By Jae Berman, Special to The Washington Post
As a native San Franciscan, I pride myself on my parallel-parking skills. But now that I have a reverse camera in my car, I wonder how I ever parked before this technology. It’s changed my whole experience. With food and exercise, too, a simple tool or new habit can make what once felt difficult instead seem effortless.
I call these tools game-changers. Pouched wild salmon is a game-changer for me. Fresh salmon is too expensive, and even if I did pay the price, I can’t batch-cook salmon for the week, as it won’t last. But I really want to increase my intake of omega-3 fatty acids, and wild salmon is the best option. I now order precooked, 3-ounce portions of wild salmon online and enjoy it regularly for lunch. What once felt impossible is now easy.
When you open your mind to exploring a problem, a tool or change of perspective, even something extraordinarily small and basic, can have a profound impact.
Unpack the problem and understand your “why.” Start noticing when you’re feeling rushed, annoyed or frustrated. If so, take a breath and try to understand the frustration. Why does this continue to be a problem? Get specific. Then decide whether it’s under your control to find a tool, change the routine or create a new habit to make life easier. Here are some ideas.
Stock your freezer and pantry: Find frozen, canned and jarred products that can be incorporated into your routine so you always have food ready to go. I have blueberries, spinach, burgers and bread in my freezer and canned soup, tuna, beans, almond butter and olives in my pantry. Life is easier when you have food available for dinner. Read the ingredients on the label to ensure you’re eating whole and real ingredients, and watch sodium levels based on your dietary needs.
Outfit your kitchen: A slow cooker, sharp knife, quality blender, programmable coffee maker, airtight storage containers and an all-purpose pan can make cooking and prepping into much easier tasks. If you always notice one step of your cooking is slowing you down, it might be worth investing in a product that will make you more efficient.
Stash on-the-go snacks: Find single-serve options for your favorites so you can eat in line with your values no matter where you are. Coffee, tea, nut/seed butter, nuts and seeds, crackers, oils, fruit, bars and powders can help you eat nutritiously during a busy day.
Pack your lunch the night before: When cooking dinner, prep lunches for you and your family so the next morning there is one less task on the to-do list.
Grocery shop online: You’d be amazed what can be bought online. Delivery will let you avoid grocery shopping trips altogether, but some stores also have a cheaper pickup option.
Prep food in batches: If you’re going to take precious time to prep food, make several servings at a time. Chop vegetables and cook proteins and starches to last the entire week instead of one meal.
Choose your clothes the night before: Incredibly basic, but a true game-changer. I do this every night. If you want a morning workout, have your gym clothes ready at your bed and pack your work clothes the night before. If you want an evening workout, have your gym bag ready at the door so you never have the “forgot my gym clothes” excuse.
Add squats and push-ups: These two exercises can work many muscles. Adding a 5-minute workout into your day — three sets of 10 squats and push-ups while watching television — can be a step toward improving wellness.
Try a tracker: Tracking data for exercise can keep you accountable, focused, challenged, motivated and informed. Track steps, heart rate, mileage, breath rate, speed, frequency or intensity using a wearable device. One or more of these pieces of information can be the game-changer to improve your exercise routine.
Treat yourself to some gear: Waterproof headphones to wear while swimming, a yoga mat that’s just right, a running jacket that’s perfect for the weather, an at-home spin bike, a pullup bar in a doorway at the office or wireless headphones that sound fantastic — these can make exercise enjoyable and convenient.
Other life hacks
Improve sleep: For ideal sleep, a bedroom will be dark, cool, clean and have no noise distractions. A comfortable eye mask, blackout curtains, fan, humidifier, white noise machine and a storage container to hold clutter could all be small things to improve a night’s sleep.
Take advantage of technology: There are all sorts of apps and services that can assist in wellness, or in all the errands that take away from the time we have to improve our wellness. Examples include workout routines, recipes and meal plans, ordering groceries and takeout, pay your parking meter, ordering prescriptions, guided meditations with prompts, sleep cues, reminders to floss, gratitude journals, scheduling assistants and so much more. Research online and in your phone’s app store to experiment.
Ask for help: It can seem extraordinarily difficult to ask for help. But something as simple as ordering groceries online is an example of asking for help. There are also services to run errands, put together furniture, fix that one thing in the house you’ve been meaning to fix, declutter your garage, or any of the other tasks on your list.
Invest in yourself: A skilled personal trainer, dietitian, bodyworker or health specialist may be the person you need. Or maybe your game-changer is a phenomenal mattress, piece of sports equipment, kitchen tool, furniture or other technology.