14 Ways to Look
(and Feel)
Better Than Ever

Small daily habits can help you reap big benefits over time.

May/June 2018

By Corinne Garcia

 

The old adage “little things mean a lot” is truer than you may think, especially when it comes to well-being. In fact, one study found that adopting such healthy behaviors as not smoking, exercising regularly and maintaining a reasonable weight could lengthen a 45-year-old’s life expectancy by 11 years.

In that spirit, here are some habits you may want to adopt to live a longer, healthier life and to look your best.

Drink More

Water, that is. Yumi Sakugawa, author of The Little Book of Life Hacks (St. Martin’s Griffin), recommends drinking a big glass of water right when you wake up and sipping throughout the day. “We all wake up dehydrated,” she says. “Switch it up by drinking water at different temperatures, hot, cold, lukewarm; eat ice chips. When you’re properly hydrated, you have more energy and you feel better, more vital.” Add lemon juice to warm water in the morning for extra benefits, suggests Christine Despres, RN, a certified health coach known as The Wellness Navigator (thewellnessnavigator.com). “Lemon has a high vitamin C content, so it’s helpful for immunity, great for colon health, helps the liver flush toxins and can be antibacterial.” Water also does wonders for the skin. “Water is the best face lift,” says Margaret Marshall, author of Healthy Living Means Living Healthy (Motivational Press).

 

Meditate

Despres recommends meditating daily, even for five minutes, but aiming for 15. “The benefits are endless, but setting the tone and the intention of your mind can change your day,” she says. “It allows you to decide the thoughts that you will acknowledge and give your attention to and make you more positive, grateful and loving.” Along with that, studies have shown that meditation can boost immune function, decrease inflammation and lessen pain, among other benefits.

 

Super Eat

Include superfoods in your diet whenever possible. Despres lists coconut, cacao, maca, seaweed, açai, goji, bee products and hemp as her favorites, saying, “They pre-load the cells with nutrient-dense organic matter that helps immunity and detoxification, and gives overall vitality on a deeper cellular level.” Despres also recommends bone broth, which “supports immunity and has compounds of collagen and glutamine that heal the gut and are anti-aging.”

 

Heat Up

Do you walk right by that sauna at the gym all the time? Try putting it to use once or twice a week. “It’s not only relaxing—it’s a great place to meditate—but it eases tense muscles, increases oxygenation in the bloodstream, aids in weight loss by taking off excess water weight and helps you detox by encouraging sweating and increasing blood flow to vital organs,” Despres says.

 

Rub Your Face

To look your best, Sakugawa suggests making facial massages part of your evening skincare ritual, saying, “This increases circulation, which adds a healthy glow, and relaxes muscle tension to help reduce wrinkles.” She recommends massaging areas that carry tension, such as the forehead and jawline, for one to five minutes with light to medium pressure after applying an oil “compatible with your skin type.” And instead of using conventional, chemical-laden eye makeup removers, Sakugawa opts for one of her favorite oils, such as jojoba, coco, almond or shea butter, on a cotton swab. “There are no chemicals, it’s cheaper, it works and it’s also deeply moisturizing,” she notes.

 

Get Lean and Mean

Eggs, beans, lean meat… regularly consuming healthy protein is as good for hair and nails as it is for overall health, Marshall says. “Your hair and nails are made from protein, and therefore they need protein. I can tell if someone doesn’t eat enough protein; their hair starts to fall out or it doesn’t have sheen or body.” And Despres encourages healthy fat consumption.

“Salmon, avocado, coconut everything, MCT oil, grass-fed butter and extra omega-3s feed the brain, skin, hair and nails,” she says. “Think of it as essential lubrication, like oil for an engine.”

 

Manage Zits

The American Society of Dermatology reports that women in particular may continue to get acne well into their 30s and 40s for a variety of reasons, such as hormone levels, stress and from hair and skin products. When you feel that hidden zit growing, Sakugawa says to dab it with a small amount of tea tree oil, which has antibacterial and antioxidant properties. To prevent zits from occurring in the first place, Sakugawa suggests using a face mask made of baking soda and water. “Make a paste, and leave it on the face for 15 minutes before washing it off,” she says. “It prevents zits and is a great exfoliator.”

