Tag Archive for: healthy habits

You’re constantly bombarded with messages about your body—from your loved ones to what you see on your screens. With all this input coming in waves, even a healthy body image can be worn down or swept away entirely in a tide of negativity. That’s why it’s important to buoy your body image with a raft of body positivity.

The journey to body acceptance and a healthy body image isn’t an easy one. And it’s different for everyone. So before you embark, it’s nice to know just how positive your body image already is.

The healthy body image quiz below will walk you through different aspects of body positivity. The points from your choices will automatically tally up, and your score at the end will reveal how your body image positivity compares. Once you find your score and the group you fall into, links to resources are waiting to help you improve or maintain your healthy body image.

Take the Healthy Body Image Quiz



Your immune system is always working to keep you healthy. Understanding how your body protects itself gives you ammunition to fight off germs. There are a lot of immune system myths out there about keeping yourself healthy. Do your research to separate the fact from fiction so you don’t fall for these immunity myths.

Start on the right path by reading this list that busts seven of the most common immune system myths. Learn what does and doesn’t make you sick. And discover the facts about steps you can take to stay healthy year-round.

Immunity Myth 1: Cold weather makes you sick

Sure as the changing of the seasons, you can be certain you’ll wind up catching something in the winter. The question is, why? People often contract common cold viruses in cold months. So, you might believe low temperatures are responsible for making you sick.

Not so.

A link does exist between chilly temperatures and sickness, but it is a correlation, not a cause-and-effect relationship. Most likely the changes in behavior associated with cold weather are what trigger these seasonal surges.

Cold weather keeps people indoors for longer periods of time. This leads to the spread of germs between people who are in close contact. Think family members, co-workers, classmates, or the people with whom you share a bus ride. Proximity to others is the primary way viruses spread, regardless of outdoor temperature.

A similar pattern occurs when children return to school after summer break, or when you start attending a new gym. Physical closeness to lots of people increases the chance you’ll catch a bug (whether it’s warm or cold outside.)

Some research highlights that cooler temperatures provide a better living environment for specific viruses. Rhinovirus (the microbe responsible for the common cold) is usually living dormant in your nasal passages waiting for more suitable temperatures. When cooler weather comes along, it wakes up and reproduces.

If you stay inside due to the weather, an inadvertent cough or sneeze sends the cold virus into the air you share with others. Because colder weather brings people closer, a sneeze might be all it takes to spread a cold. But the temperature change was only part of the equation.

Immunity Myth 2: Seasonal allergies are a sign of a weakened immune system

The opposite is true. Seasonal allergies are the result of an over-reactive immune response mistaking small particles in the air for harmful microorganisms. Consider allergies the hallmark of an over-vigilant immune system, rather than one slacking off.

It can be difficult to distinguish allergies from other upper-respiratory issues. They share many of the same symptoms, but are not contagious. You might experience a headache, congestion, runny nose, watery/itchy eyes, or even a sore throat. All are symptoms of a cold, too.

The difference is allergies aren’t triggered by bacteria or viruses. Harmless particles like dust, pollen, or mold are introduced to your body when you breathe. If you have seasonal allergies, your immune system responds to these particles like it would a potential pathogen.

To minimize your allergy symptoms, try to identify the source of your allergy. If it is pollen, avoid blooming plants. Dust allergies can ramp up when it is windy outside. So, consider protecting your mouth and nose with a mask on windy days.

These allergies are seasonal, as their name implies. That means time will start to bring relief. Allergy symptoms can be controlled well with proper medication prescribed by a physician. Talk to a doctor and see if they can help you find a way to manage your seasonal allergies.

Immunity Myth 3: Handwashing “kills” viruses

You might be surprised to learn that washing your hands doesn’t actually kill viruses. Viruses aren’t alive, which means they can’t replicate on their own, but washing does rid your hands of viruses in another way.

Soap adheres to the membrane, or outer wall of viruses. And soap molecules also compete with the lipids within the virus membrane to help pry it apart and render it harmless. This stickiness means microbes can be rinsed away with water. When you wash your hands, you are literally washing off the viruses that can make you sick.

If you want a refresher on how to properly wash your hands then check out this handy guide. Proper handwashing technique is important, and there’s more to it than you might think.

After you are done washing your hands make sure you dry them thoroughly. It is harder for viruses to transfer from dry hands. Wash and dry often throughout the day. Handwashing won’t kill the germs that can make you sick, but can effectively get rid of them.

Immunity Myth 4: Hand sanitizer is more effective than handwashing

Handwashing with soap and water is the most effective way to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses. When handwashing is not available, hand sanitizer is a good backup option.

Unlike handwashing, hand sanitizers do destroy microbes. The alcohol in hand sanitizer deactivates viruses and keeps them from transferring from your hands. Hand sanitizer made of at least 60 percent alcohol effectively kills bacteria and microbes on your hands.

To make the most of your hand sanitizer, try to remove visible dirt and debris first. Wipe your hands off with a napkin or cloth before using sanitizer to clean. Dirt and oils from your skin make hand sanitizer less effective at killing microbes.

Hand sanitizer isn’t as effective at removing microbes as hand washing, but it is practical. Having hand sanitizer with you is a convenient way to clean your hands on the go. When you are out shopping or driving in your car, you can’t always stop to wash your hands. Use hand sanitizer in these situations to keep yourself safe from germs.

Immunity Myth 5: “Feed a cold, starve a fever”

This refrain is one of the more pervasive immune system myths. Your body needs adequate fuel to fight off infections of any kind. Imagine trying to fight a battle on an empty stomach. That’s how your immune system will behave if you restrict what you eat when you’re sick.

There isn’t much evidence to support the notion that fasting reduces a fever. In fact, your body’s calorie demands increase when you fight off an infection. Your immune system needs energy from your diet to increase white-blood-cell production. The rise of your internal body temperature boosts your metabolism, too. This means you need more calories to keep up.

However, if you’re feeling sick you might not have a big appetite. This is completely normal. Don’t force yourself to eat if you don’t want to. You might end up feeling nauseous.

But whether you have a cold or fever, it is important to eat what you can when you’re sick. Stick to whole, nutritious foods if you’re under the weather. Many fruits, cooked vegetables, and protein are easy on the stomach and supply you with the essential nutrients your body needs. Choose those that sit well with you.

Immunity Myth 6: Chicken noodle soup will shorten your cold

As good as this sounds, a bowl of soup is not a cure of any kind. Chicken noodle soup is, however, a time-honored comfort food. Unfortunately, the soup itself boasts no magical healing powers—the plumage of the chicken used to make the soup doesn’t either.

Time, rest, and appropriate medication are the only ways to defeat an infection.

That isn’t to say chicken noodle soup is a bad idea. It’s a great way to deliciously acquire some hearty nutrition. It’s full of quality ingredients that can help fuel your body in its time of need. Antioxidants and vitamins from the veggies help support your immune system. And protein from chicken gives sustainable energy to aid in the fight.

Soups (and other hot meals) will help alleviate some of the symptoms of a cold. The steam from the broth can help clear the sinuses and heat can soothe a sore throat.

