Spring is just around the corner – it becomes official on March 20! – and for many that means a renewed focus on reinvigoration, transition, change, and opportunity. We can make our way outside with greater regularity, plan vacations, begin or complete household projects, and dream about the joys and festivities of the coming summer months. And we can start new, healthy habits, both in our daily routines, in the lives of our children and families, and in our homes. Spring is a time of new starts.
The True “New Year” is Spring!
And why not? It’s only three months removed from the calendar transition, and unlike that dark December to January switch, spring represents new possibilities and new opportunities. Of course, it doesn’t bear that reputation: the abstraction of a new year, the profusion of bold resolutions, and the pressure to adhere to the latter all make January first the popular and accepted time for change. But who wants to make big changes in the dead of winter? Who is motivated to switch from the greasy, delicious comfort foods that get us through cold winter afternoons and evenings and move on to wholesome whole grains, microgreens, and leaner meats? Who wants to venture out to the gym on a cold January morning? And few of us even have the opportunity to complete vital household improvements that require working outside, such as painting and landscaping? Nothing changes from December 31 to January 1 except the calendar. But in spring, the world feels reborn, reinvigorated, and renewed, and you should, too.
Introduce Microgreens into Your Diet
What are “microgreens?” Microgreens are ground-borne seed-bearing vegetables that are harvested sooner than usual and used for their earliest leaves. They are the vegetables and greens that we are familiar with, from lettuce and endive to garlic, leeks, and onions, and are valued for their health and nutritional benefits. Microgreens are high in antioxidants and are believed to contain greater amounts of the nutrients found in their conventionally harvested counterparts. Some of the most prized microgreens, both for their flavor and their nutritional value, are sprouts, wheatgrass, pea shoots, and leafy green vegetables like lettuce, herbs, and spinach.
The health benefits of microgreens are the same as with many other leafy green vegetables and sprouts: they are high in iron as well as other important nutrients and vitamins, and their high concentration of polyphenols make them a treasure trove for free-radical fighting antioxidants, which have been proven to decrease the risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and other disorders. They’re great for bones and teeth, which is vitally important with growing bodies in your household: if you’ve endured the expense and trouble of equipping a child with braces, protect your investment by adopting a dental-healthy diet in your home. Also, leafy green vegetables are believed to be good for your hearing, and people who maintain diets rich with leafy greens and microgreens are less likely to need hearing aids as they grow older. Microgreens’ high vitamin A and vitamin C content means fewer common colds for your family and fewer trips to the urgent care clinic for quick cough relief or prolonged and invasive flu treatments.
Not only are they extremely healthy, but it’s easy to introduce microgreens into your diet: they’re used the way sprouts, leafy greens, and other common vegetables are used. They add nutrition and crunch to sandwiches, texture to spreads and sauces, can be pureed with your favorite dips, and can be used as a substitute for part or all of your preferred leafy greens in salads, casseroles, pasta, wraps, tacos, and other home cooking favorites. They’re also an excellent addition to healthy morning and lunch smoothies and can be juiced and pureed. Another way to introduce microgreens as a new healthy habit is to buy them already processed in smoothies, juices, soups, nutrition bars, and other easy to use variations.
Introduce a Sustainable Exercise Routine
You can maximize the benefits of some healthy habits by introducing others. Take advantage of the increased vitality and vigor that a healthy diet can bring by making regular workouts at a gym part of your spring renaissance as well. While the most common and best-known benefits of using a gym are intuitive and clear, there are a number of other lesser-known benefits to making regular exercise one of your new springtime healthy habits.
Exercise can have a significant impact on mood, decreasing the effects of anxiety and stress, and even mitigating the impact of depression. Exercise increases your brain’s ability to process serotonin, and accelerates your body’s production of endorphins. While we might think of the stress from regular strenuous exercise as great for our muscles, heart function, and weight, we might not necessarily associate it with significant improvements in bone growth and strength. But exercise is great for bones. Exercise during youth through middle age increases bone density and is key in preventing osteoporosis later on in life. Even high impact exercises are great for strengthening bones.
The potential for developing a number of chronic diseases and disorders is severely and demonstrably mitigated by regular exercise. Cardiovascular fitness is a significant factor in a person’s likelihood to develop heart disease, for example, and exercise increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin, keeping diseases like diabetes at bay. High blood pressure, bone disease, and even in some cases depression and anxiety all see their potential decreased by regular exercise. In many studies, the absence of regular exercise and activity have been a profound contributing factor to the development of chronic diseases and disorders.
