As a holistic psychiatrist, I would love for my patients to forage for wild greens in an old-growth forest and meditate an hour a day. But I practice in New York City, so most of my patients push back on that plan and say they can dedicate about 90 seconds per day toward wellness. To help out, I’ve identified a few life “hacks” that pack the most bang for your buck. Give some of these a try, and you’ll be feeling better with minimal effort.
1. Stand Up For Two Minutes Every Hour
Sitting is toxic. The healthiest people in the world have never been on an elliptical—they’re just a little bit active all day long. Even if you sit at a desk, approximate an active lifestyle by building micro activity into your day. Walk to the bathroom every hour, stand up to change the channel, take the stairs, or just stand up and sit back down after a minute. Any movement at all will be much better than uninterrupted sitting.
2. Get A Squatty Potty
Humans evolved squatting to poop. Sitting to have a bowel movement is a recent phenomenon, and I feel it contributes to modern gastrointestinal woes like constipation, IBS, and hemorrhoids. The Squatty Potty is safe, affordable, and potentially life-changing. This is my favorite kind of medicine, and I recommend it to everyone.
Step 1: Go to www.squattypotty.com, and pay about $25 for a 9” Squatty Potty.
Step 2: Experience the revelation of an effortless and complete evacuation.
Step 3 (the hardest step): Explain to curious houseguests what that stool is in your bathroom.
3. Eat Real Food
What’s the right diet: paleo, Mediterranean, vegan, raw? In a world of conflicting research and opinions, here’s a simple way to think about the right way to eat: Eat real food and avoid fake food. Full stop. Pay less attention to the parade of contradictory headlines—fat is bad, butter is good, carbs are bad, eggs cause heart disease (oops, now they’re healthy)…. From now on, just ask yourself: Is it real food? And a good follow-up question is: How do I feel when I eat this? Pay special attention to foods marketed as health foods. Is it real food? Probably not.
4. Count Chemicals, Not Calories
You may hear experts say a calorie is a calorie. Wrong. What you eat affects your hunger, satiety, metabolism, gut flora, insulin sensitivity, fat distribution, inflammation, and stress levels. Diet soda, with zero calories, is much more likely to send you on the path toward metabolic syndrome than a piece of grass-fed steak or veggies doused in olive oil. Chris Kresser put this best: “Count chemicals, not calories,” and you’ll make the right choice.
5. Get A Water Flosser
The bugs living between your teeth affect the health of your whole body. To floss more effectively and reduce inflammation throughout your body, use a water flosser. I used to hate flossing; now I use the H2Oral shower flosser and enjoy it. If you need more convincing, water flossing was part of a protocol that successfully reduced cognitive decline in subjects with dementia.
6. Shut It Down And Sleep Eight Hours
OK, this one is easier said than done. In my practice, I come up against every explanation for why we don’t get enough sleep—we don’t have time, we can’t fall asleep, long work hours, long commute, baby crying, etc. There are factors we can and can’t control. But one thing is for sure—most of us look at screens at night. If you do that, it’s affecting your sleep. Give yourself the following gift: Pick a time in the evening, maybe 9 p.m. or 10 p.m., when you shut down electronics and wind down for bed. If you can consistently get about eight hours of sleep, this will transform your energy, mood, and immunity. It’s probably the most effective thing you can do to improve your health.
7. Install A Water Filter In Your Home
The effort involved here is purchasing a water filter, installing it, and replacing the cartridges every six months. The benefit is removing some of the chlorine, fluoride, and perhaps pharmaceutical residues and other contaminants in our water. The water filter I use is called Aquasana: www.aquasana.com.
8. Take A Spoonful
So much of human suffering could be avoided with steady blood sugar. When our blood sugar crashes, we pick fights, feel overwhelmed, panic, and despair, and our brains feel fried. Take a spoonful of organic coconut oil or almond butter (Artisana brand is great) to help keep your blood sugar stable. Take it upon waking, before bed, in anticipation of your 3 p.m. energy slump, and before you head out for a networking event, a presentation, happy hour, or the cocktail hour at a wedding.
9. Pack Snacks When You Travel
Travel throws a wrench in so many good habits. A little easy prep will help you treat yourself right while you’re in the air or on the road. Here’s what I do: Before a flight, I order good-quality takeout (usually a bunch of veggie sides) and have it delivered right before I leave. It’s already packed with plasticware and napkins, and this becomes my in-flight meal. Meanwhile, I keep portable, shelf-stable snacks stocked and pack these in my carry-on. Good options include nuts, individual packets of coconut, cacao, and almond butter, and grass-fed jerky. Avocados (pack a knife and spoon) and apples also make great plane snacks.
10. Throw Out Your Canola Oil And Iodized Salt
The industrially processed seed oils (canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, etc.) are highly processed and inflammatory. I have a hunch these oils are a critical factor in our epidemics of obesity, heart disease, and autoimmunity. If you own canola oil, follow these steps: Play Beyoncé’s Lemonade very loudly, take aim, and hurl that oil into the trash. What should you cook with instead? Grass-fed ghee, expeller-pressed coconut oil, beef tallow, lard, maybe a little organic red palm oil. Be conscious of the fact that when you order takeout or eat in restaurants, you’re almost certainly consuming vegetable oil. Give your business to the few places making enlightened choices around cooking fats (e.g., Hearth restaurant in NYC). Ask about oil to start the conversation and put pressure on restaurants to serve you food that isn’t hurting you. The second part of this is easy: Replace your iodized salt with pink Himalayan sea salt. For iodine, add some dulse or other sea vegetables to your diet.
Extra Credit: Relax
Ha! After this list, you’re thinking, “Great, I’m doing everything wrong…now I’m feeling more stressed than I was before.” Well, the next step is to discern which steps will improve your well-being and which will drive you crazy. Do what you can, and never compromise what makes your life fulfilling. A wonderful way to round out this plan is to build in any form of daily relaxation. Try meditating at least one minute per day. There’s no more powerful medicine.