From tackling your in-box to tossing expired meds, these little tweaks will refresh your health.
Ah, spring. There’s something simply magical about the season. Even perpetually peppy birds seem to have a little more cheer in their chirps, and heck, what’s not to like about going outside and not being slapped by a wind so cold it makes you wonder what you ever did to make Mother Nature hate you?
But there’s nothing that can kill your warm weather-induced buzz faster than the idea of “spring cleaning.” (Nothing says a heath refresh like finally getting into shape—with the least amount of work possible. Prevention’s Fit in 10 plan gives you super-efficient 10-minute workouts and 10-minute meal ideas. Try if for FREE!)
Not to worry, we’re not going to tell you to set aside several days for massive home cleaning (good grief, can you imagine?). Instead, we’ve got 12 essentials to help you kick your healthy habits up a notch—from tossing old makeup to deciding to eat local—with nary a cleaning binge in sight.
1. Choose in-season, local produce
Seasonal produce offers more flavor as well as price savings, says Keri Gans, RD, a New York-based nutritionist and author of The Small Change Diet. Local produce supports farmers and also spares the environment by eliminating long-distance delivery systems. And spring is the perfect time to take advantage of your neighborhood’s bounty. Not sure where to start? Here are four seasonal veggies to swap into your diet.
2. Schedule screenings and doctor appointments
Plan ahead to keep track of wellness appointments during the year. “There is no test that a woman needs annually if they are of average risk for any of the diseases usually screened,” says Robert Blackman, MD, an internist with Healthcare Partners Medical Group in Los Angeles. Talk with your doctor for a plan that suits your needs. In general, plan on a colonoscopy around age 50, a bone mineral density screening after menopause, a PAP test every three years, mammograms every two years, and dental exams every year (here are 9 things you can expect at your first mammogram).
3. Venture outside
Walking for exercise benefits your cardiovascular system and burns calories. Take a walk in the woods and you’ll also reap the benefits of anti-cancer proteins, according to a study published in the International Journal of Immunopathology Pharmacology. Called “forest bathing,” researchers found that walking in the forest lowers blood pressure and stress and boosts the immune system.
4. De-clutter your medicine cabinet
First off, medicine should be stored in a cool, dry cabinet, not in the bathroom, says David Small, RPH, pharmacy manager for Nantucket Cottage Hospital in Massachusetts. The expiration date is your best guidance for the potency of a medicine, but if you’re unsure, toss it if it smells bad or looks off-color. “Aspirin smells like vinegar when it gets old,” says Small. Look into programs such as Drug Take-Back Network to safely dispose of old medications.
5. Go wheat free for a month
If you can’t seem to shake those last few winter pounds, try eliminating wheat from your diet. “Cutting wheat helps you avoid the appetite-stimulating property of the wheat’s gliadin protein,” says William Davis, MD, a preventive cardiologist and author of Wheat Belly. “Plus, you avoid agglutinin that disrupts intestinal health, as well as amylopectin A that’s responsible for raising blood sugar.” Swap wheat-based products for rice, quinoa, legumes, buckwheat, tapioca, and potatoes. Get started with these 8 slimming gluten-free comfort foods from Davis.
6. Learn how to de-stress instantly
Resolve to finally learn how to handle your stress this spring. If you can’t spare a block of time every day to meditate, squeeze in a few minutes each hour to experience the same benefits, says Heidi Hanna, PhD, author of The Sharp Solution: A Brain-Based Approach for Optimal Performance. Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Focus on pulling the air down into your belly. Breathe in for a count of five, hold the breath for a moment, and then slowly release. Continue for three to five minutes. (Check out these 3 ways to meditate for people who think they hate meditating.)
7. Allergy-proof your house
Okay, so this one is cleaning-related—but it’s definitely worth it. You can help put the kibosh on spring allergies by washing all linens and blankets. Why? The greatest number of dust mites live in the bedroom, according to the American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “All smooth surfaces, including ceiling fan blades and window coverings should be wiped with a cloth,” says James Sublett, MD, president-elect of the ACAAI. If you have forced air heating and air conditioning (HVAC), also replace your furnace filters. For more ways to keep your home sneeze-free, see How To Allergy-Proof Your Home.
8. Purge old makeup
Remember that bright pink lipstick that looked great in the store but now sits at the bottom of your makeup drawer two years later? Time to toss it. “Most products have at least a one-year shelf life, although organic products may go bad faster,” says Dennis Gross, MD, a dermatologist and founder of 900 5th Dermatology in New York City. Throw it out if you notice changes in the product, such as an odor or separation of ingredients, says Gross. Here’s when to get rid of specific types of makeup.
9. Replace old workout shoes
Your comfy, worn-out running shoes may do more harm than good. “The general rule of running shoe replacement is every 600 miles of running, i.e., someone running 50 to 60 miles a week should replace their shoes every three months,” says Andrew P. Gerken, MD, orthopedic surgeon with Newport Orthopedic Institute in Newport Beach, California. The material, particularly in the heel, wears out with use, and loses its cushioning effect. (Find your perfect new pair with this guide to the best shoes for every type of runner.)
10. Smarten up your TV time
You know that zoning out on the couch every night watching reality TV isn’t doing you body any favors…but sometimes a girl needs her TV. The solution? Sneak in some brain-boosting options. “Watch shows that stimulate thoughtful conversation (like PBS, the Discovery Channel or ones that focus on hobbies you find interesting), and discuss the topics to boost engagement and creative thinking,” says Hanna. A consistent weekly viewing party can provide steady social time, causing a boost in brain-building chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin. (Do these 8 stretches while watching TV to boost your health.)
11. Organize your in-box
Chances are, the giant stack of junk mail and flyers on your kitchen counter isn’t the only mail source gathering dust. If you email in-box looks a bit like an avalanche, here’s how to dig out, courtesy of Dmitri Leonov from Sanebox.com, a service that automatically prioritizes and sorts your emails based on importance:
Each morning, flag emails that must be dealt with today, focusing on your top priorities. Dedicate 30-minute blocks every two hours to staying on top of email. During those blocks, make decisions about each message immediately: Respond if it takes less than two minutes, delete, archive, or defer to respond later. (For more on how to spring clean your life, check out this complete guide from Prevention Premium.)
12. Up your daily happiness potential
Try these quick happiness-boosting tips from Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness:
- Throw away your ex—or at least pictures and mementos of him that make you sad.
- Rid your closet of clothes that don’t flatter you. You just don’t need that baggage.
- Give away the stuff you don’t want: Research shows that helping out others improves your own happiness. (Try these 14 two-minute tricks to boost your happiness fast.)
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