When it comes to being healthy, there are so many rules—in fact, it’s honestly pretty hard to keep up. Don’t eat this, don’t drink that, do more of this, do less of that—it’s basically a never-ending list. So what should you actually take to heart when it comes to living a long, happy life? Well, it’s actually fairly simple. Instead of focusing on the craziness of the health world—whether it’s the trendiest new diet or coolest new workout—go back to the basics.
These healthy living rules are nothing fancy, but following them will help you look and feel just as great in 50 years as you feel right this second. (Or, you know, after you start checking some off your list.) And to get you on the right track, start by finding out the Single Best Thing For Your Health.
If you think about it, the majority of unhealthy, highly-processed foods are found in boxes in the supermarket. Sure, the packaged stuff is delicious—but it’s also some of the worst options for your body. Instead of eating products packed with additives, preservatives, and sugar, stick to the produce section as much as you can so your food doesn’t keep weighing you down, both physically and mentally. And to keep your body and mind in the best shape, learn The 40 Best Foods for Your Brain.
It might be more appealing to follow a trendy diet or pick up the latest buzzy health book on what to eat, but the reality? The best thing you can do for your body is to eat mostly plants. It’s not a sexy answer by any means, but they’re the holy grail of health: You’ll be getting a healthy dose of protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and nutrients—and you won’t be eating empty calories in the process.
It can be hard finding 10 or 15 minutes a day to devote to meditation, but it’s going to make a huge difference in your well-being. According to the Mayo Clinic, it doesn’t take long to Zen out once you close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Plus, you’ll get rid of stress and anxiety in the process, which will make you happier, sleep better, and feel more youthful overall. Believe it or not, meditating is only one of the 25 Ways to Be Happier Now.
Clean beauty is blowing up for a good reason: Consumers are sick of not knowing what’s in their products—and are so over toxins in everything they use. Clean out your cabinets and invest in natural, cruelty-free items that won’t just do your skin some major favors but are great for the environment, too.
Know what’s crazy? People spend a lot of time doing things they absolutely hate. For absolutely no reason. Instead of dragging yourself to the gym for a HIIT class you despise, find something you get excited about doing. When you discover your perfect fit, you’ll actually want to work out—and you’ll get into a routine that will keep you feeling top-notch now and in years to come. Need help figuring out what’s the best move for you? Here’s The 10 Best Cardio Workouts for Men.
No more staying up late and only getting a handful of hours of sleep. Your time in dreamland is what resets your body for the next day—and when you don’t have a proper amount of time to rest, you’ll feel it. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a lack of sleep typically results in poor memory, feeling low energy, drowsy, and irritable, and can even change your personality. Make catching Zzz’s a priority because being sleep deprived isn’t good for anyone. If you need a little extra help, check out the Secret Sleep Cure Everyone’s Talking About.
Carbs tend to get a bad rap for no reason. Sure, there are a handful of options that are horrible for your body—but there are also wholesome foods that should be in your diet. According to a 2017 study published in The Lancet, a moderate consumption of carbs is best for your health, helping lower the risk of death—so eat wisely. Avoid the white stuff and fill up on brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and bread, legumes, and quinoa instead.
Why is everyone always so dehydrated? Water is the most accessible liquid, yet we don’t take the time to drink it throughout the day—and according to the Cleveland Clinic, that’s only going to make you tired and low on energy. Make sure you’re filling up your water bottle all day long to keep yourself replenished and you’ll feel better than ever almost immediately.
Breakfast is probably an afterthought most days—especially when you’re running late. But making time for the meal is important. A 2014 study published in the Nutrition Journal found a protein-packed meal helps with weight loss and controlling cravings throughout the day—and that will set you up for a healthy future.
As nice as it would be to be active all day, the reality is most people are stuck at their desks at work. But that doesn’t mean you can’t move around at all. Take breaks to get your steps in, walk over your lunch break, and ask for a standing desk. Sitting around for long periods of time is only going to hurt your body—but if you get the chance to move, take it. It will certainly benefit you down the road.
Contrary to popular belief, weights won’t make you bulk up unless you want them to. Women are especially afraid of pumping iron, but contrary to popular belief, they’re not going to make you look like a body builder. In fact, a 2017 study published in the journal Obesity found weight-trainers dropped more fat and kept more muscle than runners or those who don’t exercise—especially as they aged. So hit up the weight room; it will do your body good.
This is a biggie. There are plenty of different diets—paleo, Whole30, Atkins, DASH, Weight Watchers, you name it!—but how many of them just end up driving you crazy? Instead of committing to a nutrition plan, just eat foods that are going to make you feel good and avoid the stuff that sets you back. It’s really that simple—and you don’t have to stress about it in the process.
It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and only think about your health day by day, but when it comes to your livelihood, you should have an end goal in mind. When you decide you want to live a long, healthy life, it makes you want to make better decisions in the moment. So instead of getting fast food and telling yourself you’ll just eat better tomorrow, eat something that’s going to set you on the right path for your future.
Eating junk food feels good in the moment, but does it ever feel good after you’re finished eating? Probably not. Instead of filling up on sugar and processed foods, nourish your body with other sweet treats. You can make a healthier version of any of your vices, whether it’s your go-to ice cream or candy bar.
It seems simple enough, right? While it’s obviously tempting to take the elevator or escalator instead of taking the stairs—and it might not seem like it makes that much of a difference—all those extra steps add up over your lifetime. When you’re 80 and still have a rock-hard booty, you can thank your younger self for not taking the easy way out.
If you’re still smoking or drinking excessively, it’s time to stop—and you’ve probably known that for a while. Bad habits are always going to be exactly that—really bad for your body. And if you want to live a long, fulfilling life, cut them out before it’s too late. It won’t take much time before you feel like a happier, more vibrant, and much healthier version of yourself.
Being a “yes man” is all fun and games until you’re so mentally drained that the only thing you want to do is cocoon yourself into a blanket and never leave your apartment. While it’s great getting out and being active, also know when it’s time to channel things back and focus on self-care. Sometimes there’s nothing better for your mental health than cancelling all your plans and staying in and watching Netflix.
Vitamins aren’t just for kids—and, sorry to break it to you, but adult versions definitely aren’t as good as the Flintstone options you grew up on. But even if you think you eat a fairly healthy diet, everyone can use a little help getting everything their bodies need. By popping a pill every morning, you’ll nourish your body with anything your diet is lacking—and feel really great in the process.
Use your vacation days! They’re there for a reason, right? You might feel like you have too much to do at work to escape for a few days, but life isn’t about sitting at a desk—it’s about experiencing all the world has to offer. So make your money but also make time for adventure: You’ll get a much-needed breather and have so much joy from seeing something new. Because those are the moments you’ll look back on years from now and smile about—not the hours logged at your computer.
Whether it’s smack-dab in the middle of summer or into the dead of winter, always have sunscreen close by. UV rays are harmful all year long, and according to the American Academy of Dermatology, failing to protect your skin can result in everything from dark spots and wrinkles to skin cancer. By keeping your skin healthy now, you’ll not only look more youthful in the future but you’ll feel more lively, too. Make sure to check the 15 Best 60-Second Health Hacks to learn more healthy living tips.
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