100 Easy Ways to Be a Much Healthier Person, According to Science
These small lifestyle changes will help you get healthier during quarantine—and after.
If the coronavirus pandemic has had any silver lining, it's that COVID-19 reminded many of us of how lucky we are to have our health and how important it is to never take that for granted. Even if your physical fitness isn't the best, or you've always struggled to maintain a lifestyle that's the best for your personal well-being, being in quarantine probably has you seeking out ways to get healthy much more seriously than ever before—and we're here to help. Below, we've rounded up some easy ways to improve your mental and physical well-being, according to science.
Maintain a positive attitude.
Even though it can prove difficult to do so as you adapt to the new normal brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, staying positive as much as possible will benefit you in the long run. In fact, multiple studies—like a 2010 meta-analysis published in Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health—have found that people tend to handle stress more effectively when they maintain a positive attitude. And to help you keep your chin up, check out 7 Ways Quarantine Has Been Good for Your Health.
Eat more walnuts.
Walnuts aren't only delicious; the nutritious snack can provide significant heart health benefits to boot. According to a 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, participants who added walnuts to a low-fat diet were successfully able to lower their blood pressure, which helps lower the risk of heart disease.
And more nuts in general.
A 2019 study published in the American Heart Association journal, Circulation Research, revealed that people with type 2 diabetes who ate five servings of nuts per week decreased their risk of cardiovascular disease by 17 percent. Similarly, eating nuts rich in vitamin E, such as almonds, can prevent heart disease in people without diabetes. So as long as you aren't allergic, go nuts! And for things you should know as you age, Here Are 40 Health Symptoms You Need to Know About.
Eat some protein before going to sleep.
It's widely understood that protein is a key component of a balanced diet, especially when it comes to building muscle and getting more fit. Maybe less commonly known, however, is that the point in your day during which you eat protein plays a critical role in your body's ability to reap those benefits. A 2018 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition determined that eating a snack containing 30 grams of protein anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes before bed was associated with better muscle quality and a faster metabolism.
Drink more orange juice.
You might know by now that there are two types of cholesterol, and that HDL is the "good" kind, meaning the one you actually want in your arteries. So how do you get it? Well, one 2000 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that healthy people who drank three cups of orange juice daily successfully increased their HDL cholesterol by 21 percent and decreased their LDL-HDL cholesterol ratio by an average of 16 percent over a four-week period.
Eat fermented foods.
While some people can't get enough kimchi or kombucha, others would sooner starve or go thirsty before consuming those fermented snacks. Personal preferences aside, what is not up for debate is the fact that they, along with other foods containing probiotics, have valuable health benefits. For example, foods rich in probiotic bacteria can relieve constipation, lower cholesterol, and promote better brain health, a 2014 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found.
Don't skip breakfast.
Breakfast, as you may have heard, is the most important meal of the day. One of the reasons for that is its connection with a decreased risk of heart disease. According to a 2019 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, those who skipped breakfast regularly were at an 87 percent greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease than those who started their day off with a hearty meal. And for things you need to stop doing to preserve your youth, check out 30 Surprising Habits That Make You Age Quicker.
And start your morning with lemon water.
Before you reach for your coffee, make yourself a warm glass of lemon water. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the boost of vitamin C and potassium aids in digestion and protects against disease, helping you stay healthy.
Eat less sugar.
If you want to be healthier, then you unfortunately have to stop snacking on sugary foods like donuts and cookies. Not only can excessive sugar intake lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes, but it can also give you wrinkles, fine lines, and under-eye sagging, as neuropathic doctor Nigma Talib notes in her book, Younger Skin Starts in the Gut. You can start by trying to avoid processed foods and paying attention to hidden sources of sugar.
Shop for your groceries at the edges of the store.
How is your grocery store laid out? Does the natural flow direct you toward the center, where all the chips and cookies and other processed foods are? Well, there's an easier and healthier way to shop. "I try to stick to the edges of the store," sports medicine specialist Jessalynn G. Adam, MD, previously told Best Life. "This is where all of the fresh and unprocessed ingredients are."