 

Get Rid of Baggage

If you’re a black tea drinker, save those used teabags. Sakugawa says. “Put them in the fridge, and place one over each eye in the morning for up to 15 minutes to reduce swelling and circles.” It’s the caffeine that does the trick, according to the Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science, because it’s been proven to constrict dilated capillaries, leading to diminished swelling and darkness around the eyes.

 

Help Hair Naturally

You needn’t go farther than your pantry to create treatments for shiny, healthy hair. After shampooing, massage coconut oil or mayonnaise into the hair, leave it on for a minute, rinse, and shampoo again, says Marshall. Alternately, add melted coconut oil into dry hair and leave it on for up to 15 minutes, or overnight, before you wash. Marshall says, “These products will make your hair shiny and healthy, and help relieve dryness and frizz in winter.” Sakugawa reaches for the apple cider vinegar, using one part to two parts warm water, massaging it into dry hair, and leaving it on for 15 minutes before washing. “Whether hair is dry or oily, it’s going to calibrate the pH of your hair and scalp, making your hair look shinier and healthier,” she notes.

Sparkle the Smile

To keep your teeth smile-ready, Marshall recommends eating crunchy raw vegetables. “It’s a soft abrasion that helps clean teeth, and apples help freshen your breath,” she says. For a natural whitener, Marshall suggests mashing one strawberry with enough baking soda to create a paste, and brushing with it once or twice a week, followed by a normal brushing to remove the residue. “Strawberry has a whitening astringent and the baking soda will neutralize the acid so it doesn’t affect the enamel,” she explains; the baking soda’s abrasiveness also helps to break up plaque. In addition, Marshall recommends swishing a teaspoon of coconut oil and spitting it into a paper towel (it can clog a sink). “It helps pull out anything stuck and moistens the gums for overall health,” she says.

 

Outsmart Your Mood

On those down days, Sakugawa offers several tricks to get you back on track. “One is a fake-it-’til-you-make-it body language trick. Sit up straight, breathe deeply and smile. If you embody a healthy mental attitude, it helps mental health,” she explains. Sakugawa also recommends thinking about an event to look forward to—or planning one—to create feelings of anticipation, looking through photos of happy moments and…jumping on a trampoline. Don’t laugh: “It’s a good endorphin dose,” she says. “Or do 10 jumping jacks; it gets the body moving, and you can often shake yourself out of it.”

 

Beat the Slump

Afternoon crash? Try neatening up your space. “Tidy up your home or office for five to 10 minutes,” Sakugawa says, explaining that clutter has a deflating, distracting effect. “It gives you a tactile experience and an energy boost.” A power nap can have the same effect, she says, as long as it’s between the hours of 1 to 4 p.m. and is no longer than 20 minutes. And a cold shower can be a wake-up call. “Turn it cold, even for the last 30 seconds,” she says. “It’s really going to give you an energy boost.”

 

Ingest Energy

Treat yourself to dark chocolate for its mood-boosting properties, as it contains caffeine and antioxidants, and can increase endorphin levels. “Dark chocolate is way better than sugary milk chocolate,” Sakugawa says. For energy, she recommends foods that are rich in folic acid, such as beans and dark leafy green vegetables; it is one of the vitamins that converts food to fuel. Despres goes for vitamin B12 shots every month: “It improves mood and increases energy and metabolism.” And Marshall says that eating healthy can simply improve energy and overall well-being. “When you’re feeding yourself food that nourishes, you feel good in the mind and in the body,” she says. “As a general rule of thumb, people who are happier eat better.”

Don’t Overeat

“Overeating makes you feel sluggish and tired, and even regretful,” Sakugawa says. To ensure that you don’t eat too much, she suggests stopping when you feel 80% full. “There’s a lapse between being physically full and the time it takes for your brain to register that. So when you feel 80% full, you’re more than that.” Marshall suggests paying attention to one’s breathing while eating. “When you’ve had enough, your breathing changes; you may breathe deeper or start sighing,” she says. “Once you start paying attention to the breath, you might not be full but you will be satisfied and stop.”

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