Successful Women | Small Steps to a Better You

May 30th, 2017 | Successful Women

What does it mean to invest in our health? While eating that apple a day is still a great idea, there are many factors, including things you already do and enjoy (like sleeping comfortably and spending time with family), that can nourish your mind, body and spirit. Small tweaks to already established habits may be enough to return your investment and enhance the quality of your life. 

Mind over genes

It would be understandable to assume that the physical characteristics and DNA you’re born with reign superior, however some healthy lifestyle changes – including eating better, exercising, managing stress and devoting more time to loving relationships – have actually been shown to change the way your genes are expressed for the better.

In his Ted talk, Dr. Dean Ornish – founder of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute – shares that in a study on men with prostate cancer, more than 500 genes were favorably changed when participants made comprehensive lifestyle changes. That means they were able to “turn on” disease preventing genes and “turn off” the disease promoting ones.

Brainy and better looking

It’s also been found that when people lead a healthier lifestyle, the brain gets more blood flow and oxygen and actually grows. In a study published in Nature Neuroscience, participants who walked three hours per week over three months developed enough new neurons that their brains measurably increased.

The restorative powers of sleep

Sleep has been credited with a litany of beneficial side effects including improvement of short-term memory and better mood, relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression. In a study of more than 900 women, a bad night’s sleep affected their happiness as much as pressing work deadlines and differences in income.

Sleep influences our physical health, too. You might be active, but a lack of sleep could keep you from building muscle. A study of women published in Clinical and Experimental Dermatology found that well-rested skin was better able to recover from ultraviolet light exposure than participants who slept five hours or less.

Keep your friends closest

There’s a reason you’ve heard the phrase “support system” throughout your life. As social creatures, it’s proven that we benefit from our relationships, be they romantic, familial or friendships – but exactly how important are they?

Just like sleep and healthy eating, quality relationships greatly influence our happiness and longevity. In one particular study, researchers found that those lacking strong relationships faced an increased risk of premature death by 50%. This rate is roughly similar for those who smoke up to 15 cigarettes a day, and greater than obesity and a lack of exercise.

If you’re looking to boost your health, no step is too small to incorporate whether it’s scheduling a family game night or going for walks around the block. And who knows? Taking those measures could even help you save healthcare dollars down the road, allowing you to put them toward the things you care about most. 

Next steps:

  • Want to exercise more? Recruit a workout buddy
  • Feeling social? Consider joining a book club or scheduling a standing date with friends
  • Want better sleep? Research “sleep hygiene” to see if your nightly routine has room for improvement

Sources: Ted.com, Huffingtonpost.com, Business Insider, K-State Today, Harvard.edu, National Institutes of Health

Material prepared by Raymond James for use by its advisors. Raymond James is not affiliated with any companies mentioned in this material.

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