Limit your soda intake.
Aside from providing you with more than your fair share of empty calories, soft drinks contain high amounts of fructose, which can weaken your bones and contribute to osteoporosis, according to a 2018 study published in the journal, Missouri Medicine.
And that includes diet soda, too.
The diet versions of your favorite sodas might seem healthier, but they're not. One 2015 study in the journal, Nutrients, showed that diet soft drinks were associated with increased waist circumference. Instead, stick to water—and leave the so-called "healthier" beverages behind.
Invest in a real alarm clock.
Waking up to an actual alarm clock instead of your phone could help you get a better sleep. That's because the light glowing from your smartphone can disrupt your sleep cycle, the National Sleep Foundation says.
And keep your phone out of the bedroom entirely.
Sleeping without your smartphone nearby isn't just better for your sleep cycle, it's beneficial to your happiness in general. In 2018 research published in Computers in Human Behavior, study participants who were restricted from using their phones in the bedroom for just one week were found to be happier, less anxious, and less addicted to their phones compared with those who had no such restrictions.
According to a 2019 article in Medical News Today, going to bed in your birthday suit can improve your ability to have restful sleep. That's because when you sleep naked, your body's production of melatonin, which makes you sleepy and decreases your body temperature, isn't hindered by the presence of layers of clothing. Plus, keeping cool at night reduces the body's level of cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to overeating, diabetes, and disease-causing inflammation.
Turn down the thermostat before bedtime.
If you don't like sleeping in the buff, try dialing the thermostat down just a few degrees. According to a 2014 study published in the journal Diabetes, individuals who slept in a room at 66 degrees Fahrenheit over six weeks increased their amount of brown fat, which reduces blood glucose and boosts metabolism.
Drink cherry juice before bed.
Why cherry juice? Well, as one 2012 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition notes, tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin, that same hormone that does its thing more freely when you sleep without clothes on. Just don't drink the processed version, as the added sugar can actually keep you up rather than help you fall asleep.
Meditate before you sleep.
With the added stress brought on by the pandemic, getting a good night's rest is easier said than done. Still, it's one of the most important things for your health, which is why you should consider simply setting aside a few minutes of your night to breathe deeply and practice mindfulness. Doing so can not only help combat insomnia, but also help you get more restful sleep, according to a 2015 study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine. In the study, those who practiced mindfulness and meditation on a regular basis found their sleep to be much more restful than their counterparts, who merely followed generic "best sleep practices."
Get the right amount of rest.
When it comes to a good night's rest, you should make it a priority to get no fewer than six, but no greater than nine, hours of shut-eye. Otherwise, you could be putting your heart at risk.
In a 2019 study of nearly half a million people published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers found that getting less than six hours of sleep was associated with a 20 percent increased risk of a heart attack. Meanwhile, folks who slept more than nine hours a night had a 34 percent increased risk.
Talk to your doctor about your snoring.
If you tend to snore especially loudly at night, and even gasp for air upon occasion, then what you may have considered a harmless snoring habit could actually be sleep apnea, a very serious condition. According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep apnea occurs when the muscles relax in the back of your throat and your airway narrows or closes as you breathe in, making it nearly impossible for you to receive adequate air during sleep and ruining the quality of your rest.
And when you're not getting the proper amount of shut-eye every night, you're more likely to experience high blood pressure, heart disease, and liver problems. So if chronic snoring is something you experience, it's best to see sleep specialist to discuss your treatment options.
Sleep with a window open.
According to a 2017 study published in the journal Indoor Air, one easy way to ensure that you sleep soundly and stay healthy is to crack a window. The breeze filtering into your room lowers the levels of carbon dioxide in the air, which aids in getting a good night's rest.
Expand your social circle.
Having a lot of friends might just be the key to being a healthier person—and what better time to than now to reconnect with old friends and keep in touch with newer ones over a video chat or phone call. One recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that among 1,477 older individuals, subjects with the most friends lived an average of 22 percent longer than those with the fewest friends.
