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Published on October 18, 2019

7 Less-Known (But Powerful) Ways to Improve Your Health

7 Less-Known (But Powerful) Ways to Improve Your Health

Health is wealth – you’ve probably heard that before… and it’s absolutely true. It doesn’t matter how much money you make. If you’re not healthy, you’re not going to enjoy it.

But here’s the thing – living healthy isn’t as difficult as most people think. In fact, with a little nudge in the right direction, healthy living may be one of the easiest things to achieve.

So, in this article, I’ll take you through simple, not so popular, but proven ways of kicking your health up a notch. Let’s get into it.

1. Adopt a Pet

Alright, pets can be scratchy, chewy and downright messy at times, but that’s not all about them. Pets can also save your life… at least so says the experts. “Pets lessen our stress levels, resulting in decreased cortisol production, reduced blood pressure lower risk of heart attack,” says Megan Tieber, DVM and leading pet expert at Tuft+Paw.

But that’s not all – there are so many other science-backed reasons why you should consider owning a pet… especially if healthy living is your goal.

  • Pets can help you stay active. If you lack motivation for exercise, a pet may be all you need. In a particular study, the researchers found that almost half of dog-owners effectively exercised for half an hour each day for at least five days a week. [1] That’s 150 hours of exercise per week… exactly what the CDC recommends![2]
  • Pets can help to fight depression. Depression isn’t a good thing and no one should have to go through it! The good news is that pets can help. According to a study conducted on college students going through depression, there was a 60% reduction in depression symptoms after the participants spent a few hours with a therapy dog. In an Australian study, cat owners reported better psychological health than non-pet folks. [3] What’s more — studies have also shown that cats can help to improve the physical and mental health of kids.[4]
  • Pets can keep you away from the doctor’s office. Believe it or not… it’s true. According to an Australian study conducted on dog owners, it was observed that dog owners had 15 % fewer visits to the doctor that folks who owned no pets.[5] Make of that what you will.

2. Start a Garden

You probably didn’t think you could improve your health by getting your hands into the mud… but as far as scientific evidence goes, gardening can actually benefit your health on so many levels.[6] Here’s how.

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  • It exposes you to vitamin D. Remember vitamin D… you know, the sunshine vitamin? Well, as it turns out, gardening (outdoors, that is) can help you get an ample amount of this important vitamin. Among other things, vitamin D helps to strengthen the bones and immune system.
  • It’s a great form of exercise. If you want to work out without even being conscious of it, then all you need is gardening. Gardening is a nice form of aerobic exercise that gets you breaking a sweat without even paying attention. The various moves involved, such as bending, twisting, squatting all work various muscle groups and help to improve stamina and flexibility.
  • It can help to fight loneliness. Gardening can have a huge impact on mental health. In many occasions, people who keep a garden have reported improved mood. Furthermore, community gardens can offer a unique opportunity for socialization, especially in seniors.
  • It lowers the risk of dementia. According to a 16-year long study published in the Medical Journal of Australia, physical activity, particularly gardening can help to reduce the risk of dementia. [7]

3. Break up with Belly Fat

Sorry to burst your bubble buddy… but if you want to live a long, healthy life, you absolutely need to get rid of excess body fat… especially belly fat. But why is belly fat such a big deal? Well, let’s just say it does way more harm than puncturing your swagger and social acceptability.

Among other things, belly fat accumulates around your internal organs and this has been linked to various metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes.[8] And that is really not good.

The easiest way to know you have excess belly fat is by monitoring your waistline. Usually, a waistline that exceeds 40 inches (102 cm) in men and 35 inches (88 cm) in women is considered abdominal obesity. And this is a better indicator than weighing scales.