Other foods can provide similar relief. Hot tea, honey, rice, bananas, and applesauce are palatable and can settle an upset stomach. Try some of these foods the next time you’re feeling unwell. They won’t cure your cold on their own, but will fill you up with the nutrition you need to support your immunity.

Immunity Myth 7: Exercise weakens the immune system

Taking on an Olympic-style training program might throw your immune system for a loop. But regular, low-impact exercise can do your body good. A habit of exercise is a reliable way to prepare your body for germs that might come along.

White blood cells flourish when you work out. Exercise increases cell turnover in your body and stimulates the production of these important immune cells. After all, they’re the front-line troops fighting against viruses and bacteria.

Make it a goal to exercise for your immune health, and overall wellbeing. Be sure not to overdo it, as too much vigorous exercise can have a detrimental effect. Keep it simple with walking, jogging, or swimming. Just make sure to move your body every day to support your immune system.

Stop the Spread of Immune System Myths and Misinformation

Now that you know the false facts surrounding immunity, do your part to replace the myths with the truth.

Make sure you practice appropriate safety measures during times of increased viral spread. Demonstrate your knowledge about immunity myths by prioritizing exercise and eating nutritious foods to keep you feeling strong. Teach your family and friends about the importance of handwashing.

Bust the myths about your immune system and do what you can to help your body stay healthy.

Your immune system is in a battle every day. That’s its job.

You’re protected by a coordinated defense. Cells, proteins, and chemical signals join forces against bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other pathogens. And your immune system also helps in wound healing, cellular and tissue turnover, and repair.

A healthy, functional immune system is a complex machine. It contains many layers, subsystems, tissues, organs, and processes. But a basic understanding can help you see what you need to maintain healthy immunity.

Barriers to Entry

Imagine your body as a castle to be defended. The first layer of defense are your physical and chemical barriers. They’re the high, thick walls that turn away many intruders.

Your skin is the most obvious physical barrier. And it’s a good one. Your largest organ is a waterproof covering that protects you against pathogens. Skin’s construction, substances on the surface, and other compounds in deeper layers help it provide protection.

Skin does a good job, but there are other paths into the body. That’s why other physical barriers exist.

Your upper respiratory tract has tiny hairs called cilia. They move potentially harmful material away from your lungs. Your gut barrier blocks absorption of possibly harmful substances. And your excretory (bathroom) functions physically expel pathogens.

Mucus blurs the line between the physical and chemical. Whatever category you put it in, mucus is an effective trap for invaders. It’s produced by membranes throughout your body. This thick, gluey substance is your body’s sticky trap, grabbing microbes and not letting go.

Other chemical barriers include: tears, saliva, stomach acid, and protective chemicals produced inside of cells and in your blood.

Immunity in General: Your Innate Immune System

The innate immune system is sometimes called the non-specific immune system. This subsystem of your larger immune defense is loaded into your genetic code. That’s the innate, or inherent, part. And it provides more general protection, destroying any microbes that enter your body. That’s the non-specific part.

Your cellular defenses kick in if a pathogen survives your physical and chemical barriers—which could also be considered part of the innate subsystem. That’s where phagocytes (a specific type of immune cell) come in. These white blood cells act like guards patrolling your body and destroying invaders.

These cells are found throughout the tissues of your body. They kill pathogens through a process called phagocytosis. It’s complicated, but there’s a simple way to understand it.

Phagocytes eat the invading microbes. They were named phagocytes for a reason—phago comes from the Greek for “to eat.” Phagocytes ingest or engulf the invaders. While trapped, several killing mechanisms are deployed to destroy the pathogen.

Some phagocytes have receptors that distinguish between healthy cells and potentially harmful substances. (They also deal with turnover of dead and dying cells.) Other pathogen eaters are chemically signaled to sites where they can be most useful. Phagocytes even help with the cleanup and repair after the invaders are destroyed.

Adaptive Immunity

Your adaptive immune system is like an immunity database. After encountering a specific pathogen, you have immune cells that can recall the best way to destroy it. That’s why it’s also referred to as specific or acquired immunity.

The original pathogen exposure can be intentional or accidental. That doesn’t matter. A normal, healthy response starts with an antigen. Think of an antigen as the bar code of each cell. Just like every item in the grocery store has a unique bar code, each cell type has a unique antigen code to identify it.

These antigens—mostly proteins—can also identify pathogens. Our immune system has learned to read these antigen codes. When they recognize something as being foreign, they initiate an immune response.

Each unique antigen triggers the creation of a unique antibody. The y-shaped antibody binds back to the corresponding antigen and marks the invader for attack by other immune cells. Some antibodies can even take care of business for themselves.

Lymphocytes (another specific type of immune cell) are the main cells involved in your adaptive immune system. Two types of white blood cells—T and B cells—are produced in your bone marrow. They can attack and kill pathogens on their own, or assist other white blood cells in the responses.

T and B cells form the basis for your body’s immunity memory bank. B cells present antigens and create and release antibodies. Memory T cells—those that survive previous attacks—quickly and effectively respond to known pathogens. Together, they help your immune system efficiently and effectively destroy known bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens.

Defend Your Immune System

Above, you’ve read about the way a normal, healthy immune system functions. But your defenses can be impacted by your environment, diet, stress, sleep, travel, and other lifestyle factors.

Healthy immune function is a whole-body effort, and maintaining it takes a holistic approach. Here’s a few things that can help:

  • Get at least seven hours of sleep a night—and avoid pulling any all-nighters.
  • Exercise regularly to promote memory cells, enhance skin immunity, and mobilize immune cells.
  • Minimize stress as much as possible or practice healthy coping strategies, like exercise.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins to provide essential micro- and macronutrients and important phytonutrients. A healthy diet (that includes healthy amounts of fiber) will also provide your microbiome with what it needs to maintain good gut barrier function.
  • Practice good hygiene, including frequent handwashing, so your body doesn’t have to deal with as many pathogens in the first place.

Food cravings come in all varieties and flavors. Whether it’s a late-night hankering for something salty or a hole in your stomach that only ice cream can fill, a craving can be a powerful feeling. But what causes these longings? And, more importantly, what is your body trying to tell you through them?

Although the exact root of food cravings is up for debate, there are two main schools of thought: food cravings are generally thought to be either psychological (tied to emotions, anxieties, etc.) or physiological (tied to vitamin, mineral, and other nutrient deficiencies). Though the facts are still being uncovered, exploring both of these approaches can give you valuable insights into your health.

Strap in for a crash course in cravings: what they are, what you can learn from cravings, and what to do when they come creeping up.

What are Food Cravings?

Food cravings are a nearly universal experience. That being said, the frequency and intensity with which people experience food cravings varies greatly. For some, a craving is simply a lingering desire—maybe you’ve been thinking about your favorite salty snack all day and have to stop for some on your way home from work. But food cravings can be much more intense, causing people to compulsively snack on certain foods.

