There are simple small steps you can start right now for better health. Trying to change unhealthy habits can be overwhelming, so don’t try to change everything all at once. Furthermore, whatever you do, don’t be so quick to dive into those popular and unproven social media health and wellness trends. Some health and wellness trends out there today, can do more harm than good. Instead, focus on the science-backed basics, and start with small steps. Begin to create new healthy habits. Living healthy focuses on the mind, body, and spirit. These simple healthy living tips can help you decrease stress and anxiety, improve your mood and help lower blood pressure.
Simple Steps for Better Health: Here are four science-backed simple healthy steps you can start right now for better health:
Simple Steps for Better Health: ONE
A research and literature review reveals that mindfulness can help improve well-being. “One of the most commonly cited definitions of mindfulness is the awareness that arises through “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994, p. 4).”
Mindfulness meditation brings attention to the present moment, and it focuses on the quality of your breath. Dimitrios Tsatiris, MD, a practicing board-certified psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Northeast Ohio Medical University in Cleveland, Ohio, said in a recent Healthin30 article, “5 Ways to Cope With Anxiety,” that mindfulness meditation becomes easier over time. When practicing mindfulness mediation, if your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the here and now.
According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, meditation can help you manage stress, increase your self-awareness, reduce negative emotions, decrease your resting heart rate, lower your resting blood pressure, help you manage stress, and it may help increase your patience and tolerance. It’s important to stay present in the moment when you’re meditating.
Be present in the moment
Focus on your breath. The best part about mindfulness meditation is — it can be practiced sitting or walking.
Practice Mindfulness Meditation
- Create and design a cozy and peaceful oasis in your home to practice mindful meditation.
- Sit on a floor cushion or meditation pillow.
- Cross your legs, don’t strain. Feel comfortable. If you need to rise your seat up, add a folded blanket and sit on it.
- Add elements to your space that bring you peace. Maybe it’s a special memento, a photo or artwork.
- If you’re a candle lover, light a candle.
- Find your peace.
- Close your eyes. Notice your breath. Inhale — Take a breath. Feel your breath. Exhale — Release your breath. Find your flow. Don’t force your breath or control it. Let it flow naturally. If your mind wanders, return your focus to your breath.
- Begin a regular practice and start with a few minutes. A review of the information and research on mindfulness meditation suggests 10-20 minutes per day. However, remember, small steps have a big impact. If you’re only able to give yourself a few minutes, that’s a great start.
“In mindfulness meditation, you broaden your conscious awareness. You focus on what you experience during meditation, such as the flow of your breath. You can observe your thoughts and emotions. But let them pass without judgment,” says the Mayo Clinic’s website.
If you prefer to sit in a chair, sit comfortably with your feet on the floor and maintain a straight back. Comfortably place your hands on your lap and follow above.
You may choose to try a walking meditation. Walking meditation can help you reduce stress, develop better focus and cultivate peace.
Simple Tips for Better Health: TWO
4-7-8 breathing, a rhythmic breathing, may help you decrease stress and anxiety, and it may help you calm your mind and body. Developed by Andrew Weil, it is also known as the “Relaxing Breath.” Dr. Weil refers to it on his website as the “portable stress antidote.”
“The 4‐7‐8 breathing control, which is based on an ancient yogic technique called pranayama, aims at reducing anxiety and facilitating easier sleep (Russo et al., 2017).”
However, the correlation between 4-7-8 breathing and sleep needs to be studied further. One recent sleep study investigated the effects of sleep deprivation on “heart rate variability (HRV), blood pressure (BP), fasting blood glucose (FBG).” It aimed to “identify the immediate effects of the 4‐7‐8 breathing control on HRV and BP in healthy young adults.” However, according to the study there may be limitations. “The small sample size of males in this study appears to be insufficient to accurately reflect the general population’s condition.” However, as mentioned above, 4-7-8 breathing can very helpful to help lessen stress and anxiety.
How to practice 4-7-8 Breathing
4 Seconds— Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds.
7 Seconds—Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
8 Seconds— Exhale— pursed lips for 8 seconds.
Simple Tips for Better Health: THREE
Go for a Walk
Physical activity is an excellent way to help decrease stress and anxiety and help you live better. If you need to add physical activity into your day, don’t overthink it. Think about small ways you can easily move your body. For example, park your car furthest away from an entrance, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you love to go outside, go on a mindful walk, a brisk walk, or a nature hike. Notice all the sights and sounds around you. Choose what you love to do. Start small and make moving your body part of your daily lifestyle.
According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, walking can help:
- Improve your mood
- Help decrease stress and anxiety
- Decrease your blood pressure
- Increase your energy
- Keep your bones and muscles strong
- Increase energy
- Decrease the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and some cancers
- Strengthen immune system
Walking is a simple lifestyle change that can promote better health. Walking can help lower your heart rate (HR), systolic blood pressure (SBP), and diastolic blood pressure (DBP).
In Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, “Walking for hypertension,” findings from this review suggest that walking of moderate‐intensity, undertaken three to five times per week, of 20 to 40 minutes duration, and 150 minutes per week for approximately three months may lower blood pressure.
Additionally, “walking of moderate‐intensity, undertaken three to five times per week, of 20 to 40 minutes duration, and 150 minutes per week for approximately three months may lower blood pressure.”
Simple Tips for Better Health: FOUR
Laugh out Loud
The topic of laughter may seem simple, and you may think it’s silly. However, research does support that laughter is good for your health. “Spontaneous laughter is often associated with positive mood, whereas simulated laughter is primarily physical and is not necessarily associated with positive emotions or feelings.” Additionally, the best type of laughing is the laughter performed with friends. While you certainly can have a good belly laugh from watching a funny movie by yourself, research states that laughter is 30x more likely to occur if you’re in the presence of others, as opposed to being in a solitary setting.
Sue Varma, MD, board certified psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the NYU Langone Medical Center, and Healthin30’s medical contributor, said in an email interview that “laughter is one of her favorite medicines.” Laughter boosts the immune system, stimulates the release of endorphins -boosts the mood, and even offers temporary pain relief, she added.
“We feel more bonded and deeply connected to the people who we are laughing with. We feel optimistic. It lowers our blood pressure and increases oxygenation in the moment. Make a point to laugh-from comedy clips, bloopers, a stand up comedy show or being silly with old friends. Self-deprecating humor —laughing at myself—is how I relax! And I do it daily, if even in my own head!”Sue Varma, MD
In a longitudinal and observational study, it reveals in the discussion that “the more frequently students laughed proximal to experiencing stressful events, the weaker the association between stressful events and stress symptoms became.” The American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine concludes that laughter is linked to chemical changes in body that can potentially reduce stress and increase pain tolerance.
In 30 Words
Mindfulness meditation, 4-7-8 breathing, walking and laughing are some of the small steps you can take today to live better, healthier & happier. Small steps have a big impact.
Simple Steps for Better Health
In conclusion, there are simple steps you can take every day to live better, healthier and happier. For instance, mindfulness meditation, 4-7-8 breathing, walking, and laughing are a few ways to help decrease stress and anxiety. However, living a healthy lifestyle incorporates many steps. It’s a combination of many things. Healthy lifestyle changes are possible, and it’s important to remember, to start with small steps. Above all, incorporate science-backed steps to live better, healthier, and happier. Furthermore, always talk with your health care provider if you have any questions.
— Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA