It’s a commonly held belief that achieving good health has as much to do with personal behavior as winning the lottery does. In other words: It’s just the luck of the draw. Either you were born with good genes or you weren’t.
Of course, there is some merit to the genetic argument, but research increasingly shows that in everything from obesity to diabetes, personal practice has a substantial effect as well. If you want to feel healthier, don’t just hope your genes will do it for you. Here are eight easy ways you can feel and be healthier—almost instantly.
1. Get a Health Care Plan
If, after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, you’re still one of the millions of Americans without a health insurance plan, it’s time to shop for one and put it to use. While it’s true that navigating health care enrollment is tricky — learn about how to do it more effectively here — having insurance for preventative measures and for those times when you need a doctor’s care will ensure you’re healthier overall.
2. Get Some Exercise
It doesn’t take a lot of exercise to feel better. Just taking a brisk walk 20 minutes each day is enough to improve your health in measurable ways. Your muscle tone will improve. Your heart and lungs will grow stronger. If you head outdoors, you’ll get the benefits of vitamin D. While getting your heart rate up and really challenging yourself physically with a tough workout can also benefit you, if you’re currently not exercising, start small. You’re more likely to stick to something if you don’t do too much all at once.
3. Stop Smoking — Or at Least Smoke Less
As everyone knows, smoking is bad for you, and yet many people persist in the practice. If you’re a smoker, quitting will benefit your cardiovascular system and cut your risks of stroke, heart disease, and many cancers. If you don’t want to quit, or if you’ve tried to quit in the past and been unsuccessful, try at least to smoke less. Just reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke each day can provide a boost to your health and make you feel better.
4. Practice Gratitude
Being thankful can not only help you feel good about your life and the world around you, but it can also reduce stress levels and lower your blood pressure. It’s also a state of mind that can be practiced, which means the benefits of gratitude can be a regular part of your life. Each day, simply look for the good around you — in people, events, meals, pets, and the like — and be thankful.
5. Eat Your Vegetables
Eating a healthy diet full of whole foods that is devoid of nitrates, nitrates, trans fats, preservatives, and chemicals would make all of us a lot healthier. The trouble is that most of us don’t want to put in the effort it requires. So try keeping the change small. Instead of avoiding “bad” foods, add in “good” ones like vegetables. By including fresh, local vegetables at least one meal a day, you’ll feel and be healthier without feeling deprived.
6. Drink More Water
If you’re someone who drinks a lot of soda, juice, energy drinks, or coffee, try replacing one or two of those beverages each day with delicious glass of H2O. Then, add another two glasses of water in for good measure. After a couple of weeks, you’ll be healthier, and you’ll notice it, too. Your skin will look and feel healthier. Your head will seem less foggy, and your digestion will probably improve.
7. Take Breaks
Whether you’re a truck driver or an office drone, taking breaks throughout your day is an essential part of feeling and being healthy. Even if you only do it twice a day for 10 minutes, step away from your work and clear your mind. Get off the computer. Take a brief walk. Do some stretches. Remember you have a body. Taking breaks won’t just help you feel refreshed; they can also re-energize you so that you’re more productive when you get back to work.
8. Breathe Deep
Perhaps the easiest way to instantly feel better is to take a handful of deep, mindful, and measured breaths. Let all the air out of your lungs, and then slowly draw in a full breath through your nose. Exhale slowly through your mouth, and do it again. Not only will you fill your lungs and blood with rich, life-giving oxygen, but by breathing deeply and with intention, you’ll re-center yourself more fully in your body — a practice that can reduce anxiety and help alleviate stress.
Being and feeling healthy doesn’t have to take a lot of time and energy. Just follow these eight suggestions, and you’ll notice an improvement in no time.