In day-to-day conversation, cravings are often labeled one of two ways: sweet or salty. But in reality, people crave a huge variety of flavors and types of food: carbs, coffee, fats, and even non-food items (but this article is going to focus on foods). Cravings can be brought on by sensory input—sights, smells, and, of course, tastes—or other factors, such as anxiety and stress.

Because the term “food cravings” covers such a broad range of experiences, understanding your own cravings requires self-reflection. It’s not always the cravings themselves that are important, but rather the context in which you experience them.

Physiology vs. Psychology: The Craving Debate

As mentioned above, some researchers believe food cravings indicate nutrient deficiencies, while others think food cravings stem from anxiety, stress, and other mental factors. In short, it’s a question of physiology (the body) vs. psychology (the mind).

So which theory is correct? Unfortunately, there’s not an easy answer. But let’s dig through the evidence.

The notion that cravings indicate a nutritional deficiency in your diet makes sense. There’s a certain logic to it, which is perhaps why this is the explanation many people latch onto. If you’re craving salty foods, you must be low on sodium—or so the reasoning goes.

It would be nice if food cravings were that straightforward and easy to unpack, but there isn’t really any science to back it up. Instead, the physiological underpinnings of food cravings are much more muddled. It’s true that an unbalanced—or nutrient deficient—diet can lead to cravings. But it won’t lead you to crave specific foods depending on what your body needs. An unbalanced diet may impact your body’s ability to feel full and satisfied. And when you don’t feel properly full after a meal, that makes room for cravings to sneak into your day.

The psychological explanations from some food cravings are similarly complex. It’s tempting to assign cravings for particular foods to specific mental states or emotions. (Examples include: If you’re craving pasta, you want to feel comfort and warmth. Cravings for crunchy foods reflect your need to vent aggression—and so on.) And though there may be some truth to this line of reasoning, it’s not that clear-cut.

It’s true food cravings often reflect emotions, but specific foods—or flavors—are not universally linked to specific emotions. If you are craving pasta, for example, it might reflect the fact that you’re stressed. For another person, however, this same craving might mean they simply had a long day and love pasta. Memories can also play a role in these cravings. If you associate pasta with certain fond memories, you may crave pasta when you subconsciously want to evoke or re-experience those memories and emotions. Context is everything.

In short, your cravings can tell you about both your physiology and psychology. To learn what your body is telling you, however, don’t focus too much on the food you are craving. Focus on the context in which those cravings arise.

Food Cravings and Feelings: What is Emotional Eating?

You’ve likely heard someone reference emotional eating, but there’s a good chance you’ve never heard an exact definition. That’s because “emotional eating” is a bit of a catch-all: it means any eating that is stimulated by a feeling other than hunger. Eating because you’re sad? That counts as emotional eating. Eating because you’re bored? You guessed it, also emotional eating.

Eating when you’re not hungry might sound strange, but it’s incredibly common. Most people enjoy eating—especially when it’s a food they love. And because it is enjoyable, eating can easily become a go-to response for a whole variety of stressors, emotions, and other experiences life throws at you. Eating can be comforting, fun, and exciting—and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Because emotional eating isn’t directly responding to hunger, however, it can often lead to overeating. This, in turn, can lead to negative feelings or stand in the way of your health goals.

Here’s the good news: there are a number of tried and true ways to identify and avoid emotional eating in your own life.

One of the most common strategies for managing emotional eating is keeping a food journal. It’s where you record the things you eat, when you eat them, and how your mind and body feel. This helps put the two pieces of the puzzle together: the cravings and the context.

By putting these elements side by side, you may start to recognize patterns. Maybe you eat a lot on days when your partner is working late. This could indicate boredom and loneliness trigger your cravings. Or maybe your cravings hit after nights where you work late. This could mean you’re eating to release the stress of the day.

What is Your Body Actually Saying With Food Cravings?

If you find yourself experiencing frequent food cravings or emotional eating, it’s worth taking time to reflect. What is your body trying to tell you? Or, to be more accurate, what is your body responding to?

Is it stress? A poor diet? Boredom? There are endless possibilities, but only you can find the root cause. It is, after all, your body.

The process doesn’t have to be complicated—just listen to your body. And pay attention to context. As mentioned above, a food journal is a great tool for identifying what causes your cravings. Are you eating in response to certain emotions? Or is it the result of a diet that never leaves you feeling full and satisfied? Both can be managed with small lifestyle changes.

Tips for Satisfying Cravings in a Healthy Way

You can’t identify a cure without first diagnosing the problem. Similarly, you won’t be able to manage or avoid food cravings without first assessing why you are experiencing those cravings. Once you’ve identified the cause of your cravings, you can start to work on solutions. If you need some ideas, don’t worry—here’s a list of a few common strategies for managing cravings:

  1. Incorporate fruits, veggies, and other nutrient-rich snacks into your day-to-day routine: Healthy snacks are underrated. A handful of nuts and a few carrots will leave you feeling full and energized. And this can help you avoid some of those salty cravings during the work day.
  2. Stand up and move: Exercise doesn’t have to be intense to be rewarding and beneficial. If you find that you often eat in response to stress, try going for a quick walk. Being outside and moving can help your body produce stress-managing endorphins that will leave you feeling more relaxed than a bag of potato chips.
  3. Chew gum: If you often eat out of boredom, gum might be a solution for you. Chewing gum gives your mouth something to do, which may seem small, but can help stave off cravings throughout the day.

As you experience, reflect on, and manage food cravings, remember to be generous with yourself. Understanding what your body is telling you through food cravings requires self-reflection, self-awareness, and self-compassion. Sure, you’re trying to give into cravings a little less, but nobody is perfect. A scoop of ice cream (or three) every once in a while isn’t such a bad thing—you can always start again tomorrow.

Every few months there are advances in smart phone technology. Every few weeks science seems to come up with new, exciting discoveries. Every few hours a new idea enthralls the internet. That makes it seem like the world is accelerating ever faster towards a sci-fi future.

As advanced as every voice-activated, algorithm-driven gadget is, the basics of human health have thankfully remained mired in antiquity—a constant in a whirlwind of change. This relative stasis allows you to look back at what’s worked from ancient cultures to help shape your healthy lifestyle today.

For the sake of your continued well-being, learn to lean on the wisdom of traditional approaches from around the world. That doesn’t mean tossing that new fitness tracker or trashing your meal-planning app. You’ll see below how to mix ancient wisdom with the tech tools of modernity to keep you living your best life.

Seek Balance

The concept of balance has remained relevant throughout ages—unlike the dedicated practice of it. You frequently hear about balanced diets, work-life balance, and so on. But it’s mostly lip service.

Seeking balance is a goal that requires action and attention. Instead of abiding so much imbalance, use the tools available to sustain a harmonious, healthy lifestyle.

  • Set timers to define boundaries around tasks so they don’t bleed into time for yourself or your family.
  • Utilize phone functions that snooze notifications for periods of time or have dedicated hours of powering devices off so you can focus on being present and mindful.
  • Organize your days to provide the balance you want—the structure and intention of the action are both helpful.
  • Track your food intake using an app to see an unvarnished view of what you’re eating each day.
  • Turn to programs or online health coaches to help you settle into a balanced diet that works for you.
  • Remember to balance your energy output with revitalizing self-care activities—from meditation to practicing hygge (the philosophy of cozy comfort).

