We all know that to be healthy, we should eat right, exercise, get plenty of rest, and drink lots of water. Total health, though, isn’t only about being physically healthy. When thinking about your well-being, you should consider your overall health, including your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
There are many unexpected habits you can develop to create positive changes in your overall health. Here are six overlooked habits every woman should develop for her health.
Do you regularly dedicate time in your day to being grateful? Research has consistently demonstrated gratitude can have a profound and lasting impact on our health. Regular gratitude practices have been scientifically proven to help you sleep better, reduce stress hormones, lower blood pressure, improve self-esteem and even lower the risk of depression.
A gratitude practice doesn’t have to be extremely involved or take a lot of time. Try starting your day by thinking of five things you’re grateful for every morning. Or you can make a nightly gratitude list before going to bed each night. Adding gratitude to your life is a small change that can have a large impact on your well-being.Research demonstrates that gratitude can have a profound and lasting impact on our health. Click To Tweet
Most of us know what the number on the bathroom scale reads without even checking, but how well do you know the other numbers related to your health? Can you spout off your blood pressure, cholesterol or blood glucose numbers from memory? Many of us can’t, so instead we trust our medical professionals to track the information for us.
Educating yourself about your personal health information is extraordinarily important. It can help you to understand what’s normal for you, and it will give you the confidence to push your doctor to look deeper at something when you know something isn’t right.
Tracking your medical information can seem daunting, but you can use a simple online program such as My Medical to track all your records in one place. You can also access the records from anywhere, which can come in extremely handy in an emergency.
Most people recognize doing volunteer work has positive effects on your mental and emotional well-being. But did you know it can be good for your physical health too? A study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found a link between people who volunteer regularly and lowered blood pressure.
In addition to the health benefits, volunteering is a great way to meet people with similar interests and to share your expertise with people who need it. You can find volunteer opportunities in your area at VolunteerMatch.org.
As a woman, taking care of yourself is something that gets pushed to the bottom of the list of things to do. Self-care is critically important to our well-being though. As women, we often feel as though we have to give to others first and put ourselves last. But if you’ve completely worn yourself down and left no time for rejuvenation, you have nothing left to share with others anyway. By taking the time to care for yourself first, you’ll find you have even more energy and time to share with others.
Self-care rituals don’t have to be time-consuming either. By taking time throughout the day to check-in and care for yourself, you’ll be less likely to find yourself completely drained. If you’re not sure where to start with self-care, check out this list of 45 simple self-care practices to get started.
It might be easier to say yes when someone makes a request of you, but it’s not easier on your health. According to the Mayo Clinic, while it might initially feel more stressful to say no to a request, it can relieve stress in the long run. Simply because a request is a worthy one doesn’t mean you have to be the person to do it.
Consider new commitments carefully before agreeing. If you don’t feel like enthusiastically saying yes, then you’re probably better off saying no. It will give someone else the opportunity to participate and reduce the stress you feel from overcommitting yourself.
While excessive drinking can have serious health repercussions, research has consistently demonstrated drinking wine in moderation (one glass per day for women) can have positive effects in a variety of health-related areas. Moderate wine consumption, specifically red wine, has been shown to improve memory function, prevent blood clots, reduce inflammation, promote weight loss, reduce the risk of cancer, improve bone mass and reduce blood sugar problems, among many others.
You should still pay attention to the activities traditionally associated with good health, such as eating right and exercising. As you can see from this list, though, there are also a lot of nontraditional ways to improve your health and overall well-being.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock, provided by LaToya
Action: Subscribe to our blog. Read the posts with a glass of wine. Do it for your health.
Bio: LaToya has been involved in the fitness and health world for more than 25 years. An author and researcher, she has written extensively on topics ranging from alternative medicines to cutting-edge fitness programs. She now writes for eHealth Informer. LaToya has a passion for self-improvement and wants to make sure you have the tools and confidence you need to reach your goals, no matter your age or ability.
Need more support to embed healthy habits? These posts may help:
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
You SAY you want to be more fit and active. You really MEAN to work out more. But somehow the days, weeks, months, dare we say “years” slip by and there you are — still intending to finally be more active but not actually doing much about it. Forget guilt, self-beratement, and worrying about having excuses that last longer than your most recent resolution.
