10 simple changes to radically improve your well-being

Published on November 25, 2020 by Cori Grămescu

Some simple lifestyle changes can increase well-being quickly and I have a list that includes: sleeping, meals, activity, time management improvement that can motivate you.

Finding passion, meaning and deep emotional satisfaction is something that we can grow into our life, we can build by making small changes that will radically improve our well-being.

Sleep is essential for physical and psychical recovery

Sleep at least 7 hours each night, every night. Sleep is at the core of our well-being because it enables our intellectual and physical recovery after an intense workday. It also helps purge any subconscious emotional troubles and improves most metabolic functions.

Make sure you sleep in a dark room, with a slightly lower temperature than the rest of the house (18 to 21 degrees Celsius is best) and don’t forget to open the windows before your sleep.

In order to reduce the daily hyperactivity, I recommend having a light dinner and lowering the lights in the house after dinner, in order to promote relaxation. Avoid stimulants, such as alcohol, caffeine and concentrated sweets in the evening.

Yoga, Stretching and Pilates are all excellent choices for relaxing workouts that will help you sleep better. Also, reading children’s books or creating stories for the little ones of the family will take your mind away from the daily problems. Playing with your pet or reading a book are also amazing ways in which you can relax and prepare for sleep. Aim going to bed early, around 10.30-11 pm to offer yourself an optimal sleep.

Outdoor activities help the immune system

Spend at least 30 minutes every day outdoors, at noon. Vitamin D deficiency negatively impacts our immune system and most of us, hard working adults who spend the traditional 9-5 indoors are missing the beneficial sun radiations that can improve our health and well-being.

Pausing at noon for 30 minutes can actually improve your productivity and spending time in the open air promotes relaxation, improves vitamin D production and reduces the risk of emotional distress.

Winter season is already problematic because of the reduction of daytime length which is linked to increased risk for depression and negative emotional affect, so make sure you actively schedule “light-therapy time”.

Additional benefits of having a daily break in natural light also include improved energy levels, decreased need to caffeinate, improved concentration and mood.

A Healthy dose of exercise everyday

Exercise for 30-60 minutes every day. We’re pretty sure you’ve heard this one before, and I’m sure that the first thought that crosses your mind varies between “who has time for that and how do you find the energy for that”. And you are right, most of the times our super-busy work, family and social life really pressure us into juggling with way too many responsibilities.

Happily for us, we can “steal” the time for exercise from social media and screen time. I’ve found it particularly helpful to schedule a daily workout in my office calendar, usually at the beginning of the workday or during lunch break.

Finding the energy to workout is a bit more challenging, but not impossible. I usually coach my clients to adapt the intensity of the workout to how they feel and to do the exercise routine regardless of their mood. To be honest, most of the time is hard to feel like you can’t wait to exercise, so it’s best to just do it, without expecting to initially enjoy it too much.

After 4-6 weeks of constant physical exercise you will feel and see the differences in your body and it usually becomes easier to motivate yourself to push harder during exercise, but at first it doesn’t really help to put so much pressure on you.

Take a small break every hour

Take a 2 to 5-minute stretching and relaxation break every hour during working hours. Staying focused for an hour is already challenging and taking a small break from work to do some breathing and stretching exercises has been proved to improve both productivity and stress control.

A reminder on your calendar or smart watch will do the trick and you only need to take some deep breaths, to flex your spine and then stretch your arms and back. This improves blood flow to the brain and reduces stress hormones in the body.

Another great technique to reduce the feeling of pressure and anxiety we sometimes feel in challenging situations (be them work or family related) is to really contract all our muscles at the same time for 20-30 seconds, and then relax all the muscles at once. Do this for 4-5 times in a row and your brain learns that relaxing is actually in its power and it helps you manage stress more efficiently.

Good hydration is essential

Drink 44 ml of water per kilogram of body-weight. Hydration is essential for a proper body functioning and it also improves concentration and well-being.

Remember those days when your brain feels foggy and caffeine doesn’t seem to help? It’s usually a sign of dehydration, especially if it’s accompanied by a diffuse, low intensity headache and an acute need for cookie or a salty cracker.

When we spend a lot of time seated, especially when wearing tight trousers, the seated position slows down lymphatic drainage and our body functions less-than-optimal. Covering the water needs of the body will ensure proper excretion of toxins and improved well-being. Aim to drink water, either simple or infused with plants or fruits, plant infusions, matcha tea and cut down on sodas, coffee and coffee-based drinks and of course limit alcohol intake.

