Men's Articles

20 Surprising Ways To Get Healthier, Calmer, Stronger And Happier

One piece of advice experts love to give to anyone contemplating a major life change is: "Take baby steps." They know that trying to improve your life in one go makes it difficult for you to succeed - and any minor slip-up, be it a decadent dessert, a week of skipping the gym or a friend's forgotten birthday, can send you into a spiral of self-flagellation.

By focusing instead on meeting one simple goal at a time, you might find that you've dropped a size, deepened your relationships, improved your 5km time - or that you simply smile more often.

Organise A Soup Exchange

Get together with a group of friends and swap your favorite soup recipes that have been passed down from your mothers and grandmothers. It's simple to prepare and can easily metamorphose - just serve it over brown rice on another day. What's more, soup's flavors often improve over a couple of days, so when you reheat the leftovers, your concoction may taste even more delicious.

Follow The Two-Bite Principle

Suggests Linda Spangle, author of Life is Hard, Food is Easy (Lifeline Press, 2003). "Have two bites of anything you want [that's unhealthful] and then pass on it:" Those first nibbles have the most flavor and give you the most pleasure - and you'll often find they're enough to satisfy a craving.

Breathe Right

Take five minutes to energise yourself with this simple aromatherapeutic breathing technique from Maria and Kent Burden, co-authors of Yin Yang Fitness: The Whole Package of Health (Amberwood Press, 2003): Hold your favorite tea bag (dry, not brewed) near your nose (try flavors like cinnamon, apple spice, ginger or a peppermint blend), then inhale through your nose for a count of four, holding your breath for a count of eight, and finally exhaling for a count of four. Repeat 10 times. You'll feel instantly more revved.

Mix Up A Healthy Smoothie

Suggests Cynthia Sass, a Florida-based spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and co-author of Your Diet is Driving Me Crazy (Marlowe & Co., 2004). In a blender, pulse 1/z cup of unsweetened canned pumpkin, 8 ounces (236m1) of skim milk or soy milk, a few sprinkles of spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice mix, and 1-2 packets of an artificial sweetener (eg, Splenda). This pumpkin smoothie packs beta carotene, fibre and calcium - for about 150 calories and no fat if you use skim milk (and about 4 grams of fat for soy milk).

Be A Health Ambassador

Reach out to others - your mother, aunts, sisters and friends - who might not be proactive about getting necessary screening tests like mammograms, colonoscopies and Pap smears.

Rearrange Your Desk

It will save time and will establish a visual path for the workflow through your office, says Julie Morgenstern, a professional organiser and author of Making Work Work: New Strategies for Surviving and Thriving at the Office (Simon & Schuster, 2004). Create three areas: "In," "In Process" and "Out" The In area should be at the corner of your desk closest to the door and should contain only things that are brand-new.

Once you've started work on something, it goes into the In Process area (the largest in the system), which should be within arm's reach. The farthest end of your desk is the Out area; this includes letters and packages to mail or send inter-office. Taking just half an hour to create this simple system will help you stay calm and in control, says Julie.

Schedule A Fitness Wake-Up Call

Make a pact with a friend to phone each other for your morning workouts, suggests US-based fitness instructor Kim Onnen. It may be just the extra push you need to get out of bed and into your workout clothes. Use the same idea to lure your workaholic friend out of the office and into the Spinning class you both love.

Visualise Success

Advises John Martinez, vice president of physical therapy for Plus One Physical Therapy in New York City. Before, say, giving a presentation, take three minutes to visualise things turning out wonderfully. "A calm feeling will come over you that prepares you and sets your body in the right tone," John explains.

Admit When You Don't Know

We're constantly pressured to have answers to and opinions about everything, says Mike George, author of 1,001 Ways to Relax (Chronicle Books, 2003). Such pressure can make us painfully conscious of the gaps in our knowledge. Accept your blind spots and realise that knowledge is not the most important thing - wisdom is, and often this is best gained by asking questions, listening and engaging others.

