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Spring Forward: 10 Quick Habits That Transform Body and Mind

Reduce stress, rev up your energy and improve overall health this spring with these daily practices that take less than five minutes.

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Diana Ejaita
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Hey, sis, it’s OK if we haven’t lost 20 pounds, gone vegan and trained for a half marathon this year. When it comes to health and wellness, we can often get big results by making small changes. As spring arrives, giving us a season of renewal and rejuvenation, consider how adopting these 10 daily habits can help you blossom.

1. Talk to yourself.

Turns out talking to yourself is not only normal, but it’s also good for you. Self-talk can help you become more alert and help you process emotions. One study found that self-talk can help you learn information faster, which could make you even more of a superstar at work, and another study reports that self-talk could even help with small tasks like searching for your keys when you’ve misplaced them — again.

Take that positive self-talk and kick it up a notch with daily affirmations. Believe it not, there’s science behind this, too. Research links self-affirmation with activity in the brain’s reward centers while building new habits. One study found that sedentary adults who employed self-talk got moving more often.
To get started with daily affirmations, check out Toni Jones’ podcast “Affirmations for the Grown Ass Woman.”

2. Scribble a sentence.

Remember when you would pour your hopes and dreams, fears and frustrations, and all of your secrets into your diary when you were teenager? Just because you’re all grown up doesn’t mean this practice should be put away.

Journaling just a few minutes each day can help you manage anxiety, reduce stress and cope with depression. In fact, you can start with just one sentence a day. As you build the habit and begin to jot down your feelings and thoughts, you can prioritize problems and start recognizing triggers and negative thoughts and behaviors so you can get them under control.

3. Toss pre-washed greens in your cart.

There’s a reason your mama always told you to eat your vegetables. Vegetables, especially leafy greens, are an important part of a healthy diet because they’re packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, but are low in calories. A diet rich in leafy green vegetables can lower your risk of obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure and may slow cognitive decline as you age. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends women over 40 eat 2-3 cups of vegetables a day.

There are so many delicious ways you can go green. Start your day with a spinach-based green smoothie or toss some spinach in your omelet or frittata. Have a salad for lunch or kale chips for an afternoon snack. Cook some of your favorite greens in a homemade soup.

4. Open the blinds.

Get your daily dose of the sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D helps keep your teeth healthy, your bones strong and your blood pressure regulated. Vitamin D supports proper brain function and may play a role in weight management. Obese individuals who took Vitamin D and calcium supplements saw decreases in belly fat, according to a 2012 study, but further research is needed.   

While you can take vitamin D supplements, the sun is your best source. So, get up and get outside. Just a short walk around the block can help. Work your way up to 10-30 minutes of midday sunlight, several times per week, but be sure to protect your skin while you’re out and about.

5. Push play on a comedy podcast.

The old adage “laughter is the best medicine” has stuck around all this time for a reason — it’s true! You probably already know that laughter can relieve stress and tension. But laughter also can stimulate your heart, muscles and lungs, and it increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. Over time, laughter can improve your mood, help relieve pain and even support your immune system.

So, check out one of these 25 best comedy podcasts while you’re cooking or showering and laugh out loud every day. If you’re not a fan of podcasts, try a joke-a-day desk calendar. Watch comedy shows online or on TV. FaceTime with a friend who could give Wanda Sykes a run for her money.

6. Pass up the pajamas.

Before you slip between the sheets take a minute to take it all off. As any woman wrestling hot flashes knows, body temperature is a key factor in getting a good night’s sleep. Wearing nothing but your birthday suit to bed can help your body stay cool during the night. A cool body temperature will help you fall asleep faster and improve the overall quality of your sleep.

If you don’t want to sleep naked, opt for loose fitting bed clothes made of breathable fabrics. Cotton, fleece, silk and linen can all be great choices for pajamas, depending on the climate you live in and your natural body temperature.

Resting well means better health. Getting adequate amounts of sleep can help keep your skin healthy, reduce stress, prevent weight gain and lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes. And sleeping sans underwear can boost your health below the belt, too, by helping to prevent vaginal yeast infections.

7. Touch up your teeth.

You may have heard that some news reports are saying you can ditch your floss because there’s a lack of solid evidence of the benefits . But many dentists don’t agree. They say the difference in the teeth and gums of patients who floss and those who don’t is striking.

Flossing helps remove debris that contains periodontal (gum) disease-causing bacteria. And preventing periodontal disease isn’t just about preserving your pretty smile. Periodontal disease is also linked to arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and many other illnesses.

So, stick with the American Dental Association’s recommendation of flossing once a day. Hum your favorite song or watch an episode of your favorite sitcom while you clean your pearly whites.

8. Daydream.

When you were a girl did you ever get in trouble for daydreaming in class or at church? What your Sunday school teacher didn’t know was that the occasional daydream can actually improve your mental health. A Georgia Tech study found that a daydream that allows your mind to wander a bit but then refocus can help you better complete the task at hand and leave you feeling refreshed and ready to tackle what’s next.

9. Fit in fitness five minutes at a time.

Getting in the recommended 150 minutes of exercise each week can be tough when life is busy or if you don’t know where to begin. Start your workout regimen with simple exercises that can be done in just five minutes and still improve your health.

10.  Slice up a lime.

Need motivation to stay hydrated? Try adding fruits, vegetables or herbs to your water. Your body needs water for, well, everything! Water helps with digestion, carries nutrients to your cells, cushions your joints and can help stabilize your blood pressure and heart rate. Got hot flashes? Water can help regulate your body temperature, too.

There’s no one-size-fits-all guideline for how much water you need per day, so talk to your doctor to find out what’s best for you. But a good rule of thumb, according to Mayo Clinic, is to reach for a drink before you feel thirsty.  

Pro tip: Use an app to remind yourself to do each of these healthful habits every day.