Between bright lights, cheap chairs, snack machines, soda-filled fridges, 20 minute lunches (at your desk!), and those damn donuts Ralph from accounting brought in, offices are often the places where health and wellness go to die. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
If more business owners would provide their employees with standing desks, balance boards, endless supplies of fresh fruits and veggies, more days off, corporate wellness initiatives, gym membership allowances, and even weekly massages, the workforce would be stronger, more loyal, more productive, healthier, and more connected to their communities.
If this describes your office, consider yourself extraordinarily lucky. If it doesn’t, you’re not alone, but you may have to forge your own path to workplace health and wellness. Since you spend a lot of time in the office, it’s actually the perfect place for small tweaks that can lead to massive changes. By changing our habits in the workplace we build stronger foundations that lead to more awareness and positive lifelong habits in all areas of our lives. With that in mind, here are my top tips for being and feeling healthier at work:
1. Start the Day Right
Having a morning routine can be extremely beneficial to your overall well being. Find a 10-15 minute ritual that works for you, be it mediation, journal writing, stretching, a 10-minute dance party, or anything else that helps you embrace and start the day fresh.
Whether you’re a breakfast person or not, make sure your first meal of the day complements the efforts you’ve already put forward. Low caloric density foods keep you feeling full, prevent overeating, and are key to sustaining energy levels. They help you feel productive, focused, and quick on your feet. Ideal foods are fruits and vegetables, hot whole grain cereals with fresh berries, and two of my favorites, which can be prepped the night before – Zucchini Banana Bread Overnight Oats and Lemon Chia Pudding.
2. Get Up and Leave Your Desk
Whether you go out to eat, brown bag it on a bench outside, or warm up leftovers in the kitchen, physically leave your desk AND put your phone away for 30 minutes at lunch. Taking the time to actually enjoy and chew your food and be mindful of what you’re putting into your body has a hugely positive impact on not only your digestion but also stress levels, interactions with other human beings, and your waistline. Try it for one week and see what transformations you notice in just a few days. Another tip: go for a walkabout for at least 5 minutes every hour; these mini-breaks help you refresh and reset.
3. Drink More Water
The intake of substitutes like coffee, tea, energy drinks, and sodas far outweigh the fluid ounces of pure water being consumed, and most of these are actually incredibly dehydrating. More health issues stem from our bodies being dehydrated over a long period of time than people realize. Common early-stage symptoms of dehydration are dry skin, bad breath, headaches, low energy, rapid heartbeat, and (go figure) craving sugary foods. Track your water intake for the next 10 days. Are you consistently reaching your target? What behavioral changes do you notice? I love the Daily Water Tracker Reminder app. Ideally, you should be getting up to pee every hour!
4. Prep Your Food
I cannot stress this more strongly. Different than meal prep, food prep allows for more spontaneity and saves so much time in the long run. Having a fridge stocked with convenient and healthy go-to-goodies is your ticket to positive food choices on the road or at home. Before going to bed or first thing in the morning, grab a mason jar and assemble the tastiest, most satisfying protein, fiber, and good carb-packed meal like the Chickpea Waldorf or a Lentil, Arugula & Sweet Potato Salad
5. Snack Right
The 3pm Slump is real. It’s the leading cause of the decline of afternoon productivity and simultaneously a key promoter of inflammation, expanding waistlines, and work-related stress. This is when most junk food is eaten and coincidentally, when most internet surfing, gossip, and making plans for the evening occur. I don’t know about you, but this isn’t a slump I enjoy. Snacking isn’t bad and can be very positive if done right. When you’re feeling that drop in energy, instead of reaching for empty carbs like salty snacks or sweets, take a break, breathe deep, follow steps 2 and 3, and reach for a hydrating, nutrient-filled snack. With this small change, you’ll replenish your energy levels for another few hours and start a healthier habit. Great afternoon snacks include grapes & a handful of raw walnuts, an apple with almond butter, or our favorite, Little Dippers!
A crazy night here and there is one thing, but it’s these daily and weekly hours that can make or break our healthy habits. Acknowledging which triggers may be present in your regular environments is a great first step in rewiring your unconscious habits and choices. Do you eat your lunch at your desk because your workload is too demanding to take a proper break? Do you load up on coffee because your eyes are blurry from staring at your screen and the bright lights make you tired? Do you engage in office chit-chat or grab treats from the kitchen just because you need to stand up and move your body?
We live in a fast-paced, always-on-the-go world these days but that doesn’t mean your wellbeing must be sacrificed to keep up. Don’t wait until your mind, body, or stomach are screaming for attention. Put a plan in place and make deliberate and conscious choices. Take stock of your unconscious habits and see where you can make more conscious choices. Small tweaks could make a big difference and remember it’s not about giving things up, it’s about adding more goodness into your daily life and reaping the benefits.
About the Author: Emma Malina is a Certified Nutrition Health Coach and founder of Basking in Goodness based in Santa Barbara, CA. Basking in Goodness was born out of a desire to silence the noise of what you should or shouldn't do to look fit and healthy and instead focuses on discovering what truly makes you feel healthy, happy, and whole. Emma practices a holistic approach to health & wellness and supports her clients in making small, individualized changes, tweaks, and adjustments, providing a safe and supportive space to get to the core of where they are and where they want to be.
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