7 Easy Ways to Improve Health (for Free!)

Note: This post was originally published on WellnessMama.com

It is often said that “the best things in life are free,” which is true about quality time with family and friends, that newborn baby smell, gorgeous Fall leaves and sunsets. Unfortunately, it is not true about many health-supporting things like water filters, organic mattresses, or supplements.

Of course, there are ways to save money while living a healthy lifestyle (like meal planning or making your own laundry soap and deodorant), but in general, a healthier lifestyle can be expensive sometimes.

It can feel overwhelming, expensive and frustrating sometimes when there are health changes you want to make but they are out of your current budget. The great news is that even in this case, sometimes the best things (for your health) are free after all… most of us just tend to neglect them.

7 Free Ways to Improve Health

You don’t need a wave vibration plate, a float tank or an infrared sauna to be healthy. People have managed to achieve good health throughout history without any fancy contraptions or expensive supplements (though arguably, they also faced less stress, pollution, and processed food than we do today).

In fact, if we just turn back to some of the basics that our grandparents instinctively knew, finding balance in health and wellness might not be as complicated as it seems.

Don’t get me wrong, there are several parts of my daily routine that do rely on supplements or health-boosting devices of some sort, but I also firmly believe that none of these things will be very effective without these foundational aspects of health (that don’t cost a thing!)

Even if you have absolutely no room in the budget for healthier food, supplements or things like salt lamps, I recommend prioritizing these seven free things to support your family’s health naturally!

1. Sleep

Sleep is important. Really important. Some experts claim that sleep may actually be the MOST important thing we can do for health.

It also doesn’t cost a thing. Of course, there are times that getting quality sleep isn’t possible, like during the newborn months or if a child is ill, but making sleep a priority whenever possible is important for health in many ways.

Lack of sleep has been linked to blood sugar imbalances, higher stress levels, obesity, mental problems, infertility and immune problems, as well as many other less serious issues.

Like many things in life, understanding the importance of something is only the first step of actually making a change. Just knowing that sleep is important doesn’t make it any easier to actually get to bed at an earlier hour.

Here are some tips to help make sleep a priority:

  • Remind yourself: Instead of a wake-up alarm, consider setting a bedtime alarm. Set your phone or alarm clock for 30 minutes before the time you need to be asleep and when it goes off, stop doing what you are doing and get ready for bed.
  • Avoid the blue: Use a free program like f.lux to reduce blue light on your computer after dark, as blue light can interfere with proper sleep hormone production. This is the reason I wear ridiculous looking orange sunglasses that block blue light at night, and why my children don’t have a nightlight.
  • Put your feet up and breathe: Two of the most effective ways I’ve found to help fall asleep and stay asleep are completely free. Read the full details of both in this post– one is a simple 4–7–8 breathing pattern of breathing in for a count of 4, holding for a count of 7 and exhaling for a count of 8. The other is laying on the back and elevating the feet at 90 degrees for 15 minutes before bed.
  • Create a comfortable environment: Create a sleep environment that you love and use it only for sleep. Don’t work or watch TV in your bedroom if you can avoid it. I found that covering our windows to block outside light helped me sleep, as did using a sleep app called Sleep Genius.
  • Make some Gummies: If you already have the ingredients on hand, these homemade gummies can help kids (and adults) sleep through the night. A mixture of 1/2 teaspoon honey and 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt can also help.

2. Calm the Mind

Research shows that we are under more stress than ever before. We have busy schedules, constant input from social and other media and more financial and health struggles than ever before.

Statistically, this is negatively impacting our health, as recent surveys showed that less than 40% of us would rate our health as “good or great” and a majority of people listed health problems as stressors.

The good news?

Spending just a few minutes a day calming the mind through prayer or meditation may have a really big impact. In fact, there are thousands of studies that support this conclusion and show that learning to reduce stress through meditation or prayer may:

  • Improve immune function
  • Lower stress levels
  • Reduce physical pain
  • Help balance the mind
  • Increase memory
  • Improve creativity
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Improves heart rate
  • Improves sleep (see #1!)