Avoid Excess

Balancing your life means avoiding excess, so the two goals feed into each other. You can’t balance your work and family life if you’re working 12-hour days. And a balanced diet isn’t possible with an excess of sugary snacks tipping the scales—literally and figurative.

But excess is exceedingly hard to avoid. This era of abundance means many cultures are swimming in excess information, excess calories, excess material possessions, and more.

There are solutions, though. Some of the work you do balancing your life will help tamp down excess, as well. Here are a few other ways to moderate many aspects of your modern existence:

  • Track calories in and out to avoid caloric excesses that can lead to weight gain.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation—accomplished through a tracking app, or good, old-fashioned limits imposed through self-control and help from your friends.
  • Declutter your physical spaces to make them healthier places to be.
  • Use meditation apps or other mindfulness tips to shed some of the stresses crowding your headspace, stealing your focus, and sapping your energy.
  • Limit your screen time (smart phone, tablet, or TV) whenever possible. There are apps for that, too.

Take the Holistic Approach

Being detail-oriented is a great quality to have. It helps at the office and at home. However, tracking details and focusing on minutiae often obscures the big picture.

Details haven’t always bedeviled humanity, though. Ancient Eastern philosophies focus on a holistic approach to life—and to health. Traditional Chinese health approaches treat the body as a whole, while Western practices tend to focus more closely on the specifics of individual systems.

But the absolute truth—a fact spanning all traditions—is that the body is a hyper-connected machine. Zooming out to see these connections and keeping an eye on the big picture of your body and your overall well-being can help keep you healthy and happy.

Being more holistic means servicing your total body health, and supporting all your pillars of wellness. Use the smart phone apps at your disposal to find whole-body workouts, schedule time for all aspects of your health, and design your diet to serve your overall health goals.

Practice Self-Massage Techniques

Massage is a ticket to a realm of luxurious relaxation. Muscle tension and stress melt away with each minute, leaving you a puddle of pure tranquility at the end. But sometimes you’re stuck at work with tension rippling around your body, wringing out your energy and calm with each wave. And there isn’t a massage table or fluffy robe for miles.

Ancient traditions—with their self-massage techniques—can make a world of difference for muscle relaxation and calm feelings. You don’t have to be born with magical massage hands to find relief when a spa appointment isn’t possible.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Only massage areas of tension or mild pain. Massaging the wrong area (like one that is experiencing sharp pain) in the wrong way can make matters worse.
  • Use pressure on areas of tightness and utilize circular motions to work out knots.
  • Try using two fingers, a knuckle, or your thumbs—whatever is most comfortable for the area you’re working on.
  • Limit yourself to about 30 seconds on each area you massage.
  • Start light on the pressure and never press as hard as you can.
  • Use foam rollers, tennis balls, or massage gadgets to enhance your ability to work out tension. (Only use massagers and rollers as directed and instructed by the manufacturer or a health professional.)
  • Find videos or tutorials for guided exploration of different self-massage techniques.
  • Book time with a quality professional masseuse for help dealing with problem areas.

View Food as a Functional Part of Your Overall Health

The focus on diet has stayed strong throughout the centuries. Unfortunately, the spotlight today tends to be on weight-management or aesthetics—not as much on how food can support your overall health.

Maintaining a healthy weight is important. And concentrating on your diet actually follows along with ancient traditions. The aim is just slightly different.

Traditional Chinese nutrition—and other long-lasting philosophies—tend to view food as functional for health, imbuing more intentionality on dietary decisions. This means ingredients are chosen to help support specific aspects of health, while also maintaining your holistic well-being.

So start reframing your relationship with food and beverages to include functionality along with considerations like taste, calories, and macronutrient content. You can learn more about traditional Chinese nutrition and then apply your knowledge by using technology to make meal planning and your diet easier to shape and then follow.

In recent years, detox has become a bit of a buzzword. Whether it’s a juice cleanse or a special diet, you’ve likely heard of detoxing in one form or another—maybe you’ve even tried one of these approaches yourself.

Detoxing is based on the idea that the human body is swimming in environmental toxins that you can, and should,  remove . What’s not to like, right? Toxins are bad, so naturally you’d want them out of your body.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. As with many health topics, there’s a lot of misinformation about detoxification out there. And, in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter some of these detox myths. So keep reading to sort the detox facts from fiction!

Are There Really Toxins in My Body?

Let’s start with the very premise of detoxification. If you’re hoping to detox your body, there have to be toxins to remove in the first place. So are there really toxins in your body?

In short, yes. But the long answer unravels some important complexities.

The term “detox” has traditionally been used in medical contexts to describe the process of removing alcohol, drugs, or poison from a patient. This might mean pumping a patient’s stomach, administering an antidote, or, as is often the case, simply letting the body dispel the toxins itself.

In a health context, however, detoxification is applied to any toxins in the body, not just those outlined above. This might include alcohol, but not life-threatening amounts of it. Other toxins that are present in most people’s bodies include waste matter and digestive byproducts (in other words, the substances in your poop), chemicals, pollutants, and pesticides. These toxins come from the air, cleaning products, smoking, and even your food.

Although these toxins are likely present in your body, there’s no cause for alarm. Your body has mechanisms and organs for protecting you against these types of toxins.

How Does the Body Remove These Toxins?

As mentioned above, you’re not completely defenseless against any toxins that may be present in your body—in fact, your body is already well-equipped to detox itself.

One of the most obvious ways your body removes toxins is by excreting waste in feces and urine. These natural processes help remove unnecessary, and in some cases, harmful substances from your body. Think about the last time you had a stomach bug. Your bowel activity probably amped up. This is your body’s way of trying to flush out—pun intended—whatever is irritating it.

As far as detox processes go, you’re probably pretty familiar with peeing and pooping. You may be less familiar with your body’s internal detox systems. Your kidneys and intestines both help filter and remove toxins from your food and beverages, but there’s one organ that does most of the leg work: the liver.

Whether it is removing bacteria from your blood, converting ammonia (a toxin) into urea (a component of urine), or helping process drugs, your liver stays busy. The liver is basically the body’s filter: substances pass through it and it removes toxins. Many medications, for example, are not initially usable by the body—they are too toxic. The liver breaks these drugs down into less toxic and more usable forms, allowing your medication to actually do its job.

The detox processes outlined above all happen naturally—you don’t have much, if any, control over them. And so, at this point, you may be wondering what elements of detoxing you can actually influence.

Does the Body Ever Need Help Detoxing?

Nobody is disputing the fact that the body naturally removes toxins on its own—and if they were, there’s not any science to back them up. So what’s with all the detox diets, hacks, and products?

People love a quick fix. But when it comes to helping your body detox and cleanse, there rarely is a quick fix. This doesn’t mean that you can’t help support your body’s detox processes to maintain efficiency and effectiveness—it’ll just take time and commitment.

