1) Start Exercising
I know, I know, we’ve all heard this one before. This may be the most commonly recommended tip for reducing stress and improving happiness, but it’s also the most ignored. Believe it or not, about 77% of American don’t get enough exercise. “Enough exercise” is defined for adults as “at least 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity.”
I know what you are thinking, “I don’t have 150 minutes to work out every week.” The truth is, yes you do. Just hear me out. Moderate physical activity includes brisk walking and swimming, but it can also be something productive like mowing the lawn, chopping wood, or unloading the UHAUL when you move. Maintaining a productive lifestyle and getting enough weekly exercise aren’t mutually exclusive goals and there are plenty of ways of achieving both simultaneously.
Maybe you sit at a computer all day, like me, and most of your daily tasks and routines don’t involve any physical activity whatsoever. In that case, you should consider starting a slightly more vigorous exercise regimen. Most of us hate running or going to the gym, but 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week breaks down to less than 11 minutes per day. Think about that. Who can’t spare 11 minutes a day in order to improve their health, relieve stress, and increase their happiness and overall well-being? It’s ok to start slow, and work yourself up, but the important thing is taking the time to make an effort. If you commit to 11 minutes per day or maybe even 25 minutes for just 3 days a week, it won’t be long until you feel the benefits and discover what you’ve been missing all this time. Exercise is one of those things you can’t truly understand how beneficial it is until you experience it.
Here are some quick ideas and easy tips to help you start being more active in your daily life. If it’s close, try walking to the places you need to go like the grocery store, post office, library, etc. Start taking the stairs instead of the elevator whenever you can. Maybe even start riding your bike to work (or other places) one or two days a week. Even re-organizing your home or garage/storage space is considered moderate physical activity.
Basically, start making conscious decisions to do little things that keep you active and productive. It’s not necessarily how hard you exercise but how often. By just doing a little bit every day or even every other day, you will quickly discover how much better you feel. The natural endorphins your brain releases during and after exercise have proven to reduce stress, relieve depression and anxiety, and improve sleep.
2) Eat Healthy
Eating healthy is hard, but the rewards are plentiful. We live in a society that is accustomed to highly processed, pre-packaged foods that are full of preservatives and require little to no preparation. We often convince ourselves we don’t have the time or money to prepare a healthy meal and instead we go through the drive-through or pull something out of the freezer. This is the habit that needs to be changed, as these foods do not serve us well in our quest for improved health and happiness.
Eating healthy is a challenging step for many people, but just like with exercise, sometimes it’s best to take small progressive steps over time to break our bad habits. Start by finding a way to make just one meal a day healthier than you normally would. Replace french fries with a salad, or your ice cream sundae dessert with a fresh fruit smoothie.
For me, the easiest step was to focus on my breakfast. I’ve always had an addiction to sugary cereals, and I ate them every day. I decided to simply replace my cereal with a significantly healthier vegan gluten free granola and mixed it with unsweetened organic yogurt and fresh fruit so I could still get my sugar fix in the morning.
After I made that one small change in my diet, I quickly realized how much more satisfied I was with myself and my breakfast every day. It didn’t take long for me to start seeking out other healthy foods that could be just as satisfying to my taste buds as the less healthy options I’ve become accustomed to.
I can’t say it was easy and I would be lying if I said I didn’t fall off the wagon a couple of times or that I don’t still cheat on occasion, but recently my diet consists mostly of raw foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Every once in a while I’ll give in to my carnivorous urges and eat some meat, but I usually wait until I can feel my body physically craving it.
In my case, switching to a mostly raw food diet has improved digestion, lowered inflammation, provided my body more energy, and even cleared up my acne. The health benefits of different foods vary greatly, so if you know exactly what you hope to get out of your diet, it is important to do a little research to know exactly which foods you should be introducing and removing from your diet.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is to stay away from processed foods, preservatives, and non-natural sugars. And this should go without saying, but just to be clear, it’s extremely important to start avoiding any foods that come out of a drive-through window, a deep fryer, or a microwave.