Okay, enough of talk! How can you get rid of belly fat? Let’s take a look:

  • Juice up with detox teas. I know this sounds nonsensical but hear me out. Weight loss teas – or detox teas as they’re sometimes referred to – benefit the body in so many ways… including weight loss. For instance, studies have shown that green tea can help you to lose a significant amount of weight within a short period of time.[9] However, if you’re shopping for weight-loss teas, make sure you do your research and read other people’s reviews before spending a dime… trust me, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of headaches down the line.
  • Get rid of sugar. Okay, listen up – if you don’t let go of excess sugar (and sugary stuff), all your weight loss efforts will be in vain! Sugary drinks are particularly easy to abuse. Studies have shown that sugar-sweetened beverages increase the risk of obesity in children by 60 percent.[10]
  • Eat more proteins. Did you know that proteins can help you lose weight? Well, it can! In fact, it is one of the most important macronutrients that can help you in this regard. So if you want to lose weight and keep the weight off, then stuff your plate with proteins and cut out the carbs. [11]
  • Exercise more. Okay, if you’re really serious about losing abdominal fat, then you need to exercise… no matter how little. Now, I’m not talking about abdominal exercises – those simply don’t work! To lose abdominal fat, focus more on cardio exercises like walking, running and swimming… these are way more effective.

4. Sleep Sleep Sleep!

So, you’ve probably heard how sleep is so important for brain health and productivity, right? Well, it’s true! There is no substitute for quality sleep when it comes to maintaining good health.

Apart from messing up your brain chemistry, sleep deprivation can distort your appetite, increase stress, induce insulin resistance and increase the risk of weight gain and obesity.[12] And that’s really nasty.

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So, whatever you do, no matter how busy you are, don’t substitute anything for a good night’s sleep. Experts recommend 6-8 hours of sleep every night. Have trouble sleeping? No worries… I’ve got you covered. Here are a few things to try for a better night’s sleep

  • Stay away from electronic gadgets close to 1-2 hours before bedtime. The blue light emitted by smartphones, computers, and TV has been shown to affect sleep quality.
  • Maintain a regular bedtime. It allows your internal clock to function properly and release the sleep hormone (melatonin) when you need it.
  • Take a warm bath before going to bed. It helps to relieve stress and improve sleep quality.
  • Take a melatonin supplement.[13] It is a natural sleeping aid that works effectively with your body to improve sleep quality.

5. Ditch the Diet… Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle Instead

Diets. Don’t. Work.

It’s that simple. Sure, any form of dietary restriction that results in taking significantly fewer calories will help you lose some weight in the short term. But in the long term, most diets just fall like a pack of cards! In fact, dieting can even predispose you to future weight gain.

So, what should you do? Well, instead of focusing all your attention on this diet or that diet, why not just make positive lifestyle changes. Take a daily walk to the park, slot in a tape and dance around the house when cleaning or cooking, ditch the cheap McDonalds doughnuts and eat fresh fruits and veggies instead.

These seemingly simple lifestyle changes are way more effective and easier to maintain in the long-term than a restrictive diet. However, what you eat really matters too. If you really want to be healthy, you need to ditch refined junk foods and switch to clean, whole foods instead.

Nuts are particularly helpful. So, if you need a healthy snack to keep your mouth busy, without endangering your waistline, roasted almonds may be all you need.

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6. Eat More Eggs

Okay, so you’ve probably heard how eggs ad saturated fat are bad for health. Well, that is just nonsense. Eggs are so nutritious that they are sometimes even referred to as “nature’s multivitamin.”

Eggs are usually discriminated against because of their high cholesterol content. But guess what – studies have shown that this has no effect on blood cholesterol in most people.[14]

What’s more? In another study involving over 260k participants, it was observed that egg intake had absolutely no association with the risk of heart disease. [15] What more do you need, right?

7. Take Care of Your Gut

Okay, listen up – the pillars of your health are founded in your gut! Almost every imaginable health condition originates from a problem in the gut. But how’s that even possible?

Well, as it so happens, the gut is home to millions of bacteria… referred to as the microbiome. And these bacteria hold the key to your ability to adequately digest and utilize food, immune response and a host of other important stuff.

Interestingly bad lifestyle choices like eating junk foods, stressing yourself excessively and sleep deprivation and excessive antibiotic use can all have a negative impact on your microbiome. So, what happens when you piss off the bacteria in your gut?

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Well in most cases, your metabolism gets affected and you gain weight. But in darker cases, the immune system gets compromised and that opens the door to various diseases.