Your body’s ability to remove toxins is impacted most by your lifestyle: your diet, exercise habits, and other choices. As discussed above, your liver is your biggest detoxing asset. And so you’ll want to take care of it.

Liver health is impacted by a variety of factors ranging from your alcohol consumption to the foods you eat. And, as with many aspects of a healthy lifestyle, it’s all about moderation. Drinking a little bit of alcohol won’t damage your liver. As soon as that drinking becomes excessive, however, your liver will start to wear out. It is, after all, working harder. Binge drinking can lead to scarring and swelling of the liver, which can cause complications down the road.

Foods such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower can help support liver health. Similarly, some studies have linked coffee consumption to maintaining liver longevity and health.

Naturally, you’ll want to avoid those oft-warned against vices: too much sugar, excessively fatty foods, and smoking, as well.

Dispelling Detox Myths

At this point, you should have enough knowledge to assess most detox myths and products on your own. Just for good measure, let’s take a look at two common detox myths below:

  • You can Sweat Out Toxins: One of the more popular rumors about exercise is that you can actually sweat out toxins. It’s an appealing idea: you work up a sweat on the treadmill, help keep yourself in good shape, and, as an added bonus, purge your body of harmful substances. If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is.
    Sweat is almost entirely water. There’s a little bit of salt in there, but that’s about it. Sweating is the body’s way of cooling itself, not ridding itself of toxins. However, this doesn’t mean that exercise doesn’t play a part in detoxing. Exercise helps promote liver health—and if there’s one thing you should take away from this article, it’s that the liver is your detox workhorse.
  • Detoxing can Help You Lose Weight: Many detox products and diets are marketed as weight-management solutions. While fasting, juice cleanses, and other detox regimens may help you shed a few pounds in the short run, studies have shown that they are rarely long-term solutions for a healthy weight.
  • Your Body Needs Help Detoxing: As mentioned above, your body already has several lines of defense against toxins. And several mechanisms for removing them from your body. Most detox products claim to do one of two things: help your body’s natural detox processes work more efficiently or remove toxins in a way your body doesn’t already do (i.e. pulling toxins out of the skin etc.). Most of the time, your body doesn’t actually need any help—as long as you’re maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet, your natural detox systems should be able to handle themselves.
  • You can Remove Toxins Topically: The skin has pores—if you’ve ever had a zit you’re all too familiar with this fact. And so it seems logical that toxins could be removed through those pores. There are a number of products that claim to do just that—whether it’s through your feet, face, or another patch of skin. In reality, your skin is designed to keep toxins out, to protect you. And it’s good at its job. You can clean your pores by removing dirt, grime, and built up oil, but toxins won’t be coming out.

Moderation and Management: Keeping Toxins Out of Your Body

It can be difficult to escape the flashy claims of fast fixes and detox fads—they sure seem appealing. And they’re designed to! But remember, when in doubt, return to the tried and true approaches to health. Helping your body rid itself of toxins is all about moderation and lifestyle management: try to eat a well-balanced diet (with an extra dose of broccoli!). Drink in moderation, and, if you haven’t already, try to quit smoking. And, of course, exercise a few times a week.

No matter where you are on your health journey, it’s never too late—or too early—to throw your body’s detox processes a bone. Or, in this case, some broccoli.

With the ever-increasing popularity of fad diets and pop nutritionists, the world of healthy eating can feel intimidating. Everyone from your neighbor to your doctor to your mom seems to have advice on what you should—or should not—eat. And this advice is often contradictory.

But healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the simplest foods and meals are often the best for you. This is the guiding logic behind taking the clean eating approach to your diet.

Clean eating is the practice of filling your plate with primarily unprocessed, whole foods. It doesn’t outline how much you eat or when, but rather how you should select the foods you consume.

Bite into the Benefits of Clean Eating

Before diving into the ins and outs of clean eating, you should know one thing: clean eating takes commitment. It means diligently monitoring the foods you buy and eat—at home and when you’re out. That being said, the benefits of clean eating make it worth the effort. Take a look at why that is.

Food provides your body with the essential nutrients, energy, and building blocks to keep your body going. And, if you’re lucky, the food tastes good, too. People often think that the two are mutually exclusive: food is either healthy or tasty, not both. With clean eating, you can experience the best of both worlds.

Clean eating is an excellent way to provide your body with fiber, antioxidants, plant-based fats, and whole grains—all of which will help you feel energized and maintain overall health. And on top of that, a clean eating diet is full of flavorful, fresh foods that often taste better than their over-processed counterparts.

So if you’re looking to make your diet nutritious and tasty, keep reading to find the recipe for clean eating success.

The Key to Clean Eating? Stay Closer to Nature

Clean eating is all about focusing on foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. This means limiting the processed foods you eat. Think about potato chips: if someone showed you a chip, would you be able to identify the plant it came from without any prior knowledge? Sure—they’re made from potatoes, but those root veggies are processed to the point where they’re no longer instantly recognizable.

Compare this to, say, a baked potato. This is far closer to a potato’s natural form. And you can apply this logic to most foods—but more on that later!

As foods are processed, they undergo a number of changes. Processing can strip foods of nutritional value, and loaded them with sugar, preservatives, and other chemicals. Clean eating can help you maximize the most nutritional value from your food while avoiding those negative additives

Clean eating also means moderating your intake of alcohol. While a little red wine won’t hurt you, it’s probably no surprise that alcohol isn’t exactly good for you. It is, after all, a toxin that needs to be broken down and dealt with by your liver.

A Crash Course in Whole Foods and Food Processing

If you’re looking into clean eating for the first time, you’ll want to ensure you have a good understanding of whole foods—both what they are and how to identify them.

As mentioned above, whole foods are those that have undergone as little processing as possible. Or, in other words, foods that are close to their natural state. Unless you’re eating fruit right off the tree, most of the food you consume will be at least a little processed. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Chopping, washing, mashing, or cooking are all forms of processing. And some are better for your health than others.

Slicing an orange in half and eating it won’t reduce the nutritional value. It’s a form of processing with minimal impact on the food itself. The same is true of, say, washing an apple before you eat it.

Now, think about orange juice from concentrate. To reach that state, oranges are juiced, the liquid is reduced down into a thicker, concentrated form, some preservatives (and maybe even artificial flavorings and sweeteners) are added, and then water is added before use to make it a juice-like consistency once again.

Now, you might think, “that sounds like a lot of unnecessary steps.” And you’re right. At each of those steps, the original produce—an orange—strays further and further from its natural state. Many of these steps reduce the nutritional value of the juice and introduce unnecessary chemicals and sugars into it. Not exactly clean eating—or, in this case, drinking.

So how can you identify whole or minimally processed foods? The supermarket is full of options, but it can be difficult to parse out which foods are truly whole foods and which are simply being marketed as a health food. Fortunately, there are a few simple tips and tricks for selecting whole foods that you can use the next time you’re at the supermarket.

