NZ Woman's Weekly

13 ways to improve your health

13 ways to improve your health

It’s New Year’s resolution time again, and instead of making general promises, such as eating better or getting in shape, try to set more specific goals. Here are some ideas.

1. START THE DAY WITH A GLASS OF WATER
Many of us don’t drink enough fluids and don’t realise we’re dehydrated. Start the day with a tall glass of water. Adding a squeeze of lemon or a splash of apple cider vinegar is great for your digestive system.

2. DRIVE A DIFFERENT WAY TO WORK
Doing new things – or old things in new ways – is great for your brain. Research shows doing things differently builds the pathways along which messages from your brain travel. So doing something new or different, like taking an alternative route, can help memory, concentration and other brain functions.

3. EAT RAW VEGETABLES
These are great for you, because they haven’t lost their nutrients during cooking. Many vegetables taste better when they are crunchy. Cut them into chunks to eat with dips such as hummus, salsa and tzatziki.

4. DO A PLANK
This exercise involves placing your forearms and toes on the floor and holding your body in a straight line between them – like a plank of wood. Do it several times a day, each time trying to increase the amount of time you can hold this position. The plank is great if you want to work on strengthening your core and abdominal muscles.

5. SWAP WHITE BREAD FOR BROWN
Much of the goodness that is found in wholegrain bread – such as fibre, iron and vitamin B – gets stripped out when it is processed into white. Plus, bleaching agents can be used to make the flour in white bread as white as possible. For better health choose bread that contains lots of grains.

6. LEAVE THE SALT SHAKER OFF THE TABLE
While salt is a necessary part of the diet we tend to consume more than is good for us, often in the form of “hidden” salts found in foods. If you sprinkle salt on your food before you eat it you can end up downing unhealthy amounts. Stop putting the salt shaker on the table at mealtimes.

7. PARK FURTHER AWAY
Instead of wasting time circling the car park looking for a spot that is close to the entrance to the shops, office, etc, park further away. Walking the extra hundred or so metres is good for you – every step counts towards keeping you fit and healthy.

8. GO TO BED EARLIER
Getting even half an hour of extra sleep a night can make a difference if you are sleep-deprived. Chronic sleep loss not only makes it difficult for you to concentrate, but can also increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

9. FREEZE SOME GRAPES
Frozen grapes make a great treat if you have a sweet tooth. It’s far better to nibble on them when you get a sugar craving than to reach for the lollies. Other sweet alternative snacks include dried fruit, such as apricots, prunes and raisins.

10. START A FOOD DIARY
Being aware of just how much you are eating by recording it can help you to make better food choices and may also be useful when it comes to losing weight.

11. CUT OUT CHEMICALS
Eliminate at least one thing that contains toxic chemicals from your life. Some household cleaners contain very high levels of chemicals – try using natural products instead, such as vinegar or baking soda.

12. SIT UP STRAIGHT
Good posture helps to prevent aches and pains in the neck, back and shoulders caused by slouching. It may also be good for mental wellbeing, according to some theories, because making sure your spine is elongated lets blood circulate properly, and helps feel-good hormones, such as serotonin and endorphins, flow freely.

13. BE GRATEFUL
Take the time every day to be thankful for something in your life. Research shows that people who feel and express gratitude have a more optimistic outlook and tend to have better mental health.

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