Updated: Feb 24, 2020
Research is growing around holistic lifestyles and supports that the key to optimal health and longevity is as simple as a balanced mind, body, and spirit.
I often hear folks discuss their health as if it’s out of their reach or unachievable- a gym membership is costly and eating fresh organic food is confusing and isn’t in the budget. While I do think there are solutions to circumvent these issues, there’s so much more we can do for our health that isn’t being advertised by clever marketers.
Below is just a snapshot of 3 crucial, easy, and free steps you can take in this very moment, that will change your body and mind instantly and has beneficial long-term effects.
1. Smile and laugh
Nothing funny? Doesn’t matter. Even a forced smile or simulated laugh is scientifically proven to elevate your mood and reduce your stress. The muscle activity of a smile automatically triggers your brain to release serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins which generate a positive feeling in your body.
Laughter is also proven to improve blood flow and relax your muscles. Try laughing or smiling at your pets, children, or yourself first thing in the morning when you’re getting ready for the day. Try it when you’re stressed out, driving in traffic, waiting in line, or on a conference call (obviously use your discretion). Just 30 seconds several times a day can instantaneously change your mindset and your entire body chemistry. If you need some extra help smiling, there’s even laughing yoga classes you can join or you can download a free app on your phone that will deliver jokes right to your screen.
An added bonus is that smiling and laughing are both contagious, so if you do it to yourself in the mirror it may evolve into a belly-laughing fit, and if you do it to others, you may spread happiness and health to them as well!
2. Go outside
Most Americans are trapped indoors due to work, weather, commuting, or lack of free time. Unfortunately, the EPA declares indoor air pollution as 100 times worse than outdoor air pollution- even if you live in a polluted city. Indoor air is toxic and can contribute to more issues and illnesses than I can list (including cancer). Going outside for fresh air helps you release airborne toxins, cleanse your lungs, and increase your oxygen intake which can actually improve your digestion and promote weight loss.
I like to spend as much time outside as possible- I strive for 2+ hours a day, but I can’t always make that work. Spending even 30 minutes in the sun can supply you with a day’s worth of vitamin D, elevate your mood, and improve your sleep. Sunlight also kills bacteria and fungi, heals skin disorders like eczema and psoriasis, and heals thyroid issues and depression.
If you have a cold constitution like me (my hands and feet are always icicles), then try sunbathing in the morning to improve your blood circulation and expel the coldness for the day. Chinese medicine (and I) believe that coldness comes from below the feet. Between 6am to 10am, the sun’s temperature is mild with strong infrared light and weaker UV light, which makes it an ideal time to sunbathe your lower extremities.
Try squeezing in little trips outside as often as you can- drink your morning cup of joe on the patio, go for short walks throughout the day, perhaps do some gardening. Even opening your windows indoor can draw in some fresh air from outside. Continue adding in more and more and you will see your health improve.
3. Just Breathe
Breathing properly doesn’t get enough credit! With the number of anxiety, depression and panic attacks on the rise- even being declared an epidemic, it’s a wonder that proper breathing charts aren’t posted on every corner. Americans power through busy and hectic lives and it’s only getting worse. Proper breathing techniques can help alleviate your anxiety and propel you through all of these issues while relaxing and detoxifying the body.
Breathing techniques are even used for folks managing post traumatic stress, OCD, ADHD and depression. There are a million different breathing techniques you can dig into on your own, but I am just going to share one I think is easy, can be done anywhere, and is very beneficial.
How it’s done: Standing or sitting- close your eyes and focus on tensing and relaxing each muscle group starting from your toes and working up your body for two to three seconds for each muscle group—all while maintaining deep, slow breaths. Breathe in through your nose, hold for five seconds while the muscles tense, then slowly breathe out through the mouth on release. You can do this at home, at your desk, or even on the road (don’t be driving with your eyes closed). If dizziness occurs, try toning it down to just a few seconds and build your way up over time.
Set a reminder on your calendar or build breathing into your routine (maybe while you’re outside enjoying the fresh air) and note how your body feels after each session and over time.
For more easy ways to improve your health, see why you should start earthing every day