When you think about improving your health, you might consider completely overhauling your lifestyle – which can often feel overwhelming. However, there are plenty of quick and simple things we can do to look after ourselves that, together, can make a big difference.

From checking your body for lumps and bumps to packing a healthy snack in case you get caught short, here are 20 simple things you can do to improve your health in a minute or less.

1. Drink a glass of water every morning

The most obvious benefit of drinking a large glass of water when you wake up in the morning is that it can help to rehydrate your body after not drinking anything for several hours while sleeping.

But studies have also shown that drinking a glass of water before breakfast can increase feelings of fullness and reduce calorie intake throughout the day in older adults.

2. Stand up and move around at least once an hour

Our bodies are built to move and according to the NHS, long periods of inactivity can slow down our metabolisms. This affects the body’s ability to regulate blood pressure and blood sugar, and break down fat. Therefore, it’s recommended that, if possible, we try to sit down less throughout the day.

You could do this by standing up on the train or bus, setting a timer to remind you to get up and walk around once or twice an hour, or walking over to talk to a colleague rather than calling or emailing.

3. Pack a healthy snack

If you’re planning to be away from home for more than a couple of hours, it can help to pack a healthy snack such as an apple or banana, a protein bar, or a handful of nuts.

Not only are healthy snacks a good way to keep your blood sugar stable and prevent spikes or sudden dips that can leave us feeling tired and shakey, but they can also stop us from buying processed convenience foods when we’re out and about – which are often full of unhealthy fats and sugars.

Our article, 14 healthy snack ideas, will hopefully get you inspired to pack one next time you head out.

Pack a healthy snack

4. Add chia seeds to your yoghurt and smoothies

Chia seeds are a small but mighty superfood. These smooth, shiny, black seeds date back 5500 years when they were grown in Mexico and used by the Aztec and Mayan people (and in the Mayan language, chia meant ‘strength’!).

The reason that chia seeds remain so popular today is that they’re packed full of fibre (which supports healthy digestion) and omega-3 fatty acids (which are particularly good for our eyes, heart, and brain), among other important nutrients. They’re also a healthy source of plant-based protein.

Try sprinkling them on your yoghurt and smoothies, or making a quick chia pudding.

5. Practise gratitude

When we’re feeling low or we’re just in need of a boost, it can help to take a few moments to reflect on what we’re grateful for – no matter how small these things may seem.

This could be the food on your table, the sunlight peeking through the curtains in the morning, or access to the internet. We can nearly always find something to be grateful for in our day if we just stop and look a little bit closer.

To read more about the importance of gratitude, why not check out our article; How practising gratitude can lead to a happier life?

6. Floss your teeth

When we’re late for work in the morning or tired in the evening, it can be easy to overlook flossing our teeth. But the NHS says that most adults in the UK have some degree of gum disease.

Gum disease is caused by a buildup of plaque on teeth and even if you brush twice a day, it can still be difficult to clean between teeth and below the gum line without using floss.

Health experts recommend that we floss at least once a day. You can find out more about how to floss on the NHS website. Or for more oral hygiene tips, check out our article here.

Floss your teeth

7. Check your posture

Many of us sit slumped at our desks or on the sofa or walk hunched over without realising. But having good posture is important for overall health because it can improve balance, reduce pain, prevent muscle fatigue, and cause less wear and tear on joints and bones.

As well as checking your posture and making a conscious effort to straighten up, you could also try one of these 5 exercises to help improve your posture.

8. Read labels

The way that foods are described on the front of packaging or shop signs isn’t always fully reflective of the ingredients in them. And it’s surprising how many of us don’t know exactly what we’re putting in our bodies.

For example, just because something is marked as ‘low fat’, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good for us – as it may still be high in sugar (this is common with natural yoghurt). And protein bars that are marketed as healthy are often packed with a range of unhealthy sweeteners and other hidden ingredients.

Therefore, it’s generally best to stick to eating as many whole, unprocessed foods as possible and to always read labels before buying something.

9. Check your body for lumps and bumps

Checking your body for lumps and bumps is a quick and easy practice to add to your routine once a month – and it could help to spot cancer early.

Men can check their testicles themselves at home – you can read more about how to do this on the MacMillan Cancer Support website. And women can check their breasts at home – this helpful video from Coppafeel will talk you through the steps.

Health experts also recommend that men check their chests too. Though breast cancer in men is rare, 400 men are still affected in the UK every year. Dr Hillary’s useful demonstration will show you how.

Both men and women should also check for new moles and make sure that existing moles aren’t changing in size, colour, or shape. Bupa’s guide has plenty of useful information on what to look for when checking moles.

If you’re ever worried about anything you find during any self-examination, it’s best to seek advice from your GP.

Check your body for lumps and bumps

10. Take a pause when eating and chew your food well

Taking time to pause throughout your meal can help us to be more mindful about what we’re eating and give our brains more time to register that we’re full. And because digestion starts in the mouth, chewing each mouthful of food properly can also have an impact on how quickly and easily we digest our food.