Mediation doesn’t have to be structured, difficult or guided. It can be as simple as calm, focused breathing for a short time each day. In fact, my favorite way to calm the mind is with something called box breathing. The basic idea is to think of breathing as a box pattern. I inhale for a four count, hold for four, exhale for a four count and hold for four.

Even more fun?

Draw or color… While these are often relegated to the realm of childhood, things like adult coloring have gained popularity lately for their stress relief benefits. (There are even whole coloring books dedicated to stress relief for adults!) Ever resorted to doodling or coloring on a notepad in a meeting or stressful time? This is because it helps relax the mind.

If you’re a mom, you probably have coloring books already laying around but you can also print some at no cost here. Even more simple? Just grab a black pen and start drawing on a piece of paper for a few minutes a day.

3. Go Outside

Nature has so many benefits, and just going outside for a few minutes a day can be great for your health. In fact, Dr. Alan Christianson (who specializes in thyroid and hormone health) explains that just 20–30 minutes of outside time shortly after waking up can help balance circadian rhythms and improve cortisol levels.

His advice? Go outside for 30 minutes within an hour of waking, if possible. Bonus points if you do this after getting enough sleep and while calming your mind or meditating!

Bonus tip from Dr. C:

Your body uses cortisol to rescue you from low blood sugar. This makes carbs a tool you can use to help regulate your cortisol. Start your day with 25–35 grams of protein and finish it with 20–50 grams of high-quality carbs. Great options include paleo-friendly sources like sweet potatoes, turnips, squash, beets, and rutabagas. Having them later in the day helps not only cortisol but a whole host of weight regulating hormones like leptin, ghrelin, and adiponectin.

4. Hydrate

So water isn’t completely free, but if you live in the developed world and are reading this from a computer, you probably have access to an unlimited amount from your kitchen tap (and even have the luxury of being able to flush a few gallons down the toilet whenever you need to go).

Surprisingly, even with such easy access, many of us also don’t drink nearly enough water. Even if the water contains chemicals from municipal water sources, it is important to get enough (though there are filters that remove most chemicals easily).

One easy way I make sure I get enough water is to start the day with a big glass of fresh lemon water. This helps the body hydrate at the beginning of the way, but has also been great for my digestion and skin! I also keep a mason jar of water or a water bottle with me throughout the day to remind me to drink and try to limit beverages like coffee or alcohol that don’t help hydration.

5. Get Gratitude

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking “if only I _____ I’d be happy,” but it turns out that the reverse is true. Rather than achievement or material things fueling happiness, having a positive outlook and being grateful can work to improve your health.

Experts recommend starting a gratitude journal of a few things you are grateful for each day as a way to train the mind to focus on the positive. As a bonus, this can also help reduce stress (#1) and calm the mind (#2).

6. Avoid plastic

It’s inconvenient to think about, but plastic is one of the biggest problems facing our planet and our health. Avoiding it doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult though.

In fact, avoiding plastic has actually saved our family money as I now store food without plastic, use a plastic-free reusable water bottle, and reusable natural feminine products to avoid plastic exposure.

Even when we were on a very tight budget, I found some quart size mason jars and glass plates/storage containers at a thrift store for food storage and eating and we were able to avoid plastic… and since glass lasts forever (or until a child breaks it!), we still have and use many of those pieces.

7. Exercise

Sure, you could sign up for a gym membership that you probably won’t use (statistically- that is why they lock you into a contract), but you can also get exercise for free at home with less effort and in less time. As a bonus, you’ll avoid sweaty equipment that dozens of other people have touched, antibacterial spray that can mess up your gut bacteria and stressful news headlines while you Elliptical your way to health.

There are structured programs that you can do at home, but there are even simpler workouts that you can do in your backyard and most of these exercises are safe and recommended even during pregnancy.

Bonus points if you get your family involved and spend some quality time with your children while you get some exercise.

The Bottom Line

Healthy living doesn’t have to be expensive, and while it can be easy to get caught up in complex or expensive methods of improving health, sometimes the most effective ones are the easiest ones to implement, and cost the least!

Even if you are focusing on more advanced techniques or working to overcome a specific health challenge, don’t neglect these important aspects of health that you can do daily.

Be honest, how many of these items do you do daily?

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