Okay, enough with the doomsday talk. How can you take care of your gut to avoid all these nasty stuff? Here’s a low down:

  • Eat plenty of fiber. Fiber serves as food to the bacteria and it can also help to mediate the proper passage of food along the gut. High fiber foods include popcorn, oats, almonds, carrots and chia seeds.
  • Eat slowly. It will aid proper digestion and absorption of nutrients, which promotes gut health.
  • Take a probiotic supplement. Probiotics are supplements containing good bacteria that can help to promote the balance of the microbiome. Just be careful and ensure you get the right one.
  • Drink more water. The good bacteria love it. It also helps to keep the lining of the intestines nice and healthy.

The Bottom Line

Living healthy isn’t as hard as most people would have you believe. Sometimes, it comes down to the simple, overlooked things. However, your health goals will remain an ever-disappearing mirage if no action is taken.

So, get off your butt and get to work. Go on… plant a garden, adopt a pet, eat some eggs, hit the mattress, walk around, drink some weight-loss tea, make some changes in your pantry… just do something. And it doesn’t need to be a big step… start at your own pace. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day.

One thing is certain though – you can achieve your health goals… with a little work, of course. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NCBI: The impact of dog walking on leisure-time physical activity: results from a population-based survey of Michigan adults.
[2] CDC: Physical Activity Basics
[3] TendfOnline: Psychological Health in a Population of Australian Cat Owners
[4] Research Repository St Andrew: Quality of Life and adolescents’ communication with their significant others (mother, father and best friend) in adolescents: The mediating effect of attachment to pets.
[5] Informit: Pet Ownership is Good for Your Health and Saves Public Expenditure Too: Australian and German Longitudinal Evidence
[6] The Daily Gardener: Gardening Benefits: What You Should Know?
[7] NCBI: Lifestyle factors and risk of dementia: Dubbo Study of the elderly
[8] NCBI: Ratio of visceral‐to‐subcutaneous fat area predicts cardiovascular events in patients with type 2 diabetes
[9] NCBI: Effectiveness of green tea on weight reduction in obese Thais: A randomized, controlled trial.
[10] Science Direct: Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis
[11] NCBI: The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance.
[12] NCBI: Meta-Analysis of Short Sleep Duration and Obesity in Children and Adults
[13] Nootropics Resources: Melatonin: Everything You Need To Know About the Natural Sleeping Pill
[14] NCBI: Dietary cholesterol provided by eggs and plasma lipoproteins in healthy populations.
[15] BMJ: Egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke: dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies

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Richard Adefioye

Richard has a unique passion for healthy living and productivity.

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Last Updated on November 15, 2019

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

Bad habits expose us to suffering that is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, these bad habits are difficult to break because they are 100% dependent on our mental and emotional state.

Anything we do that can prove harmful to us is a bad habit – drinking, drugs, smoking, procrastination, poor communication are all examples of bad habits. These habits have negative effects on our physical, mental and emotional health.

Humans are hardwired to respond to stimuli and to expect a consequence of any action. This is how habits are acquired: the brain expects to be rewarded a certain way under certain circumstances. How you initially responded to certain stimuli is how your brain will always remind you to behave when the same stimuli are experienced.

If you visited the bar close to your office with colleagues every Friday, your brain will learn to send you a signal to stop there even when you are alone and eventually not just on Fridays. It will expect the reward of a drink after work every day, which can potentially lead to a drinking problem.

Kicking negative behavior patterns and steering clear of them requires a lot of willpower and there are many reasons why breaking bad habits is so difficult.

1. Lack of Awareness or Acceptance

Breaking a bad habit is not possible if the person who has it is not aware that it is a bad one.

Many people will not realize that their communication skills are poor or that their procrastination is affecting them negatively, or even that the drink they had as a nightcap has now increased to three.

Awareness brings acceptance. Unless a person realizes on their own that a habit is bad, or someone manages to convince them of the same, there is very little chance of the habit being kicked.

2. No Motivation

Going through a divorce, not being able to cope with academics and falling into debt are instances that can bring a profound sense of failure with them. A person going through these times can fall into a cycle of negative thinking where the world is against them and nothing they can do will ever help, so they stop trying altogether.

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This give-up attitude is a bad habit that just keeps coming around. Being in debt could make you feel like you are failing at maintaining your home, family and life in general.

If you are looking to get out of a rut and feel motivated, take a look at this article: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It)

3. Underlying Psychological Conditions

Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it difficult to break bad habits.