The British Dietetic Association (BDA) has published some handy tips on mindful eating if you want to work on eating more slowly.

11. Consider going to bed earlier

Deciding to go to bed earlier rather than staying up to watch another episode of a binge-worthy TV series, working late, or making a start on your to-do list (which, for night owls, can become tempting!) can be a quick way to improve the quality of your sleep.

To start with, going to bed earlier can feel tricky, so it’s important – if you can – to take the time to wind down before getting into bed. You can do this by reading a book, listening to some music, or practising mindfulness, among other things. Our article, How to design the perfect bedroom for sleep, also has some useful advice.

12. Eat two Brazil nuts

Eating just two Brazil nuts a day can give us the intake of selenium that we need (75μg for men and 60μg a day for women).

Selenium helps to reduce oxidative stress (the imbalance of harmful molecules and antioxidants), which keeps cells healthy and strengthens our immune response.

Research also suggests that selenium can help to reduce our risk of developing thyroid cancerGraves’ disease, and Hashimoto’s disease.

Eat two Brazil nuts

13. Skip the salt

Adults shouldn’t eat more than 6g of salt per day because too much salt can increase blood pressure, damage arteries, and put strain on our hearts.

There are a few ways to cut down on salt, such as swapping it for herbs and spices, checking labels, keeping takeaways to a minimum, and removing salt from your table so you don’t reach for it without thinking.

For more tips, check out this page about salt from Heart UK.

14. Do some deep breathing exercises

When life gets busy or stressful, many of us take short shallow breaths through our chests, which increases blood pressure and heart rate, and keeps us in a heightened state of alert.

However, by taking some moments to take full, deep breaths using our stomach muscles, we can create more of a balance between the oxygen coming in and the carbon dioxide going out, which reverses the effects of shallow breathing and helps us to relax.

If you want to work on taking deeper breaths, our article, 3 exercises for anxiety and stress relief, has plenty of guidance.

15. Run or jog

If you’re not really a fan of running or jogging, the good news is that research suggests you don’t have to run for long to start reaping the health benefits.

In a large study of 2,500 women, those who did short bursts of high-intensity, weight-bearing exercise for one or two minutes each day (such as running or jogging) had a 4% increase in bone health compared to those who did less than a minute.

Our beginner’s guide to running can help you get started if you’re new to running.

Run or jog

16. Rid your social media feed of anything that doesn’t serve you well

Social media can be a force of good by allowing us to stay connected and discover new opportunities, but being connected to the wrong people or publications online can be detrimental to our wellbeing.

Our social media news feeds can have a significant impact on our mood and it’s important that yours only shows you information about people or things that you actually want to see.

If it’s been a while since you decluttered your feed, it’s worth taking some time to consider whether it’s really serving you in the way you’d like. If you don’t want to remove someone as a connection altogether, you can choose to hide posts from them so that these don’t pop up when you don’t want to see them.

17. Drizzle your carbs with vinegar or olive oil

Studies suggest that by adding a drizzle of olive oil or vinegar to carbohydrate-rich foods like bread, pasta, and potatoes, we might be able to lower the effect that these carbs have on our blood sugar levels.

In one study, people who ate bread with lettuce, oil, and vinegar had blood sugar levels that rose 34% less than those who ate bread alone.

And a similar effect was found in another study. People who ate cold-stored potatoes with an olive oil and vinegar dressing had a 43% lower blood sugar response and a 31% lower insulin response than people who ate freshly boiled potatoes without vinegar or olive oil.

18. Repeat “I deserve to be happy”

Many of us battle with self-limiting thoughts on a daily basis and these can hold us back from being truly happy and leading the life that we want. So next time you go to put yourself down, try to challenge your thoughts and replace them with something more encouraging.

Positive affirmations like “I am good enough” and “I deserve to be happy” can begin to replace self-limiting thoughts if you say them enough.

Repeat “I deserve to be happy”

19. Dry your hands

While washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water is important for stopping the spread of germs, drying your hands is just as important. Wet or damp hands spread 1,000 times more bacteria than wet hands, so drying your hands thoroughly should be an important part of your hand hygiene routine.

However, hand driers have also been found to encourage the spread of bacteria, so if in doubt, it’s better to use paper towels.

20. Apply SPF

We all know that sunburn and tanning can increase our risk of skin cancer.

The NHS recommends using a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 to protect against UVB – rays and one that has at least four-star UVA protection. It’s especially important to apply it to sun-exposed areas such as the face, ears, neck, lips, and back of the hands, where skin cancer most commonly develops.

For more tips on how to find a balance between getting enough vitamin D from sunlight and protecting yourself from the sun, you might want to read our article; 10 health benefits of sunlight.

Final thoughts…

Our health is the most valuable thing we have because it’s directly related to living a fulfilling and productive life. And improving our health doesn’t have to mean moving mountains – there are plenty of quick and easy things you can do that, together, can have a big impact.

It’s also important to remember that any positive lifestyle changes will need to be consistent if we’re to reap the benefits, so starting with small steps can make this much easier.