Make your commute more active.
While you may still be working from home due to the pandemic, it's unlikely that will always be the case. So, when you do eventually have to commute again, do yourself a favor by walking or biking to work instead of driving. Why? Well, other than saving money on gas and avoiding crowded public transit stations, people who actively commute, on average, have BMIs approximately one point lower than those who do so passively, according to a 2014 study published in the British Medical Journal .
Keep your spouse happy.
It's not just your own mental well-being that plays a role in your overall health. As it turns out, your spouse's happiness levels also have an impact on how healthy you are. According to a 2019 study published in Psychological Science, your spouse's satisfaction with life is a better predictor of your mortality than their own.
Take some group exercise classes.
Just because you can't go to the gym or your favorite spin class right now, doesn't mean you can't exercise. In fact, it doesn't even mean you can't exercise with other people, which is the ideal scenario, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. The research concluded that individuals who worked out in group settings were able to reduce their stress levels by 26 percent over a 12-week period.
Incorporate weightlifting into your routine.
Lifting weights isn't just about looking buff—it can also protect your heart. A 2018 study from Iowa State University found that less than an hour of weightlifting a week is enough to reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke by anywhere from 40 to 70 percent.
Take up yoga.
The benefits of yoga are practically endless—and its also one of the easiest forms of exercise to do at home, with countless apps and video classes available online. According to the American Osteopathic Association, taking a few yoga classes every week has both mental and physical health benefits that range from improved respiration and a balanced metabolism to increased self-awareness and improved stress management
There are plenty of people that need your help right now as they struggle to stay safe and keep others healthy during the pandemic. So, whether it's donating blood or sending a meal to our doctors and nurses on the frontlines, helping those in need is great way to also help yourself.
Per one 2018 study published in BMC Public Health, adults who volunteered saw improvements in their mental health, physical health, and overall satisfaction with life.
Spend at least two hours outside every week.
Why two hours? That's the minimum amount needed for optimal physical and mental well-being, according to a 2019 study published in Scientific Reports. Just remember to follow proper safety precautions by avoiding large groups of people, staying at least six feet away from others, and always wearing a mask.
Keep up with the news.
Even if it's the last thing you want to do after the constance bombardment of bad news because of the pandemic, it is important to stay informed—just don't overdo it.
Interestingly, reading the paper or watching the news have shown to be good indicators that a person is a healthy eater, according to a 2012 study published in the International Journal of Public Health. Research found that that those who have the most exposure to mass media information were more likely to adhere to a Mediterranean diet, which is know for providing a variety of health benefits.
Read more books.
Along with reading up on current events, try reading more books this year. While in school, you had to read all the time—it was part of the curriculum, after all. But now that it's not mandatory, do it for the sheer joy it. You'll get to read books that actually interest you—and keep your brain engaged while you're at it.
Limit how much TV you watch.
We know this especially difficult to do during quarantine, but your affinity for Netflix binges could be detrimental to your health, according to 2012 research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. That's right: Every hour of television you watch after age 25 cuts your lifespan by approximately 22 minutes, the study found.
Additionally, researchers discovered that people who spent an average of six hours a day tuned into their televisions died nearly five years before those who didn't watch any television at all. So, try to incorporate other things like reading and exercising to cut back on your TV time.
Wash your pillowcase frequently.
Not only is it just a practice of good hygiene, but a clean pillowcase can also lower your risk of getting sick. In 2018, the mattress brand Amerisleep studied a week-old pillowcase and found that it contained some 3 million colony-forming units of bacteria per square inch. That's 17,442 times more than what you'd find on the average toilet seat.
And test your pillow's viability while you're at it.
While you're putting on that freshly washed pillow case, take some time to test out whether your pillow is still up to snuff—er, fluff? All you need is a shoe. Yes, you read that. right.
