7 Healthy Habits for Spring
Quick tips to do your body--and your mind--good
Winter is finally coming to a close, and while springtime this year may be different than in years past, and while we may be watching the new season unfold from our homes... Spring is still the epitome of new beginnings. Migrating birds return to their warm-weather roosts, the trees and flowers leaf out and begin to bloom, and the days grow longer and brighter. It's a season of hope, and light, and rebirth. And, frankly after a couple of months in the dark, in our sweatpants, eating junk food, we could probably all use a little pick-us-up.
Maybe you've taken some time to to tackle all those spring cleaning projects that have piled up--and to take on some you never would have known you needed to do (who knew how freeing alphabetizing a spice rack could be?).
But spring cleaning doesn’t have to mean decluttering the garage or dusting off your windows’ insect screens (but here are some tips on how to do that!)…why not take this season of starting fresh and make some new healthy habits?
Here are 7 simple things you can do (yes, at home!) to boost your health and happiness this spring.
Laughing and smiling are good for the soul…and research suggests laughter may actually be on par to eating well and engaging in daily activity in terms of efficacy on keeping you healthy and preventing disease. And good strong relationships also benefit health and happiness, and can help reduce stress.
Watch a favorite movie. Have Alexa or Siri tell you a joke. Call a friend to chat. Have a virtual Happy Hour through one of the group chat apps (some even let you play games with each other while you chat). Try a kitchen karoke with your family--take turns picking a song and singing (and dancing) along.
The news is vital, so sure. Stay informed. But it is okay--necessary, even--to have moments of joy. Make a date for fun. Take some time to connect with your friends and family, even if you have to do it the old fashioned way (over the phone!). Spend some time with people, activities, characters, and hobbies that make you laugh!
Visit the Great Outdoors
Whether you’re a seriously seasoned fitness buff or more of a crinkle-fry couch potato, there are outdoor activities suitable for everyone to get outside and catch some rays.
Alanis Morissette was on to something when she said she "wanted to soak up the sun." Sunshine boosts your mood and stimulates blood circulation. It also stimulates the production of vitamin D—which is plays an important part in increasing calcium and phosphorus absorption from food and helps with skeletal development, immune function, and blood cell formation.
So go for a walk while you conference call (remember to social distance). Take a weed-removal break and clear a square meter of your flower beds. Grab a field guide and sit on the front steps looking at the birds. Play with your kids. Take a hike in the park. Make your lunch a picnic—even if it's just in your yard.
Take advantage of the longer, warmer days—your body and mind will thank you!
A diet or lifestyle changes are hard enough at ANY time. And now? When we're sorely tempted to reach for all those tasty, processed, and refined carbohydrates and stress eat? Even harder.
So be kind to yourself. Making gradual changes to your eating habits is a more achievable goal than the nebulous “I’m going to eat better.” A wholesale, 180-degree revamp is not only difficult to carry out, it is extremely difficult to stick with.
For spring, why not take advantage of the variety of vegetables available during spring and commit to incorporating fresh, local produce into your diet by signing up for a CSA (community supported agriculture).
CSA users pay a set fee to a farm which covers produce throughout a given period—what is selected is dependent on what’s available in that time period. Not only does it support local farmers—who are working hard to keep us fed—it’s also environmentally friendly as it eliminates long-distance delivery systems.
Plus, since subscribers don’t know what they’ll receive each week, they often end up finding creative uses for new items that they may have never tried before. Check out localharvest.org/csa/ to find the CSA program closest to you.
Get Your Hands Dirty
Speaking of eating fresh, spending some time outside, and enjoying the company of your family...
If you are looking for a way to add color and life to your yard/deck/patio, make mealtimes fun and homegrown, AND find something you can do with the kids—ry a garden. Whether a full-blown in-the-dirt-garden, or a tiny table top one, a garden is an excellent way to improve health on multiple fronts.
Not sure where to start? Try using edibles as accents, just like you would a regular pot of flowers. Plant a selection of herbs and garnishes or vegetables such as tomatoes, dwarf eggplants, or peppers in patio pots. Use pansy bowls or long and low deck-box-style planters to make living centerpieces; taller pots can serve as accents around the deck or patio.
Looking for some ideas for creative container gardening? Whether you want to go big, with multiple plots; or if you want to do a micro-sized garden (think tabletop aquaponics), we've got ideas in this garden slideshow.Not only will you have functional décor, you’ll also have fresh produce right outside your door. It’s a great interactive way to get your kids involved with dinner prep—and give everyone a change of scenery. And, as an added bonus, your garden will be easy to move during inclement weather to help protect it! No more losing your future salsa ingredients to an ill-timed summer hail storm.
Move It; Move It
Exercise is a key component to both our mental and physical well-being—especially in times of stress. Regular physical activity helps improve your overall health, fitness, and quality of life. It also helps reduce your risk of chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, many types of cancer, depression and anxiety, and dementia.
The CDC recommends 150 minutes of activity a week...but that doesn't mean you have to forgo a workout because we're stuck at home. Why not treat your body and your soul by simply resolving to play more. No one said being active means you have to be a gym rat…and no one ever said you have to act your age all the time. We grownups can, and should, play. In fact, there are studies that show the many benefits of playing for adults, which include increased creativity, productivity, and feelings of well-being.
Go on a neighborhood bike tour. Try a new sport like tai chi or yoga. Take a nighttime hike to look at the stars. Create an obstacle course at your home. Include activities like jumping jacks, pushups, and squats. Got kids (or even if you don't)... get them moving! Run through the sprinklers, freeze dance, jump rope, test your hula hoop skills.
Sure, you wear your sunglasses at night, so you can, so you can...(there's a prompt for your kitchen karoke from Tip#1). Okay, so you wear your sunglasses at night, AND during the day. But even more important, wear your sunscreen! The weather is warmer, the days are longer, and all that spring sunshine is just begging to be soaked up (see Tip #2!).
When you’re gearing up to go outside, don’t forget to use a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher that protects against those harmful UVA and UVB rays.
The general rule of thumb is to use about 1 ounce (roughly the size of a golf ball, or enough to fill a shot glass), and apply an even covering over all of your exposed skin at least 30 minutes before you head outside.
And don’t forget to reapply often—even the highest SPF sunscreen isn’t doing you any good if it has worn off after two hours of sweat, swimming, and sand.
Catch Some Rays…then Catch Some ZZZs
When we’re searching for ways to balance our busy schedules and get everything done in a day, we often come up with solutions that include going to bed later and getting up earlier. That can be doubly true in uncertain times, where we find ourselves up late, staring at our smartphones, mindlessly scrolling through social media or anxiously churning through the news sites.
But poor sleep habits can contribute to many health issues, including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and stroke, poor mental health, and even early death.
On top of that, being sleep-deprived (even if it’s only from one night) makes you more likely to be in a bad mood, be less productive, and to be involved in a motor vehicle crash.
The CDC offers these healthy habits for improving sleep quality and quantity:
• Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends.
• Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature.
• Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and smart phones, from the bedroom.
• Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
• Avoid tobacco/nicotine.
• Get some exercise. Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night.
Bonus Tip: Hang In There
It's hard. We all know it. It's a new kind of normal, and we've all had to make sacrifices, big and small. So be kind to yourself. Let go of what you're not doing or what you think you should be doing. Take a minute to read that extra chapter or color that extra page. Eat cereal for dinner. Go outside and howl at the moon. Stomp in the rainy day puddles.
Just...be kind to yourself.
You got this.
We got this.