Tips for Selecting the Best Foods for Your Clean Eating Meal Prep

  1. Eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible. Beans are another great whole food—just be sure to watch for added sodium in canned versions!
  2. Opt for whole grains. Refined grains—which are the more common form—contain less fiber and fewer overall nutrients. To check if your bread is truly whole grain, look at the ingredients label. Does it show “whole-wheat flour” as the first ingredient? If not, it is probably made from mostly refined grains.
  3. Don’t be afraid of food in its natural state. A bundle of dirty, fresh beets might seem intimidating at first, but with a little practice and research, you’ll be able to prepare and cook them to perfection!
  4. Read nutrition facts labels and ingredient lists. So many foods at the grocery store have added sugars, artificial flavors, preservatives, and other additives. Be sure to know what you’re buying—and eating.

Eating as Clean as Possible—Even When Life Becomes an Obstacle

There isn’t a clear line between clean and unclean eating. It’s a spectrum. And there’s room in your clean eating approach for a variety of foods—including some processed items that meet certain criteria.

In the real world of whirlwind schedules and limited time, you need to be realistic. Sometimes you have to rely on a nutrition bar, shake, snack, or other more acceptable processed food choices. Don’t beat yourself up for it. Moving to more whole foods and picking the right convenient options still mean your clean eating approach is working.

When you have to reach for processed snacks or meal replacements, look for these qualities:

  • Nutrient rich
  • Full of fiber
  • Packed with protein
  • Low in calories, low in added sugar, and—if possible—low on the glycemic index
  • Made with quality ingredients

This means you need to do a little research. Take a look at the nutrition facts panel and ingredients list to make the best choices.

And remember: making the better choice is always good enough. Choose progress over perfection. That means it’s OK to skip the fast food or potato chips in favor of a shake or nutrition bar that provides fiber and protein without a lot of extra sugar.

Start by Creating Your Clean Eating Meal Plan

If you’re sold on the benefits of clean eating, you don’t have to make the shift all at once. Fortunately, starting is the easy part.

As you begin making the shift towards clean eating, start with small changes. In each meal, try to identify one processed food that you could replace with a whole-food counterpart. If, for instance, you typically make sandwiches on white bread, try using whole-grain bread instead. If you eat cereal for breakfast every morning, try steel-cut oats instead. For snacks, see if you can stick to fresh fruit, vegetables, and lightly roasted nuts.

If you typically cook your meals from scratch, follow a similar process. You have total control over the ingredients, so it’s just a matter of choosing the right ones.

As you make these substitutions and small changes, you’ll figure out what works best for you. Your grocery list will gradually develop to include whole foods. And remember, clean eating looks different for everyone. So figure out what you like by exploring different ingredients and cuisines. Then make favorite meals the cornerstones of your weekly clean eating meal prep.

At the most basic level, traditional Chinese nutrition is all about balance. It starts with the importance of finding a daily balance of flavors (sour, sweet, bitter, spicy, and salty) and thermal properties (cold vs hot). The philosophy extends even to the choice of each ingredient, which plays an important role in this balance, as well. Herbs, for example, are not viewed as a simple seasoning or addon, but as a way of balancing an entire meal.

The balancing act of traditional Chinese nutrition has been going strong for centuries. Long before modern medicine and clinical trials, knowledge about healthcare was formed over generations by individuals testing what was available to them. When a food or ingredient proved beneficial, that knowledge was passed onto the next generation.

This combination of balance and a long history of health benefits explain why tea, ginseng, mushrooms, ginger, and more play such a large role in traditional Chinese nutrition. Modern research and knowledge about the chemical compounds in these foods expands on these benefits and further exposes the underlying reasons why they are seen as beneficial.

You can take advantage of this deliciously healthy mix of traditional Chinese nutrition and scientific exploration in your kitchen. Read on to learn more about the benefits of several foods important in traditional Chinese nutrition and how you can incorporate them into your modern life.


All teas (white, green, black, oolong, and others) are ultimately derived from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. So whatever you are steeping or sipping is differentiated by the way the plant is grown and the method of leaf preparation. Green and white tea, unlike black and oolong tea, are not fermented, so many of the plant’s active constituents remain intact.

Tea plays an interesting role in balance for traditional Chinese nutrition, because it can fit on both sides of the thermal spectrum. Green tea is thermally considered cold and would be the choice for the warmer spring and summer seasons. Black tea, meanwhile, is warm and considered perfect for cold climates. In some Chinese populations, consumption of tea amounts to several cups per day.

Whether hot or cold, tea has long been used as a stimulant in Chinese culture. Now through modern analytical techniques, the caffeine content of tea can be measured. That allows you to better understand how many cups you’d like to drink—or at what time you should partake. As a general rule of thumb, your typical cup of green tea 30-70 milligrams (mg) of caffeine. Black teas, on the other hand, range from 45 mg to 90 mg.

Caffeine isn’t the only compound in tea researchers have quantified. Many phytonutrients have also been discovered. In fact, green tea is a rich source of catechins, a class of bioflavonoid compounds with strong antioxidant potential. The green tea catechins with the highest antioxidant activity are epigallocatechin-3-gallate, epicatechin-3-gallate, epigallocatechin and epicatechin.

It’s fairly easy to incorporate the caffeine and catechins of tea into your life. You may already be drinking it—many people around the world do. But if you’re a coffee person, replace a cup with green or black tea. For those sensitive to caffeine, go with a decaffeinated black tea. Herbal teas don’t actual contain the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, so—while they’re a delicious and healthy drink—they don’t provide the benefits seen from traditional Chinese nutrition’s most beloved beverage.


Ginseng was used in China and throughout much of eastern Asia as a warming herb that also helped invigorate Qi—or life force. Qi can be measured in several different ways, but is generally thought of as the total vital energy within a person.

Ginseng’s reputed role in Qi is backed up by modern clinical studies on this herb. And those are mainly tied to compounds in ginseng called ginsenosides.

Ginsenosides can help support healthy nervous system function through protection from oxidative stress. The compounds have also been shown to support cognitive function, specifically in psychomotor performance. Actions that involve cognitive function and physical movement, like playing a musical instrument, rely on psychomotor performance.

You can experience the support of ginseng’s ginsenosides in many ways. Traditional Chinese nutrition uses ginseng steeped in water to create a kind of tea. You can also use ginseng as an addition to a variety of tasty soups.


Mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese cooking for hundreds of years as a way of optimizing Qi and supporting the immune system. Even in the modern Chinese diet, mushrooms highlight Chinese dishes that are eaten every single day. You can also find mushroom in teas and supplements.

Their widespread use is about more than the fungi’s ability to soak up flavors and provide umami. Mushrooms support your health by adding essential vitamins and minerals to your diet. Recent research goes further and shows mushrooms also contain beneficial compounds that aren’t found in many other foods. One of these is a polysaccharide (complex sugar) called beta-glucan.

Clinical studies show that supplementing with mushrooms that contain beta-glucan provides support for an already healthy immune system and overall daily wellness. Reishi, shiitake, maitake, and turkey tail are mushrooms known to contain health-supporting beta-glucans.

