Who among us wouldn't benefit from at least one of these positive life changes? There's no way around it: lasting change requires a long-term commitment to a healthful lifestyle. At the same time, everyone loves instant gratification.
Use the following lifestyle blueprints to build habits that make a difference, and bolster your success with targeted quick tips.
Gain more energy. Reduce stress. Lose a few pounds. Who among us wouldn't benefit from at least one of these positive life changes? There's no way around it: lasting change requires a long-term commitment to a healthful lifestyle. At the same time, everyone loves instant gratification. Use the following lifestyle blueprints to build habits that make a difference, and bolster your success with targeted quick tips.
4 Immediate Stress Busters
When you need instant stress relief, try one or more of the following quick remedies
- Breathe Out Tension Deep breathing immediately shifts your body into relaxation mode by easing muscular tension and defusing stress hormones. Try this:
Inhale through your nose to a count of 5, hold for a count of 5, and exhale through your slightly open mouth to a count of 10. Repeat 5 times.
- Take a Break Take breaks throughout the day to keep stress from accumulating. At work, take a few minutes every hour to stretch. Get outdoors during lunch for a walk in the fresh air. At home, set aside at least 30 minutes every day to do something that brings you pleasure, such as spending time with a friend or your favorite hobby.
- Calm Down with Herbal Nervines Herbs offer a safe and effective alternative to prescription sedatives. For a gentle calming tea, drink chamomile or lemon balm. If you need something stronger, try liquid extracts of kava, passionflower, or valerian. Take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of concentrated liquid extract up to three times a day as needed.
- Inhale Relaxing Aromas The scent of lavender is a proven stress reliever. Fill a 2-ounce spray bottle with 20 drops of lavender essential oil and water. Spray onto yourself or into the air as often as desired to create a sense of calm well-being. Don't like lavender? Try bergamot, geranium, jasmine, rose, or sandalwood.
Gain More Energy
Most of the time, a lack of energy is directly related to your daily habits. Caffeine and herbal stimulants can provide a quick boost of energy to help you power through when you need it, but use them judiciously and work instead on building real vitality.
How to Build Your Energy Reserves
For optimal vitality, think of building energy in the same way that you build your bank account: make regular deposits of nourishing foods, rest, appropriate exercise, nutritional supplements, and tonic herbs, and watch your energy grow.
- Eat for Energy For steady energy, trade bad carbohydrates (sugar, white flour, white rice) for good (vegetables, fruits, whole grains) and eat plenty of protein and healthful fats. Pairing carbohydrates with protein (even while snacking) prevents blood sugar spikes and crashes. If you tend to skip breakfast and eat a heavy lunch, try instead eating a substantial protein-rich breakfast to provide fuel for the day and a lighter lunch to prevent afternoon fatigue.
- Get Plenty of B's B vitamins are essential for metabolizing nutrients into a usable source of energy. Whole, unprocessed foods (such as legumes, beans, whole grains, lean meats, and dairy products) contain
B vitamins. A 25 to 50 mg B-complex vitamin provides extra support.
- Rejuvenate Your Cells Energy is dependent upon the healthful functioning of mitochondria, the structures within cells that convert fats, proteins, and sugars into energy. Researchers have found that a combination of acetyl-L-carnitine (500 mg) and alpha-lipoic acid (200 mg) helps restore youthful functioning to mitochondria, resulting in increased physical and mental energy.
- Energize with Exercise Exercise is a proven energy booster. Even a brisk 10-minute walk stimulates sluggish circulation and delivers fresh oxygen to your brain. If you exercise regularly-30 minutes a day five times a week-you can expect improved endurance and energy within a few weeks. The key to building energy through exercise is moderation, because overdoing it can cause fatigue.
- Get More Sleep Most people need seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to feel energetic and alert. For the most restful sleep, set a regular sleep schedule by going to bed at the same time every night. If you need help regulating your sleep cycle, take melatonin for up to a couple of weeks.
- Boost Energy with a Chinese Tonic Cordyceps, a fungus that grows on Tibetan caterpillars, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to treat fatigue. (In the 1992 Olympics, Chinese athletes attributed their wins to cordyceps.) Researchers believe that cordyceps increases oxygen delivery to cells, which improves endurance and energy. Take 2 to 3 g of Cordyceps with meals; you should see results within two months.
Cut Back on Stress
There's no doubt that stress takes a serious toll on physical and emotional well-being. The body responds to stress by releasing hormones that provide a surge of energy and strength to withstand a temporary crisis. Under chronic stress, however, these same hormones trigger inflammation, knock back immune function, elevate blood pressure, hinder digestion, and impair mental clarity.
Lifestyle Suggestions for De-Stressing
It's impossible to eliminate all sources of stress, but you can protect yourself from the detrimental effects on your body and mind by adopting a few stress-busting habits.
- Diet Tips for Stress Reduction To buffer your body from the effects of stress, increase your intake of potassium while lowering the amount of sodium in your diet. This protects the adrenal glands, which are critical players in moderating your stress response. Fresh fruits and vegetables are the richest dietary sources of potassium; set a goal of 7 to 10 servings every day.
- Get Extra C, Magnesium, and Zinc Vitamin C, magnesium, and zinc are essential nutrients for supporting adrenal health. Get at least 500 mg of C, 250 mg of magnesium, and 20 mg of zinc either from diet or supplements every day.
