Healthy Lifestyle Tips

Use the following healthy lifestyle tips to discover how to become calmer, stronger and healthier.

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 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 5k time -- or that you simply smile more often.

More healthy lifestyle tips include:

Become a health tips 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. Log on to the National Women's Health Information Center at for a list of tests and when to get them.

Organize a soup exchange. Get together with a group of friends and swap your favorite winter warmers. "Soup is simple to prepare and can easily metamorphose -- just serve it over brown rice on another day," says Lori Reamer, director of nutrition at Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires Health Resort in Lenox, Mass. 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, M.A., R.N., 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.

Practice aromatherapeutic breathing techniques. Take five minutes to energize yourself with simple aromatherapeutic breathing techniques 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 autumnal 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. By following these simple health tips, you'll feel instantly more revved.

Learn more healthy lifestyle tips, such as how to perform creative visualization techniques, by reading the following page.[header = Creative visualization techniques and more healthy lifestyle tips from Shape.]

Use creative visualization techniques and other components of a healthy lifestyle to lessen stress, increase relaxation and improve overall happiness.

Components of a healthy lifestyle include:

Practice creative visualization techniques. Visualize success, advises John R. Martinez, M.P.T., vice president of physical therapy for Plus One Physical Therapy in New York City. Before, say, giving a presentation, take three minutes to visualize things turning out wonderfully. "A calm feeling will come over you that prepares you and sets your body in the right tone," Martinez explains.

Rearrange your desk -- it will save time and will establish a visual path for the workflow through your office, says Julie Morgenstern, a professional organizer 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 interoffice. Taking just half an hour to create this simple system will help you stay calm and in control, Morgenstern says.

Schedule a wake-up call for fitness workouts. Make a pact with a friend to phone each other for your a.m. fitness workouts, suggests Kim Onnen, program director and fitness instructor at Heartland Spa in Gilman, Ill. 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.

Admit when you don't know. We're constantly pressured to have answers to and opinions about everything, says Mike George, author of1,001 Ways to Relax (Chronicle Books, 2003). Such pressure can make us painfully conscious of the gaps in our knowledge. Accept your blind spots, and realize that knowledge is not the most important thing -- wisdom is, and often this is best gained by asking questions, listening and engaging others.

Mix up some seasonal smoothie drinks, suggests Cynthia Sass, R.D., a Tampa, Fla.-based spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and co-author of Your Diet is Driving Me Crazy (Marlowe & Co., 2004).

In a blender, pulse 1/2 cup of unsweetened canned pumpkin, 8 ounces 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 (e.g., Splenda). Smoothie drinks are not only soothing, but they're healthy, too. This pumpkin smoothie packs beta carotene, fiber and calcium -- for about 150 calories and no fat if you use skim milk (about 4 grams of fat for soy milk).

Want to discover info about even more components of a healthy lifestyle? Keep reading![header = More healthy lifestyle tips: perform a breast self exam and stretch often!]

Performing a breast self exam and doing regular stretching exercises are two more important keys to a healthy lifestyle. Discover more at Shape!

More keys to a healthy lifestyle include:

Choose creative calcium sources. An 8-ounce serving of fortified soy milk, 16 ounces of fortified orange juice and one Luna bar give you close to the 1,000 milligrams of bone-building calcium recommended daily. The mineral also eases PMS symptoms and improves sleep, says Carol L. Otis, M.D., a Portland, Ore.-based sports- medicine doctor and co-author of The Athletic Woman's Survival Guide (Human Kinetics, 2000).

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

Know how to do a breast self exam the right way. When doing a breast self exam, says Ellen Mahoney, M.D., a breast surgeon in Arcata, Calif., and a member of LLuminari, a network of health and wellness professionals, "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 Mahoney.

Perform stretching exercises each day. Write the stretch on a Post-it note that you place 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 Martinez. Stretch these five areas to get you through your first workweek: wrists, neck, shoulders, calves, back.

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 Alan Hirsch, M.D., the neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago.

Next in your list of healthy lifestyle tips: discover how to boost your health with B complex vitamins.[header = 6 more terrific healthy lifestyle tips, such as taking B complex vitamins.]

Surprising healthy lifestyle tips include creating a to-do list that doesn't just list tasks for the day. Read on!

More components to a healthy lifestyle include:

Create a list. On every list you create, alternate tasks to accomplish with ways to reward yourself, says Alice Domar, Ph.D., director of the Mind/Body Center for Women's Health at Boston IVF. So if 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."

Offer specific help. "With any crisis, people often don't know what to say," says breast-cancer surgeon 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 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.

Energize yourself with B complex vitamins. Kathleen Fry, M.D., a gynecologist and homeopath in Scottsdale, Ariz., and a member of the American Holistic Medical Association, advises her patients taking birth-control pills to supplement with B complex vitamins 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. Saying no at least half the time you're asked to do something you don't want to do (but feel like you should) is one of the best healthy lifestyle tips you can incorporate into your life. "Saying no to someone else is saying yes to yourself," Domar says.

Follow the 10 percent per week rule for fitness workouts. Working out at too intense a pace or for too long increases your chances of injury, but it also can wreak havoc on your digestive system, causing constipation, diarrhea or even vomiting, says Cynthia Yoshida, M.D., of Charlottesville, Va. To keep your gastrointestinal system (and your joints) happy and running smoothly, aim to increase your fitness workouts by no more than 10 percent per week.

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 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.

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