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Seven ways to spring clean your health

Spring is the season of renewal and growth. This year, it will also be the season we remember being stuck at home while we social distanced ourselves so we could stay healthy and virus free. We can use the extra time we have from not running between activities and commitments to improve ourselves: organize our lives, focus on neglected areas of our houses, and spring clean our health.

Decluttering your life and prioritizing your health can make a huge impact on your mental health and personal daily habits that impact your physical health. This time at home is your chance to re-evaluate your daily habits and learn to put your health higher on your priority list. You can even get your whole family in on the action — since you are all in this together.

Taking care of yourself is a great way to improve both your physical and mental health. Here are seven tips to help you put your health first:

• Get outside — Even though you need to be mindful of social distancing, you can still get outside and get some fresh air. As the weather gets warmer, you should get outside for a walk, or sit on a bench with a view and enjoy nature. Studies have shown that exposure to greenspace and the outdoors can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and type II diabetes.

• Learn to cook healthy meals as a family — Research shows people who eat home-cooked meals regularly tend to be happier and healthier. Home-cooked meals also tend to contain less sugar and processed ingredients than takeout, which can result in higher energy levels and better mental health. By cooking and eating your meals together as a family, you can instill the habit of healthy eating in your children and have valuable family bonding time. Challenge yourself with a plant-based meal each week.

• Make exercise a habit — Adding exercise to your daily or weekly routine can have benefits far beyond physical fitness. Exercise is known to improve mood and decrease feelings of anxiety and depression. Not only does it help you burn calories, but it can also be good for building muscles and strong bones. Lack of regular physical activity is a primary cause of chronic disease, so get up and get moving.

• Plant a vegetable garden — Growing your own vegetables can seem overwhelming to some, however it’s much simpler than it sounds. Even if you don’t have a yard, consider starting a patio garden or even an indoor herb garden on a windowsill. Gardening is a natural stress reliever, and by eating the vegetables you grow, you consume essential nutrients that promote better health. This can even help you save money on groceries.

• Unplug your Wi-Fi for set hours every day — In 2020, everyone has easy access to screen-time. Whether it is social media, news sites, shows, or games, we are more connected than ever. Make it a habit to unplug the Wi-Fi for two-to-four hours every day. This habit can give you more private or family time as well as improve sleep and mental health.

• Set regular bedtimes and wake times –It is important for everyone to get seven-to-nine hours of sleep every day. Working from home and no school can seem like great reasons to stay up late, but it’s important to keep your body a regular sleep cycle. Also, make sure that you put your phone away and turn off your TV or other devices during your scheduled sleep time to help you get the best sleep possible.

• Take vitamins regularly — It is hard to get all the vitamins and nutrients we need through diet. Vitamins and supplements are not a shortcut to better health but combined with eating right and regular exercise you can ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs. You don’t need to purchase the whole vitamin aisle; one multivitamin can contain a balance of the vitamins and nutrients you need.

Use this added time at home to focus on yourself and your family. You don’t have to completely change your life — just consider making little improvements each week. If you need encouragement or have questions on how to live a healthier life, talk to your primary care provider. They can help connect you with the resources you need as well as offer suggestions based on your personal health and activity level.

Remember that improving your physical health helps your mental health and can help get you through this challenging time.

Dr. Elizabeth Klucka is a board-certified family practice provider with UPMC. She sees patients at Family Medicine at Montoursville. For more information on primary care at UPMC, visit UPMCSusquehanna.org/PrimaryCare

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