20 Best Ways to Spring Clean Your Health
It's high time to Kon Mari your unhealthiest habits.
As spring rolls around, we tend to collectively wake up from hibernation with an annual top-to-bottom ritual. Closets are purged; sweaters and coats are sent to storage to be swapped for linen shirts, white denim, and leather jackets. Hedge trimmers and lawnmowers come out of garages. Dusting, sweeping, and Swiffering all take front-and-center precedence. And while this ceremonial seasonal cleansing is great and all, there's likely one thing you're forgetting: yourself.
That's not to say you're filthy. It's just that you, like your home, could use a little spiffing up. Even the slightest change—say, to your favorite lunch spot, or your decorating sensibilities—can send ripples through your overall health. What better time to start than now? Spring's as good a time as any. And for help sticking with your newfound resolutions, learn the 40 Best Ways to Adopt New Habits After 40.
There's no better time of year to get outside than when the snow gives way to greener pastures—not just because it's pretty, but because it's good for you. According to research in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, simply being in the presence of flowers and verdure can amp up your mood across the board—it can slash stress and anxiety, hone your attentiveness, and even magically help you wake up happier each morning.
Shield against allergies.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that about 50 million of Americans suffer allergies—and that this sixth of the country is hit worst in spring. So take measures to mitigate allergens. Dust your home. Wash your linens. And most importantly: get yourself a new pillow. According to National Sleep Foundation recommendations, to minimize allergens (and maximize comfort), you should swap out headrests every year or two.
Vitamin D is the utility player of nutrients. It's been shown to strengthen bones and teeth, fortify your neuromuscular system, and even boost your happiness into the stratosphere. It's also the nutrient we're collectively most deficient in. According to Harvard Medical School, an estimated 70 percent of Americans don't get enough of the stuff. So this spring, give your health levels a kick in the seat by spending more time in the sun (that's the number one to get more of it). And for more great health advice, learn the 20 Easy Health Hacks That Will Make You Feel Better Every Day.
Eat lunch outside.
Another way to get some Vitamin D (especially if your schedule's too packed to dedicate significant chunks of time to lazing around in the sun) is to take your lunch to go—and eat it outside. Don't forget the sunscreen.
Wake up earlier.
One final way to get more Vitamin D—seriously, you can't get enough of it—is to wake up earlier. It's simple math: More time awake means more time in your day wherein you can be exposed to the sun's rays. What's more, people who wake up earlier are less likely to suffer a respiratory or gastrointestinal condition. For some help in conquering early morning grogginess, learn the single best way to wake up earlier every day.
Pay a visit to your local farmer's market.
And while you're at it, stock up on straight-from-the-farm produce. Springtime is when all the farmer's markets open up, after all, and fruits and vegetables taste their best, meaning you have no excuse not to chow down. For best results, make sure to pick up what's in season on any given time of year. According to the USDA, during spring, you can't go wrong with apples, apricots, broccoli, collard greens, garlic, onions, rhubarb, and spinach. And for more diet optimization, learn the 50 Foods That Are Guaranteed to Make You Look Younger.
Reset your sleep schedule.
Every spring, thanks to the archaic tradition of Daylight Savings Time, we lose an hour of sleep. (Yes, it really, really is the worst.) Instead of moping around and lamenting, use the period to reset your sleep schedule. The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting seven hours nightly: it's among the best moves you can take for your health, benefiting everything from your mind (sharpens focus and memory), mood (minimizes your chances of being stressed or depressed), and body (helps muscles relax).
Tend to your yard.
Yard work—plucking weeds, planting flowers, moving the lawn—can burn up to 400 calories per hour. To keep the calorie burn on the higher scale, consider trading your gas-powered mover in for a traditional push one. You'll expend more energy and get a killer full-body workout, to boot. And for more ways to incinerate calories, check out the 30 Workouts That Burn More Than 500 Calories An Hour.
Or do anything else.