Travel comes in at number three on my list for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I realize that regular exercise and eating healthy are not only recommendations you’ve most likely heard before, but they are not exactly the easiest of solutions and probably not the ones you actually want to hear. Even if they are probably the most effective, they aren’t always viewed as fun or easy solutions. The idea of traveling to improve health not only sounds a little bit more fun, but it’s also more likely you haven’t heard this before.
Additionally, I can personally vouch for the direct health benefits I experienced as I worked remotely and travelled Southeast Asia for 6 months. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and it not only helped relieve my overwhelming stress but it also effectively cured my insomnia. While the specific benefits you experience from travel may vary from mine, research has shown that traveling keeps you healthier, relieves stress, boosts happiness and satisfaction, and lowers the risk of depression.
The number one reason people reportedly don’t travel is because it’s too expensive. Most people simply don’t understand how cheap it can be to travel with the right tools and information. With proper research, a wonderful international vacation can be yours for under $1,000.
For starters, do some research and join some of the top travel sites or even a travel social network offering exclusive travel deals to members. You will be surprised to learn that many of these travel sites, apps, and networks have exclusive partnerships with hotels, airlines, and travel agencies to offer you special deals you won’t find anywhere else.
It’s also important to consider the relative cost of living in your desired destinations. For instance, it can be much more affordable to travel to SE Asia and Central America as opposed to Europe. When you choose destinations such as these, the majority of your travel cost goes to airfare and the overall savings are significant. Once you’ve narrowed down an affordable destination, use your travel tools from above to start looking for an affordable round-trip airfare to your destination.
Lastly, start planning your trip six months to a year in advance to provide yourself enough time to save money and do the proper research to make everything happen naturally. It’s important to explore the world and experience other cultures if you hope to escape the daily grind and find satisfaction in living life.
4) Online Programs
While it is true that we live in a society that encourages long work weeks, fast food, and very little time for self-care, this same society has introduced a variety of online tools and apps that can help us relieve stress and maintain our sanity in those long and stress-filled weeks. Do you need to improve productivity, relieve chronic pain, or simply learn a new skill like meditation to help you relieve stress? Whatever it is, the internet is full of exclusive online programs that fit any niche.
For instance, there are tons of online meditation courses, stress management courses, and even a plethora of online tools for insomnia. Maybe you’re in pain and every day is a struggle just to get out of bed. This is an extremely common complaint from those suffering from sciatica or disc herniation, but there is, of course, an online program that teaches the McKenzie exercises and a plethora of other related exercises combined with expert knowledge to help you relieve this debilitating back pain from home.
The point is, whatever it is you need, it’s out there. Even just considering some of the previous topics we’ve discussed, a quick Google search shows us that there are tons of online exercise classes and online diet programs to help you maintain whatever healthy diet you are striving towards.
Literally, whatever it is that’s holding you back from living a happy and healthy life, there are numerous resources online to help you help yourself.
5) Boost Self Esteem Naturally
Nobody is perfect and comparing ourselves with others is never a healthy decision. Many of us suffer from low self esteem, often times for reasons we can’t help. Whether you have low self esteem because you are overweight, have visible scars or blemishes, or simply just feel inadequate, there are natural steps you can take boost your self esteem. Not everybody needs professional help, but most of us can certainly benefit from it, and there is no shame in reaching out to a professional when you suffer from low confidence. Speaking with a therapist is one simple step anyone can take to help boost their self esteem, but it is not the only option available and individuals should weigh out their options considering their specific situation and needs.
If your low confidence is the result of your physical appearance, such as being overweight or suffering from heavy scarring from acne or an accident of some sort, other natural solutions should be considered.
For instance, if your face is covered in acne scars, new technology exists to quickly and painlessly boost your self esteem through laser scar removal. On the other hand, if you are overweight, your journey to improved self esteem might be a slower and more gradual journey, but good things come to those who wait. As mentioned previously, there are many online as well as offline diet and exercise programs that can help you build healthier daily habits that will keep you at a weight you can be proud of. From personal dieticians and personal trainers to the plethora of apps and self managed online programs mentioned above, many natural options exist to help you improve your low self esteem.