Sometimes, when you’re looking to make some new healthy changes to your life, the last thing you want is another calorie-counting food journal or specific list of exercises that tone each troublesome body part. Instead, a simple mantra or two will do.
If you’re ready for a little positive change in your life, here are seven health rules to live by that are as simple as they are effective.
Eat the colors of the rainbow.
Vegetables (and some fruits) in a wide range of deep colors should make up most of your diet. Intense color indicates loads of phytonutrients, biologically active substances that protect plants from viruses and bacteria—and offer similar benefits to humans.
Exercise like kids play.
Our bodies are not built to run long distances for no reason at all. We’re built to chase down prey and then stop. To run from danger and then stop. That’s what feels best and works best to keep us in shape—short bursts of intense exertion interspersed with periods of leisurely movement. The long-held belief that we need to elevate the heart rate with 30 minutes of sustained activity is being replaced by this plan—often referred to as interval training. You don’t need a specially designed workout or a personal trainer to apply this. When you’re running, sprint for a minute, then walk or trot for five. In the pool, swim one fast lap, then do three at a leisurely pace. This system is organic to many yoga classes (you practice kicking up into handstand for two minutes, then you follow up with a restorative child’s pose). But with some workouts it’s up to you to adjust. Worried you won’t burn enough calories? With interval training, you’ll actually burn more.
Spend lots of time with people you love.
It’s a health factor, yes—a boost for your immune system. You need to be around those who really get you, to laugh, talk unguardedly about your problems, and listen deeply. You need hugs and smiles and belly laughs. You need to be able to be your true self. If you’re lucky, this stuff is built into your day. But even if it requires an effort, make it happen. Don’t assume e-mail or Facebook or even the phone is going to do—physical, as well as emotional, closeness is a big deal.
Buy these every week.
- Dark Leafy Greens: More nutritious, calorie for calorie, than any other food
- Cruciferous Veggies: Lower the risk of cancer
- Avocados: Help protect your body from heart disease, cancer, and certain degenerative diseases
- Blueberries:Help prevent cancer, diabetes, heart disease, ulcers, and high blood pressure
- Eggs: Full of protein and good fats
- Walnuts: Packed with omega-3s and other nutrients that help protect your heart
Kick off your shoes and walk on grass, earth, or sand whenever you have the chance. Not only will this boost your immune system by exposing you to unfamiliar microbes, but it will also give you a little charge—literally. Believe it or not, just as we get vitamin D from the sun and oxygen from the air, we get electrons from the earth, which have calming and healing benefits for the whole body.
Do something you love for at least 10 minutes a day.
It’s incredibly powerful and healing. We all think we don’t have time, but most of us can find it somewhere (maybe in the time we spend online—just a guess). It doesn’t have to be a big deal: Shoot hoops in the driveway. Sketch something on the bus home. Blast music and dance around the living room. Pick up an instrument and play three pieces. Do it on purpose, like taking a supplement.
Be present in your surroundings. Looking up and out—and making eye contact with others—is a form of nourishment that the age of smartphones has seriously messed with. See the sky, look at the ticket collector on the commuter train, take note of the people nearby when you’re eating lunch. Instead of burying your face in your phone—which takes you out of the moment and often into a sort of junk-food-for-the-eye place—lift your head and be part of your environment.