New Year, New You: 12 Free Ways to Improve Your Mind + Body
By: Aly Hess
Posted on Tuesday, December 30, 2014
If you've resolved to improve your mind and your body this year, doing so doesn't have to cost you a fortune. Check out these twelve totally affordable and effective ways you can boost your well-being on a budget.
It's long been advised that the average adult needs 8 hours of sleep a night to be well-rested and to maintain optimum physical and mental health. While that hasn't been entirely cast aside over the last few years, experts are starting to suggest instead that the hours of sleep a grown adult needs ranges from 6 to 9. The best way to determine what your body and mind run best on is to stick to a strict sleep schedule for a few weeks. Go to bed at the same time every night, early enough that you can set your alarm to go off in 9 hours. You'll soon pick up on just how many Zzzs you need based on when your body naturally wakes.
For your best sleep, invest in some blackout curtains and steer clear of screen time - TVs, computers, tablets, or mobile phones - 30 minutes pre-slumber. Try meditation, journaling, reading, or a hot cup of calming tea before you lie down instead.
Getting just the right amount of sleep results in more clarity and focus throughout the day, a better memory, lessened risk of injury, a decrease in pain, weight control, a positive mood, and a stronger immune system. | Related: 20 Ways to Sleep Better Every Night
Establish a Positive Morning Ritual
The best way to ensure you get a little "you time" before the day slips away is to schedule it - just like any other appointment in your planner - before you even leave the house. You'll want to incorporate something that you look forward to, that leaves you feeling energized, de-stressed, and motivated to begin your day. For some, this may be going on a walk with the dog or hitting the gym, for others, it may be watching the morning news with a cup of coffee or making a list of three things to be grateful for.
Having a morning ritual that you love will make crawling out of bed a little less of a chore and help to start your day off on the right foot. | Related: Morning Routines of Successful People
Believe it or not, one of the best things you can do for your body, mind, and sanity is to practice deep breathing. Breathing naturally releases toxins from our bodies, but it also helps to release tension, relax the mind and body, reduce anxiety, relieve pain, improve posture, and so much more.
Dedicate a few minutes a day to (proper) deep breathing, and you'll quickly start to notice the benefits. | Related: 6 Breathing Exercises to Relax in 10 Minutes or Less
Journaling is a very positive and powerful habit to incorporate into our daily lives. Writing and doodling on a regular basis not only helps us to experience some instant relief by way of venting, but also aids in stress reduction, personal growth, and healing. In addition, it enhances our intuition and creativity, leads to quicker problem-solving, and most importantly, helps us to document our life stories.
There are also plenty of ways to go about journaling in this day and age. Sure, a standard notebook or journal will still do the trick, but free online websites that you can use publicly (like a blog) or privately, as well as apps for mobile devices, help keep journaling simple, flexible, and manageable for everyone. | Related: 100 Benefits of Journaling
The art of meditation is one of the most affordable and effective ways you can improve your well-being, though it'll take some practice! Finding just a few minutes a day to start and gradually increasing your meditation time is the best way to dive in. Ultimately, strive to find ten to twenty minutes twice a day to sit in complete silence, clear your mind, and just be in the moment.
Practicing meditation can significantly reduce stress, improve concentration, increase happiness, slow aging, and more. | Related: Meditation for Beginners: 20 Tips for Quieting the Mind
Get Back to Nature
The sun's warmth, a cool breeze, the fresh air. You're not the only one who feels refreshed and happy after stepping outside. It's called ecotherapy. Experts agree that spending time outdoors can improve our health and aid in fighting off depression. So, no matter the season, take a few minutes to step out and take it all in, It'll do your mind and body a world of good, and it doesn't cost a thing. | Related: Benefits of Ecotherapy: Being in Nature Fights Depression, Improves Mental Health & Well-Being
Admit it: Your heart skips a beat when you realize you've lost your phone. You feel awkward sitting in a waiting room without swiping a screen or popping in your ear-buds. But spending too much time with our gadgets and social media can cause even worse anxiety, not to mention health, and emotional issues.
Dedicate one hour a day to unplugging and doing something that doesn't involve being connected to the world - or an alternate world - through technology. Put your phone on silent and leave it in another room. Pick up a book, go for a walk, take a nap, or invite a few friends over for real, face-to-face interaction. | Related: Why Everyone Should Unplug This Weekend (And the One After That)
It's easy after a hectic week at work or an incredibly stressful day to want nothing more than a night in with Netflix, pizza, and a cozy pair of sweats, ignoring the rest of the world. And while totally caving into that desire every now and then is exactly what we need to recoup, we shouldn't totally give up on the power of people.
Make it a habit to reach out to at least one friend or family member a week, whether by phone or an in-person visit, simply to chat. If you're a bit more of a social butterfly, try scheduling a game night in every Wednesday after work, or a girls morning out every Sunday. You'll feel connected, refreshed, and uplifted after spending some time with the people you love. | Related: How Friends Make You Healthier
We're not saying you have to immediately hit the trails running or take up a sport you don't really care for. Just incorporating a few minutes of movement into your day starting out can work wonders. Try getting up once an hour at work and taking a five minute stroll around the building. Practice stretches in between long meetings. And if you're really up for the challenge, attempt these exercises you can do at your desk. | Related: Top 10 Health Benefits of Walking Everyday
Staying hydrated is perhaps the number one thing you can do to keep your body in tip-top shape. Drinking the right amount of water helps to keep your skin, mouth, lips, and eyes from drying out, regulates your body temperature, ensures your organs, muscles, and joints work properly, keeps your hearth healthy, and prevents you from overeating.
Eating foods rich in Vitamin C, like oranges, carrots, broccoli, berries, and dark, leafy greens strengthens your immune system. In addition, foods high in iron, like poultry, beans and legumes, and fortified cereals, breads, and pastas, help maintain good muscle and brain function and efficiently transport oxygen to your body's cells (a lack of Iron causes you to feel weak, fatigued, and foggy.) If you're not already, consider taking a multivitamin to ensure you're getting a proper dose of vitamins everyday. | Related: Best Foods for Every Vitamin & Mineral
Exercise Your Word Skills
Keep your mental clarity sharp and in turn, you'll improve your memory now and in the future. One of the best ways you can do this is by flexing your word skill muscle on a daily basis. Reading, writing, crosswords, and word searches are all great activities to help keep your memory intact and improve your problem-solving and language skills. | Related: Brain Games: Test Your Memory, Attention, Language Skills