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By Black Health Matters

If you’re like us, there never seems to be enough hours in the day to do all the things you’ve been planning to do. But there are some things you just can’t afford to skip. Make the time to do these ten things and you’ll be ten steps closer to living your best life.

  1. Drink Water.
  2. Go for a walk.
  3. Take deep breaths.
  4. Go to sleep.
  5. Open a window.
  6. Eat whole foods.
  7. Read something.
  8. Put down your phone (iPad and Kindle).
  9. Stretch.
  10. Give thanks.

Drink water. In a campaign, First Lady Michelle Obama and Ashanti used one of the singer’s video (every time someone tweets about it, the video “hydrates” with improved vocals and visuals) to encourage Americans to drink more water for good reason—it’s amazing for you! From keeping your skin clear to helping your kidneys do their work to making it easier to concentrate, water is the fuel your body needs to survive. So aim to drink at least your weight in ounces each day (i.e., a 135-pound woman should drink 135 ounces each day).

Go for a walk. Even if you don’t have time for a full-on workout, walking is a low-impact way to get moving. You’ll feel good, and a 150-pound woman can burn about 130 calories by taking a 30-minute stroll.

Take deep breaths. Whether you have time for a full-on mediation session or just a few cleansing inhales and exhales, deep breathing is an excellent way to combat stress. When you stop and breathe deeply (so that your abdomen extends with each inhale), you can decrease your blood pressure, slow your heartbeat and force your muscles—you know, the knotted ones in your back—to relax.

Go to sleep. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each day. If you’re getting less than that, you could be jacking up your memory; increasing your risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers; increasing your chances of being overweight; or even shortening your lifespan! Is watching all your DVRed shows more important than going to sleep when you’re exhausted?

Open a window. Believe it or not, but the air in your home could be just as polluted as the stuff outside. Why? Everything from your furniture to air fresheners to paint to cleaning products releases chemicals into the air, which you breathe day and night. Opening a window for at least five minutes a day can significantly decrease the concentration of the pollutants lurking in your home.

Eat whole foods. Processed food may taste good, but it’s not exactly the healthiest thing you can eat. Eating fruits, vegetables and grains is associated with maintaining a healthy weight and lowering your heart disease and diabetes risk. Try to fill half of your plate with fruits and veggies at each meal.

Read something. No, email, “Scandal” recaps and work stuff don’t count. Escaping into a good book is a great way to escape the stress of daily life. Plus, studies show it can improve your memory, help ward off dementia in old age, improve your analytical thinking skills and focus, and make you a better writer. What’s not to like?

Put down your phone (and iPad and Kindle). Yup, it’s hard. But disconnecting from tech in the evenings—after likely using it all day at work—is linked to reduced stress and improved sleep. One study even found being glued to your tech makes users jerks, so putting it down could actually make you a better person.

Stretch. Besides just feeling amazing, stretching is good for you, too. It relieves muscle tension, keeps you flexible, helps you recover faster from strenuous workouts and helps you avoid injury, too. Do it in the morning before you get out of bed, or do it while you watch television so that it becomes a daily habit.

Give thanks. Whether it means daily prayer or keeping a list of the things you’re grateful for, studies show gratitude is wonderful for your health. It has been associated with a stronger immune system, better sleep, a more positive outlook and better relationships.