We all want to be healthy. But the biggest mistake we make is we try to change too much, all at once. We start a workout routine, getting up early, completely switching up our diet, and sleeping early – all at once. When we take on a lot of new habits all at once, we tend to get overwhelmed. It is natural for us to slide back into our old routines when too many things change all at once.
To develop a healthy lifestyle, we need to develop habits that stick – sustainably and over time. We also need to look for habits that are easier to adapt to but make a substantial impact on our health. Basically, the 80/20 rule. What can get you 80% of the results with 20% of the effort?
If your goal is to develop healthy habits, then we have that one habit you can start with that will change your health. It is easy, effective, straightforward, and cheap (and free for the most part).
Start drinking more water.
We know, we know. You’ve heard this before a million times. But think for a moment. Have you ever followed that advice religiously? Have you ever just tried to build this one habit, and no other habit at the same time? We know it sounds too easy to be of real impact. But hear us out. There is enough research and evidence that drinking more water could be the silver bullet for many health issues. There are many medical professionals that recommend drinking more water.
Take, for instance, Jennifer Ashton, MD. She is the author of The Self-Care Solution. She regularly recommends that patients drink more water because she knows very well how beneficial it is. But even this did not prevent her from going to the hospital due to ... dehydration. If a renowned doctor was unable to keep up with her hydration needs, it's possible for us to get dehydrated as well.
If you drink a few cups of coffee every day, then you need to drink even more water. Coffee throws out water from our systems, making us more dehydrated. Alcohol also has the same effect. Given the circumstances; we likely do not drink enough water either.
Here are some more benefits of drinking more water.
Our bodies are made of 60% water on average, but our brains are 73% water, and it needs more fluids for functioning. If we do not have enough water in our bodies, our brains can shrink - in the physical sense of the word. When our body is dehydrated, it borrows water from our brain cells to perform important actions and hence causes our brain to shrink and limit its functions. This causes headaches of varying intensity, from mild to full-blown migraines. Dehydration also leads to constriction of blood vessels, which increases any pain.
You don't have to be clinically dehydrated to get a headache - even mild dehydration can cause discomfort. But if you suffer from frequent headaches, try drinking more throughout the day and throughout the week. You will feel better instantly.
Aids weight management.
We often think that our food is the major cause of our weight gain. We tend to miss the other worthy cause – unhealthy drinks. What we drink reflects on our waistlines. Lemonade, juice, fancy coffee drinks, and even smoothies are high in sugar and calories and exceptionally low in healthy proteins, fats, and dietary fiber. As a result, our blood insulin levels rise, and the body starts to store fat.
But that’s not all. You see, we overlook fluids in our diet so much that what we don't drink can also hurt our waistlines. Inadequate water intake increases appetite and can affect metabolism, hormone levels, exercise ability, and control for food cravings. Part of the problem is that the appetite-related area of the brain also controls thirst. When we are dehydrated, this area becomes overloaded and starts sending us signals. These signals for thirst and hunger are the same. They can easily be misinterpreted as a need for a snack instead of water.
Dehydration also disrupts healthy metabolism. According to some reports, even mild dehydration slows the body's ability to burn calories. Increasing the amount of water you drink, regardless of the degree of dehydration, can temporarily boost your metabolism by 30%. The consumption of icy water speeds up the metabolism even more since the liquid must be warmed up to body temperature so that it can be absorbed. This is an added waste of energy - the basics of thermodynamics!
Helps our heart function.
We hear a lot about how poor nutrition, being overweight, family history, and environmental pollution increase the risk of heart disease, but few talk about another common cause - dehydration. Chronic dehydration reduces blood volume, constricting blood vessels, and causes the heart to work harder to drive blood through the body.
Nearly half of stroke survivors suffer from dehydration, and for this reason, heart attacks most often occur in the morning. There is evidence that mild dehydration can disrupt the heart in much the same way as a cigarette. Therefore, complete prevention of dehydration can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 59% in women and 46% in men.
Keeps our skin young.
If you suffer from dry and irritated skin, breakouts, pale complexion, water is the answer. Water helps prevent and even reverse the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots.
So does drinking more water help acne? Yes and here is why. Lack of water limits the body's ability to eliminate toxins that accumulate in skin cells. This makes our skin break out more often and look aged. We then tend to develop eczema, psoriasis, and skin discoloration. Drinking more water should help in clearing out acne and other skin ailments.
Gives more energy.
Drinking more water can give us another benefit: increased energy. Science has documented that even mild dehydration leads to lethargy, irritability, and fatigue, making us perceive the current tasks as more complex than they are. Dehydration can even make it difficult to concentrate. When this gets severe, it can also lead to hyperexcitability and mood swings over time. But a simple glass of water every now and then will help you stay focused and charged.
Makes us smarter.
Since our brain is 73% water, it should come as no surprise that preventing dehydration can help improve cognitive function. Even 1% dehydration can negatively affect the ability to think. Adequate prevention of dehydration increases the brain's ability to concentrate and retain information. Research shows that 8 to 10 cups of water increase the brain's ability to think and work by 30%.
Helps dental hygiene.
When we are dehydrated, we produce less saliva. This promotes bacterial growth and plaque build-up on our teeth, cheeks, and tongue. This build-up leads to bad breath and tooth decay over time. The risk of gum diseases and other oral problems also increases. When this gets severe, inadequate drinking of water can make it difficult to swallow food. If you wear dentures, braces, or other oral aids, they can become even more uncomfortable when you are dehydrated.