(Like the chart I made? Please feel free to pin the heck out of it.)
If you could take a magic pill (yes, one that tastes good, has no side effect, costs nothing, and is small) that instantly gave you the body measurements you want for the rest of your life, would you swallow it if it meant never being able to exercise again?
Non-exercisers grab for the gusto with a hearty “heck yeah, I’d swig that pill down! And what do you mean when you say ‘able to exercise?’ Don’t you mean ‘HAVE to exercise’?”
Exercisers break into two camps: most say “hmmm, tough choice, but ultimately I’d pass as the other benefits of exercise outweigh simply looking good. No magic pill for me, gracias”
The second camp of exercisers tries to negotiate: “any chance I could take that magic pill AND still work out regularly? Then I’d get the best of all options.”
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly: “Change is not simple; it is scary.” Anschutz Medical Center faculty member and licensed psychologist, Denise McGuire, PhD laid this on us at the recent FitSocial conference. Her presentation on making lifestyle changes covered the phases we pass through to meet our new goals.
According to Dr. McGuire, one of the mistakes we make is thinking we can change something once, then be done. For example, long term diets don’t work for 95% of people who try them. Yet it is a myth that people don’t or can’t really change. They can–YOU can!–if you know what stage of change you are in and adjust accordingly. Willpower alone is not sufficient. Willingness, not willpower is key. To change, you need to be willing to go outside your comfort zone. And that can be scary!
Alexandra: We aren’t fans of attributing lack of success to willpower, which has a sense of fighting against yourself and leads to self-recrimination. It has a negative feel to it. It’s far more empowering to either be willing or unwilling to do a behavior that leads to change. In other words, you didn’t LOSE a battle so much as you CHOSE something else instead. So Power Up! (lovers of video games will recognize this phrase as a way to instantly gain benefits and abilities).
Kymberly: Unfortunately, fewer than 20% of people in problem populations are ready for change. (What do you define as a “problem” population? The obese? Smokers? Sedentary individuals? Dr. McGuire implied all of the former, but did not really cover this so you can decide whether you consider yourself in a problem population). Are you in that 20% elite ready to improve your life?
People in this initial stage are resistant to change; they deny they have a problem believing they need to change those around them. Precontemplators can be demoralized and feel their situation is hopeless; they are defensive and rarely take responsibility for their behaviors.
This stage is a relatively safe place to be as there is no risk of failure. It’s a comfort zone though not a healthy one!
Progress! People in this phase accept that they, not others are the ones needing to make a change. However they are still not ready to take action.
If you are in this phase, you plan to take action within the month. You are aware of your problem, have increasing confidence in your ability to tackle it; have gathered the necessary information and want to take action, but are not quite ready. Almost though!
While you might consider this the easy phase, Dr. McGuire revealed that the Action stage requires the greatest amount of commitment, support, and energy. To succeed you must engage in self-talk to bolster your resolve; you need to be clear about your motivation; and you will do well to write down your reasons for change and read your notes daily.
Keep in mind that the Action stage does NOT mean you are continually moving forward; you will go back sometimes, then forward. But you WILL get to your goal. Think of it as walking against waves: slow going with resistance, yet you eventually DO get to smoother waters (aka it becomes a habit). Be prepared — people in the Action phase usually need 4-5 attempts before progressing to the fifth and final stage.
This phase lasts anywhere from 6 months to life, and is where new habits are formed. To stop yourself from moving back to an earlier stage consider these 5 tips from Dr. McGuire:
Alexandra: The Maintenance Phase is also an important stage to work on the words you use to describe yourself and your actions. For example, “relapse” has a more negative feel to it than “setback.” Which word sounds more successful to you? Another way to frame your behavior in this stage is to focus on the work you’ve done and the progress you’ve made.
While you’re at it, throw away the word “failure.” That’s a word to apply to hard drives and car brakes, not humans. People do not go in a straight line: Success ——> Failure; people go in labyrinths, circles and winding paths. As Gandalf wrote in his letter to the Hobbits, “Not all those who wander are lost.” Then his pen ran out of ink just as he was going to write, “And not all those who wander off the path are doomed.”
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5 Stages of Change Pie Chart http://www.readytoexercise.com/stages.html