20 Simple Wellness Swaps
There is a concept in goal setting that advises breaking down a major goal into smaller goals. The idea is that you will have small wins along the way to accomplishing your big win. And we can vouch for the effectiveness of this strategy as we've both employed this in our own quest for achievement. Not only is this a great approach for goals, it’s also something you can apply to all sorts of situations, even if you wouldn’t identify yourself as striving for a goal. We especially like this tactic for making changes that will lead toward a healthier lifestyle.
It seems the more we learn about wellness, all the things that impact it and all the ways to improve it, the more intimidating it gets. There is just so much out there!! And while ‘ignorance is bliss’ is one approach, I think we can all agree that ignoring our well-being isn’t the answer. To make it less formidable, we’ve put together a list of 20 simple swaps you can make (or consider making) to help you on your way to a healthier lifestyle.
The key to swapping out products for healthier alternatives is to do so when you run out of something you are using. It is much easier on your bank account (and less daunting overall) to slowly and steadily replace these items. Some things you are going to make an outright swap, but you can still do this as a purposeful small step rather than feeling the need to go on a wellness shopping spree.
Clean Beauty – This includes everything from your skincare (especially sunscreen) to your make up and even your haircare products. The term “clean” can be a bit tricky so this swap might take a little more time as you research the right products. Check out our episode on clean beauty and our post on Clean Beauty for Newbies to help point you in the right direction.
Non-Toxic Cleaning Products – We aren’t advocating that you start making your own cleaning products using vinegar or baking soda (although you totally can). And we aren’t saying that all chemicals are harmful to your health. However, there are a lot of chemicals put into everyday household cleaning products that are known carcinogens, have been classified as toxic or hazardous, are shown to be asthma-causing, etc. (Check out the Environmental Working Group to learn more and see their ranking of products.) Shanna personally loves using Branch Basics and Blueland products.
Zero Drop and/or Wider Toe Box Shows - According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, 78% of Americans have experienced foot pain as a result of uncomfortable or ill-fitting shoes. We learned from Dr. Ray McClanahan in our episode on Why You Should Buy New Shoes the importance of foot health as well as why we should all make the transition to shoes with no heel lift (known as zero drop) and a wider toe box. Both of us have started to make this switch with our footwear, and we’ve noticed that it does make a difference in how our feet and bodies feel. Want a list of “approved” footwear? Check out Dr. McClanahan’s list.
Baked or Dehydrated Dog Food – We love our dogs and think they contribute to a healthier life so this swap’s for them. We learned a lot from Dr. Lauren Beaird in episode 42 about the little things that make a big impact on pet’s health, and nutrition was a major one. For dogs, she recommends making the switch to either baked kibble or dehydrated food. You can take it a step further and do raw food – but take the baby step to switch to either baked or dehydrated. Shanna loves feeding her pup The Honest Kitchen dehydrated food.
An Actual Alarm Clock – At this point, I think we’ve all heard the recommendation of leaving your phone out of the bedroom. Shanna has made this switch, and the experts are right. This is a great swap for getting better sleep and not turning to scroll a screen first thing in the morning (or last thing at night for that matter).
Glass Food Storage Containers – This is a swap that requires you to get rid of something that is likely not “used up” or even necessarily in need of replacing. And while plastic containers won’t outright kill you, research shows that plastic may leach into your food, especially when heated, and can cause health problems. Bonus with this swap is that glass containers are easier to clean and don’t get stained from the food so they always look real nice. (Plus, glass just feels fancier for holding your leftovers.)
Indoor Plants – Besides adding some greenery to your space, houseplants can help with air purifying. And if NASA recommends the use of plants, then we think it’s a wise investment. Rather getting an air purifier and having another machine in the house, get some living plants that can double as décor.
Water Filter – Even if your tap water doesn’t have a devastating chemical like lead in it, there are still a lot of contaminants and chemicals in tap water that have been shown to be problematic for your health. Investing in a quality water filter can help with that and also eliminate the waste of feeling you need to buy a bunch of bottled water to avoid whatever is in your tap water. Check out episode 56 for Shanna’s recommendations on finding the right water filter for you.
This is definitely not about dieting. We are talking simple changes that can improve your health without focusing on your weight.
Meatless Monday (or one day a week of plant-based meals) – We’ve talked to several experts that all agree on the fact that people, in general, need to eat more plants, especially veggies. Making one day a week your plant-based meals day is a commitment that can actually make trying new recipes and introducing more vegetables into your diet easier than just trying to “eat more veggies.” To get you started, check out our blog with tips on plant-based cooking and *easy* plant-based recipes.
Drink a large glass of water if you feel sleepy or hungry – Before grabbing for coffee, a sugary treat, or a salty snack, drink a large glass of water first. You may still end up eating the snack or drinking the caffeine, but dehydration can also cause those symptoms. So give it a try, worst case scenario is you get extra hydrated.
