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January 03, 2017

Five ways to immediately improve your life

Wellness Mental Health

Content sponsored by IBC - Native (195x33)

Beginning a new year is a time to reckon with our goals and the progress we’ve made in achieving them. Whether you subscribe to New Year’s resolutions or not, it is incumbent on us all to keep an eye toward improving ourselves and our quality of life.

Here are five things you can begin to incorporate immediately:

1. Get enough sleep

According to studies conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. A host of problems arise when you don’t get enough sleep, including increased hunger and weight gain, depression and impaired cognitive function. The consequences of long-term sleep deprivation are even more serious and can result in increased risks of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and greater mortality risk overall. It may seem impossible to make the time, but your body will love you for making the effort.

2. Laugh more

There are so many benefits to laughter beyond the simple, good feeling it gives us in the moment of enjoyment. Laughter lowers stress hormones, which is a good thing, because the effects of stress can be devastating to your health. Laughter gets our blood flowing more freely, improves our outlook on life and sharpens our cognitive abilities and more.

Studies have shown that we are 30 times more likely to laugh when in the company of others, so this advice may also be a call to spend less time alone. Even simply going to see a comedy as part of an audience at a movie can be a great way to increase your daily dose of laughter. The benefits it provides to our minds and bodies are similar to those of meditation, and laughter can be an easier practice to encourage and maintain.

3. Seek inspiration

Inspiration can come in many forms; whether you are inspired by walking in nature, enjoying art in a museum or by doing something kind for someone else, the benefits are clear. When we are inspired, our sense of optimism is enhanced, our spirits are lifted and our outlook on life improves.

Very little in life goes our way 100 percent of the time, and we all experience ups and downs. Optimism is the most important predictor of resilience, both physical and mental. Making a point to find inspiration on a regular basis can improve your quality of life and enjoyment of good times, as well as the ability to bounce back when things don’t go your way.

4. Exercise

Your mind and body do everything better with the help of exercise, no doubt about it. However, the gym is not for everyone, and this can be a real roadblock to making progress. Trust that there are plenty of creative ways to get your exercise on, and see what works best for you. Not having enough time to work out can also block progress, but getting a bit creative with your strategies, and realizing that you don’t have to do all your exercises within one time frame, but scattered throughout the day, is also possible.

5. Embrace incremental improvements

No one is capable of accomplishing their goals overnight -- improvements and change take time. This is an important fact to not just accept, but embrace and celebrate. This means change is possible for everyone, as long as you commit to the process.

The Japanese principle of kaizen can be an extremely helpful concept in this regard. Kaizen translates roughly to “change for better,” and as a philosophy, it encourages constant, continual small improvements. This eye to incremental progress may take some of the pressure off of you, so you can actually enjoy life and the process of making yours better.

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