Five Easy Ways to Improve Your Health
When we are ready to make changes in our health, radical workouts or extreme diets might seem appealing. The lure of quick results often overshadows the logic that such time- or money-consuming plans are difficult to sustain long-term. A more sensible and sustainable way to approach our health is to think about tiny steps toward progress. This method creates lifestyle changes we incorporate as part of our daily routines.
In the best-selling book Atomic Habits, author James Clear states you do not rise to the level of your goals; you fall to the level of your systems. When we state our goal, if we can also identify the steps involved and potential barriers to success, we lay the groundwork for our system.
Here are five easy ways to improve your health with examples of small steps to consider to build a system for success:
- Improve nutrition: An easy place to improve nutrition is adding vegetables. According to dietary guidelines from the National Institute of Health, healthy adults should aim for 2-4 servings of vegetables per day. If you’re not a big fan of veggies, start with the goal of eating one serving per day. That’s it. (If you’re already eating at least one serving, increase to two.) Once you’ve accomplished that for 21 days, increase to two servings per day. In a few months, you’ll be effortlessly eating - and probably enjoying - the recommended amount of vegetables. From there, tackle other recommendations based on your health goals like drinking more water and decreasing sugary snacks and beverages.[LN1]
- Go to the dentist: Step one - if you do nothing else, schedule and attend regular bi-annual checkups with your dentist. You’ll be more likely to brush your teeth twice a day and floss regularly if you are diligent about attending checkups. Research shows that people with dental insurance are more likely to go to the dentist, so if you don’t currently have dental benefits, consider adding them. Delta Dental of Iowa has individual plans starting at $20.16 per month.
- Walk it out: Whether you walk alone or with others, walking is an easy way to decrease stress and improve your health. Just 30 minutes of walking five times a week can decrease your risk for heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. Start with the goal of walking around your block once or walking for five minutes every day inside or outside.
- Reduce screen time: The pandemic has skyrocketed rates of screen time for all ages. Digital eye strain can cause eye discomfort, headaches, and vision changes. Use the 20/20/20 method to give your eyes a break. Using a timer set for every 20 minutes you’re using a screen, focus on something at least 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds. If you’re having issues with your vision, see your eye care provider.
- Reduce stress: When you add the impact of the acute stress of the pandemic and managing day-to-day life, it’s not a stretch to say many of us are not okay. According to Make It OK in Iowa, one in five adults has a mental illness. Commit to one small step today to reduce stress. Write daily in a journal for one minute. Call a supportive friend to talk for five minutes once a week. Set a daily alarm to focus on your breathing for two minutes. If you need more support, resources are available.
These are five examples of easy ways to take small steps for improved overall health. What are your goals? Think about your goal, identify the barriers to success and the incremental action steps. One walk around the block or simply scheduling preventive care appointments can be the first steps to better health!
For more information and ideas on healthy lifestyles, follow A Healthy Life, a blog by Delta Dental of Iowa.