Set the alarm—for bedtime. Good sleep is not a luxury—it's a necessity for good health, says sleep researcher Michael Breus. Lack of sleep affects everything from your relationships to your weight. The best sleepers have a consistent bedtime routine, says Breus, author of Beauty Sleep. His favorite way to get in a groove? Set your alarm for the same bedtime each night. "The sound will draw you into the bedroom, and help you focus on preparing for bed," Breus says.
Wake up your spine. Tucked among the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health is one of America's hottest spots for mind-body wellness. So who better than Kripalu CEO and lifelong yoga practitioner Garrett Sarley to share his favorite morning ritual. Repeat it as soon as you get out of bed to get your blood flowing, and anytime you need an energy boost.
Standing up, gently stretch one hand at a time toward the ceiling.
Bringing your hands together above your head, gently tip to the right; return to center. Repeat on the left; then return to center.
Drop your hands and gently twist your torso from side to side, allowing your arms to flap like empty coat sleeves.
Bend your knees slightly and fold forward in a gentle stretch, grasping your ankles if you can.
Roll up slowly to a standing position.
Place your open palms at the small of your back, and gently thrust your pelvis forward. Return to neutral.
Stage a walk-out at work. Inspired by Live Healthy America's workplace challenge to gain fitness and lose weight, Holly Steuart, a broadcast manager at a major national media company, had a brainstorm. She called a meeting—on a two-mile walk. It was an instant hit. Copied by her fellow managers and now a company institution, the walking meeting was part of an effort that helped 1,000 of Steuart's fellow employees lose 4,500 pounds total. Try the idea in your workplace, or hold your next church, school, or book club meeting on foot.
Make every day an adventure. Maybe it's the result of her 28 years of bunking down at summer camps treating poison ivy and bug bites, but Indiana registered nurse Myra Pravda has a knack for making the most out of the mundane. A mere walk in the park with her granddaughters, for instance, becomes an expedition. "We make it a big adventure—pack our lunches, map our route," she says. Take a cue from her and tote binoculars on your next stroll and scout for birds. Or adapt the idea any way you choose: Turn a morning coffee run into an taste-test of new brews, or make your next night out a "free night," and limit your choice of activity to the listings of free events in your newspaper. The point? To avoid getting stuck in a rut—and keep your brain and body nimble.
Use the 20% solution. Inhabitants of the Japanese island of Okinawa have been celebrated for their long, healthy lives (including low heart disease and cancer rates). Central to Okinawan longevity is a practice called Hara Hachi Bu—eating until you are only 80 percent full. How to make it work for you? Start paying closer attention to your feeling of fullness as you eat; you may know your limits better than you think you do. Need a visual aid? Fill your plate as usual, then leave 20 percent behind (just make sure it's not all veggies!).
Banish boxes and bags. Toronto-based strength and conditioning pro Craig Ballantyne has reduced the often over-complicated healthy eating equation to a perfect, memorable mantra: "Stay away from anything in a bag or a box," says Ballantyne, author of Turbulence Training. Ballantyne's no-brainer approach will keep you easily focused on fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, natural sources of protein, and healthy fats.
Keep healthy company. Minnesota regularly comes out on top in national polls ranking the healthiest states in America. What strategies can we steal from this Midwest health haven? "One of the best habits to get into is hanging out with the right people," says Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest and a Minnesotan himself. "We know from research that if your three best friends are obese, there's a 50 percent chance that you will be." Buettner says that a little proactivity will get you in the right company. Think yoga, birdwatching and bike clubs, he says. "There, you'll find people who are seeking meaning and who are naturally active."