Choose Creative Calcium Sources

An 8-ounce (236mD serving of fortified soy milk, 16 ounces (473ml) of fortified orange juice and one Luna bar will give you close to the 1,000mg of bone-building calcium recommended daily. The mineral also eases PMS symptoms and improves sleep, says Dr Carol Otis, an Oregon-based sports-medicine doctor and co-author of The Athletic Woman's Survival Guide (Human Kinetics, 2000).

Declare An Email Free Zone For An Hour

Julie Morgenstern suggests. "For many businesspeople, e-mail has become a terrible addiction that interrupts their thinking and their ability to concentrate," she says. "If, instead, you spend the first hour of your day doing your most critical task, you will feel a sense of accomplishment:"

Know Your Breasts

When doing a breast self-exam, says Dr Ellen Mahoney, a breast surgeon in Arcata, California, "I ask women to imagine what the lump would look like if the skin weren't in the way - butter, gravel, Bubble Wrap? If the breasts feel the same all over, it's just the way they're made. The only area to be concerned about is the one [area or lump] that's different from the rest:" 

But even if you feel something odd, don't panic. Watch it and if it doesn't go away after two menstrual cycles, see your doctor for a physical exam and ask about a mammogram or ultrasound. Don't let it go if your physician dismisses your concern, either; you're the world's best expert when it comes to your breasts, stresses Dr Mahoney.

Select A Stretch Of The Day

Write the stretch on a Post-it note and place it on your keyboard; then do the stretch for 20-30 seconds (no bouncing) every time you think of it (aim for two or three times a day), says physical therapist John Martinez. Stretch these five areas to get you through your first workweek: wrists, neck, shoulders, calves, back.

Create A "Get To Do" List

On every to-do list you create, alternate tasks to accomplish with ways to reward yourself, says Alice Domar, director of the Mind/Body Center for Women's Health at Boston IVF. So if, for instance, No. 1 on your list is "laundry;" No. 2 could be "call best friend"; if No. 3 is "post office;" No. 4 might be "enjoy some chocolate, guilt-free:"

Stop A Snack Attack

Eliminate a taste trigger to a snack you can't stop nibbling by eating something that is the exact opposite, says Linda Spangle. For instance, if you're craving something sweet, sip something tart, such as water with lemon in it, or nosh on a dill pickle. When chips or nuts are tempting, reach for an apple or a piece of cheese to counter the salty, crunchy taste trigger.

Indulge In Flower Power

Besides adding a nice decorating touch, keeping a mixed bouquet in your office may help improve memory, learning and concentration, according to Dr Alan Hirsch, the neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago.

Offer Specific Help

"With any crisis, people often don't know what to say," says breast-cancer surgeon Dr Mahoney. If you have a friend who has health problems, has lost a loved one or is going through a particularly rough time, try this "SM approach: Say, "I'm sorry you're facing this," and rather than just asking if there's anything you can do to help, follow up with concrete assistance. Call and offer to take your friend's kids to the movies, for example, or bring dinner over one night.

B Energised

Dr Kathleen Fry, a gynaecologist and homeopath in Arizona, and a member of the American Holistic Medical Association, advises her patients taking birth-control pills to supplement with a B-vitamin-complex pills formula that includes B6. Oral contraceptives interfere with the absorption of B vitamins, which may make you feel sluggish, depressed or tired, she explains.

Say No At Least Half The Time

You're asked to do something you don't want to do (but feel like you should). "Saying no to someone else is saying yes to yourself," says Alice Domar.

Follow The 10 Per Cent Per Week Rule

Working out at too intense a pace or for too long increases your chances of injury, and wreak havoc on your digestive system, causing constipation, diarrhoa or even vomiting, says Dr Cynthia Yoshida of Virginia. To keep your gastrointestinal system (and joints) happy, aim to increase your workout time and resistance by no more than 10 per cent per week.


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