As long as it's outdoors. Yes, walking can be boring, but you can still get your outdoor movement in. Go for a jog or a bike ride. Scale a rock-climbing wall (synthetic or the real deal). Grab some friends and to the green.
Redecorate (with nature).
Research out of the University of British Columbia suggests that we need not head outdoors to reap all of the mind-and-body-boosting perks. According to the researchers, just by bringing nature indoors—strewing plants around the house, or redoing your floors and panels with all-natural wood—can also trigger all of the aforementioned benefits of being in nature. So, if you live in a rainy locale (Seattleites, rejoice), adopt this trick, stat.
Do some pantry optimization.
While you're giving your house the annual top-to-bottom, dedicate some extra focus to cleaning and reorganizing your pantry. Move all the healthy snacks—nuts, dried fruit, whole grain crackers—to eye level. That way, when hunger strikes, you'll be more likely to reach for something (relatively) good for you.
Drink more water.
It's no secret that being out-and-about in the sun can cause you to dehydrate. If you're heading outdoors this spring, make sure to stay hydrated. According to research out of the U.S. Institute of Medicine, most Americans don't drink enough water (eight 8-ounce glasses per day) as is. The extra activity and heightened heat only exacerbate the issue. For help hitting the recommended levels, consider downloading a water-drinking reminder app, like (the too aptly named) Water Drink Reminder.
Swear off beer.
Each beer contains, on average, about 150 calories. So, if you consume about 15 per week—that's how many the typical American drinks, per World Health Organization figures—you're guzzling 2,250 unnecessary calories. So set aside the beer in favor for a better spring-appropriate drink: sangria. It's lighter, has fewer calories, and, if you get a healthy pour, you can score some antioxidant-loaded fruit, as well.
Go on a makeup purge.
Makeup, like so many other things, expires, and continuing to use products after their shelf-life wraps can lead to breakouts, rashes, and eye infections. Springtime is as good an opportunity as any to conduct a purge. If you've had a product for more than a year, it very well could be expired. And if you haven't used it up in a year, it's not being used frequently enough to merit the space. Kon Mari that garbage. And for more ways on how skin health affects your overall health, be aware of the 20 Skin Symptoms That Indicate More Serious Issues.
As research in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health suggests, walking 10,000 steps a day is more than just some mythical, doctor-purported goal: it produces tangible benefits. According to the researchers, hitting that mark is a surefire way to reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. So now that you're finally no longer cooped up inside, use the newly sunny weather to get out and walk.
Take your meetings outside.
Fact: everyone hates meetings. But you can brighten yours up by leaving the office and heading outside—weather permitting, of course. You'll get an instant Vitamin D boost, and also reap all of those sweet, nature-affiliated benefits. But to really make the most of your time, consider copying a certain early-aughts TV show and going on a "walk and talk." That way, you get your 10,000 steps in, too.
Eat your vegetables raw.
According to research in the Frontiers of Psychology, consuming your vegetables in their "unmodified" (i.e.: raw) state can seriously cut back the likelihood of depression. Good luck finding fresh raw veggies in the winter.
Take a trip.
Research suggests that going on vacation is among the best moves you can make for your health: a single trip can drop your blood pressure, hone your creativity, and even magically reduce your waistline. Oh, and you might even find yourself with a nice new tan. Who said spring break was reserved for college kids?
Toss your old running shoes.
According to analysis in the Journal of Biomechanics, your running shoes become worn out—to the point where using them has adverse effects on your ankles and knees—after about 400 miles of use. Here's the math: running 20 miles per week (five average-paced, 4-mile workouts) means you'll need a replacement pair after five months, even if you spent those five months cooped up on a treadmill.
Stay on top of it.
When it comes to maintaining a newly scrubbed anything, whether your home or your body, sticking with it is key. If you notice any clutter—an exceptionally lazy day, a downtick in outside time, an uptick in unhealthy eating, a morning or two overslept—purge it like you would anything else. By the time next spring rolls around, you won't need to do any cleaning. You'll already be clean.
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