So many things promoted to improve our health are expensive. This can make taking care of our health feel unaffordable and out of reach. Improving our health and healing from chronic illness shouldn’t be unaffordable – here are 10 simple things I do everyday to improve my health for free.
Disclaimer: This post is intended for informational purposes only. I’m not a qualified practitioner and I’m not encouraging anyone else to do them. Please consult a qualified practitioner before implementing these things or changing your current treatment plan. This post contains affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you I earn commission if you click on a link and make a purchase. See my full disclaimer here.
Many treatments recommended to improve our health and heal from chronic illness, such as massage, acupuncture and infrared saunas, can be expensive. This means they are often not affordable for those of us with chronic illness, who are unable or have a limited capacity to work. However, healing doesn’t have to be expensive, or even cost anything! Below are 10 simple things I’ve found that are improving my health and helping me heal for free.
1). Be in bed by 10pm
The deepest and most restorative sleep, where the greatest amount of healing takes place, is between 10pm and 2am. So I aim to be in bed by 10pm latest to reap these benefits.
2). Morning Light Exposure & Evening Light Avoidance
Morning exposure to the natural outdoor light regulates our circadian rhythm, our body’s natural internal clock. This controls a range of processes in the body, one of which is our sleep-wake cycle.
Going outside and exposing your eyes to natural light in the morning (don’t stare directly into the sun!), even for 10-15 minutes, suppresses the production of the sleep promoting hormone melatonin, allowing us to feel alert during the day (1).
This combined with avoiding light in evening, including artificial light from laptops, phones and TV’s, for at least 2 hours before bed, triggers the production of melatonin to begin and peak earlier, allowing you to fall asleep easier. So if aiming to be in bed by 10pm, switch off electrical devices to avoid any artificial light exposure from 8pm at the latest.
Studies have shown light exposure in the morning and avoidance in the evening improves health by:-
- Increasing sleep duration,
- Reduces the amount of times people wake up during the night
- Increases the amount of time spent in the deeper restorative sleep stages, where the greatest amount of healing and regeneration occurs (2).
If you’re bedbound or unable to leave the house, looking into the natural light through a window, or, ideally, as glass can block the amount of light entering the eyes, opening the window and looking into the outdoors has the same positive benefits (3).
what is grounding?
Grounding involves placing your bare skin in direct contact with the natural surface of the Earth, such as placing your bare feet or hands in contact with sand or grass.
Everyday we absorb harmful positive ions from our environment, which damage healthy tissues, increase inflammation and impair sleep. We absorb them from multiple sources, including:-
- Air pollution,
- Chemicals in the products we put on our skin and use to clean our homes and
- Radiation from electronic devices (phones, computers, televisions, microwaves etc.).
benefits of grounding
In contrast, the earth is negatively charged. When we place our bare skin in direct contact with the earth’s natural surfaces, the negative ions are transferred to our bodies, which counteract the harmful positive ions. It has been shown in studies to improve health by: –
- Immediately calming the nervous system by reducing sympathetic nervous system activation, our stress/flight and fight response, and increasing parasympathetic nervous system activation, our rest and digest system, which is a state we need to be in for healing to take place.
- Improving sleep.
- Reducing inflammation and pain.
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Thins the blood. This increases blood flow, which enhances the rate toxins are removed and the amount of oxygen and nutrients supplied and absorbed throughout the body. This optimises the body’s ability to function, heal and prevent and fight bacteria, viruses and other pathogens (4; 5).
4). Fresh Air & Sunlight
The amount of oxygen, which is needed for every cell in the body to function, is higher in fresh air than indoor air. Indoor air is 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air (22, 23). The increased oxygen from fresh air can improve every function of the body:-
- More efficient digestion,
- Increased energy levels,
- Improved concentration/reduced brain fog,
- Boosts the immune system by helping prevent and kill bacteria, viruses and other pathogens, many of which cannot survive in an oxygen-rich environment.
As I suffer from dysautonomia/PoTS, increased oxygen availability means my heart does not have to work as hard to deliver the necessary oxygen round the body, potentially resulting in heart rate decreasing and symptoms easing. The longer the amount of time spent out in the fresh air, the greater the benefits. If bedbound or housebound, then I open the windows to let fresh air circulate in my room.
Sunlight can improve our health in many ways, including:-
- Increased energy,
- Reduced stress,,
- Improved sleep quality and,
- Increased production of vitamin D in the skin, which strengthens the immune system (1; 6).
On average, 10-40 minutes of daily sunlight produces sufficient vitamin D (7; 8). However, the exact amount needed depends on the time of year, amount of skin exposed to the sun and each individual’s skin type (7; 8).
maximising the health benefits of sunlight
Factors such as the foods we eat, timing of sun exposure and type of sunscreen can all impact these benefits. In my other blog post, I’ve detailed 5 Tips To Maximise The Health Benefits Of Sunlight.
Any form of movement, like stretching, walking and yoga, increases blood and lymph flow. Increased blood flow increases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients, while increased lymph flow enhances the removal of toxins, bacteria, viruses and other waste products from every cell in the body.
Unlike blood, which is pumped round the body by the heart, the lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump so relies on the contraction of our muscles to flow and function optimally to prevent toxins accumulating in the body and weakening the immune system. Therefore, any form of movement is crucial to improve health. If bedbound, I wiggle my fingers and toes, move whatever part of my body I’m able to, for however long and as often as I can, to get blood and lymph flowing.
6). Buteyko Breathing Exercises
During each breath, we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. However, to function optimally, a certain amount of carbon dioxide is needed to release and transfer oxygen to every cell in the body (9).
