7 Wellness Hacks That Are Actually Worth It
And none of them include the word "diet"
If you drop into pretty much any corner of the internet, you're sure to find a new wellness hack or two. Recent years have seen kombucha being touted for gut health, jade eggs as saviors of your vagina, and the keto diet as the solution to just about any health issue—and these are just a few of the countless cleanses, detoxes, diets, workouts, and wellness regimens we've encountered, all of which usually required a steep investment of time or money (or both).
Unsurprisingly, most professionals or longtime athletes say that the simplest hacks are the best ones, and you won't catch many of them deviating too far from the normal practices of eating well, sleeping enough, and moving their bodies regularly. Here, a few of these experts share their favorite pieces of actually worthwhile wellness advice, from the admittedly boring (sleep more) to the fun and a little offbeat (try matcha).
Get your shit together
Marie Kondo was onto something when she started urging everyone towards only owning things that sparked joy—not necessarily because a minimal lifestyle is the only way to go, but because the more streamlined you are across all areas of your life, the easier it is to fit in the extra self-care staples like a full night of sleep, an at-home facial, or a full workout to leave you feeling like your best self. "Being organized AF with my time is my No. 1 wellness hack," says digital consultant and Adidas ambassador Nicole Loher. "When I take the extra half hour to plan my week, I'm much more productive."
Start today: Sit down with your calendar and write in appointments with yourself for things like meal prep, workouts, and a time to clean out your closet. Sure, cleaning out your closet doesn't sound very wellness-oriented, but think about how much easier it is to get going on your workout when you have all of your socks matched and your favorite sports bra on hand.
You knew this one was coming. Founder of Girls Run NYC and run coach Jessie Zapo swears by the Headspace app, as does former mountain bike world champion Kate Courtney. "I also practice sitting for 10 minutes and do mindful breathing before I start my day," says Zapo. "When I do it regularly, it's like an anti-anxiety cure! My days always start out way better." There's a reason that this is one hack that simply won't go away: It's one of the few that is backed by hundreds of studies, it's free to do, and there's no downside to it. You can spend five minutes doing deep breathing anywhere—no pricey cushion required—and meditation lowers stress while boosting creativity. Win-win.
Try intermittent fasting—but not to extremes
Intermittent fasting is just a fancier way of saying "have some points of the day where you let your body digest," and it can be a great way to help you move past that urge for an 11pm chocolate-y snack. "Time-restricted eating, a type of intermittent fasting, is a great gateway to cleaning up eating and promoting a higher metabolism," says Lori Nedescu, a registered dietician and pro cyclist. "You simply just eat within a defined time window. Twelve hours is the official time fasting benefits start, so it's totally fine to do that! It's easy to adhere to, since most of the fasting is done while sleeping. Skipping alcohol and late-night snacks and holding off on the morning latte can help reduce calories and promotes the health benefits of fasting."
There's no right or wrong way to journal, whether you're a fan of the super-trendy bullet journaling method or Morning Pages or a gratitude journal or just doodling for a few minutes each day before going to bed. The key to a journaling practice that actually improves your wellness? Finding a style that makes you feel happy and relieved to do it, not shoehorning yourself into a method that makes you feel like you're doing it wrong. (Bullet journaling looks great on Pinterest, but that doesn't mean your daily pages need to be as uniformly gorgeous.) "I've journaled since I was in fourth grade," says Zapo. "Might be thoughts, might be sketches, might be things that inspire me, or could be stream of consciousness. My Instagram is basically an open journal specifically about running in NYC. But I love to keep a physical journal and carry it around with me. I love taking notes."
All the #selfcare in the world can't beat a good night of sleep. "Get enough quality rest. Seriously. Gone are the days of four to six hours of sleep a night," says Loher, who used to wake up for 4am training session regardless of when she hit the sheets the night before—but not anymore. "I like to remind people of this stat when they think I'm kidding: Going 24 hours without sleep is equal to having a blood alcohol content of .10. That's .02 BAC above the legal driving limit!" Irregular sleep patterns, like sleeping four hours a night Monday to Friday and "catching up" on weekends, have been linked to metabolic disorders. And it's also been shown that you can't really "catch up" on sleep anyway. It's not a fun or sexy hack, but seriously, aim for at least six hours of sleep each night, working your way toward eight or nine.
Get rid of labels
It's time to start working toward self-mastery in the world of wellness. Rather than thinking about eating low-FODMAPs, Keto, Paleo, vegan, plant-based or any other diet that has specific rules, why not think about eating the [Insert Your Name Here] Diet? That means eating food that nourishes you and skipping the food that makes you feel like garbage. "Know your rhythm and play to it," says Loher. This also applies to how you train: Forget whether you're a night owl or early bird, just decide what time feels good for you to work out, even if that's 2pm. As for how you eat: Onions make you bloated? Skip them. And for how you work: More productive around noon? Eat lunch a little later, and do your important work while the rest of the office is gone.
Okay, fine, try matcha
If you want to add a superfood to your diet, matcha is a good one to test out. Matcha—a finely ground type of green tea—is beloved by nearly every sector of the wellness and athletic world. It's shown potential for reducing anxiety and for improving athletic endurance, but really, the green tea offers something even more important than antioxidants: a reason for a ritual that makes you take a pause during your day. "I love my morning matcha latte ritual at home. I buy ceremonial grade matcha from Matchaful and make the tea at home, steaming milk with my espresso machine or making an iced version," says Zapo. "I will either drink it at home for a quiet start to my day or put it in my sustainable Keep Cup to go."
Olympic middle-distance runner Alexi Pappas is also on the matcha train, and makes her latte with collagen protein for her post-workout recovery drink. "I will have a glass of collagen matcha after my run," she says. "My go-to and seriously my favorite thing are these to-go packs from The Reserve. They're really good to travel with and easily mix in with hot or cold liquids."