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Wellness Beyond Your Plate: 3 Key Factors to a Healthier You

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When it comes to getting healthy, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For many, nutrition and what we eat is at the forefront of wellness. But what if we told you that’s only part of the picture?

Yes, what, how often, and how much you eat will affect your health. But it turns out that optimum health depends on much more than what goes on your plate. In addition to eating a balanced diet, adopting the following healthy lifestyle habits will help you feel your best — and after all, that’s what we’re going for, right?

Stress (Less)

Let’s face it — our culture is not one that prioritizes calm and serenity. We work hard, we study hard, and we are always trying to check items off what seems like a neverending to-do list. It’s not surprising that a recent American Psychological Association survey found that nearly 25 percent  of Americans rate their stress level at eight on a 10-point scale.

High levels of stress and anxiety have been linked greater weight gain and obesity, as well as high blood pressure and heart disease. The term “stress eating” is not a hoax — elevated stress has been shown to throw normal appetite hormones out of whack, which increases appetite and the desire to consume fat and sugar. Combatting stress is key for both a healthy mind and waistline.

Want to get a hold on stress before it gets a hold on you? Below are four ways to beat stress and create calm.

  • Get moving: Exercise increases the feel-good hormone serotonin and busts your stress-hormone cortisol, so get outside and bust a move.
  • Call a friend who can make you laugh: Laughing has some of the same hormonal effects as exercise.
  • Breathe deep: Step outside and breathe in some fresh air, or give yourself a few minutes indoors to slow down and concentrate on your breathing. Into technology? Download a breathing or meditation app like Headspace or Calm to guide you.
  • Clock some quality time with your pillow: 7-8 hours per night, read on for the importance for sleep for health.

Sleep (More)

Lack of sleep not only leaves you with a little brain fog, but it also plays a role in weight management. Research shows people who average only 5-6 hours a night are more likely to be overweight or obese than those who get the recommended 7-8 hours of slumber. Not catching enough zzz’s leads to hormone imbalance, which can leave you feeling more hungry. .

Want to get the most out of sleep? The following strategies will help you snooze your way to better health.

  • Bedtime matters: Hit the sack at the same time every day (yes, even on weekends!). And no, you can’t store up sleep by sleeping extra on Saturday morning.
  • Stay cool: Keep your bedroom cool and dark — the best environment for sleep. Plus, who doesn’t love curling up under a cozy comforter?
  • Unplug all the way: Power down those screens least 30 minute before bed — Facebook will still be there tomorrow!
  • Create a sanctuary: Don’t do stressful activities like paying bills or working close to bedtime (or in the bedroom). Separate your sleeping space (and time) from the noise of everyday life.
  • Take notes: Keep a notepad by your bed. If your mind is racing and creating a  “to-do” list, write it down, then let it go. That way you can relax and know you won’t forget it all by the morning.
  • Create a comforting routine: Sip some soothing herbal tea or soak in a warm bath before bed.
  • Kick the afternoon caffeine habit: Go for decaf or an herbal tea if it’s after 2 p.m.

Stay Active

You likely know that exercise plays a role in maintaining a healthy weight, but the health benefits of an active lifestyle extend beyond the scale. Research shows working up a sweat on a regular basis is also a great way to prevent chronic disease, improve mood and sleep, and keep your body in tip-top shape as you age.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggest adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week but they also suggest avoiding any long periods of inactivity throughout the day, so get up and stretch or take a quick walk (even to the printer!) every hour or two. Below are five easy tips to keep active throughout the day.

  • Salute the sun with salutations: Before grabbing your phone or checking email in the morning, do a few yoga moves to awaken your mind and body.
  • Schedule walking meetings: Forget the conference rooms, shake things up and take the meeting outside. Or, take a quick walk on your lunch break — time away from the computer can improve productivity too!
  • Schedule a group class: Get together for spin or yoga instead of meeting friends for coffee or drinks.
  • Take advantage of stationary time: Waiting in line? Washing the dishes? Use that time to stretch tight muscles and tighten and hold your core. Every little bit helps!

Committing to health is much more than the food on your plate, it’s the whole wellness package.  Combining healthy eating with physical activity and adequate sleep, and reducing stress, is the ticket to being your best you!

To learn more about building a healthy lifestyle in the new year, read here.