7 Easy Hacks For A Healthier Week
Your eyes creak open. They’re gritty and sore, like they’re full of sand. Only superhuman powers can possibly lift you out of bed. And there’s your alarm again. You’ve already snoozed it twice. At 7:18am on a Thursday, it feels like your thousandth Monday in a row.
It’s daunting to overhaul your entire lifestyle, and being told to wake up an hour earlier is a ridiculous solution for ridiculous overachievers. So here are seven low stakes, non-obnoxious ways to feel better every day and start this year off perhaps a little better than where you left the last one.
#1 The big Sunday cook up
Spend time in the kitchen on the weekend, so you don’t have to turn raw ingredients into food during the week when you’re physically and mentally tapped out. Put on a playlist or a podcast. Hang out with people. Make a big pot of soup, curry, casserole, bolognese – anything you can leave bubbling away on the stove. Or do a Sunday roast. There’s your Sunday dinner, plus leftovers for lunchtime salads and sandwiches, frittata or bubble and squeak.
While your ‘big meal’ is cooking, chop vegetables and store them in the fridge in separate resealable bags. Use them during the week in salads, stir-fries and as snacks with dip. You can also pre-make and store egg mix – 2 eggs beaten with milk, grated cheese and herbs. That’s omelettes, scrambled eggs and carbonara sauce, sorted.
Once your big pot is cooked, pour it into meal-size containers, and divide them between the fridge and freezer. Eat them with rice or pasta for weeknight dinners, or take to work for lunches.
#2 Master the to-do list
If you find yourself exhausted and wondering where the week went, get serious about to-do lists. Your list could be on paper, in the cloud, or an app. It’s really a nested series of lists: a master list of long-term goals, a weekly list of regular and upcoming commitments, and a daily list of top-priority tasks.
Once a day – it could be during your commute home, a coffee break, or after dinner – review your lists and create tomorrow’s priority list. So you don’t get overwhelmed, it has to be short – no more than three items. (You can make a separate ‘overflow’ list in case you finish them all.) Frame them as specific actions rather than broad, hazy goals. Ask yourself which task will give you the biggest sense of achievement, and always tackle that one first. Boom! Every day you’re kicking goals.
#3 Organise your outfit the night before
Some people use a morning shower to wake up; others shower at night and roll fresh out of bed. Whatever your preference, use the time just before bed – or lying in bed – to plan tomorrow’s outfit. You can even lay or hang it out the night before, including shoes, underwear and accessories.
No need to do a Mark Zuckerberg and wear multiples of the same outfit every day. But if your work requires a uniform or a strict dress code, give your clothes a once-over under good lighting – and a sniff test – so they match and are clean. If your dress code’s flexible, then check tomorrow’s weather and think about planned activities, so you’ll be comfortable.
#4 Eat lunch in a park
Do you microwave your lunch in a depressing fluorescent office kitchen, and then take it back to your desk to eat? Do you head for the nearest dismal food court offering or takeaway joint, or even just work through lunchtime and then grab something from a vending machine at 3pm?
Firstly, for shame. Secondly, go outside. Find a leafy park, or even just a park bench a few hundred metres down the street. Even if you’re still eating the same food, you’ll get much-needed fresh (not recirculated) air, vitamin D from sunlight, you’ll be stretching your legs to walk there, and you’ll be creating an oasis of time to yourself, away from work. They don’t own you, man.
#5 Stay hydrated
It’s amazing how much more alert you feel when you’re properly hydrated. Keep a water bottle on your desk or in your bag to refill throughout the day – glass or metal are better for you than plastic. Don’t like the taste of plain water? Flavour it with lemon, mint, cucumber or fruit.
Getting up to make a hot drink isn’t just a way to drink more liquid – it offers a much-needed break from the repetitive postures and movements of your work. You get some exercise moving to the kitchen – and the toilet. If you don’t like tea or coffee, or you’ve drunk enough today, try just hot tap water – a warm drink is comforting to hold and warm water is great for your digestion.
#6 Don’t bookend the day online
It’s easy to get sucked into a loop of checking your emails and your various social media when you’re lying in bed, or when you first sit down at your desk. It feels productive because you’re plugging in and interacting, but you’re actually wasting time. Instead, start your day like it’s a holiday. Get dressed in your pre-planned outfit, listen to music, interact properly with your partner, family, housemates and pets, and eat a proper breakfast. Then start your working day by doing the first thing on your to-do list. Only once that’s done, check your email.
At day’s end, get a proper night’s sleep with a digital sunset: turning off electronic devices an hour before bed, or at least setting them on airplane mode. This gives your mind a chance to slow down and disengage – apart from the barrage of information your devices produce, the blue light from digital displays confuses your brain into thinking it’s still daytime.
Lack any hope of self control? An app called Flux automatically adjusts your screen colours, and provides bedtime reminders. And you can schedule your bedtime and wakeup alarm to align with your natural 90-minute sleep cycles – either using an app, or through the Sleepyti.me bedtime calculator.
#7 Limber up and chill out
Whenever you think of it, stretch the muscles at the back of your neck by pulling your head back over your shoulders, giving yourself a double chin. Tilt your head gently forward, backward, and towards each shoulder, then roll it in a slow circle in both directions. Or you can find online resources like this yoga routine that stretches the wrists and hands, the eagle arms pose to stretch your upper back and shoulders, or casually turn your office into a lunchtime gym.
Mel Campbell is a freelance journalist and cultural critic. She founded online pop culture magazine The Enthusiast, and is author of Out of Shape: Debunking Myths about Fashion and Fit. She blogs on style, history and culture at Footpath Zeitgeist and tweets at @incrediblemelk.
Lead image: Stocksy