The appearance and health of your skin are affected by something called oxidative stress. Basically, it means the inability of your body to repair damage from free radicals in your blood and cells. Antioxidants protect your cells from oxidative stress, and appropriate exercise increases antioxidant production in your body. Exercise repairs your body, especially natural damage to your skin.
Bring the Gym to You
With free time at a premium like never before, people are finding that the very best solution for working out regularly is to bring the gym into their homes. For many of us, creating a gym in our homes seems like and often is a prohibitive expense. Home gym machines can cost thousands, space can be very limited, and kids, work, chores, and lack of privacy are much greater time factors when the gym is in your home than they are when you travel away from home to the gym. But you don’t necessarily need an expensive machine, a sophisticated routine, or a wide block of time to count regular exercise among your most healthy habits. You can start simple and small with just a good set of barbells and dumbbells.
A good set of home barbells is portable, convenient, versatile, and affordable. They don’t require extensive setup time and can be used very simply, even during other activities such as watching television or talking on the phone. They are easily stored and managed. Relative to commitment-heavy monthly gym memberships, they are very affordable, flexible, and convenient: the gym issues charges each month whether you’ve used it or not, while barbells and dumbbells are a one time expense and used at your convenience. The greatest benefit of using barbells as part of your new suite of healthy habits is that they prepare you for graduating to more regular, more strenuous, and more athletic exercise, while still giving you all the health benefits of exercise in the interim. They are a great way to start a long term exercise routine.
Some Simple Exercises You Can Get Started With
It’s likely that when you think of working out with barbells, you think of muscle training, lifting, and developing upper body strength, but barbells and dumbbells are a great deal more versatile than that. Barbell squats develop your core and lower body, while barbell lunges can be transitioned into an effective cardiovascular exercise while strengthening your core and lower body. Of course, barbell exercises that develop your upper body are numerous and all have different impact levels and results. But all of them, from deadlifts to presses, provide you with the health benefits of regular exercise, and in the comfort, convenience, and relative privacy of your own home.
Do Your Own Landscaping
Landscaping can feel like an overwhelming task; that’s probably why so many of us farm it out to professionals. But doing your own landscaping can be rewarding in a lot of ways, and can be among the most impactful healthy habits you can adopt as spring kicks in. While taking on the task yourself can save you money you would otherwise be paying to professional landscaping contractors, smart landscaping with a purposeful design can also save you money by making your home more energy-efficient. Designing a landscaping plan that provides shade trees in key areas will reduce your home’s energy costs in winter and summer.
You can also arrange hedges, shrubs, bushes, and other ornamentals to channel wind and sun. You can carve out open areas for more convenient rain and snow accumulation, easing costs and labor of snow removal during the winter months. And if you will be tending to your own landscaping, you can introduce vegetable and herb gardens (maybe even microgreens – they’re easy to cultivate and grow!) that will result in produce that you would otherwise have to purchase as part of your regular grocery shopping.
Doing your own landscaping will also provide you with a valuable and enriching skill that you can pass on to your children, as landscaping and gardening can be fun family activities. Doing your own landscaping also means tailoring your home’s curb appeal so that it better represents your and your family’s aesthetic. And well-designed landscaping, done lovingly and without the limits of a landscaper’s schedule and expenses, can be infinitely rewarding. Keeping careful care of your landscaping can also make the space safer for your pets: there is no better flea and tick control than regular lawn and grass maintenance in spaces where your dog or cat roam. Remember to keep good gardening or weeding gloves on hand, as well as waterproof bandages, so that the inevitable nicks and cuts of seasonal landscaping don’t slow you down.
Especially for those of us who live in seasonal regions, where winter is full and long and almost all that is green disappears, spring is a joyful time of renewal and new opportunity. There’s no more hopeful time of year: we forget the dark winter, look forward to festive and fun-filled summers, begin planning vacations, and are able to resume healthy outdoor living. There’s no better time to introduce a range of healthy habits for you, your family, and your home. From making a commitment to healthier shopping, cooking, and eating, to investing in healthy habits for your body and your home and household, spring is the time for realizing resolutions. It’s an opportunity not to be wasted, a time of change, a time of rebirth, and a time of renewal. How will you make new healthy habits a part of your life and the lives of everyone in your home this spring?