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Studies show that the rituals of cleaning and getting rid of what's no longer serving you—such as worn-out possessions, old habits, emotional ties, or unhealthy thoughts—can actually improve your physical and mental health.
Step 2: Renew your daily routine
Limit time wasters, such as email
E-mail, voicemail, and social media sites are great tools for staying in touch or doing business, but they also can be incredible time sinks. And overusing them may also impact your overall well-being: A 2009 study of college students found that those who scored highest on a screening test for Internet addiction also scored higher on an alcohol dependence test.
Reclaim your time by becoming clear about your intentions, says Louden. "Before you open Facebook, decide what you want to get out of it and how much time you'll devote to it." The goal isn't to become more regimented with your time, but more mindful. "When you immerse yourself in the full experience, you'll curb your hunger for constant diversions and you'll be better able to concentrate when those 20 minutes are up."
Pause and reflect
"When you are constantly reacting to whatever's happening, you can't slow down enough to think clearly, and you end up making choices that only contribute to wasting time and feeling depleted," says Louden. To return to yourself, try this: Put your hand on your heart. Recall a time when you felt very relaxed. Hold this memory in your mind for 10–20 seconds. "This calms your heart rate and helps you be more intelligent and creative and resourceful when you return to the task at hand," Louden says. Research suggests that the more you practice this mini-relaxation technique, the more benefit it will provide: A Japanese study of healthy subjects found that women who had used guided imagery once a day for more than six months experienced more positive moods and lower stress levels than those who didn't.
Step 3: Clean out your fridge—and your diet
Eliminate hidden sugars
Indulging in dessert from time to time can be part of a healthy diet, but eating excess sugar can dramatically increase your risk for obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and lowered immunity. Sugar also plays a suspected role in depression, premenstrual syndrome, hypertension, and osteoporosis. The American Heart Association’s latest daily recommended sugar intake for adults is just six teaspoons for women and nine teaspoons for men (not including the naturally occurring sugars found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products).
Even if you shun all forms of soda and choose your food with care, you likely have foods with high levels of added sugar lurking on your shelves. To weed out secret sugar sources, pay attention to even the healthy-seeming packaged foods, such as fruit juices, iced tea, condiments, crackers, breads, cereals, energy bars, and granola bars. Get rid of those that contain significant amounts of any form of refined sugar. Aliases include caramel, sorbitol, evaporated cane juice, barley malt, and anything that ends in -ose (such as fructose, sucrose, and dextrose) or that contains the word syrup. (Check out Sugar Debate complete list).
Consider a cleanse
Help your body get rid of unwanted toxins by always trying to eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. "By eating only whole foods, you stop forcing your body to deal with refined ingredients—such as white flour, trans fats, and refined sugar—that lack fiber and nutrients," says Jillian Michaels, wellness expert and life coach on the NBC’s The Biggest Loser and star of the upcoming Losing It With Jillian. These clean, real foods give your body the necessary building blocks for a full-throttle metabolism, a strong immune system, and the ability to fend off the effects of aging, explains Michaels. (For complete detox and cleansing tips, check out Everyday Detox.)