Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.Full Bio
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Summer is a celebration for many. Something about the way the North Pole is at its maximum tilt toward the sun, allowing the sun to reach its highest point in the sky for the year, which allows more light to reach our planet, making many of us feel festive, alive, hopeful and happy.
I think it's worth celebrating summer even more by making our health a priority. By setting some easy and tangible goals you can make this summer and all the seasons that follow healthier than ever. Maybe it's time to make some tweaks or changes. Maybe it's time to:
- Revamp your sleep routine. Many of us report poor or insufficient sleep, which can have a big impact on day-to-day activities and long-term health. So, let's take a look at some things. What's your bedtime routine? What medications do you take regularly? Where do you sleep, and what's the noise level, lighting and temperature? "Sleep hygiene" is an important aspect to consider. You need a calm, relaxing bedtime routine to usher in restful sleep, and you need to sleep in a quiet, dark and cool room. Among medications that may interfere with your sleep are pain medications, decongestants, antihistamines, beta-blockers, SSRI antidepressants and corticosteroids. Sleep plays such a vital role in good health—physically, mentally and quality-wise.
- Shed some pounds. If you've put on some extra pounds during the winter, you might want to consider taking them off now. Overweight and obesity are linked to high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, cancer and depression. And you want to feel good in your bathing suit or skimpy shorts, don't you? Summer's the perfect time to eat less (many people feel less hungry during summer months, so use that to your advantage) and exercise more (nice weather makes it so much easier to be active) to cut your risk of serious health problems. With the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, there's no excuse for not eating well.
- Express gratitude. When is the last time you stopped to think about all the good things in your life? We're all rushing around so much that it's normal to forget to stop and give thanks. Summer is a great reminder to stop and smell the roses—both literally and figuratively. Many studies find an association between gratitude and health and well-being. Showing gratitude can help improve the lives of others, too: Studies find that gratitude can improve relationships and offer motivation to work harder and better.
- Use your outdoor grill for more than just the ordinary. Barbecues can be healthy—and go beyond what you'd get at your local fast food joint. Almost any veggie is even more fabulous on the grill. Consider eggplants, squash, peppers, asparagus, corn, mushrooms, onions, carrots—even cabbage or a head of lettuce. The possibilities are endless. Toss with a light coating of oil, sprinkle lightly with seasoning, then sear over high heat and move them to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking. If you crave dessert, consider grilling some fresh pineapple or peaches (yum!) and topping with some low-fat frozen yogurt.
- Go with the grain.Whole grains are packed with goodness: protein, fiber, vitamins, antioxidants and trace minerals like iron, zinc, copper and magnesium. According to The Whole Grains Council, scientific evidence shows they may help lower the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, coronary heart disease and cancer—and can even help manage your weight and gastrointestinal health. It's easy to cook up some grains like farro, quinoa, barley or brown rice, store them covered in the fridge, and add them to your salad for an even better fiber boost. You can dice up some leftover grilled veggies and mix them with grains for a filling and healthy meatless meal one night (great to pack for a picnic, too).