You already know the common tricks, like packing a healthy lunch the night before and laying out your workout clothes before bed (or maybe even sleeping in them). But are there other, less expected things you could be doing? These experts have some ideas.
1. Read an inspiring book before bed.
You already know that screens and sleep don't make good bedfellows, but some unplugged media can help you relax and unwind before drifting off to dreamland. And if you're going to read, you might as well choose a book that inspires you to continue along the path to self-improvement.
Every night before bed, trainer Brooke Taylor of Taylored Fitness reads a couple of chapters from an inspirational book. "It sets the tone for the next day," she says. "No matter what kind of day I had, it puts me a good mood and re-motivates me." Some of Taylor's favorites include "You Are a Badass," "Girlboss" and "7 Habits of Highly Effective People."
2. Put "you" on your calendar.
Between morning meetings, afternoon errands and nightly to-dos, it's easy to push your personal wants and needs to the back burner—but this type of self-neglect can cause your health and well-being to suffer. Before bed, as you write down your goals and priorities for the next day, Lorraine Miano from Infinite You Health recommends including some indulgences for yourself. "Whether it's a workout, a massage, a long walk or a meditation session, remember that self-love and self-care do not equal selfishness," says Miano. "It's a matter of survival. You can't pour from an empty cup."
3. Keep a gratitude journal.
Instead of bemoaning a stuck scale, running injury, missed deadline or other daily frustration, Miano recommends taking a few minutes at bedtime to write down three things for which you are grateful. "This will often lead to a more restful and relaxed sleep, and could also help to lessen anxiety," she says. You don't have to limit your gratitude journal to diet and fitness entries—include anything that has brought you joy that day, from a child's laughter to a clean house to kind words from your boss. Over time, you may start to notice the proven benefits of gratitude, such as an overall greater sense of well-being.
4. Drink turmeric milk.
If you're in the habit of unwinding with a nightly glass of wine, consider switching to turmeric milk. Sure, the wine may cause you to sleep deeply, but it could also bypass the initial REM sleep stage. Then, after the alcohol wears off, your body could revert into lighter REM sleep, which isn't as restful. Why turmeric milk? Miano says the beverage promotes relaxation.
5. Create an ideal sleeping environment.
If your bedtime ritual includes Netflix and a sugary snack, you could be doing your sleep a disservice. Trainer and fitness blogger Ashley Pitt recommends turning off all technology about an hour before bedtime. It's also best to avoid sugar or caffeine in the afternoon, which may affect your deep sleep. Additionally, Pitt suggests setting your bedroom to a cool, comfortable temperature (she opts for 65 degrees or less), turning off all lights, wearing a slumber mask and turning in at a reasonable hour. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day to regulate and improve the quality of your sleep.
6. Prep for tomorrow's workout.
Are you in the habit of setting out exercise clothes every night, but been known to leave them untouched for days at a time? Fitness trainer Julia Buckley suggests taking the extra steps of planning all aspects of the next day's exercise.
Having trouble getting motivated to exercise after work? Schedule a fitness class or an appointment with a personal trainer, or arrange a workout session with a buddy. Not enough time to exercise before work? The night before, set out all your gear and plan the entire workout from start to finish, so you can just wake up and start without having to think about it. "Looking at tomorrow’s schedule tonight and seeing that time already blocked off makes self-motivation easier," says Buckley.
When she has no time to get to the gym, Ginsberg does what she calls the "whiteboard shuffle." On a mini whiteboard, she writes down a routine of some basic bodyweight exercises, such as jumping jacks, squats, crunches and push-ups. When she gets bored with that routine, she shuffles things up by adding a new exercise. "The key is to hang the whiteboard in a prominent place," she says. "The more you see it, the more likely you are to do it."
7. Plan healthy breakfasts.
Although there's some debate about the importance of breakfast, most experts recommend starting the day with a healthy, energizing meal. "It's crucial for a good day of energy and productivity," says fitness enthusiast Elisette Carlson with Smack! Media. To save time, she freezes fruits and veggies and throws them into a blender to make smoothies and smoothie bowls. "If you’re super short on time, toss everything in the blender at night and put it in the fridge, so you can get up the next morning and just blend."
To save even more time, Ginsberg prepares smoothie freezer packs. Load up labeled Ziploc bags with all ingredients for each smoothie, minus the liquid, and keep the bags in the freezer. In the morning, simply add the liquid to the base of the blender followed by the contents of the smoothie pack—along with any extras, such as seeds, nut butters, protein powders or spices—and then blend.
Denzel prefers overnight oats for an easy make-ahead breakfast. "At night, cover ½ a cup of old-fashioned oatmeal with almond milk, then stir in whole walnuts and a few raisins. In the morning, simply reach into the fridge and enjoy the cool oatmeal topped with berries and a hint of vanilla extract."
8. Map out your dinners for the week.
To help ensure a healthy week, fitness trainer Kristy Stabler recommends mapping out all your dinners in advance. Not only does this allow you to shop for the appropriate ingredients all at once, but you can also pre-log your meals into your nutrition tracker. "This will give you a framework for eating healthy during the week and prevent you from calling in a pizza order in a moment of weakness, while still allowing for a last-minute coffee date to keep things interesting," says Stabler.
If the idea of planning a week's worth of meals is daunting, use health coach Jill Ginsberg's strategy and "make Sunday the one day." In just 30 minutes, Ginsberg focuses on gathering these five essential components:
- Make a pot of whole grains.
- Roast a pan of your favorite veggies.
- Make one sauce or dressing.
- Create a mini salad bar in your fridge by marinating some kale or just grabbing a bag of pre-washed lettuce, along with your favorite veggies.
- Add the protein of your choice, like salmon, chicken or tofu, or dice up some avocado and toss in some beans.
9. Do a minute of mindful breathing.
In our mile-a-minute world, it can sometimes feel like we're holding our breath as we race from one task to the next. Before bed, Denzel recommends doing a minute of slow, silent breathing for relaxation. "Inhale and exhale through your nose, as quietly as possible. Make sure your exhale is about twice as long as your inhale," she says. "For example, if your inhale takes three seconds, make your exhale last six. This helps the nervous system settle for the night and lets the mind rest."
Tired of waking up feeling stiff and sore? Before turning in, take some time to massage your most common problem areas with a foam roller. If you don't have a roller on hand, some pre-bedtime stretching can work wonders in preventing tightness and tension. "When you find small moves you can do as part of a routine before bed, you'll enjoy long-term benefits," says Spraul. For example, to loosen up tight hips, he recommends doing a simple pigeon pose for 30 seconds on each side.
Why wait until you wake up to start down the path to wellness? By including some of these surprisingly easy strategies in your nightly routine, you'll get a head-start on a healthier tomorrow.