Lifestyle Changes, Long-term Benefits

Donna PhotoThe benefits to be had from making healthy lifestyle changes

By Donna Cardillo, RN

We live in a quick-fix society. We want instant results with minimal pain, effort and sacrifice. When it comes to our health and appearance, we’re accustomed to looking for a pill or procedure, and many doctors are quick to prescribe them. But if the root cause of the problem or challenge is not addressed, drugs, surgery and treatments can simply mask the underlying issue, leading to more of the same – a vicious cycle.

Also, every drug, treatment and procedure has potential side effects and risks that can often be worse than the issue it was intended to treat. This includes cosmetic treatments, over-the counter meds and so-called natural products. Certain procedures are often lifesaving and life-improving. However, without accompanying lifestyle changes, the treatments may be minimally effective, if at all. More important, many issues can be solved simply by lifestyle changes alone. So how can changes make you look and feel better? Read on – you may just be surprised.

Quit Smoking 

In addition to the numerous (albeit preventable) well-documented health risks, cigarette smokers are more prone to premature aging of the skin. Smoking can also result in dull, lifeless hair, and even premature graying and balding. If quitting cold turkey hasn’t worked for you, consider attending smoking cessation programs, using nicotine patches, trying hypnotherapy and practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation with Claire Winchester Hypnotherapy. (See my previous post, Meditation Not Your Thing? Debunking the Myths).

Lose Weight

Joint replacement surgery has become increasingly prevalent. And while age and other factors put natural wear and tear on joints, excess body weight is a major contributor. If you wind up having joint replacement surgery, that excess weight can cause complications during and after surgery and may prolong your recovery. Consider consulting a dietician or nutritionist (your insurance may pay for this), attending weight-loss group meetings, and keeping a food diary to shave extra pounds and develop healthy eating habits.

Get Physically Active

Physical activity improves your appearance, memory, mood and sleep patterns, and it staves off cardiac disease and brittle bones. Better yet, exercise doesn’t have to be drudgery. Consider taking a line-dancing class, swimming at your community rec center, getting on a bowling league, joining a walking club or regularly playing Frisbee with your kids or dog. Consider working with a personal trainer even for one session (many gyms offer free training sessions when you join) to develop a routine that works best for you.

Stay Hydrated

Even mild dehydration can cause mental confusion, elevate your blood sugar and cause headaches, muscle weakness, fatigue and dizziness. Our entire body – brain, heart, joints, muscles – needs water to function properly. Unless you are on fluid restrictions for health reasons, drink up (preferably caffeine-free, unsweetened beverages). And be careful not to consume too many artificially-sweetened drinks either, as the additives can cause serious side effects, including palpitations, headaches and ringing in the ears.

Develop Good Sleep Habits

Most Americans are sleep-deprived, and many use prescription sleep aides. Chronic lack of sleep affects moods, clarity of thought, weight control and more. If you have trouble sleeping, restrict caffeine intake, especially 8-12 hours before bedtime. Also, turn off the computer and TV at least an hour before bedtime, and lower the lights in your environment so that your body can naturally produce melatonin, which stimulates sleep. Develop a bedtime routine such as reading, journaling, meditating or taking a warm bath or shower just before sleep. Most adults should get 7-8 hours of sleep every night.

Manage Your Stress 

Excess stress affects your skin, hair, creativity, happiness and productivity. Most of us can’t eliminate the stress in our lives, but we can counteract its effects. Meditation, yoga (even for the elderly and disabled), aerobic exercise, hobbies, socializing and an occasional change of scenery are all great ways to unwind and de-stress.

Making small changes today will improve your life in numerous ways tomorrow.

Donna Cardillo, RN travels the world helping nurses to be happy in their careers and to reach their full potential. She is fiercely passionate about nursing and about life in general. You may know Donna as “Dear Donna” at Nursing Spectrum and NurseWeek magazines where she writes a regular column and doles out daily online career advice at She is also an “Expert” Blogger at – the first and only nurse blogging there! Donna is author of 3 books: Your First Year as a Nurse, The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses, and a Daybook for Beginning Nurses.  She has received numerous awards and recognitions but is most proud of being named a Diva in Nursing by the Institute for Nursing in NJ for outstanding achievements and excellence in practice. Donna has been referred to as the Ann Landers and the Dr. Phil of the nursing profession. Regardless of who she’s compared to, there’s no denying that she has her own unique style, indomitable spirit, and uproarious sense of humor.

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