes.
Take a walk
Taking a brisk walk within the first two hours of waking up can improve sleep quality. Exposure to bright natural light helps regulate your internal body clock. Additionally, walking is excellent for your overall health, maintaining cardio fitness, and lowering blood pressure.
Have a cold shower
At the end of your shower, turn the tap to cold for 10 seconds. This practice boosts your immune system, lowers stress levels, improves cardiovascular health, and strengthens immunity. Repeated exposure to mild stressors, such as cold water immersion, enhances your ability to cope with other stressors.
Sing your heart out
Research shows that singing is an effective way to boost mood, reduce anxiety, and even alleviate chronic pain. Singing increases the production of endocannabinoids, chemicals in our bodies similar to those found in the cannabis plant, providing a natural high.
Practice your balance
Dr Mosley recommends standing on one leg while brushing your teeth. Switch between legs every 30 seconds or so. This simple practice helps improve balance, which becomes increasingly important as we age. Balancing skills tend to decline in our 40s and 50s, and falls are a significant cause of accidental death worldwide.
Add some bacteria to your breakfast
Incorporate kefir, sauerkraut, or kimchi into your diet. These foods contain live bacteria that can lower stress levels and improve mood within four weeks, according to research. Ensure the products you purchase contain live bacteria.
Boost your health with houseplants
Houseplants have been found to boost memory, productivity, mood, and even reduce air pollution. They absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, improving humidity and creating a healthier environment. Studies suggest that having five or six plants in a room is the minimum required to make a noticeable impact.
Dancing and trying out new routines have been shown to be more effective than traditional exercises for enhancing muscle strength, balance, brain health, and mood. Dancing also helps reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and depression while boosting memory and protecting against dementia.
Make time for mindfulness
Set your alarm for a random time during the day. When it goes off, pause and observe your surroundings. Take note of your location, the people around you, and your thoughts. This practice disrupts your normal routine and reminds you that you have choices.
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