Simply fold your pillow in half, making sure to squeeze the air out, and place the shoe on top of it (if you're worried about your shoe transferring dirt, a paperback book will suffice as well). If the pillow remains folded, then it's time to get a new one; if it springs back at you with full force, then you know that your neck and back are in good hands.
Keep your computer keyboard clean.
It goes without saying that we should all be wiping and sanitizing certain things way more often than we were before the pandemic. One of them being your computer keyboard.
A 2018 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health analyzed computer keyboard surfaces for germs and found strains of disease-causing bacteria ranging from Bacillus to Staphylococcus aureus. The good news? The same study concluded that using an antibacterial wet wipe on your keyboard can reduce contamination by up to 100 percent.
Wash your hands properly.
Speaking of germs, let's talk about how you wash your hands. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, you should lather your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds in a way that's vigorous enough to remove dirt and debris. Doing so will better protect you from the harmful bacteria that your hands are constantly coming into contact with.
Only shower a few times a week.
Though it seems counterintuitive, if you want to be healthier, then you need to start showering less. According to Medical News Today, less active older adults should only aim to shower once or twice a week; shower more than that, and you risk ridding your skin of helpful bacteria and making it more prone to infections.
Take more baths.
Though showering may be the faster and more efficient option, a nice hot bath is better for your physical and mental health, according to a 2018 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Researchers found that subjects who bathed for just 10 minutes a day saw improvements in both their stress and energy levels. The study also noted bathing can even increase blood flow and speed up the metabolism, which have positive effects on your physical health, as well.
Adopt a dog.
There's a reason why dogs are considered man's best friend. Not only does owning one make you feel better emotionally, it has physical benefits, too.
Per one 2019 study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes, dog owners tend to have better diets and blood sugar levels, both of which contribute to cardiovascular health. The study found that dog owners are also generally more active, so you can thank that playful pal of yours for helping you stay fit.
Find a job that makes you happy.
While it's important to be thankful to have job in a time where so many businesses and people are struggling to make ends meet because of COVID-19, that doesn't mean you should stop pursuing a profession that makes you happy. And believe it or not, staying at a job that stresses you out can actually limit your lifespan.
A 2013 study from Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center concluded that people who felt the most burnt out had a 79 percent increased risk of coronary disease. In general, feeling burnt out at any level was associated with a 40 percent increased risk of coronary heart disease.
Even if its for a quick walk to curb COVID-cabin fever, make sure that you aren't leaving the house without applying sunscreen, even in the colder months. Though the UVB rays that cause sunburns decrease in the winter, the UVA rays that can lead to wrinkles, aging, and even skin cancer remain.
And stop wearing cheap sunglasses.
It's time to stop skimping on quality sunglasses. The truth is, those drug-store shades aren't doing you any favors. In general, cheap sunglasses are tinted without UV protection. As Benjamin Bert, MD, ophthalmologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Pasadena, California, previously explained to Best Life, this tinting "causes the pupil to dilate without UV blocking, so more ultraviolet radiation is able to enter the eye."
Always remember to brush your teeth.
Listen to your dentist when they tell you to brush your teeth twice a day. Not only will this prevent cavities and tooth decay, but 2019 research published in the journal Science Advances shows that it also destroys bacteria that can migrate to the brain and cause Alzheimer's.
And make sure you're flossing, too.
Flossing is much more important than you might realize. In addition to keeping your gums and teeth healthy, it also prevents bacteria in your mouth from traveling to the rest of your body.
"Bacteria in the mouth involved in the development of gum disease can move into the bloodstream and cause an elevation in C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation in the blood vessels," Garth Graham, a cardiologist and former deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, previously told Best Life.
Soak your toothbrush in mouthwash.
According to Dynamic Dental, a dental hygiene practice with offices throughout Massachusetts, using this antibacterial product as a disinfectant agent is a surefire way to prevent the spread of germs via your toothbrush, particularly during cold and flu season.
Stop rinsing after you brush.