Eat natural, unprocessed, diverse and seasonal food

If there is one essential change in term of nutrition, that will create a radical improvement in your well-being, this is the one. Choose to eat a conscious choice of natural, unprocessed foods. I have made a list of suggestions on how to read food labels and avoid being tricked.

Opt for vegetables, fruits, meat from free range animals, wild fish, nuts and seeds that are raw, cereals that are naturally gluten free and naturally fermented dairy products.

The less processed the food, the healthier, affordable and satiating it is. Avoid “bio junk food” and processed meat and cheese, even if they are organic, as they are super pricey and also have a dietary profile that puts them in the low-quality segment of foods.

Eating a seasonal diet offers you optimal nutrient intake, as well as diversity and a sustainable spending pattern, as seasonal products are more affordable than imported ones, are fresher and they offer a better nutritional profile.

The 80-20 rule for healthy foods to treats of your choice

Traditionally, the 80-20 rule referred to having 80% of the meals in a week with healthy ingredients, and 20% could be considered as “treats”. The modern approach to this actually refers to calculating a base-level caloric maintenance level, by multiplying your weight by 30, in order to obtain the caloric maintenance level for your current body-weight, per day.

For example, if you have 70 kilos, the average caloric intake necessary for maintenance is 2100 kcal per day. In a week, that is 14.700 kcal and out of those, 20% can come from treats.

That’s a simple rule to make sure you don’t jeopardize your weight or health by over-indulging in sweets. Following this strategy, you still have almost 3000 kcal a week for treats and comfort food, that may include one large pizza and a milk chocolate bar, just in case you’re wondering how much you can indulge while still maintaining your weight.

This applies to weight loss programs as well, even though it’s not the most productive strategy, it will offer you the relaxation to enjoy your favorite foods and still lose weight in the long term.

Leave on-screen distractions before bed

Make sure you disconnect from your blue-light screen after 9 pm. Remember the sleep recommendation that I started with? Disconnecting from laptops, smartphones, tablets and TV’s is necessary to produce intense relaxation, to free your evenings for quality time with your family and friends and de-clutter your schedule.

Instead of watching endless movie series on Netflix or Amazon prime, read and have actual conversations with family and friends, it will help you disconnect from daily chores, promote emotional belonging, induce relaxation and happiness.

Blue light is proven to induce stress and reduce melatonin, the hormone that our body secretes in order to fall asleep. No wonder you can watch 3-4 episodes of a serial, but you fall asleep after 20 pages read from a book.

While reading relaxes the brain and lowers stress hormones, and if you read in a low-lit room you actually stimulate the secretion of melatonin, blue light and intense, engaging action in movies and movie series stimulates the brain, reduces melatonin and increases cortisol, the stress hormone.

Spend quality time with people you enjoy

One fundamental need that we have is the need to belong. We are wired for connection and being social with people we enjoy and like is one of the most rewarding and soothing behaviors we can implement. However, do not ignore self-love, or the need for being at peace with yourself.

While our brain may trick us into complaining or talking about the problems we face in our everyday life, I found it extremely empowering to also actively talk about each other’s blessings.

Make it a goal to create a list of the good things that have happened to you this week and share it with your close circle, it will promote optimism and a feeling of keeping strongly ahead of difficulties.

Belonging to a group of people you like, having a common charitable project with them or simply helping each other out with chores or small services can actually empower you and drastically improve your life.

Notice how I insisted on the “people you like”? This is important, because sometimes we may love people we don’t really like, so be genuine and really honest and surround yourself with people of both categories. If you love and like them at the same time, then you truly are lucky.

Start a new hobby and stick to it

Learning a new language, a new sport discipline, discovering something you like and allowing yourself to become better at practicing it is one of the best ways you can build well-being into your life.

Try to avoid comparing yourself with others, this one is solely about the pleasure of improving yourself. Just give time and energy to whatever you are passionate about and enjoy the process.

Having hobbies and building your competency at them is one of the most effective ways to release the stress and negative emotions from our lives and being passionate about the things we do from time to time radically improves our energy levels and overall well-being.

The conscious decision to improve one’s abilities regarding a certain hobby and the process of practicing it helps us feel grounded in well-being, it brings us intrinsic motivation to thrive and also helps us integrate and strengthen our internal locus of control.

It is all about the deep feeling that our life, our emotional response and our choices depend mostly, if not solely on us. This is one of the most valuable achievements one can hope to mature into and it is the easily translated into other aspects of life.

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