Our top 10 zen health hacks to try right now
We’re so over the six-pack obsession and #noexcuses mantra. That’s why we’re picking up what this year is putting down—a shift toward holistic health, aka a focus on your mind, body and soul (think: blissed out over burned out, all day, every day). With the help of some wellness gurus, we’ve charted the top 10 ways to live your best—and healthiest—life...
1. Step away from the screen.
Yes, you’ve heard this over and over—but device time is only increasing. The average person now spends about five hours a day on their phone. Not only can hunching over your phone ruin your posture (iPhone body is a real thing!), but just having your cell *next* to you is distracting—whether you’re looking at it or not.
Take a tech timeout by pledging to leave all electronics in a different room for an hour or two every day (hint: you also should do this when you go to sleep). Or, if you’re really brave, try a weekend-long digital detox.
Think you can’t stand the separation? We asked Mia H., 17, to try it—and here’s what happened:
“I realized I’m missing out on a lot by scrolling mindlessly through Instagram. After giving up my phone for three days, I felt so much more refreshed and relaxed and was able to enjoy more things IRL. Plus, I slept way better.” Buh-bye, FOMO.
2. Soak in sounds.
If you want some serious self-care, swap your bubble bath for a sound bath.
Sound therapist and meditation teacher Sara Auster explains that our brainwaves constantly tune into (and mimic) noises, so sounds with lower frequencies put us in a state similar to meditation. (Plus, studies have shown that listening to calming music can help you better handle stress and reduce depression symptoms.)
All you have to do is pop in headphones and cue up a Tibetan singing bowl playlist on Spotify for 30 to 60 minutes whenever you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed.
3. Power up with plants.
Protein is essential for a healthy bod, and lately there’s been a shift toward a new
source of the muscle-building macronutrient: plants.
Not only are plant proteins easier to digest and full of anti-
oxidants, they contain all nine of the amino acids that your body can’t produce itself, explains Julieanna Hever (aka The Plant-Based Dietitian).
Amp up your intake by incorporating more legumes (beans, lentils, peas and soy), nuts and seeds into your daily diet. Instead of chowing on potato chips, snack on carrots and hummus or swap in a handful of mixed nuts. You can even ask Mom if you can do “meatless Monday” and try out black bean burgers or tofu stir-fry to majorly up your veggie intake.
4. Breathe better.
How you inhale and exhale can make a big diff in how well you function, notes Jamie Price, co-founder of the Stop, Breathe & Think app.
For example, to sharpen your focus, she suggests the square breath: Breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of four, then breathe out for a count of four and repeat.
Need to calm down? Opt for a cooling out breath: Breathe in through your nose for a count of three, then out through your mouth for a count of five while making a soft whooshing sound.
Want to fall asleep fast? Try the 4-7-8 technique: Inhale through your nose to a count of four, hold for seven, then exhale through your mouth for eight. Snoozy yet?
5. Scan your system.
When it comes to being more mindful, Jamie says her favorite exercise is a body scan—which you can do lying down or standing up—which will help bring awareness to every part of your bod.
Starting at the top of your head and working all the way down to your toes, focus on every single sensation you feel and release any tension you notice (relax your eyebrows, soften scrunched-up shoulders and wiggle those tight toes).
Use this as a chance to check in with yourself and loosen any areas that are feeling not-so-great with some light stretching or quick yoga poses.
6. Roll with it.
Giving 110 percent at the gym day after day takes a toll on your body. And TBH, that whole “no pain, no gain” mentality may actually do more harm than good.
Enter foam rolling, a recovery technique that works your fascia—the tissue that surrounds your muscles and can knot up while you’re exercising. You can use your foam roller on any part of your body—just roll back and forth for 30 seconds to one minute for each area.
Aim for 20 minutes of the muscle massaging post sweat sesh to nix soreness, prevent injury and improve circulation and flexibility. It hurts *so* good, trust.
7. Go with your gut.
Your stomach is made up of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microscopic organisms
that all work together for a happy, healthy bod.
To keep that balance, Dr. Robynne Chutkan, an integrative gastroenterologist at The Digestive
Center for Wellness, recommends eating foods containing pre- and probiotics daily (think: kombucha, kimchi or fortified yogurt) and focusing on veggies.
Get your suggested six to nine servings per day with the 1, 2, 3 rule: one vegetable at breakfast, two at lunch and three at dinner. Bonus points for green leafy veggies and those high in fiber and starch like beans, asparagus or onions. (Pro tip: A smoothie made with spinach, almond milk and a frozen banana is a great gut-approved gulp.)
8. Skip the sugar.
In the U.S., the average young adult eats about 66 pounds of sugar per year (gasp!). And the more of the sweet stuff you eat—including artificial sweeteners—the more harmful the effect it can have on your bod (hello, diabetes and weight gain) and mind (anxiety, depression, shorter attention span...to name a few).
To cut back your sugar intake, try trading your chocolate bar for an apple sprinkled with cinnamon (fresh fruit has fructose, a natural form of sugar that’s better for your bod), swap your soda for water sweetened with fruit slices and pay attention to nutrition labels—added sugars
are hiding in everything from whole- grain granola bars to spaghetti sauce.
9. Love your latte.
Minus the coffee, that is. Subbing your Starbucks for a superfood sip could boost your energy, beat bloating and improve your immune system.
Next-level drinks are being made with ingredients like matcha (green tea powder), beets and even charcoal...but one of the most popular at the moment is a turmeric latte. To make “golden milk,” combine 2 cups of almond milk with 1 tsp of ground turmeric, add any additional flavors you like (cinnamon, ginger, honey, etc.), then heat while whisking on the stove.
10. Call on crystals.
From the shelves of Nordstrom to the pockets of celebs like Bella Hadid and Lucy Hale, crystals are becoming every wellness guru’s It accessory. Why? Supposedly, crystals are a tangible form of the earth’s energy and can help keep us grounded and present.
So which gem should you grab? Heather Askinosie, co-founder of Energy Muse, recommends you pick up rose quartz for unconditional love, carnelian for self-confidence and courage and blue lace agate for calming nerves.
Says Heather: “Crystals are a tool that remind you to find peace even in the midst of chaos.” So carry a crystal in your pocket, rock it as a necklace or set it on your bed—then take time each day to touch it and tune into it to be more tuned into you.
Which zen health hack will you try? Let us know in the comments!