15 Easy Ways to Look Younger and Feel Healthier
Increase your cellular retention of water to look and feel better. Dr. Howard Murad explains how.
Beat stress with these simple tips
As babies, our bodies are about 75 or 80 percent water. By the time we reach middle age, they’ve dehydrated to 50 percent because our cells weaken as we get older and are less able to retain moisture. Yikes! But dermatologist Dr. Howard Murad, author of Conquering Cultural Stress: The Ultimate Guide to Anti-Aging and Happiness, says we can repair our cells and turn back the clock by reducing our stress levels, altering what we put in and on our bodies and moving more. Here are his wellness tips for living a well-hydrated life.
1. Eat more of your favourite fruit and vegetable
Eat your water, don’t drink it. If your cells can’t actually retain the water you drink, “all the water in the world won’t make much difference,” says Dr. Murad, and you’ll end up peeing a ton or looking swollen and bloated. To help your cells actually hang on to the water you ingest, eat your hydration in the form of more fruits and veggies. To start, add more of your favourites to your day – whether that’s carrots and watermelon or broccoli and blueberries.
2. Belly laugh every single day
Low stress is tied to happiness and a better life outlook, while high stress is tied to the opposite outcome – plus lower cellular hydration. In North American culture, where stressors such as bad traffic, pollution, digital dependence, high living costs and the need to constantly achieve are prevalent, we need to beat stress with a good laugh every day. If you feel like you have nothing to laugh about, pretend. Fake a hearty chuckle from deep in your gut. Or take a class in Laughter Yoga!
3. Ditch perfectionism
One of Dr. Murad’s favourite sayings is, “Be imperfect, live longer.” That’s because “the latest science is pointing to perfectionism as a risk factor for disease in the same way as obesity and using tobacco products.” The pursuit of perfection is stressful and it’s a never-ending journey, so try to let the little things go and be more like a toddler instead. Small children don’t worry about getting a little dirty or colouring outside the lines, and they’re happier for it.
4. Practice stream-of-consciousness journaling
Dr. Murad loves journals, and he finds the most effective type of journaling involves writing about your day and any of the thoughts that flow naturally through your mind. “Self-care begins with self-discovery,” he says. “And committing your thoughts and ideas to paper can make a huge difference.” Consider it time that’s just for you. It’s a chance to sit calmly and forget the rest of the world for a few minutes.
Exfoliate as often as your skin can tolerate it, recommends Dr. Murad, to get rid of oil, dirt and dead skin cells, and help your skin-care products to penetrate more easily. He likens the process to cleaning your floors. The more frequently you do it, the less often you’ll have to hire a professional to do the job for you. A few times a week, try to use a hydroxy-acid wash or a light mechanical exfoliant. A few times a year, go for a professional facial or microdermabrasion treatment.
6. Eat whatever you want – 20 percent of the time
“It’s good to enjoy life more,” Dr. Murad says. So eat the chocolate and stop beating yourself up about it. Besides, “if you don’t reserve 20 percent for fun foods, you’ll crave them.”
7. Plan friend dates
Isolation isn’t good for the soul. It is “a modern form of torture,” says Dr. Murad. “Think about it: what do we do with prisoners who misbehave? We place them in isolation.” In fact, loneliness is linked to premature death in the elderly. So go for coffee with friends, host a potluck or participate in a charity event. Your body and mind will thank you.
8. Designate a single day a week to disconnect from the digital world
Most of us have a tiny tether that binds us to our cell phones and computers 24 hours a day. Because access to email and social media platforms is so easy, we become obsessed with refreshing our feeds, checking our emails in the middle of the night and expecting immediate responses to text messages. But being connected every second isn’t healthy. Reduce your stress levels by unplugging every once in awhile-whether for a full day once a week or every night after 8 p.m.
9. Treat yourself to a massage
“I think everyone should visit a spa or massage therapy centre as frequently as possible,” says Dr. Murad, even if it means cutting corners in other areas like eating out. “Massage not only benefits muscles but also can lower stress levels significantly. Clinical studies show that it can increase weight gain in premature babies, reduce pain in cancer patients, enhance sleep quality, relieve depression and positively support the immune system.” And it feels sooo good. Do you really need more convincing?
10. Add more fiber to your diet
Fiber has been shown to enhance the body’s absorption of good nutrients and block the absorption of calories from carbs and fats. To get more fiber, eat steel-cut oatmeal, flaxseed and the skins of organic fruits and veggies such as apples, peaches, potatoes and zucchinis.
11. Sleep more, and better
“Beauty sleep is not a cliché,” says Dr. Murad. “It’s a fact. Just about every system in the body is affected by the quality and amount of sleep you get at night.” For better sleep hygiene, he recommends going to sleep and waking up at the same time every single day (even weekends), avoiding stimulating activities such as TV half an hour before bed, skipping caffeine after 2 p.m. and placing a lavender sachet at your bedside.
12. Feed your skin
Look for skin-care products with ingredients such as ceramides and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and improve your skin’s barrier and antioxidants (vitamin E, vitamin C, green tea and pomegranate extract) to minimize damage from the environment. Wear sunscreen on your face, neck and chest every single day because damaging UV rays are the biggest environmental factor that contributes to skin aging.
13. Weight train for five minutes, three mornings a week
Strength training can help you increase strength, bone health and muscle mass, and muscle holds water better than fat. If you’re not used to strength training, start with doing bicep curls with five-pound weights. Simply do two sets of 15 repetitions a few times a week when you wake up. Try these body weight workouts you can do at home.
14. Cut down on sitting
“Sitting disease” is a real thing. According to research, “the more time people spent sitting – regardless of age, body weight, or how much they exercised – the sooner they died,” says Dr. Murad. So get moving a little more each day. Make sure you walk around for at least five minutes of every hour, take the stairs and use a cell phone or headset when you’re making phone calls so you can walk around. Do whatever you can to add more movement into your day.
15. Swap salt for spice
Salt retains water, but only between your cells (not inside them), which can cause swelling and bloating. Instead of using salt to season your cooking, add herbs and spices such as ginger, turmeric, chili, cayenne, garlic and cumin – each of which have excellent health benefits.