What if you found out the road to better health and nutrition was already built into your daily map? That no additional steps are required, and you can simply tweak steps already inherent in your daily routine?

Sometimes, the most daunting thing about articles on “how to improve health…” is that they include lists of activities or “extras” that are impossible to incorporate into an already-too-busy life. The good news is that a healthier and more nutritious life doesn’t need to require extra time or equipment. All you have to do is adjust a handful of your everyday activities and you’ll receive an automatic health boost.

Re-Think the Grocery List

One of the biggest changes you can make in your diet is to reduce eating processed foods and consume more “whole foods.”

  • Make the switch to whole grains. Not only are whole grains higher in protein, but they have higher nutrient and fiber content. Whole grains also take longer for your body to digest, which better regulates blood sugar levels. Also, switch from white rice to brown rice, and try adding quinoa (also protein- and nutrient-rich) into the mix.
  • Grab seasonal fruit instead of processed treats. Eliminating favorite treats altogether can be brutal. Instead, try swapping out 50% of them for fruit. When you eat ripe, seasonal fruit, you’ll satisfy that sweet tooth and absorb more vitamins and minerals, along with reducing your caloric intake.
  • Add dark chocolate. That’s right! Make the switch from milk chocolate to dark varieties, which are lower in calories and higher in antioxidants.

Just make a few simple changes and your diet will follow suit.

Sleep More, Live Better

According to the folks at Harvard University, sleep is a “life-sustaining” activity. Are you getting enough sleep? Adults require an average of seven to nine hours to reap optimal benefits, which include stress-reduction, increased memory, mental clarity and overall better health.

Maximize Every Step

Every step you take burns calories. The faster and longer you walk, the more calories you burn. Walking also increases cardiovascular health and gives you an energy boost. Build extra steps (literally!) into your schedule by:

  • Parking in the furthest space rather than the closest.
  • Walk a little faster than normal to increase your heart rate.
  • Take the stairs for a flight or two before hopping on the elevator.
  • Walk up escalators instead of taking a ride.
  • After eating lunch, do a couple of circuits around the building or block.

Adding energized steps can burn up to a couple hundred extra calories a day.

Have a Laugh

The more researchers analyze laughter, the more “laughter is the best medicine” rings true. Laughing actually burns calories (up to 50 or so during a good, 15-minute standup routine). It also releases serotonin that positively affects your mood, sleep patterns, sexual desire and appetite. One good laugh per day can have multi-fold health benefits.
Start listening to a comedy podcast on your way to/from work or during your workout for a free mood enhancer. Rolling Stone’s 20 Best Comedy Podcasts list can get you started.

Take a Day Off

Roughly 40% of Americans don’t use their paid vacation days, and 56% haven’t taken a day off in over a year. Yet research shows that those who skip vacations are at higher risk for heart attacks. Taking time off can increase productivity and improve mental health.

Living well isn’t difficult at all. Improving your health simply requires creating a subtle shift in your normal routine.