Achieving a good balance between work, relationships, leisure activities and other aspects of your life isn’t easy.
You may know that you need to eat better, exercise and sleep more, and devote more time to the people and activities you love.
However, it can be difficult to change your daily habits when you already lead a very busy life.
Trying to make big changes often results in feelings of frustration and failure.
It’s much easier to incorporate one small change at a time into your schedule.
This article describes 10 easy steps that you can take toward improving your diet, fitness, relationships, enjoyment of life, sleep, and inner peace, so that you lead a more balanced life.
Learn To Love Blueberries
Fresh blueberries are a superfood for your brain. They contain very high levels of antioxidants that improve brain function, helping you concentrate better.
Here are some easy ways to incorporate blueberries into your daily diet:
· Whizz up a delicious blueberry breakfast smoothie containing fresh blueberries, milk, yogurt and honey. Add other ingredients, such as oats or a banana, if you wish. If you’re short on time in the morning, make the smoothie the night before and store it in the refrigerator.
· Take a tub of washed fresh blueberries to work with you and snack on them throughout the day.
· Round off your lunch with a dessert of fresh blueberries mixed with natural yogurt. You won’t need to add sugar or sweetener because the natural sugar in the blueberries will sweeten the yogurt naturally.
If you get bored with eating blueberries, these fruits also have high levels of antioxidants:
· Red grapes
· Açaí berries
Take A Fish Oil Supplement
Eating at least two 3.5-ounce servings of fish, especially fatty fish, per week is recommended by the American Heart Association.
Fatty fish, such as mackerel, sardines, lake trout, salmon and albacore tuna, is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which keep your brain functioning well and improve cardiovascular health.
The fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) improves the flexibility and fluidity of cell membranes in the brain. This helps maintain brain function, which is particularly important as you age.
However, in practice, it can be difficult to prepare and eat two meals containing cooked fresh fish each week.
An easy alternative is to take a fish oil supplement every day to increase the levels of these beneficial oils in your body.
Don’t take a fish oil supplement containing more than 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids unless it has been recommended by your doctor.
Arrange Dates With Loved Ones
When was the last time you spent quality time with people you love without smartphones being present?
Whether it’s a family dinner, a romantic meal with your partner or lunch with a friend, schedule at least one face-to-face meeting per week to improve relationships, and create more balance in your life.
Make sure that everyone turns off their cell phone so that you can truly interact without being distracted by social media, emails, texts or phone calls.
As well as helping you feel better, spending quality time with friends and family members is also likely to improve your health, and it may also prolong your life.
An examination of 148 previous studies involving over 300,000 people carried out by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, found that people with strong social connections had lower blood pressure, a lower body mass index (BMI) and less elevated levels of C-reactive protein (an indicator of inflammation) than those who were isolated.
A meta-analytic review of studies with over 3 million participants carried out by researchers at Brigham Young University’s Department of Psychology in Utah concluded that people with good social relationships were less likely to die early than those who lived in isolation. This was particularly true for those aged under 65.
Learn To Love Spending Time Alone
Do you long to have no demands on yourself and your time, even for a few minutes? If so, it could be time to incorporate some alone time into your day.
We all need to spend time alone to reflect on our lives and to renew our energy. This kind of alone time means time spent completely on our own without the television, radio or any other devices being switched on.
You don’t have to do anything during this alone time but you can read a motivational book, write in your journal or meditate, if you wish.
At first, you’ll probably find that spending 10 minutes a day alone without any distractions is enough. Over time, you’ll come to value your alone time and will want to increase the time spent on your own.
Do Something You Enjoy But Don’t Usually Have Time For
If you’ve prioritized your work for a long time, you might have forgotten what you enjoy doing outside work.
So, start by writing a list of at least 10 things you enjoy doing. This could include:
· Going to the movies, theater or art galleries
· Creative pursuits.
Next, write a list of five new activities you’d like to try, if only you had the time.
Schedule at least one hour per week for doing one activity on your first list and plan to try out one activity on your second list at some point in the next month.
Choose a time when you won’t be interrupted and you can give your full attention to whatever it is that you enjoy.
Add 10 (Extra) Minutes of Exercise to Your Daily Routine
When would be the best time to fit 10 minutes of exercise into your daily routine?
First thing in the morning appears to be the best time to exercise. Researchers at the University of Leuven in Belgium found that people who exercised before eating breakfast and who drank only water during exercise improved their glucose tolerance and did not gain weight, even if they ate a high-calorie and high-fat diet.