- Exercise in the Morning Regular exercise is a terrific way to burn up accumulated stress hormones. Exercising in the morning is even better, because it triggers the release of endorphins, your body's natural feel-good chemicals that help to keep stress at bay.
- Chill Out with Yoga or Tai Chi The focused, meditative movements and deep breathing of yoga and tai chi immediately relieve stress. With regular practice, expect a calmer mind, relaxed body, and better sleep.
- Bolster Stress Resistance with Adaptogens Herbs known as adaptogens can protect your body, improve your mental functioning, and help your body adapt more easily to stressors. Try eleuthero (also known as Siberian ginseng) ashwagandha, or rhodiola, all of which are proven to strengthen resistance to stress.
Lifestyle Suggestions for Weight Loss
Diets don't work for most people. Our bodies and minds don't take well to deprivation, which is why most people end up fatter after dieting. What does work: strategies to increase metabolism.
- Don't Starve Yourself If you eat too few calories, your body goes into survival mode, lowers metabolism, and hordes fat. Load your plate with high-fiber, low-calorie, nutrient-dense vegetables and legumes, accented with moderate servings of lean proteins, whole grains, low-sugar fruits, and healthful fats. You'll lose weight.
- Choose Beverages Wisely You can knock hundreds of calories off your daily intake by avoiding soft drinks, juices, and fancy coffee drinks. Instead, make water your beverage of choice. Make it more interesting by choosing sparkling water with a twist of lime, or try a naturally flavored no-calorie bottled water. Herbal teas are calorie-free, and there are many wonderfully combined flavors made by Yogi Tea and Tazo. Green and black teas are also free of calories.
- Make Exercise a Top Priority Regular exercise burns calories, regulates appetite, and steps up metabolism even when you're at rest. Plus, exercise tones muscles so that you'll look great. To lose weight, work up to 45 minutes of activity at least five times a week and make sure to include strength-building exercises, because the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn.
- Keep a Diary Carry a small notebook and write down everything you eat and drink. Studies have shown that people who keep food diaries eat about 15 percent less than those who don't. If you prefer an online option, visit mynetdiary.com, an online food diary service (with a minimal fee) that allows you to enter meals and snacks and then tallies your calorie, fat, and nutrient totals.
- Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth with Stevia With zero calories or carbohydrates, this natural herbal sweetener is a dream come true for dieters. The sweetness of stevia comes from glycosides, which improve the metabolism of glucose (the body's source of fuel).
4 Metabolism Makeovers
If you want to give your metabolism an extra nudge, incorporate one or more of the following suggestions into your weight-loss program.
- Spice Up Your Diet To step up weight loss, add cayenne and other spicy peppers to your diet. Studies show that very spicy foods (think salsa, harissa, Thai chile sauce) temporarily increase the rate at which fat is burned.
- Boost Your Metabolism with Green Tea Green tea contains a unique compound called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) that has been proven to increase metabolism and fat burning. It takes about 7 cups per day of green tea to trigger a noticeable fat-burning effect, but that's figuring only 8-ounces per cup, so it's doable.
- Bulk Up Your Diet Soluble fiber (found in beans, legumes, oats, flaxseeds, carrots, apples, and citrus) fills you up and prolongs digestion, which helps balance blood sugar and dampens hunger. A special type of soluble fiber called glucomannan (from the root of the konjac plant) absorbs 200 times its weight in water. Studies show that taking 1 g of glucomannan with an 8-ounce glass of water before meals reduces fat absorption, aids blood sugar control, and makes it easier to stick to a diet.
- Use Aromatherapy for Weight Loss The sense of smell and appetite are closely intertwined, and studies have shown that the sense of smell signals satiety to the brain before the stomach says "enough." Inhaling essential oils can prevent overeating by triggering this sense of satiety. Pink grapefruit essential oil is one of the best studied: add 30 drops of essential oil to 1 teaspoon of coarse salt and store in a small glass container. To use, take three deep breaths of the aroma-infused salt as often as desired.
Instant Energy! 4 Quick Tips
- Stay Hydrated Dehydration is often overlooked as a cause of fatigue. It takes about
2 quarts of fluids daily to stay properly hydrated. Drink six to eight glasses of water daily; you'll get more from vegetables and fruits in your diet.
- Power Up with Caffeine There's nothing better than caffeine for an immediate burst of physical energy and mental alertness. The trick is to use caffeine wisely, which means avoiding sugar-laden beverages to avoid blood sugar swings and boycotting caffeine after 5 p.m. to prevent insomnia (if you are extremely sensitive to caffeine, avoid it after noon). Choose your favorite: coffee, black or green tea, guarana, or yerba maté-they'll all do the trick.
- Refuel with an Afternoon Snack Take a break in the afternoon to refuel with a high-protein, low-sugar snack. Enjoy a few dried apricots with goat cheese or carrot sticks with hummus. If you're craving something sweet, have an ounce of dark chocolate with a handful of pistachios. You'll satisfy your sweet tooth with a minimal amount of sugar and gain the mild endorphin and energy buzz that chocolate provides.
- Refresh with Aromatherapy Essential oils are a refreshing way to increase energy and clear brain fog. Try peppermint for instant energy or basil for mental clarity. Add 10 drops of essential oil to a 2-ounce spray bottle filled with water, shake well, and spray into the air.