Longer days, warmer weather and fresh starts are the hallmarks of spring. It inspires many to bust open closets and cabinets to bring new life to neglected areas at home — which is a smart move. Decluttering can work wonders for your mental clarity and focus. We all know how cathartic it is watching those bags of junk leave the house after giving a room a thorough clean out.
But why stop with your personal space? Your physical well being may need some sprucing up, too! Leading experts across America shared with NBC News BETTER their advice for dusting off your health and wellness routines just in time for spring.
PUT YOURSELF ON YOUR TO-DO LIST
Spring is the perfect time to re-evaluate your habits. “Do you consistently put yourself and yourhealth last on the daily line-up?” asks Dr. Jannell MacAulay, a wellness educator, performance specialist, and lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force. When you’re always putting other people’s needs ahead of your own, your performance as a parent, professional and leader can suffer. To break this bad pattern, she offers this advice: “Put on your own oxygen mask first!” You don’t need to overhaul your whole life to get results. “Maybe start your day with two deep breaths, or schedule time for a quick workout or a walk with a friend. Or just take time to make yourself a healthy lunch. Taking care of yourself is a great way to increase performance and overall wellbeing,” MacAulay says.
GIVE THE CONFERENCE LINE A REST
Liz Wilkes, CEO of national wellness provider, Exubrancy, suggests taking walking meetings over virtual ones. “I love to use the warmer spring weather as an opportunity to get out of the office for walking meetings. Walking meetings help spark creativity, build deeper connections withcolleagues and counteract the effects of sitting for extended periods of time. Plus studies show that natural light significantly increases energy and productivity,” she explains. Wilkes also offers this pro tip: “Map your route in advance so you don't have to interrupt your conversation with navigation decisions!”
JUST GET OUTSIDE
Sure, there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy when the weather gets warmer, but simply getting out of the house, office, apartment or wherever you’ve been hibernating can be beneficial, too. “Grab a blanket and find a spot to take in nature,” suggests celebrity trainer and self-care expert, Rosalia Chann. “You don’t need to be active 100 percent of the time,” she adds. Chann explains that the outdoor setting can help relieve stress and can also provide an opportunity to be present and enjoy people you love — both ways to round out your self-care routine.
GET OUT IN THE SUN FOR 10 MINUTES
Nutrition expert Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, and author of Eating in Color, says that come spring, most of us are in a vitamin D deficit. “It’s smart to get a small amount of unprotected sun exposure — say 10 minutes a day — in order to let your body produce the vitamin (apply sunscreen after that),” she says. “Vitamin D is linked to helping prevent everything from osteoporosis, to heart disease and certain types of cancer. And no one can argue the fact that sunshine just makes you feel awesome.”
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FIRE UP YOUR WORKOUTS
Take your fitness to the next level by adding in tabata interval workouts at the end of your routine. These four-minute bursts of high-intensity training can maximize your workout and your results, according to Nashville-based celebrity fitness trainer, Josh Rogers, who recommends alternating between 20 seconds of max training followed by a 10-second rest for a total of eight rounds. “These workouts are fast-paced and fun, and burn up tons of calories,” he says. His sample routine: Use a burpee and plank jack as your tabata exercises. Perform 20 seconds of burpees followed by a 10 second rest, then 20 seconds of plank jacks followed by another 10 second rest, and repeat for four minutes (a total of eight rounds).
GIVE GARDENING A GO
Spring is the time to get your seeds planted and start growing some produce. “Even if you only have a patio or deck, you can create a pot or growing box of vegetables and produce some of your own vegetables. You can also dedicate a certain part of your lawn or flower beds to growing gorgeous vegetables,” says Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian. Growing your own garden pays off in a number of ways. “Studies show that people who home garden are happier and eat more healthfully,” says Palmer. She recommends starting with a tomato plant, basil, parsley, greens, carrots, zucchini or radishes, which are some of the easier veggies to grow. Kate Scarlata, RDN also recommends spring veggies, whether you garden or not. Eating a variety of seasonal produce, such as baby salad greens, carrots, fennel, asparagus and green beans, provides a wide range of fibers. Scarlata explains that certain fibers feed the good gut microbes, while others keep things moving along your digestive tract. “A variety of veggies in the diet is shown to bolster gut health,” she says.
SPRING CLEAN YOUR SPICE RACK
Nutritionist Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD author of Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches With Pulses - The New Superfood, recommends giving your spice rack a thorough cleaning. “Dried herbs and spices add flavor, aroma and antioxidants to meals, and allow you to season foods without using excess salt and sugar. They've also been shown to boost satiety and rev upmetabolism. But, they lose potency as they age,” she explains. Sass suggests taking inventory a few times of year and replacing your older spices with fresh stock. When you buy new spices this spring, she also suggests buying smaller quantities. “That way, you'll go through them faster and it won't lead to waste.”
Taking a break from your digital world is an easy way to recharge. “Spring is my seasonal reminder to slow down and practice more mindfulness in everyday mundane tasks,” says Ashley Rose Howard, meditation teacher at Exubrancy, a national wellness provider. Taking a few deep breaths before getting out of bed can help mornings feel less rushed, she explains. In addition, she recommends keeping your phone out of reach during your morning commute. Instead, take note of the signs of spring blossoming around you. “Outdoor walking meditations are also a great practice to boost mental health and stimulate the senses. The more aware weare in the moment, the less distracted we are in the mind.”
CREATE A BETTER SLEEP ROUTINE
The recommended seven to nine hours of sleep are an extremely important time for your brain and body. In fact, cutting your snooze short by just one hour can directly affect your health. Everything from your mood to your immune system to your risk of weight gain can get thrown off kilter if you aren't getting enough sleep. But getting proper rest isn’t as simple as getting in bed at a certain time. “When you go to sleep, melatonin levels should rise as cortisol falls, but checking your work emails from your phone at 11 PM spikes cortisol and blocks melatonin production,” according to Dr. Mike Dow, psychotherapist and author of "Heal Your Drained Brain: Naturally Relieve Anxiety, Combat Insomnia, and Balance Your Brain in Just 14 Days". Dow offers this advice for creating more structure at bedtime and guarding your brain from the effects of bad sleep. “Decide what time you're going to bed and set a timer on your phone for one hour before that time. When that timer goes off tonight, put your phone on airplane mode. No more emails. Turn off your TV and computer. Dim your lights. Get ready for bed and the day ahead of you.”
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