Avoid rinsing your mouth after you brush your teeth. As the Queensland Government in Australia explains on their Department of Health website, this practice strips the mouth and teeth of the protective fluoride layer that toothpaste provides, which in turn invites bacteria in.
And balance on one leg while you brush.
We know it sounds silly, but a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation found that increased flexibility can lead to a longer life.
So, if you want to keep your balance in good standing (pun intended) before it starts to fade, then the Cleveland Clinic recommends standing on each leg for 10 seconds at a time while you brush your teeth. This easy exercise will train your neuromotors, which assist in balance, agility, and movement. Sure, you might look a little bit strange doing it, but that's a small price to pay for a long life.
Laugh more often.
Not only is laughing fun, but it's also good for you! One 2016 study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that women with a strong sense of humor had a 73 percent lower risk of death from heart disease, an 81 percent lower risk of death from infection, and a 48 percent lower risk of death from all causes.
Be more conscientious.
In their book, The Longevity Project, authors Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin write that being conscientious is one of the best predictors of a long life. They posit that people who are diligent and responsible may be more likely to adopt healthy behaviors, may be less prone to disease, and may find more success in personal relationships and in the workplace than those who are more careless.
Smile like you mean it! For a 2010 study published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers examined smile intensity among a series of photos of baseball players from the 1950s. Those who didn't smile in their pictures lived an average of 72.9 years, while the biggest smilers lived seven full years longer.
Be nicer to others.
Doing a few good deeds could ensure that you see your 90th birthday. According to a 2012 study conducted at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University, there is a scientifically proven correlation between treating others with kindness and longer lifespans.
Start tracking your water intake.
With all of the tedious tasks occupying your day, drinking enough water is probably one of the last things on your mind. However, you need to start making it a priority to drink at least four to six 8-ounce glasses of water per day, according to Harvard Medical School. That way, you can avoid the side effects of dehydration, which include far more frequent headaches and slowed brain function.
And drink plenty of water when you excercise.
Any person who's ever passed a kidney stone can attest to the fact that they are not fun. Thankfully, there are ways to prevent them from happening in the first place. According to the National Kidney Foundation, making sure to rehydrate after particularly sweaty activities.
"Loss of water through sweating leads to less urine production," the organization explains. "The more you sweat, the less you urinate, which allows for stone-causing minerals to settle and bond in the kidneys and urinary tract."
Sit up straight.
Posture may not seem like a big deal, but it actually affects your health more than you might think. Not only does sitting up straight or standing with confidence make you feel good mentally, but according to the Mayo Clinic, proper body alignment can also help prevent strain on your spine, muscles, and joints—which could help prevent injuries down the line.
Better yet, invest in a standing desk.
Want another reason to join the standing desk craze? Sitting for fewer than three hours a day could add two years to your life, according to a 2012 analysis of data published in BMJ Open.
Befriend your coworkers.
It pays to make nice with your coworkers—even if that means doing so over video conferences or email. A 2011 study published in the journal Health Psychology followed 820 adults for 20 years and found that those with the most social support from coworkers lived the longest. People who kept to themselves during the workday were 2.4 times more likely to die during the study's 20-year period.
Because a cup of joe is high in antioxidants, it can actually lower your risk for diabetes, liver damage, several cancers, and depression, according to a 2018 study published in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases.
But not too much coffee.
That said, you can have too much of a good thing: A long-term 2013 study published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that those who drank an average of more than four cups of coffee a day had a 21 percent higher risk of death than those who consumed a more moderate amount.
Take up dancing.
Research published in 2013 in the journal Anthropology & Aging found that people can dance their way toward improved health and happiness, especially older adults. This is all thanks to the activity's social, mental, and physical benefits.
Go to the doctor regularly.
While you don't want to make any unnecessary trips to the doctor during the coronavirus pandemic, it is important that you don't ignore your personal health and make the proper appointments when you feel comfortable—or explore what virtual-visit options you have.
In one 2007 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health that followed 2,000 30- to 49-year-olds over a period of 15 years, researchers discovered that those who sought regular preventative care experienced a "significantly greater" lifespan than those who didn't. (Curious how often you should see a doctor? You can find the National Institute of Health's current guidelines for regular checkups and testing here.)
