Healthy Living. Everywhere you turn, there’s another health article on exercise, another miracle cure, another favorite ruby-colored tart-tasting berry that is going to extend your life by 300 years and reduce your wrinkles to baby soft skin.
As you age, it becomes more and more important to take care of your mind and body, but it seems less and less fun. Remember when you took a shower in your twenties after working outside all day without sunscreen, and you’d emerge looking like you had perfect glowing skin and nary a sunburn to be seen? And in your fifties, you spend five minutes mowing the lawn with 50 SPF, only to rinse off in the shower and come out with new age spots? Sometimes all the healthy things you implement in your life feel like they don’t do much at all.
Here’s the thing though: all those healthy choices you make do really matter. While all those miracle berries won’t do a lot, you have the chance to make smart decisions. Let’s look at a this-or-that scenario to see where you can easily switch out a less-healthy option for one that is healthier.
Replace smoking with a different habit
If you’ve been a lifelong cigarette smoker, you know the repercussions are dangerous. It doesn’t make it any less addictive, though. What if you could switch out your cigarettes for e-cigarettes, and eliminate the tar, though? Not all vape or e-cigarettes are created equal, so if you’re not sure exactly what would best fit your lifestyle, check out a local vape shop to talk with the employees there. Simply Google “vape shop near me” and you’ll be on your way to switching out one “bad” habit with a slightly lung-healthier option.
Cook and eat outside instead of inside
Instead of making your typical dinner inside, take your goodies to the back porch and plop them on the grill. Why? There are substantial health benefits associated with switching up routine and by being outside.
Being outdoors, even if it’s for a short thirty minutes of grilling and eating, has been noted to reduce stress directly, boost your mood, and improve your concentration. If you want, you can even call it dining alfresco, if you want to feel fancy.
If you are eating while you are stressed, your food takes longer to digest, so when you eat outside and have a slight reduction in stress from the outdoors, digestion also is improved. Being outside for even a few minutes each day has been directly linked to improving your immune system. Right now, during the COVID-19 crisis, everyone can use a little boost to their immunity, and what better way to do that than by having some grilled veggies on the patio?
Pick up the phone instead of the tv remote
As you age, it becomes more and more necessary to socialize, especially if you’ve retired and don’t have the same social interaction you did years ago. The next time you feel a little bored, rather than sitting down and turning on Netflix, text a family member or call up a friend you haven’t chatted with in a while. Real human connections are important to your mental health, and can even make you feel more productive.
While the majority of the United States is still social distancing, and with good reason, when things open back up, seek out encouraging and healthy relationships, whether it be getting together for a bourbon, chasing some golf balls around, or joining a club to stay mentally active and fulfilled. It’s easy to let friendships just slip away, but putting in that effort can really improve your health. And, honestly, it’s not all that hard to just pick up the phone.
Turn on a documentary, not a reality tv show
If you’re still pining to sit back and put your feet up, consider watching an educational or informative documentary or show. Skip any of the reality tv junk, and if you’re a movie lover, one night a week switch your drama or sci-fi flick for a documentary that enables you to learn something new.
Not sure where to start? Esquire put together a list of the top 30 documentaries to watch, and that’s a heck of a good place to start. There are thousands and thousands of documentaries, and the benefit of this is that you’re learning, rather than just being entertained. Learning something new offers a range of perspectives for us to consider when making decisions and having conversations. There’s also substantial evidence that learning new things makes us feel more confident overall.
Make a new recipe instead of the same old thing
Variety is the spice of life, and while tacos and beer brats are delicious, they shouldn’t be the only meal you know how to make. Challenge yourself once a week, or, if you’re not the next Julia Child, once a month, to make an entirely new recipe. Better yet, choose a vegetable or spice you’ve never used in your cooking before.
Adding variety to your dinner forces you to think about what you’re consuming, which could lead to consuming a rainbow of veggies or cutting back on sodium. Diversity in the diet is essential to staying healthy, and cooking with new ingredients or making new recipes helps you stay mentally fit as well. If you have grandkids that you eat with often, you’re setting an example by the foods you’re willing to eat, so be an adventurous eater: a perfect role model for the pickiest of eaters.
Little things add up over time
Switching healthier options for less healthy ones does not always mean ordering a salad instead of delicious salty french fries or going for a ten-mile walk instead of lounging on a lawn chair. Being healthy is a lifestyle, not a specific destination, which is easy to lose sight of. It’s not always about losing 15 pounds but is about adding simple improvements to your life, even if it’s just a little thing here or there. And hey, if you want to eat those overpriced brightly colored berries that promise you’ll feel thirty years younger by tomorrow, go for it