Last month, our team shared about the five interconnected factors, or dimensions of wellness, that influence overall health. Over time, little changes in your routines within each dimension of wellness can have big health benefits. This month, we’re focusing on three essential domains of physical wellness: sleep, nutrition and exercise.
For many, September is synonymous with back-to-school and the beginning of fall. It’s a transitional time when many students, families and vacationers are getting back into their routines after summer break which makes September a great opportunity for positive behavior change. This month, return to habits that make you feel your best.
We’ve rounded up our favorite simple, yet powerful habits that can boost your sleep, nutrition and exercise routines this fall. Plus, we’ve included some phenomenal South Bay resources to help you get started.
The Challenge: Make one small change to three fundamental domains of physical wellness to improve your overall health. Here’s how:
High quality sleep improves both physical and mental health including the ability to exercise, eat well, handle stress, pay attention, build new memories, deal with tough emotions and interact with others. Choose one strategy that resonates with you and your needs to improve your sleep this month:
Option 1: Develop a Sleep/Wake Schedule
Irregular sleep patterns alter your circadian rhythm and affect melatonin production. Aim to go to sleep and wake up at the same time, Monday through Sunday. Pick a bedtime and wakeup time to try this every day this week. You can even download the Sleep Cycle or Oura apps to help set a sleep and wake schedule and track your sleep trends.
Option 2: Avoid Late-Night Electronic Use
Blue light emitted from electronic screens can suppress melatonin production and disrupt sleep. Avoid using your phone, tablet, laptop and TV for 10-30 minutes before bed. Eventually, aim to stop devise use one hour before bed. If you need to be on a device, see if your device has a blue light setting, otherwise you can download the Blue Light Filter app.
Option 3: Start a Relaxing Bedtime Ritual
Calming bedtime routines have been shown to improve sleep quality and prevent insomnia. Before bed, try spending 5, 10 or 30 minutes on a new relaxing bedtime ritual like listening to a calming playlist or podcast, reading, taking a hot bath or shower, meditating or deep breathing. Check out the Headspace or Calm apps for meditation and sleep.
Explore these South Bay Resources for Meditation & Better Sleep:
The benefits of good nutrition surpass maintaining a healthy body weight— positive attitudes about eating and mindful food choices support your brain, body and soul. Good nutrition has the power to prevent or reverse many diseases, from dementia & depression to cardiovascular disease & cancer. Choose one strategy for health eating:
Option 1: Practice Mindful Eating
People feel more satisfied when they eat mindfully. At one meal, try the 4 S’s of mindful eating:
- Sit down at a table without TV
- Slow down your chewing, use your non-dominant hand or chopsticks
- Savor your food’s color, smell, temperature, texture & taste
- Self-compassion if you find yourself eating in a less mindful way
Option 2: Make a Healthy Shift
This month, try making one healthy shift. For example, shift from regular pasta to whole wheat or veggie. Shift from soda to water at lunch. At one meal, have seafood or legumes instead of red meat. Choose one recipe, and replace some or all butter with coconut or olive oil.
Option 3: Taste the Rainbow
The color variety in fruits, vegetables and legumes signals healthy nutrient diversity. This week, try eating one red, orange, yellow, green and blue/purple plant food. Experiment with new dishes or make your favorites more colorful by adding greens to a smoothie, mixing edamame or pinto beans into rice or topping cereal with berries. If you would like more of a challenge, aim for 3 colors in every meal. Check out local farmer’s markets to find locally grown, colorful fruits and veggies for your next meal.
Explore these South Bay Resources for Local Fruits & Veggies:
- Torrance Certified Farmers’ Market
Or, plan a day trip to a u-pick farm, like Tanaka Farms, to handpick some seasonal fruits and vegetables!
Movement is essential for brain and body health. Regular exercise has a profound impact on cognitive function; it improves mood and memory, and reduces the risk of developing depression by 35%. Choose one strategy to incorporate exercise in your daily routine:
Add Steps to Your Day
10,000 steps per day is recommended but choose a personal goal that reflects your baseline. If your current daily steps are far below 10,000 aim to walk 1,000 or 2,000 additional steps per day this week. If you are already close to 10,000 steps per day, choose a higher goal. Track your steps with the Pedometer or Health app and check out these local hiking/walking trails in the South Bay.
Sweat Before Showering
Every minute of movement counts—especially when you sweat. Try adding 5, 7, or 15 minutes of exercise to your pre-shower routine. Coupling exercise with an activity you already do, like showering, can make a new habit feel easy. Before showering, set a timer and briskly walk, stretch or repeat body weight exercises like pushups, sit ups, and lunges. Download the 7 Minute Workout app for some ideas.
Strategize Movement Mindfully
Think about what’s really stopped you from exercising routinely. Then, find alternatives that address those challenges. Too tired at the end of the day? Try working out in the morning or even on a lunch break. Intimidated by the gym? Try working out from home. Too busy with the kids? Make exercise a family activity. You can even download the Nike Training Club or Zombies, Run! apps to help give you a boost of motivation.
Explore these South Bay Exercise Resources:
- South Bay Runners Club
- South Coast Botanic Garden
- Walking Tour of the Birds at Madrona
- Walk along the Esplanade
- Find a local hiking trail
- Join a local 5k run
- Sign up for this year’s Torrance Turkey Trot
Research has shown that the single greatest opportunity to improve health and longevity lies in personal behavior. Maintaining healthy habits in each dimension of wellness is not only crucial for overall well-being, but can also reduce the risk of depression. One strategy for developing healthy habits within each dimension of wellness is to record your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a journal. Try journaling to track your progress. Write down your goals for each dimension of wellness. Track the strategies you try, monitor your progress and reflect on how new healthy habits make you feel.