Take the stairs whenever you can.
A 2010 study published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation calculated that among people who mostly sit, simply taking the stairs was enough physical activity to burn body fat and lower blood pressure, cutting risk of early death by 15 percent. And while your options maybe be limited during quarantine, just keep in mind and take the stairs when you have the option.
Skip the tanning beds.
If you used tanning beds before the pandemic, quarantine might be a good time to kick that habit while your local spa is closed. One 2007 analysis published in the International Journal of Cancer found that individuals who first started using tanning beds before they turned 35 were as much as 75 percent more likely to develop melanoma.
Stop storing your wallet in your back pocket.
Having lower back pain? Try taking your wallet out of your back pocket. As a 2018 study published in the journal, Cureus, points out, sitting on your wallet can put pressure on your sciatic nerve, the major nerve running through the buttocks.
Grow a garden.
If you want to avoid developing Alzheimer's disease, then researchers suggest trying your hand at gardening. One 2006 study published in the Medical Journal of Australia found that older people who gardened had a 36 percent reduced risk of dementia.
Do some brain teasers.
Brain teasers are both fun and good for your health. According to the Cleveland Clinic, they help exercise your brain and improve functioning, promote new brain cell growth, and reduce your risk of developing dementia.
Drink more milk.
Getting in at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day can help prevent osteoporosis from settling in, according to a 2016 study published in the journal Calcified Tissue International. (For reference, one 8-ounce glass of skim milk delivers about 300 milligrams.)
Dilute your juice with water.
You don't have to give up your favorite fruit juices entirely just to be healthy. But you can cut the number of calories you're consuming in half just by diluting your drink with water. It's the same flavor with half the sugar!
Keep a food journal.
Keeping a food journal, especially at the beginning of a healthy eating journey, can prove to be hugely beneficial in the long run. One 2008 study from Kaiser Permanente found that when people wrote down what they ate when trying to lose weight, they shed twice as many pounds as those who didn't maintain records.
Ask for a takeout box before you start eating.
Even though you can't eat at your favorite restaurants right now, eventually things will open back up over time. And when they do, remember that restaurant portions, especially in America, have become notoriously larger than they need to be. Therefore, you should make it a habit to put half of your meal in a box before you start to dig in. This ensures that you won't overeat just because there's food on your plate. (Plus, it saves money by turning one meal into two!)
Eat more meals at home.
Ultimately though, if you want to live a longer and healthier life, you should be eating at home more often, which you're probably already doing because of the pandemic. One 2012 study published in the Public Health Nutrition journal found that people who cook at home up to five times a week were 47 percent more likely to still be alive 10 years later, as compared to those who ate more takeout meals.
Wait 20 minutes before grabbing seconds.
Before you grab another helping at dinner, give yourself 20 minutes to digest. That's how long it takes for your body to realize it's full, according to Harvard Medical School.
Put a few potted plants around the house.
Having plants in your space is an easy way to liven up your mood and increase your happiness. What's more, plants also reduce carbon dioxide levels, getting rid of harmful pollutants in the air. So fill your home with greenery: You'll breath better and feel great all-around.
Slow down your resting heart rate.
A 2018 study published in the journal Heart discovered that a key predictor of long life in otherwise healthy middle-aged and elderly people was a resting heart rate, regardless of fitness level or other healthy behaviors.
So how do you slow your resting heart rate down? According to the experts at Harvard Medical School, you can reduce yours by exercising more, reducing stress, avoiding tobacco products, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Have more fun.
Want to be healthier? Once things return to normal after the pandemic subsides, take advantage of your paid time off. A 2014 analysis of the famed Framingham Heart Study published in The Lancet shows that the more frequently people took vacations, the longer they lived.
Take naps during the day.
