(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you’ll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)
Being healthy is more important than ever. These are difficult times and there may be more challenging times ahead of us. In this article, I will share five absolutely free things that you can do daily to take a proactive approach to your health. Here are five free things you can do for your health every day without spending a penny and taking only a little bit of time.
5 free things you can do for your health
We Frugalites like to say, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” When it comes to health, I like to say that “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”
From these five preventative health practices, I hope you will find your own pound of cure, or more!
Use a Breathing Practice
These are stressful days! There are many current events and local challenges people are facing that are stressful. Our bodies are designed to respond to stress in a way that will help us survive: a perceived threat sends the body into “Flight or Fight” mode. However, when we live much of our time in “Flight or Fight,” there are many long-term health problems that may develop. Examples of these include aches and pains, exhaustion, insomnia, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system [source]
You may not be able to remove all of the stressors in your life. In fact, you would probably not enjoy that, as many positive life experiences are also stressful, such as getting married, having children or getting a promotion at work. The key is actually to work with your body’s nervous system. You want to move from the “Flight or Fight” response into calm.
One highly effective way to accomplish this is through deep breathing. Your boss just criticized your work? Take a few deep breaths to calm your stress response and stimulate your vagus nerve, which plays a major role in helping your body respond to life’s challenges. In order to be most effective, the breaths should be at least five seconds in and five seconds out. [source]
If you try the deep breathing and find it helpful, you may want to learn a more advanced technique, called box breathing. This is a simple, yet very effective way to regulate your breathing when stressed and bring your body back into calm. Apparently, Navy SEALs are trained in this method, which impressed me! [source]
Spend Time in Nature
We are a part of nature, but many people in the world live quite separately from it. You don’t have to hike up a mountain or do anything physically difficult to benefit from time in nature. In fact, just simply sitting and being present to the sounds, sights, and smells is more than enough. In Japanese culture, the concept of “forest bathing” came out of a recognition that simple contact with nature provides significant health benefits. “The results of Japanese studies have shown forest bathing improves sleep quality, mood, ability to focus and stress levels.” [source]
You may live in a rural area where all you need to do is step outside your door to be in nature. Are you taking some time each day to do that? Maybe a short walk or time in the garden? If you live in an urban area, where can you go to spend time in nature? A waterfront park? Some trees on the edge of your neighborhood? Your plants on your balcony? There are many documented benefits to green spaces in cities. Instead of walking home from your bus or subway stop in a rushing mindset after work, could you pause and observe someone’s garden for a moment, or that tree on the corner that you never noticed before? Your body will thank you!
Chew your Food Thoroughly
OK, I admit this might not be the most glamorous daily practice on the list. However, I am convinced that it is worth considering. We live in a rushed and often mindless culture, where we eat in front of the television, barely tasting our food. If we are not thinking about eating while we are eating, then we are likely to not chew our food thoroughly enough. In fact, not chewing well can lead to a concerning list of health problems: bloating, diarrhea, heartburn, acid reflux, cramps, nausea, headaches, skin problems, malnutrition, indigestion and gas. Notice, too, that there are OTC medicines for many of the “ills” on this list. What if the cause is simply not chewing enough? What an easy fix! [source]
So, we have looked at the negatives of rushed eating, what are the benefits of slower eating with better chewing?
The reality is that our digestion begins in our mouth: if you eat more slowly, the digestive enzymes in your saliva, such as amylase, have a chance to start doing their work. Research has shown that even in the short time that you chew your food before you swallow it, your enzymes are beginning to digest starches. [source ] Why not give them the time they need?
Other benefits include getting more nutrients out of the food you eat. Some studies have shown that people who eat more slowly maintain healthier weights. [source ] This makes sense because it takes time for our stomach to be able to send the signal to our brain that it is full.
So, how slow is slow enough? While the guideline of 32 chews per mouthful is out there, [source] that is actually only considered an average. Some foods may take more (for example, a tough steak!) and some might take less. Overall, you are aiming to remove the texture from the food and to not swallow a lot of unchewed food that will be much harder to digest. Even chewing more than you do now will help. You might even enjoy your food more, too!
Feeling and Sharing Gratitude
The field of neuroscience has identified enormous health benefits to feeling gratitude, including better sleep and improved blood pressure and heart functioning. [source]
In my own experience, I feel that gratitude can help build resiliency. During a difficult time, I now challenge myself to feel grateful for what I have. I think this helps me be more resilient and face my difficulties more effectively.
In a busy lifestyle and our “to do list” culture, it is easy to be focused on achieving goals and take less time to celebrate what we do have, especially our relationships. One small practice would be to try and tell one person each day that you appreciate them. One day it might be your spouse, another day, it might be a hardworking barista at your local coffee shop.
If you are interested in exploring the health benefits of gratitude, check out this Frugalite article on keeping a gratitude journal.
What’s it like in your head? We all have an inner voice that talks to us throughout our day. Did you drop your toast? Oops! What would your inner voice have to say about that? It’s no fun to be nagged by a noisy inner critic all day…in fact, that’s sure to raise a person’s stress level. By learning some skills to respond more compassionately to your inner critic, you can be more compassionate with yourself, too. In this YouTube video, Dr. Les Aria, a renowned pain psychologist, teaches these skills.
Another aspect of self-compassion is where you put your time. How do you schedule yourself in a day? Do you offer yourself some time each day for something that replenishes you or that you enjoy? Or do you only take time off when you get sick? Even though you may be parenting young children, you can’t do that on an empty tank. Considering how you schedule yourself can be a way of making your own health a priority. Then, you’ll have more energy for the people that you love.
And if you’re going through hard times, take a look at this article about taking it a little easier on yourself.
Do you practice any of these free things you can do for your health?
Healthy is as healthy does.
Maintaining health is more important than ever. Could you see yourself trying any of the five free health tips offered here? Do you already practice any of these free things you can do for your health? Do you have one you can share with us? Please tell us in the comments below.