Mushrooms might already be a staple of stir-fry dishes and many other meals with a Chinese flare. So eating more mushrooms might just be a matter of more committed meal planning. Select the versatile shiitake for inclusion in soups, breakfast scrambles, and a variety of different pasta dishes.


Due to its spicy taste, ginger is considered a warming food in traditional Chinese nutrition. Ginger’s kick of heat comes from a single phytochemical called gingerol. Modern research has revealed gingerol’s antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.

In addition to being a warming food, ginger also has a long history of use for supporting digestion and maintaining digestive comfort. Today, ginger is used as a seasoning in many popular foods, and it’s found in many herbal teas where it continues to be used for digestive support.

You can add ginger to a variety of stir-fry dishes, soups, stews, curries, or other Asian dishes. Stock up on the ground spice or full root to have everything you need to spice up your diet and support your health with this staple of traditional Chinese nutrition.

Start Incorporating Traditional Chinese Nutrition in Your Life Today

The above foods aren’t an all-inclusive list of ingredients that are important in traditional Chinese nutrition. Garlic, congee, goji berries, rhodiola, walnuts, and many other foods may play roles in helping support your individual health needs.

Some ingredients might already be favorites of your family’s dinner table. But more experimentation with these foods can yield a variety of delicious, healthy meals. By using them as a part of your daily diet, you can take advantage of traditional Chinese nutrition and mix the ingredients in a way that can also help support your overall macronutrient, vitamin, and mineral requirements, too.

Spicing up your weekly meal plan with elements of traditional Chinese nutrition is a wonderful way to vary your diet, explore new cuisines, and help your health along the way.

There’s a good chance you spend most of your time at home. It’s where you cook, sleep, eat, cozy up with a good book, and, possibly, work. And, for many people, the COVID-19 pandemic has made this all the more true.

No matter how much time you spend at home, however, one thing remains true: home should be a place where you can recharge and relax. It’s place where you can give your body and mind the rest they need. To do this, it’s crucial to create and maintain a healthy living environment.

There’s more to this task than you might think. Creating a healthy and clean living environment requires attention to nearly every aspect of your home. Here’s the good news: you can take it one step at a time! There’s no need to implement all of these tips at once.

What Constitutes a Healthy Living Environment?

When it comes to health, there’s a lot more to consider than your physical health. (Though physical health does, of course, play a big role in your overall health and well-being.) You also need to watch out for your mental and emotional health. And though you may not expect it, each of these facets of health comes into play when creating a healthy living environment.

So what exactly does that mean?

Nearly everything in your surroundings affects you in one way or another. Sometimes the slightest sensory detail—a persistent sound or odor—can introduce stress into your life, often subconsciously. When you’re out and about, you don’t have much control over your environment. At home, however, you have the ability to control many aspects of your surroundings. And exercising that control is crucial to creating a healthy living environment.

To create a clean, healthy living space, you’ll need to declutter. And no, this doesn’t mean simply tidying up around the house—although that’s a great start. You need to declutter physically and mentally, removing objects, messes, sounds, and even smells that could introduce stress into your life.

In other words, it’s all about being intentional with various aspects of your surroundings. A healthy living environment is made up of the sights, sounds, and smells that enable you to relax, recharge, and be your fully healthy self.

Neat and Tidy: The Physical Side of a Healthy Living Environment

As you try to create a healthy living environment for yourself, what better place to start than the basics? Save the sounds, smells, and other less tangible aspects of your house detox for later. Start with the messes you can actually touch.

Clutter—whether it’s dishes piled in the sink or toys strewn across the floor—can be visually unappealing. But it also takes a toll on your mental well-being. These types of messes are tripping hazards and constant visual reminders of what needs to be done. As the objects pile up, so does your stress.

Kitchen clutter also poses several other risks. By leaving food, moisture, and other kitchen debris in the open, you roll out the red carpet for mold, bacteria, and pests—all of which reduce the cleanliness of your living environment.

So by taking the time to do the dishes or clear your coffee table, you’re helping create a clean living environment for yourself, both mentally and physically. As you do these tasks, you might be surprised at how cathartic they feel. This is common. An added benefit of cleaning is that it can help reduce stress!

Harnessing Your Senses: How Sight, Sound, and Smell Impact Your Environment

Your senses—sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell—allow you to interact with your environment. Naturally, you’ll want to consider your senses as you cultivate your healthy living environment. (Unless you live in an actual gingerbread house, taste doesn’t really come into play here.)

Sight, as mentioned above, can greatly impact your stress levels. Does your house look clean? If the answer is yes, you can check that off your list.

Once again, it’s all about being intentional. Are you cutting out unwanted smells and replacing them with calming, desirable odors? And are you subjecting yourself to detrimental sounds or pleasant, soothing ones? The answers to these questions can help you establish your clean and healthy living environment.

Noise Pollution and Healthy Sounds in Your Home

Unwanted or excessive noise—also known as noise pollution—seems to be an inevitable part of life. And this means noise pollution will likely affect you in your home. Whether it’s the upstairs neighbors vacuuming at midnight or the early morning construction down the street, you can’t  fully escape intrusive sounds.

At their best, these unwanted sounds are simply annoying. At their worst, they can start to impact your physical and mental health.

When you’re exposed to noise pollution for extended periods of time, volumes as low as 60 decibels (which is roughly equivalent to the background noise in a busy restaurant) can start to take a toll on your ears, blood pressure, and stress levels. If the baseline volume of your home is around that level, you might find it difficult to fall, and stay, asleep at night.

So what can you do about it?

Not all noise is created equal. To help foster a healthy living environment, you should try to limit the negative, stress-inducing sounds in your home and introduce positive, relaxing noise in their place. This might mean buying thicker curtains to dampen external noise, or investing in a quieter air conditioner. Your solution can be as simple as playing classical music or nature sounds in your living room to cover up the noise.

Aromatherapy and the Power of Smells to Freshen Your Healthy Living Environment

Smell can be a powerful and underappreciated tool. The human nose can detect an incredible number of distinct smells—some good, some bad. Unpleasant odors in your home may indicate areas in need of a cleaning, especially in the bathroom or kitchen. If the bad smells persist, it may be indicative of a larger problem, such as a mold spot. Removing and preventing mold is crucial in maintaining a clean environment.

As with sounds, not all smells are negative. Some scents can have a soothing, refreshing effect. Purchasing a few houseplants can introduce a slightly woody, outdoorsy smell to your home that may help relieve stress. Houseplants can also help clean the air in your home, so it’s a win-win!

Something as simple as cracking a window can also do wonders for your home environment. An open window creates better air circulation, keeping your home smelling and feeling fresh.

If you want to take the power of smell a step further, you can experiment with air diffusers and aromatherapy. Air diffusers help spread the scent of essential oils throughout your home, allowing you to be extra intentional with the smells you take in each day.

Cultivating a Healthy Mental Environment

Cleaning and detoxing your physical home environment is a great first step, but it shouldn’t be your last. Your mental environment also deserves attention, too.

