by Shadra Bruce

I’m committed to making changes that will let me live longer and healthier, and to that end, I’ve been researching and implementing healthy habits. I’ve condensed what I’ve learned into the top 30 things you can do to make positive, lasting changes in your life for the good of your health – both mental and physical. Of course, these are only my opinions; I am not a doctor and you should not do anything I say without exploring with your physician how it would affect your health. 🙂

Day 1. Breathe. It seems simple, I know. We all breathe all the time. The quality of our breathing, though, has a lot to do with everything else that is going on inside our bodies. To combat stress and reduce your blood pressure and heart rate, focus for a few minutes each day on deep breathing, making sure your inhaling deeply enough for your belly to expand. It’s not enough to have your shoulders rise or your chest puff out…you need deep belly breaths. Try doing this every day…it’s something you can do wherever you are, with no special equipment. Whenever you feel stressed or overwhelmed, try a few of these “belly breaths” and see what a difference it makes.

Day 2. Stretch. Even if you do it before you get out of bed in the morning, a little bit of stretching goes a long way. Not only does it keep you flexible, but it also helps protect your joints and ligaments – and it’s another stress-reducer.

Day 3. See Your Doctor. Schedule a visit to your doctor for a complete physical and blood work. Make sure your doctor orders necessary screenings for your age and make sure you see your results and follow up.

Day 4. Start a Journal. Writing in a journal is a great way to relieve stress. Allow yourself to write it down and let it go. Use your journal to “talk” about the things you need to work out that weigh you down.

Day 5. Walk. Nearly everyone has heard about “10,000” steps, but walking really is a great exercise. It uses most of the body’s muscles and can be particularly beneficial to the abdomen. The great thing about walking is that you can add it in everywhere – park further away wherever you go, walk to the local store rather than driving to the big chain, take the kids to the park instead of to the movies. Add it in where you can and when … you can even just walk back and forth in your house while you’re on the phone rather than sitting still to talk.

Day 6. Set Goals. Whether your goals are weight-loss related, stress-related, or just an attempt to get more balance in your life, write down what you want to accomplish. Include short- and long-term goals on the list. Include things for you personally, for your health, even financial goals. Be honest with yourself about what you want, but make the goals realistic.

Day 7. Tell People. Talk to people you trust about what you are trying to do.  Simply by voicing the words, you will make it more likely that you will stick to the goals, and by telling people what you’re trying to do, you’ll garner support.

Day 8. Enlist Help.  If you have a particular weakness (for me it is ice cream right before bed) you should ask for help. Tell someone you need help meeting your goal – for me, it was asking my husband not to buy treats to make me happy. He started leaving me little love notes instead – less calories, but somehow even more fulfilling!

Day 9. Say No. Part of the reason you’re overwhelmed or your life is out of balance, is probably because you try to be helpful – to the point where you have nothing left. Sometimes it’s ok to say no, and it can be really empowering to do it. You don’t have to be rude or mean, but you can be proud of taking care of you.

Day 10. Ten Minutes. Set aside ten minutes every day, no matter what, to enclose yourself in a quiet, private place. Meditate, breathe, give yourself positive affirmations, or just enjoy the peace, but force yourself to take those tiny little minutes every day no matter what the crisis.

Day 11. Use Your Mind. Whether it’s taking a class, reading a book, or doing a crossword puzzle, you should take time every day to keep your mind sharp.  Not only can this keep you young mentally, but it can stave off age-related dementia.

Day 12. Charity. Cancer, childhood obesity, domestic violence, starving third-world families. There are many causes out there. Find one that touches your heart and give. I’m not talking a financial donation, either. Give of yourself. It’s rewarding, refreshing, and opens your mind to seeing how lucky you really are.

Day 13. Connect with Friends. Make a date to have coffee with a girlfriend or schedule a girl’s night out. Invite your friends over and have a scrapbooking party. It’s important to stay connected to old friends and make new friends along the way. Not only can they help you stay sane when things are crazy, but they will be there when you need someone to talk to or reach out to.

Day 14. Eat Breakfast. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy, but you should eat breakfast every day. People who eat breakfast enjoy a more stable body weight, a higher metabolism, and energy to get them through the day.

Day 15. Keep a Food Diary. If you really want to live well, you need to make radical changes to your diet. Unfortunately, we live in a society that prides itself on being fast and oversized in nearly everything we do, from our cars to our meals. To live longer and live healthier, you need to eat differently. Keeping a food diary can help.

Day 16. Green Tea. Touted for its antioxidant benefits, try to add a cup a day.

Day 17. Dark Chocolate. What a lovely reward with such tremendous health-boosting benefits.

Day 18. Almonds. They help lower bad cholesterol and are full of manganese and vitamin E while being low in calories.

Day 19. Walnuts. Loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, adding walnuts to your daily diet can help reduce belly fat.

Day 20. Flaxseed. Also high in Omega-3, flaxseeds are also a great source of fiber and folate.

Day 21. Yogurt. Yogurt helps regulate the bacteria in your intestines, aids in digestion, and as a low-fat dairy product, can aid in weight management.

Day 22. Fruit. You need 3-4 servings of fruit a day. One serving should be an orange, which has been proven to not only be a good source of Vitamin C, but also helps prevent most mouth cancers. One serving should be blueberries – one of the richest antioxidants on the planet.  Eat real fruit, not juice, to reap the benefits of the fiber.

Day 23. Vegetables. You should be getting 5-6 servings of vegetables a day. Where fruit juice doesn’t do much to aid your health, if you just can’t get enough vegetables, vegetable juices like tomato juice, carrot juice, or V-8 are a great way to get extra vegetables. You can also buy things like frozen, pureed squash and add it as a base to thicken soup and stew. Tomato soup, sauce, and juice should be consumed as often as possible. Lycopene, found in cooked tomatoes, is one of the strongest anti-cancer foods on earth.

Day 24. Cinnamon. Cinnamon is considered an “antimicrobial” food – like a natural antibiotic.

Day 25. Salmon. Add salmon to your diet twice a week for a boost of Omega-3. Omega-3 not only helps cholesterol and belly fat, but it is also a stress reliever and helps keep joints supple.

Day 26. Olive oil. If you are cooking with any other kind of oil, stop and make the switch. Your heart will thank you.

Day 27. Beans. Black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, lima beans.  There has to be a bean out there that you like.  Add them to salads and soups, or make tacos or burritos with them.  A great source of protein that is extremely low in fat.

Day 28. Soy. Equal in quality to animal protein, but without the fat, soy can help you manage your weight. It is full of nutrients – everything from Vitamin B to iron!

Day 29. Trans Fat. This is possibly the biggest killer around. Avoid it at all costs. If you consume margarine, fast food, or most processed foods, you are increasing your risks for cancer, heart disease, and a variety of other health issues.

Day 30. Water. Our bodies are made of over 70% water. Often when we feel hunger pains, it is water our bodies want. Increasing your water intake can aid digestion, help manage weight, improve your energy, and give your body the fluid it needs to keep your cells clean and well-functioning.

30 days, 30 changes. There is nothing on this list that is too expensive or too difficult to do; it just takes YOU caring about YOU. It’s worth it, I promise.