When most people think of getting healthy, they think of running a marathon, hitting the gym five days a week, or giving up all carbs and sweets in lieu of meals filled with fruits, vegetables, and lean protein.
While these are great ambitions to have, improving your health doesn’t have to involve such drastic shifts. And in many cases, setting such lofty goals can set you up for failure before you even get started.
If you aren’t anywhere close to running a marathon or finding time in your schedule for daily gym trips, it doesn’t mean you have to resign to poor health.
Instead, focus on what you CAN do at this very moment by starting with these 12 simple techniques that are so easy anyone (yes, even you!) can do them:
1. STOP MULTI-TASKING
Why? People who eat in front of the TV eat up to 40 percent more AND enjoy it less. At work, heavy multi-taskers experience a 40 percent decrease in productivity, take 50 percent longer to complete a task, and make up to 50 percent more errors.
- Where to start: Eat one meal per day without multi-tasking, turning off all electronics and concentrating on chewing each bite slowly and completely.
- Learn more: Digital Stress and the Brain (INFOGRAPHIC) and 20 Reasons to be More Mindful
2. SPEND TIME OUTSIDE
Why? Spending time outdoors, even as little as 10 minutes a day, is linked to a variety of health benefits, including enhanced mood, reduced stress, faster healing, and improved concentration. So slap on the sunscreen and take a short break outside.
- Where to start: Set alarms to remind yourself to take a 10-minute break three times a day. At every alarm, go outside and take 100 steps.
- Learn more: Spending Time Outdoors is Good for You
3. CARE FOR YOUR TEETH
Why? Brushing your teeth regularly could help protect against heart disease, respiratory infections, erectile dysfunction, and other serious conditions linked to bacteria that can build up in your mouth without proper dental care.
- Where to start: Brush your teeth and tongue twice a day for two minutes, and floss once a day.
- Learn more: Take Care of Your Teeth and They’ll Take Care of You (INFOGRAPHIC) and Guard Those Pearly Whites
4. GET ORGANIZED
Why? Mess leads to stress. Living with clutter has been linked to over-eating. Clutter also reduces productivity and increases the level of cortisol, a stress hormone in your body.
- Where to start: Organize one area in your home or office, such as a drawer or cabinet.
- Learn more: 34 Ways to De-clutter Your Entire Life
5. WASH YOUR HANDS
Why? In an analysis of 390 cellphones, 16 percent were contaminated with E. coli, likely transferred by dirty hands. In another study, hand hygiene education and soap prevented 50 percent of cases gastrointestinal illness.
- Where to start: Wash your hands before preparing or eating food, after you use the restroom, and after shaking hands or leaving densely populated public places.
- Learn more: Why Handwashing
Why? Stretching for a short period of time each day can improve flexibility, coordination, and circulation while also protecting against injury and stress.
- Where to start: Wake up 10 minutes early each day and perform these five daily stretches for Soldiers.
- Learn more: Stretch Your Way to a Healthier Body and 5 Ways Stretching Benefits Your Health
7. TAKE DEEP BREATHS
Why? Most of us take shallow breaths. But deep abdominal breathing can release tension, lower blood pressure, and support relaxation. When you take deep breaths from the abdomen, rather than shallow breaths from your upper chest, you inhale more oxygen. The more oxygen you get, the less tension, shortness of breath, and anxiety you feel.
- Where to start: Sit comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your abdomen, just below your belly button. Breathe in deeply through your nose. Then exhale slowly through your mouth. Feel your hand rise about an inch each time you inhale and fall about an inch each time you exhale. Repeat.
- Learn more: Meditation: Stress Relief in Five Minutes and Six Breathing Exercises to Relax in 10 Minutes or Less
8. SLEEP MORE
Why? Adults that get five hours or less of sleep each night are at a 2.5 times higher risk for diabetes, 45 percent higher risk of having a heart attack, and 12 percent higher risk for death. Sleep helps you burn fat, boost your immunities, enhance your mood, and increase energy levels, so it is critical to get the recommended seven to nine hours each night.
- Where to start: Start by going to bed 10 minutes early each week until you’ve added an extra hour. Get into a predictable routine and sleep schedule – take a hot shower or bath 90 minutes before bed and power down all electronics and distractions (including text messages!) 60 minutes before bed.
- Learn more: The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation (INFOGRAPHIC)
9. MAKE SIMPLE DIET SUBSTITUTIONS
Why? Making simple changes to your food choices, such as replacing one soda with a glass of water or switching from whole milk to skim milk in your 16oz latté, could help you shed up to 15-20 pounds a year.
- Where to start: Evaluate your eating habits. Look for places where you could substitute a type of food or ingredient for something more nutritious or with fewer calories without much effort. Every day for 21 days, commit to making one simple substitution. Try this food swaps infographic for inspiration.
- Learn more: Low Calorie Breakfast Swaps (INFOGRAPHIC)
Why? Having strong social ties could help you lengthen your life and fight depression.
- Where to start: Make family or friend time a ritual – carve out the same time each week to spend time with or connect with others. Trouble finding time or friends? Try joining a club (e.g., Team Red, White, & Blue) that meets regularly.
- Learn more: 7 Ways Friends Make You Healthier and How Friends Make You Healthier
11. GET MOVING (SPEND LESS TIME SITTING)
Why? In one study, people who sat for 11 hours or more a day were 40 percent more likely to die – from any cause. In addition, the World Health Organization says physical inactivity is the main cause for approximately 21 to 25 percent of breast and colon cancers and 27 percent of diabetes cases. The easiest way to stand up for your health? Literally, stand up.
- Where to start: Start your morning by dancing or marching in place for two minutes to your favorite song. Don’t be afraid to wave those hands in the air.
- Learn more: Sitting is Killing You (INFOGRAPHIC) and Sit All Day? Stay Active With Three Easy Tips
Why? 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Dehydration is associated with heart and digestive issues, fatigue, high blood pressure, kidney distress, and premature aging. Water helps your body get rid of toxins, regulate body temperature, and control calorie intake.
- Where to start: Drink a large, cool glass of water as soon as you wake up; not only will it help you hydrate, it will not only help hydrate you, but it will also kick-start your metabolism.
- Learn more: What Does Water do for the Human Body (INFOGRAPHIC)
These small steps may seem obvious, but they can deliver real results for your health and well-being. The best part? They can be worked into even the busiest and most demanding of schedules.
Want to see for yourself how these and other small steps can transform your life? Participate in Soldier’s Creed’s Do-it-Yourself Health Challenge, a 28-day challenge designed to boost your physical, mental, and spiritual health, one day and one step at a time.
Christian Smelling is a soldier who has been in the tactical flashlight field for nine years. He is an expert in the field and has learned a great deal about how to use tactical flashlights during combat.