Mind & Spirit

How to get healthy: 20 simple changes

By: Kat Tancock

©iStockphoto.com Author: Canadian Living Credits: ©iStockphoto.com

Mind & Spirit

How to get healthy: 20 simple changes

By: Kat Tancock
You're already making healthy choices every day: You never leave home without eating breakfast, you're diligent about getting eight glasses of water a day and you've perfected your flossing technique. But for every good habit you have, a tiny upgrade can reap huge benefits. "Small tweaks can take your health and wellness to that next level," says Michelle MacLean, a holistic health coach in Halifax who helps people set and reach their health goals. Here are some simple suggestions to get you there.

1. If you're already unwinding with an evening bath, why not try turning off the lights and lighting some candles to get your brain ready for sleep. "Light is stimulating," says Danielle Mika Nagel, director of studio development for the Chopra Yoga Centers in Toronto and Vancouver. "Before bed we want to go into winding-down mode."

2. If you're already setting your alarm for an early awakening, why not try a gentle alarm, such as the Philips Wake-up Light (from $120, philips.ca). It gets gradually brighter for 30 minutes before the time you set, so you can avoid the stress of an abrupt wake-up.

3. If you're already chugging water first thing in the morning, why not try adding a squeeze of fresh lemon to your glass of H2O. "Lemon is cleansing and refreshing for the breath," says Nagel. It also provides a shot of vitamin C and aids digestion.

4. If you're already waking up with a big stretch, why not try warming up your body by moving your spine in six directions, suggests Nagel. Move your spine forward, backward and side to side, and twist your body to the left and right.

5. If you're already moisturizing after you shower, why not try using a body oil to give yourself a stress-busting massage as well, suggests Nagel, who uses jojoba oil to stroke her shoulders, knees and other joints.

6. If you're already enjoying a healthy morning snack while catching up on your emails, why not try closing your email to snack mindfully instead. This will boost satiety and prevent overeating. If you're distracted when you munch, you are not as aware of how much you're eating, says Nagel.

7. If you're already eating salad a few times a week, why not try having a big bowl of raw or cooked greens (think kale, chard, collards or bok choy) on the days you don't have salad. "They're packed with vitamins and minerals, and they build bone strength," says MacLean.

8. If you're already eating fish every week, why not try boosting your intake of healthy omega-3s by eating sardines weekly too. They're canned so you can keep them on hand at all times, says MacLean, 
who recommends Raincoast Trading's range of wild Pacific sardines.

9. If you're already doing yoga once or twice a week, why not try subbing in Pilates a few times a month to boost your core strength and keep your body and mind from plateauing. "When a workout becomes monotonous and predictable, your chances of sticking with it are far lower," says Brent Bishop, a personal trainer in Toronto.

10. If you're already reaching for the five-pounders in your favourite weights class, why not try lifting heavier weights. Choose a size that is heavy enough to challenge you for about the last two of 15 reps while keeping good form. Your muscles have a good memory. Surprise them with new challenges to avoid plateauing, says Bishop.

11. If you're already doing Meatless Mondays to help lower your fat intake, why not try doubling your recipes so you have meatless leftovers for lunch the next day or a quick meal later in the week.

12. If you're already repeating your favourite 20-minute walking route every day after dinner, why not try increasing your endurance and calorie burn by doubling the distance once or twice a week.

13. If you're already drinking a soothing cup of black tea for your afternoon pick-me-up, why not try snacking on a handful of heart-healthy almonds as well for energy that will last.

14. If you're already making muffins for breakfast, why not try upgrading to a recipe with more fruit and fibre, and less sugar.

15. If you're already eating yogurt a few times a week, why not try taking a probiotic such as Align ($40, aligngi.com) every day to boost your healthy bacteria levels.

16. If you're already choosing whole wheat over white flour, why not try eating a wider variety of whole grains, such as quinoa, brown rice and millet, a few times a week to increase the variety of nutrients in your diet.

17. If you're already hitting the sack by 11 p.m., why not try making bedtime 10:30 p.m. or even earlier. "The hours before midnight are when you get your deepest sleep," says Nagel. Plus, getting enough shut-eye is linked to fewer colds and a lower calorie intake.

18. If you're already enjoying a lunchtime walk around the block, why not try inviting a coworker to join you so you can enjoy a social boost at the same time.

19. If you're already shutting off screens an hour before bedtime,why not try improving sleep by thinking about your day, suggests Nagel. "Fast-forward your day from morning to bedtime. Shift into that witnessing mode of awareness and let all the events go."

20. If you're already hitting the treadmill religiously for your regular workout, why not try investing in a heart-rate monitor to get you out of your comfort zone. "If you have an external device that's telling you you're comfortable, guess what? You've got to pick it up a little bit," says Bishop.

This story was originally titled "Bump It Up!" in the May2013 issue.
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Mind & Spirit

How to get healthy: 20 simple changes