Welcome to Byrdie UK's Wellness Week. Over the next seven days, you'll get to read about how to make your body, mind and, well, your life more balanced. We know it's not January, but wellness has become an all-year-round focus for many, and with autumn on the way (read: cold and flu season), now seems like a good time to talk about not just keeping well but boosting our wellness from all angles. From the best tech to improve your health to the small tweaks anyone can do to bring about more happiness, we've thought about everything you might want to factor a little more wellness into your life with ease. Here, we've got those tiny hacks to introduce into your life to feel better in mind, body, and spirit.
Wellness doesn't exactly seem synonymous with the word "easy." Really, it can seem the opposite. It can conjure up ideas that you've got to swear off everything you love: meat, sugar, carbs, alcohol, and caffeine to name a few. It also makes you think you'll have to spend hours creating green juices, macrobiotic meals, and starting on a punishing gym regimen. But do you know what? It really doesn't have to be that way. There are so many wellness tweaks that you can do to instantly improve your life. They won't disrupt your routine, but you will notice how much they can change your mind and body in merely a week.
Want to know what they are? Keep scrolling for the seven tiny tweaks you can do to bring more wellness into your life.
#1: Cut out sugar in your coffee
We know this. You know this. But, it can be hard to do if you find it tough to drink your morning caffeine choice without sugar. However, it's perhaps worth noting how bad sugar is for our health to keep in mind why it's so good to cut down. A quarter of adults in the UK are considered to be obese, and there is a "possible link between consuming excess sugars and high cholesterol, high blood pressure, some cancers and non-alcoholic liver disease", according to the Action on Sugar website. To try to wean yourself off the stuff, try something like vanilla extract.
#2: Get off your train or bus earlier, or park away from the office
Another blindingly obvious one, sure, but it can all really add up. According to the official guidelines, you need to do 150 minutes of moderate exercise (such as brisk walking) every week to be healthy. Imagine if you get off your bus or train a couple of stops earlier, or park your car a bit further away, you could be racking up around 50 minutes of exercise just by doing something really small.
#3: Get a pedometer
The good news about this one is that you don't have to get a new device to record your steps—you can just download a free app on your phone. According to one study that tracked over 72,000 nurses, "Walking at least three hours a week was linked to a 35% lower risk of heart attack and cardiac death and a 34% lower risk of stroke." In another study that looked at people using pedometers and other gadgets to record activity, over six months those who used a Fitbit "showed improved levels of physical activity."
#4: Add peanut butter (to everything)
Unless you're allergic (sorry about that), then we have some great news about peanut butter: You can add it to everything and not feel guilty, as it's a great source of protein. We spoke to nutritionist Shona Wilkinson earlier this year, who told us that having breakfast with protein in it is ideal, so our favourite way to have peanut butter is on a bagel with a slice of banana. If you're allergic, then another great source of protein is Greek yoghurt, which is also low calorie and great if you're watching your waistline. True, you can't have it on a bagel (well, not unless that's your thing), but you can mix it in with your porridge or have it with berries in the mornings.
#5: Drink one glass of red wine every night
It's a tough life eh? But, yep, this one's totally true: Drinking a small glass of red wine every night can help lower the chance of cardiovascular problems, as well as a whole host of other health benefits. In one study, 224 people were told to drink five ounces of either water, dry white wine or dry red wine. They also had to maintain a Meditteranean diet for two years. Those who chose the red wine had an increase in good HDL cholesterol, blood pressure lowered and body fat reduced too.
According to James O’Keefe, MD, chief of preventive cardiology at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, who was not involved with the study, “If you’re going to drink red wine, this study is a good reminder to do it the old-fashioned way: Drink it with a Mediterranean meal high in vegetables and fish, and lower in meat, with fruit for dessert and using olive oil. Doing it in a social, relaxed setting also goes a long way to improving health and happiness.”
#6: Take a probiotic
We’ve spoken a lot about how probiotics can help your “second brain,” aka your gut. When you take a probiotic, you help increase the good bacteria in your gut, and there are many reasons this is a good thing. For starters, the gut is responsible for around 90% of our body’s serotonin production, which means you’ll be happier. But it can also help you lose weight and help with skin conditions too. And the best bit is that it takes 30 seconds to take one.
Clearing your mind, if only for five minutes in the morning or before you go to bed, can be massively helpful. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, meditation can “reduce blood pressure as well as symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and flare-ups in people who have had ulcerative colitis. It may ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, and may help people with insomnia.”
Want to know more about it? Byrdie’s editorial director, Amy Lawrenson, gives a great rundown on how to meditate properly and the benefits she found from practicing it. And if you feel like you just don’t have time to do it in the morning, why not meditate on the commute using the Headspace app?
Next up: Six wellness influencers reveal the trends they rate and hate.