A depressed person may find it difficult to summon the energy to cook a healthy meal, resulting in food being ordered in or consumption of packaged foods. This could lead to eventually become a habit that adversely affects health and is difficult to overcome.

A person with ADD may start to clean their house but get distracted soon after, leaving the task incomplete, eventually leading to a state where it is acceptable to live in a house that is untidy and dirty.

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real to some people. Obsessively checking their social media and news sources, they may believe that not knowing of something as soon as it is published can be catastrophic to their social standing.

4. Bad Habits Make Us Feel Good

One of the reasons it is difficult to break habits is that a lot of them make us feel good.[1]

We’ve all been there – the craving for a tub of ice cream after a breakup or a casual drag on a joint, never to be repeated until we miss how good it made us feel. We succumb to the craving for the pleasure felt while indulging in it, cementing it as a habit even while we are aware it isn’t good for us.

Over-eating is a very common bad habit. Just another pack of crisps, a couple of candies, a large soda… none of these are needed by us. We want them because they give us comfort. They’re familiar, they taste good and we don’t even notice when we progress from just one extra slice of pizza to four.

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You can read this article to learn more: We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

5. Upward Comparisons

Comparisons are a bad habit that many of us have been exposed to since we were children. Parents might have compared us to siblings, teachers may have compared us to classmates, and bosses could compare us to past and present employees.

The people who have developed the bad habit of comparing themselves to others have been given incorrect yardsticks for measurement from the start.

These people will always find it difficult to break out of this bad habit because there will always be someone who has it better than they do: a better house, better car, better job, higher income and so on.

6. No Alternative

This is a real and valid reason why bad habits are hard to break. These habits could fulfill a need that may not be met any other way.

Someone who has physical or psychological limitations such as a disability or social anxiety may find it hard to quit obsessive content consumption for better habits.

Alternately, a perfectly healthy person may be unable to quit smoking because alternates are just not working out.

Similarly, a person who bites their nails when anxious may be unable to relieve stress in any other socially accepted manner.

7. Stress

As mentioned above, anything that stresses us out can lead to adopting and cementing bad habits.

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When a person is stressed about something, it is easy to give in to a bad habit because the mental resources required to fight them are not available.

Stress plays such a huge role in this that we commonly find a person who had previously managed to kick a bad habit fall back into the old ways because they felt their stress couldn’t be managed any other way.

8. Sense of Failure

People looking to kick bad habits may feel a strong sense of failure because it’s just that difficult.

Dropping a bad habit usually means changes in lifestyle that people may be unwilling to make, or these changes might not be easy to make in spite of the will to make them.

Over-eaters need to empty their house of unhealthy food, resist the urge to order in and not pick up their standard grocery items from the store.

Those who drink too much need to avoid the bars or even people who drink often.

If such people slip even once with a glass of wine or a smoke or a bag of chips, they tend to be excessively harsh on themselves and feel like failures.

9. The Need to Be All-New

People who are looking to break bad habits feel they need to re-create themselves in order to break themselves of their bad habits, while the truth is the complete opposite.

These people actually need to go back to who they were before they developed the bad habit.

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10. Force of Habit

Humans are creatures of habit and having familiar, comforting outcomes for daily triggers helps us maintain a sense of balance in our lives.

Consider people who are used to lighting up a cigarette every time they talk on the phone or munching on crisps when watching TV. They will always associate a phone call with a puff on the cigarette and screen time with eating.

These habits, though bad, are a source of comfort to them as is meeting with those people they indulge in these bad habits with.

Final Thoughts

These are the main reasons why bad habits may be difficult to break but it is important to remember that the task is not impossible.

Do you have bad habits you want to kick? My article How to Break a Bad Habit (and Replace It With a Good One) gives you tips on well, how to kick bad habits while my other article How Long Does It Take to Break a Habit? Science Will Tell You gives realistic information on what to expect while you’re trying to quit them.

There are many compassionate, positive and self-loving techniques to kick bad habits. The internet is rich in information regarding bad habits, their effects and how to overcome them, while professional help is always available for those who feel they need it.

Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] After Skool: Why Do Bad Habits Feel SO GOOD?

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