Let’s face it, wellness has turned into an industry, and a booming one at that. As of 2018, the global wellness economy was a 4.5 trillion dollar market, and its growth is showing no sign of stopping. Luxury retail websites sell everything from energy potions to aura cleansers to crystals to anti aging hand creams. And while we can (and should) take stock in things like vitamins and supplements, actual wellness has lost its meaning in these products.
When you get down to the root of it, wellness is rather simple: “the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health,” according to Global Wellness Institute. Yes, consistent exercise, self-care, me-time, and healthy food choices are important to our overall wellness, but we also live in a world that asks a lot from us! We often just don’t have the time to make the best decisions for ourselves.
In comes the topic of today’s article: no-cost habits you can incorporate right now, that will eat up (virtually) none of your precious time. Read on for our favorite habits.
1. Focused breathing for one minute, twice a day
You guessed it: practice mindful breathing morning and night! Pick a relaxing space to do your breathing exercises, and stick with that space. We like practicing in bed when we wake up and before we turn in. Simply let yourself be still and inhale in through the nose and out through the mouth. You can do breathing exercises for up to ten minutes, but if you don’t have time, as little as one minute of mindful breathing can do the trick.
What makes this technique so great? For starters, deep breathing is your body’s way of telling your brain to chill. “Taking a deep breath in is actually linked to the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the fight-or-flight response,” writes Ana Gotter for Healthline. “But exhaling is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system, which influences our body’s ability to relax and calm down.”
When you start and end your day with focused breathing, you’re taking control of your life, creating space in your brain to relax. You can also implement focused breathing techniques during moments of stress, anger, sadness, or other negative emotions and feelings.
Stretching is truly a powerhouse of an exercise. Seriously! Not only is it good for your physical health by improving posture, flexibility, and range of motion, but it’s incredibly good for your mental health, too. “Stretching increases your blood flow and circulation, sending oxygen to your brain for a clearer mind and more cheerful mood,” writes Dr. Jan Tregre, DPT for Healthy Cells Magazine. It reduces both emotional and physiological effects of stress while increasing energy levels.
We recommend stretching from the top of the body down: start with neck rolls and move onto shoulder rolls to loosen any tension. Then lift one arm over your head and stretch to the opposite side for your obliques (this stretch is awesome for side sleepers) and repeat on the other side. Slowly fold forward to touch your toes, starting with knees bent and eventually straightening out your legs for a good hamstring stretch. Finish off with pointing the toes and flexing the feet. This simple sequence is done standing and can easily be completed in five minutes.
For a great wind down stretch, check out our article on stretching in bed!
3. Stop and smell (or look at) the flowers
A wealth of scientific studies show that getting back to nature significantly reduces stress levels. But what if you don’t have time for a hike or live in an urban area? “ As a species we need interaction with actual nature for our physical and psychological well-being,” says Peter Kahn, who led a study on whether or not technology can replace actual nature in reducing low level stress.
Turns out, the answer is a big fat no; we need the real thing. And regardless of where you live, you’re bound to have even just a bit of the natural world near you. For many people, it’s not as easy as looking out the window. House plants and fresh flowers help reduce stress and anxiety as well. A 2008 study by the American Society for Horticulture Science found that surgical patients who were surrounded by plants and flowers had lower blood pressure, heart rate, pain, anxiety, and fatigue than those who recovered in rooms without plants or flowers. Patients surrounded by foliage also reported better moods and more positive feelings.
Whether you drop by a flower shop, notice a rose bush on a walk, or have a home full of plants, take time to appreciate their beauty.
4. Sleep on a schedule
Sleeping on a schedule (meaning you go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day) maintains your body’s internal clock, which, turns out, is really important for being a healthy human! “With regular daily activities, our various body systems are able to prepare for and anticipate events. We naturally become more alert closer to our wake-up time,” says the National Sleep Foundation. “Our digestive systems become activated in advance of regular meal times in order to more efficiently process food. We start to relax and become sleepy prior to bedtimes. It turns out that these regular daily events serve to anchor our underlying daily rhythms.”
Another benefit of maintaining a schedule? Better heart health. A Harvard study published this year found that “older adults with an irregular sleep schedule had nearly double the risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared with those who had a regular sleep schedule.”
Yes, sleeping on a schedule will require some sacrifices and getting used to, but it’s a zero cost (and almost zero effort!) way to improve your overall health.
Turns out there’s some truth in the phrase “laughter is the best medicine.” Scientific studies show that laughter can reduce blood pressure, helps with anxiety and depression, boosts your immune system, reduces inflammation, calms stress, and burns calories. Oh, it also releases endorphins and immediately boosts your mood.
If you’re saying, “I can’t just… laugh,” we hear you. Try putting on a show you find funny, or calling your funniest friend. Listen to a comedy podcast, make a bad joke to a loved one, or just try to find the humor in the mundane. The more you laugh, the better you’ll feel.
Wellness doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, nor be a time suck. What do you do to stay well?
Featured image: @mackenziedudzik