A regularly scheduled short nap dramatically slashes your risk of dying from coronary heart disease. A massive 2007 study of nearly 24,000 people over six years published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that occasional nappers had 12 percent lower coronary mortality, while those who napped at least three times a week for at least 30 minutes had 37 percent lower mortality.
Kick those bad habits once and for all.
Whether you're drinking too much or smoking traditional or e-cigarettes, it's time to stop. Those habits are only setting you back in terms of your health, and the longer they go on, the more detrimental they are to your well-being. Luckily, it's never too late to quit—and you'll feel great once you do.
Wake up earlier.
Instead of sleeping through those early morning hours, get up and use them to your advantage. It's the only time during the day you really have to yourself without emails, text messages, and notifications taking over your mind. Whether you use the time to exercise, meditate, or prepare a nutritious breakfast, those extra hours are worth the early wake-up call.
And get your workout in first thing.
If the only time you have to work out is at night, that's perfectly fine. However, if you have your choice of a morning workout or an evening one, opt for the former. Research published in a 2013 edition of the British Journal of Nutrition notes that people can burn up to 20 percent more body fat simply by exercising in the morning before they eat breakfast.
Replace your worn out running shoes.
If you can't remember when you last bought new running shoes, then you're probably due for a fresh pair. The Mayo Clinic suggests retiring running shoes every 400 to 500 miles in order to ensure that you're getting the right amount of support and cushion for the arches of your feet. Continuing to run in your worn out shoes could put you at risk for developing plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes.
You should be wearing socks with most of your shoes. Why? As podiatrist Stephanie Fields, DPM, DABPM, previously explained to Best Life, not wearing socks causes excessive sweating which, in turn, "causes the formation of blisters and the development of foot and nail fungus."
Keep your nails short.
Make nail maintenance a part of your everyday routine; if not, that "dirt [under your nails] can cause infection," Matthew Ross, co-founder and COO of The Slumber Yard, previously told Best Life.
Drink wine or liquor instead of beer.
As far as alcohol goes, beer is both one of the most caloric and one of the most carb-heavy options. As the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notes, the average serving of beer contains approximately 150 calories, whereas you can enjoy a glass of wine with as few as 100 calories and a straight glass of liquor for just 91 calories.
And opt for red wine in particular.
In a paper presented at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in 2003, scientists revealed that red wine contains a group of chemicals called saponins that are able to lower cholesterol levels. Among the red wines analyzed in the study, red Zinfandel had the highest levels of saponins, followed by Pinot noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.
But make sure to always drink moderately.
Red wine might be good for your heart, but that doesn't mean you can drink a whole bottle. As the American Addiction Centers' Alcohol.org notes, excessive drinking can lead to memory loss, cancer, high blood pressure, and liver fibrosis. To enjoy the benefits of alcohol without overdoing it, limit yourself to 14 drinks a week if you're a man and seven drinks a week if you're a woman.
Focus on the things you're grateful for.
In such a difficult time when people are losing jobs, loved ones, and struggling in any number of other ways, it's essential to be thankful for the things you have. Because when you're grateful, you have a better outlook on life.
In a 2003 study from the University of Miami, psychologists found that people who wrote down the things they were thankful for during the week proved to be the most optimistic, compared to those who wrote about the things that bothered them and those who simply wrote about daily occurrences, neither positive nor negative.
But journal about your worries, too.
That said, writing down what's bothering you can also help ease your mental burden. One 2017 study published in the journal Psychophysiology revealed that individuals with anxiety who engaged in expressive writing effectively reduced their feelings of worry.
Find ways to combat stress.
The best thing you can do for your health is manage your stress levels. Experts at The American Institute of Stress say that up to 90 percent of visits to physicians may be for stress-related disorders. To combat this serious health risk, start finding ways to actively curb your stress, whether that's practicing mindfulness, or pursuing a new hobby.
Take deep breaths.
Pausing to take a few deep breaths throughout the day can improve both your mood and your overall health. A 2017 study published in the journal, Breathe, revealed that deep breathing can reduce heart rate variability as well as increase feelings of calmness and overall well-being.