Although the people in this study did endurance exercise training, you don’t have to run, pump weights or perform other vigorous exercise, unless you want to.
Ten minutes of gentle exercise such as yoga or Pilates is just as effective at energizing you and preparing you for the day ahead.
Find a YouTube video or put on a DVD and exercise for just 10 minutes before you take a shower or drink a cup of coffee.
If you find it difficult to exercise first thing in the morning, choose another time of the day when it’s easier for you. You could, for example:
· Walk all or part of the way to work
· Go outside at lunchtime and take an energizing walk
· Walk home from work.
If possible, walk outside. Become aware of your environment as you walk. Admire the beauty of nature.
Studies show that exercising outdoors in a natural environment boosts your mood and improves your mental state more than exercising indoors.
According to a meta-study of 833 adults, those who exercised outdoors reported feeling more positive and energetic and less depressed, angry, confused and tense than those who exercised indoors.
If you already exercise for at least 10 minutes a day, increase the time you spend exercising by 10 minutes.
Avoid energetic exercise in the four hours before your bedtime because you may find it difficult to sleep.
Be Mindful In The Morning
Choose a time during your morning routine when you won’t be disturbed and you can focus your attention on the present moment.
During this time, use as many of your senses as possible to engage fully with what you are experiencing. Ask yourself what you are seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting.
If you choose to be mindful during your shower, focus on the sound of the water, the feeling of the water on your skin, the fragrances of your shampoo and shower gel, and anything else you notice.
Don’t worry if your mind wanders. Just acknowledge each thought, let it drift away, and bring your attention back to your shower.
At first, it might be difficult to focus on the present moment without thoughts crowding into your head but, if you practice each day, it will become easier and you’ll feel much calmer.
Take a “Breathing Break”
At some point during the day, stop what you’re doing and take a “breathing break”.
Sit upright with your shoulders back, your hands in your lap with your palms facing upwards, and your feet planted firmly on the ground, hip distance apart.
Become aware of your breathing. Notice the sensations inside your nose as you breathe in and out.
Don’t judge how you’re breathing. It doesn’t matter whether you’re breathing shallowly or deeply or whether you’re breathing through your nose or mouth.
After a minute or two, take 10 deep breaths.
For each breath, inhale for a count of three as you feel the air inflate your stomach and chest. Hold the breath for a second, and then exhale slowly for a count of three or four.
Counting helps you focus your mind on your breathing. If thoughts do come into your head, just let them go.
If possible, close your eyes to block out distractions and focus your attention on your breathing.
After a “breathing break”, you’ll feel calmer and more energized and better able to continue with what you’re doing.
This is a particularly good exercise to do when you’re feeling stressed, anxious or worried. You can do it at your desk, in the restroom, or anywhere else.
Change Your Bedtime
If you often feel tired and unable to concentrate during the day, go to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual every night for a week.
If you’re still not feeling well-rested during the day, repeat this micro-step until you wake up naturally before your alarm goes off. At this point, you’ll know how much sleep you need.
Resolve to sleep for this length of time every night so that you feel refreshed and energized every morning.
Read a Printed Book in Bed
The blue light from laptops, cell phones, tablets and other devices can affect the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. This makes it more difficult to fall asleep and can lead to long-term sleep problems.
It’s therefore a good idea to stop looking at screens at least one hour before bedtime and to ban all electronic devices from your bedroom so that they don’t disturb your sleep.
Instead, read a printed book before falling asleep.
A study carried out by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, showed that people who read printed books before falling asleep were more alert the next day than those who read an eBook on a tablet, even if they had slept for the same amount of time.
Choose one of these micro-steps and introduce it into your life today. Repeat it every day or every week.
Research shows that if you repeat a new behavior, it will become a habit over time. However, the length of time taken for it to become something you repeat automatically varies widely between people.
It can be anything from 18 days to 254 days, according to a study carried out by health psychology researcher, Phillippa Lally, of University College London in the UK. The average time taken to form a habit was 66 days or approximately two months.
So, be gentle with yourself and start with one small step and, once it’s become a habit, choose another small step.
You’ll be creating more balance in your life. You’ll be happier, healthier, and more productive at work. In fact, you’ll be thriving!
Image courtesy of Olu Eletu/Unsplash
Image courtesy of Unsplash
Originally published at medium.com