“Decluttering” the mind might seem like a strange concept at first, but think about the various environments you encounter on a day-to-day basis. Between work, the media you consume, friends, and relationships, your mind processes a lot of information each day. It also deserves a break—a good long exhale.

There are a number of ways you can declutter your mind and give it a rest. The process looks a little bit different for everyone, though. Exercise, meditation, and even house cleaning can be great ways to empty your mind and release some of the stress from the day. You can find your own way to unwind through trial and error.

Diligence and Forgiveness: Maintaining a Healthy Living Environment

A clean and healthy living environment looks a little bit different for everyone. You might care a lot about physical cleanliness and spend hours tidying up each week. Your neighbor might neglect their physical surroundings but carefully maintain a clean mental environment. And that’s OK! You don’t need to be perfect. Focus on the elements of your environment that matter the most to you and branch out from there.

And remember, maintaining a healthy living environment takes work and diligence. So if you find yourself slipping in one area, forgive yourself and move on. There’s always tomorrow to start again.

Stress is an inevitable part of life. It’s as much an aspect of daily existence as, say, eating. Between work, bills, and simply existing, a little stress is bound to pop up. And there’s nothing wrong with that. When stress piles and builds, however, it can become a black hole that sucks up all of your energy.

So how can you avoid the stress spiral and keep your life as stress-free as possible?

You’ll never eliminate all of the stress from your life—instead focus on reduction and management. How can you keep your stress levels to a minimum? You’re probably familiar with the usual answers: therapy, meditation, and exercise.

But it turns out there are plenty of uncommon ways to unwind, too. And you might be doing some of them already! With just a little tweaking, and a healthy dose of intentionality, some of your daily routines can actually become some of your greatest stress-relieving tools.

Fight or Flight: The Body’s Response to Stress

When you think about stress, there’s a good chance you jump to its effect on your body: elevated heart rate, rapid breathing, and all that good stuff. These bodily responses make up a large part of “feeling stressed.”

Then, of course, there’s the mental side of stress. If something is stressing you out, it can become all-consuming—so it’s hard to think about anything else. You might feel jumpy or distracted. This can also happen as small, otherwise insignificant, stressors pile up.

These responses to stress are the result of your brain’s fight or flight response, a holdover from when humans’ main concern was survival. Basically, if your brain perceives a threat, say a wild animal, your sympathetic nervous system triggers the release of hormones that activate those familiar body functions. It’s your body’s way of preparing you to either fight off a threat or run away.

That’s great if you need to run from a bear, but here’s the problem: in the modern world, the stressors you encounter have grown more complex, while the body’s response has stayed largely the same. An elevated heart rate and rapid breathing don’t help you complete a work report on time. It’ll just make you feel even more anxious and stressed. It’s a negative feedback loop that can be difficult to escape.

The Joys of Repetition: Turning Everyday Activities Into Meditation

When it comes to escaping that feedback loop, many people turn to meditation. Most forms of meditation have one thing in common: repetition. Whether it’s repeated breath patterns, mantras, or physical motions, the consistency of these actions can help keep your mind calm and clear.

But repetition doesn’t have to come in a formal setting to be beneficial. You can take advantage of natural repetitions in your life to help you unwind. A task as simple and mundane as ironing clothes can actually help you blow off steam (pun intended). The repeated motions you make with the iron, paired with the satisfaction of pressing out wrinkles, might help you clear your mind. And a clear mind gives your brain some much needed time to rest, helping reduce your feelings of stress.

Another strange, repetition-related phenomenon is the way human brains respond to fractals. A fractal is a repeated, identical pattern that seems to go on and on. Fractals occur organically in nature, but there are plenty of man-made examples in art and architecture, too. If you’ve ever seen an illustration of the golden ratio—which occurs naturally in seashells—you’ve seen a fractal pattern.

As you look at a fractal, you might immediately notice something satisfying about it. But the effect goes deeper than that. Studies have shown that engaging with fractals for extended periods of time—and allowing yourself to get lost in their repetitions—can actually help you destress.

The first step to relaxing is usually calming your body. Think back to that negative feedback loop of stress. If you can regulate your heart rate and breathing, your brain will begin to relax, too, breaking the cycle. That’s the logic—and science—behind most of these uncommon relaxation methods. They work because they break the cycle of stress, calming either your mind or body until the other follows suit.

The Psychology of House Cleaning as a Stress Reliever

Often when the stress starts to pile up, the laundry does, too. And the dishes. And dozens of other household tasks that suddenly become too overwhelming to even think about. Here’s the good news: house cleaning, dishwashing, and other chores can actually be a great way to unwind and relieve stress. The trick is getting started.

Clutter and untidiness can affect your brain in very real, often subtle ways. Visual clutter—whether it’s dishes, unfolded laundry, or toys that need to be put away—is a constant reminder of the tasks you still have ahead of you. And that reminder can add to your stress levels whether you release it or not.

The great thing about cleaning is that you see immediate results. By simply putting a few shirts away, making the bed, or washing some dishes, you’ll feel an immediate sense of accomplishment—and this can help alleviate some of the stress in your life.

If you’ve ever worked up a sweat scrubbing your shower or vacuuming the living room, you’ve experienced another benefit of house work firsthand: it can be a great source of exercise. Physical activity is one of the greatest ways to stave off stress—and yes, that includes some of your more demanding chores. When you vacuum the house, you might accumulate the same number of steps you’d get in a short walk.

Here’s the secret about exercise: it doesn’t really matter what you’re doing, it matters that you’re moving your body. And your chores can definitely fit the bill.

Finding Mindful Moments: Uncommon Ways to Unwind Each Day

Mindfulness is a meditation practice in which participants try to live fully in the moment. The practice involves acknowledging any and all thoughts or sensations that arise without passing judgment. It’s a time to simply exist, not to worry about the stressors of life.

Sound relaxing? That’s because it is. And you don’t even have to set aside time to practice mindfulness (although that is also a great idea). Instead, you can incorporate mindfulness into your day-to-day activities, like washing the dishes. Instead of just washing the dishes, you could wash the dishes mindfully. But what exactly does that look like?

Next time you wash your dishes, try to focus on the sensations you are experiencing. What does the soap smell like? How hot is the water on your hands? Paying attention to these sensations will help ground you in the moment and can, according to some studies, help reduce nervousness and stress.

This practice isn’t limited to dishwashing. As you go about your daily life, try to identify activities that would allow you to practice mindfulness—there might be more than you expect! Some such activities include:

  • Going for a walk in the park
  • Petting a dog
  • Taking a shower
  • Climbing a tree
  • Pulling weeds in the garden
  • Chopping (and eating!) vegetables
  • Finding clothes or household items to donate
  • Mowing the lawn or raking leaves

Finding Your Weird Way to Unwind

Stress may be an inevitable part of life, but, as you’ve seen in this article, life is also full of unusual ways to unwind. You just have to find the ones that work for you. So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, wash some dishes and try to practice mindfulness. Or maybe vacuum your apartment. You might be surprised what works for you!