Use daily affirmations.
In 2020, make it your mission to start focusing on lifting yourself up with daily affirmations. Before you let the day get away from you by tackling your to-do list, give yourself a pep talk in the mirror. Tell yourself things like "I'm powerful" and "I can do this." It might sound—and feel—silly, but it will help start your day with a dose of positivity, which is important during such a stressful and uncertain time.
Call your mom.
If you only call your mom once every couple weeks, it's time to make it a more regular occurrence. In a 2016 study from Stanford University School of Medicine, researchers found that talking to family—your mother, in particular—has the same emotional effect as getting a giant hug from someone you love. And since hugging is sort of off limits for the time being, better start dialing your mom ASAP.
Keep the temperature low in your home during the winter.
The warm, dry air that comes out of a cranked-up heater is one of the things that causes dry eyes. And, as Jonathan Wolfe, a New York-based optometrist, previously told Best Life, "dry eyes aren't just a nuisance—they can actually cause damage to the front surface of the eye." If you want to keep your eyes safe, keep the temperature low and use a humidifier during the dry winter months.
Stop rubbing your eyes.
Yes, a habit as simple as rubbing your eyes could be putting your health at risk—especially when it comes to the coronavirus. But in addition to the germs you expose yourself to when touching your face, a 2017 study published in Case Reports in Ophthalmology found a link between eye-rubbing, vision loss, and keratoconus, which is a change in the shape of the eye. So it's best to keep your hands away from your eyes whenever possible.
Choose the right popcorn.
It probably doesn't surprise you to learn that low-fat microwave popcorn has two-thirds fewer calories than the regular variety. But, according to a 2012 study published in the Nutrition Journal, this healthier snack alternative is actually also more satiating when compared to potato chips. So, in short, not only will you feel more satisfied after finishing your bag of low-fat popcorn, but you'll also be saving on calories and fat in the long run.
Drink more green tea.
Green tea has long been lauded as one powerful herbal substance. According to a 2010 meta-analysis published in the journal Chinese Medicine, it's been linked to decreased risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases; it has properties that are anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, antibacterial, anti-angiogenic, anti-oxidative, and antiviral; it can protect your neurological system; and it can help lower cholesterol.
Make spinach a regular part of your diet.
To ensure that your ticker is healthy well into your golden years, take a tip from Popeye and chomp on some spinach as often as you can. Rich in omega-3s and folate, spinach can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and age-related sexual health issues.
Always have healthy snacks on hand.
You never know when hunger will strike, and depending on where you are and what you're doing, your options may be a bit limited. To make sure you have something healthy on-hand to satisfy your craving, keep a bag of nuts, a protein bar, or a piece of fruit nearby at all times—whether you are at home or out on a leisurely walk.
Eat more fiber.
In the interest of your health, make sure you pay attention to how much fiber you're getting in your diet. Why is that? Because a diet that's high in fiber can help reduce your risk of diabetes, improve heart health, and maintain more balanced blood pressure, according to a 2009 study published in Nutrition Reviews.
Chew a stick of gum after every meal.
Chewing a stick of sugarless gum for a half hour after meals can prevent or reduce heartburn. That's because the act of chewing increases saliva flow, which neutralizes stomach acid and washes it away from your esophagus, according to Harvard Medical School.
Set small, achievable goals throughout the year.
Bigger isn't always better—especially when it comes to your health and wellness goals. Instead, set small, achievable goals, like eating two servings of vegetables a day or going on a post-dinner walk. Research from Stanford University published in 2017 shows that in the early stages of a pursuit, people benefit most from focusing on "sub-goals" that make them feel accomplished.
And have others help you hold yourself accountable.
Living a healthier lifestyle is easier when you have someone else doing it with you—whether it's your spouse at home or the friends you keep connected with online. When one 2013 study in The New England Journal of Medicine followed 552 overweight adults for around 10 months, they found that those who went on a weight loss plan with people in their social network lost approximately 6.5 more pounds than those who went at it alone.