Homemade smoothie or granola for dessert – We both love sweets, and we aren’t advocating for giving them up because we love all sorts of desserts. But when Shanna has eaten her 10th oreo in a row (in one sitting), she doesn’t always feel the greatest. To cut back on constantly consuming processed sugars, Shanna will make a smoothie or homemade granola. The sweetness is there, but not the processed sugars. Her go to smoothie is a chocolate peanut butter smoothie that is one frozen banana, one heaping tablespoon of cacao, one heaping tablespoon of peanut butter, and 12 ounces of almond milk. Blend and enjoy!
Sparkling water instead of soda or a mocktail instead of a cocktail – If you’re looking to cut down on either your soda or alcohol consumption, these aren’t the only options, but they are a good start. The key here is to play around with options and not just default to your daily soda or nightly glass of wine.
You may have heard the sentiment that ‘sitting is the new smoking.’ Whether or not that is scientifically true, the research and experts we have talked to all advocate for moving your body daily and being more mindful about including movement in your life. Here are some ways we love doing this.
Take a 5 minute movement break every hour – Set a timer for 5 minutes, stand up, and move. This can be as simple as marching in place, doing some jumping jacks, dancing around to your favorite song, or doing some simple stretches (preferably not seated stretches). This isn’t about breaking a sweat; it’s about not getting stagnant and bound up in your body so that you don’t have a hunchback and aren’t stiff all the time. If you can’t commit to doing this every hour, start with doing this every 2 or 3 hours. You’ll love it so much that you’ll want to do it every hour, we promise!
Clean your house barefoot – Do your body a favor and take off your shoes and socks when you are cleaning or cooking. Our episode with podiatrist Dr. McClanahan made it clear to us that we need to be barefoot more often. It not only helps with keeping your feet healthy (meaning pain-free, no bunions, and no hammer toes), but it also helps the rest of your body since shoes alter our natural posture. So while we can’t really walk around everywhere in the world with no shoes, start by being barefoot at home.
Make your fascia happy with simple moves while you watch TV – Fascia is the stuff between the stuff in our bodies. And while that might not sound exciting, fascia is something that we want to keep happy and healthy so we can feel the best in our bodies. Some of the things we like to do include going to a wall with a tennis ball, putting the tennis ball in the area between the shoulder blade and spine (you know that area where you feel a lot of “knots” in your back/shoulders), and pressing into the wall to slowly move the ball up and down in that area. Another thing we love is laying on our backs with knees bent, feet on the floor, and our arms stretched out wide. Great way to open up the chest and counteract any hunching you did during the day. There are lots of options out there so definitely do some searching after you’ve mastered these techniques. And if you want to learn more about fascia, check out our episode with Dr. Ariele Foster.
Check in with your posture three times a day – If you want to avoid a hunchback and other potential injuries, make it a point to check in with your posture at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Most of us spend a majority of our days hunched forward at our computers and over our smartphones. A simple way to start correcting your posture is to be aware when your shoulders are hunching and your head/chin is jutting forward. To correct, roll your shoulders back so you aren’t forming a “C” shape with your upper body (but not so far back that your shoulder blades are squeezing together) and pull your head back and tuck your chin slightly. Key thing is to not over-exaggerate this either.
Mental Health Swaps
These swaps are about doing the little things to make you feel better and support your emotional and mental health. We’re big on mindfulness with these, but also encourage everyone to seek help for their mental health when they are struggling. We have, and there’s no shame in it!
Turn off screens at least 30 minutes before bed - Write a gratitude list, journal or read a book. Just get your eyes away from the blue light and start to mentally wind down. Not only does this keep you from getting sucked into endless scrolling or a Netflix binge, studies show that getting enough, uninterrupted sleep positively impacts mental health.
Sniff some essential oils for a quick pick-me-up - If you’re ever struggling to focus or feeling mentally fatigued, smelling a citrus (think orange, lime, grapefruit, or lemon) essential oil or peppermint essential oil is a great mental boost as these scents are very energizing. If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, lavender essential oil is great to calm and center. The great thing with this swap is you don’t need a diffuser or to physically do anything with the essential oils other than uncap and sniff.
Meditate before scrolling on social media - Whether it’s going down a social media rabbit hole, doom scrolling the news, or getting sucked into a Netflix binge, we’ve all fallen prey to mindless consumption of media. You can start to counterbalance this with meditation or breathwork first. Make it easy and start with just one minute of focusing on your breath.
Call your friends rather than texting - In neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s book Keep Sharp, he shares the science around keeping your brain young, healthy and sharp. And actually talking with a friend or loved one is more impactful for brain health than playing a “brain” game like Sudoku. Social connection is crucial for mental health, as we’ve all learned in this pandemic. So bring that phone up to your ear and talk. Even better, take a walk outside and talk with that friend.
Please don’t read this list and decide you are going to do all 20 of these at once. Go back to the principle that we started with of small steps building (key word!) to something bigger. We’ve been overwhelmed more times than we can count when it comes to our wellness journey. To combat this, we remind each other that we don’t need to make big, sweeping changes to make a positive impact, but rather that the small things will be more sustainable and will add up to the healthy lifestyle we are aiming for. Our advice: choose one thing from our list this week and build from there each week (or month).