Over breathing in the following ways causes too much carbon dioxide to be exhaled:-
- Taking too larger breaths,
- Breathing too rapidly,
- Chest breathing,
- Breathing through your mouth (9).
This narrows blood vessels, lowering the amount of oxygen delivered throughout the body by up to 50% and can cause a range of symptoms, including:-
- Poor concentration,
- Fatigue and
- Dizziness (9).
optimal breathing mechanics
Instead, breathing should be:-
- Slow, ideally 6-10 breaths per minute,
- Gentle and quiet,
- Done through the diaphragm (belly breathing),
- In and out through the nose.
This causes carbon dioxide levels to remain optimal and blood vessels to stay wider, which maximises the amount of oxygen supplied (9).
example buteyko breathing exercise
Buteyko breathing exercises, like detailed in Patrick McKeown’s book “Close Your Mouth” (UK Link/US Link), are what I have found to be most beneficial for me so far to improve my breathing mechanics (9).
One common exercise is reduced breathing:-
- Sit up straight and begin breathing normally, paying attention to how much air you’re inhaling and exhaling.
- When you’re ready to start, with each inhale, take a shorter smaller breath in, reducing the amount of air taken in,
- Then take a slow relaxed breath out, allowing the body and diaphragm to naturally relax, reducing the amount of air exhaled,
- As you reduce and slow your breathing like this you should feel a slight need to take in more air that is noticeable but not uncomfortable.
- Continue the above exercise for 4 minutes, maintaining this slight need for air throughout.
- Rest and breathe normally for 1-2 minutes, then repeat the above exercise 1-3 more times.
7). Cold Showers
Finishing a normal shower with cold water can improve health by:-
- Increasing lymph flow, which removes toxins, bacteria, viruses and other waste products from the body,
- Causing the heart to pump more efficiently to increase blood flow and deliver more oxygen and nutrients to the whole body.
- Increasing energy levels.
- Speeding up our metabolism, which boosts the immune system and the production of white blood cells to help fight infection and illness.
- Calming the nervous system by stimulating the vagus nerve, which reduces the sympathetic stress response and enhances the parasympathetic relaxation state.
I started small by ending my normal shower with just 10 seconds of cold water (or however long I could tolerate), and slowly built up from there.
8). Interrupt Negative Thoughts
Our thoughts and beliefs directly affect how the body functions: –
- Negative beliefs, like fear and anger, weaken the immune system
- Positive thoughts, like optimism and gratitude, strengthen the immune system (10).
Thoughts like “I’m never going to recover” and “What if I’m never able to work again?” are common when living with a chronic illness. However, every time we think these thoughts, we strengthen the neural pathway associated with them and our beliefs that we won’t recover also become stronger (11).
How to interrupt negative thoughts
It’s possible to retrain the brain to overcome these negative beliefs. Each time a negative thought occurs interrupt it immediately and replace it with an opposing positive thought.
For example, if you have a thought…
“I’m never going to recover”,
Stop straight away and instead relay…
“Everyday I’m healing and getting stronger” as many times as needed.
Each time the negative thought is interrupted the neutral pathways associated with these beliefs become weaker, while simultaneously strengthening the neural pathways associated with more positive thoughts and beliefs. Over time, when repeated and interrupted consistently, those negative thoughts will happen less often and positive thoughts and beliefs will occur more naturally (11).
It takes time to retrain the brain and it may feel like you’re constantly talking to yourself at the start! Studies have shown retraining the brain like this to replace negative thoughts with positive ones can translate into improved physical health, with reduced pain and symptoms being recorded for a range of illnesses (11).
Every time we think, feel or act, neural pathways in the brain are activated and become stronger. The brain doesn’t know the difference between an event that’s happening in real life or one being imagined, as mental imagery activates the same parts of the brain that physical experiences do (12; 13). Therefore, we can use visualisations to develop new neural pathways in the brain that can improve our health in real life (13; 14).
How to Perform Visualisations
I visualise myself totally healthy doing the things I want to, such as meeting up with friends and going for a run. To maximize the effectiveness of the visualisations, I use all of my 5 senses, imagining as much detail as possible about everything I can:-
- The emotions I feel if I was experiencing them in real life.
The more consistently you perform the visualisations each day, the stronger and more easily activated the new neural pathways in the brain become (13; 15). These changes in the brain are accompanied by physical changes in the body that allow these experiences to occur in real life, with reduced pain, fatigue and improved quality of life recorded for those with various physical conditions (16; 17; 18).
Gratitude involves being thankful and appreciative for the things or people in your life. One of the most common ways of expressing this is by writing down in a Gratitude Journal 3-5 things at the end of each day that you are grateful for, no matter how big or small. It can be difficult when living with a chronic illness, especially on days when symptoms are particularly debilitating, to find things to be positive about and thankful for.
However, listing these 3-5 things can not only have mental benefits by:-
- Lowering stress,
- Easing anxiety,
- Reducing depression
- Causing you to have a more positive outlook.
It has also been shown to have a powerful effect on physical health:-
- Strengthens the immune system,
- Calms the nervous system,
- Reduces inflammation,
- Decreases fatigue,
- Improves sleep quality – people fall asleep quicker, wake fewer times during the night and feel more refreshed after waking up in the morning (19; 20; 21).
Other Health & Wellness Blog Posts
Click to read my other blog posts with tips & strategies helping improve my physical and mental health:-
- 20 Healthy Food & Drink Swaps For Any Dietary Requirement
- 15 Things To Do In Bed To Ease Anxiety & Stress
- 12 Vagus Nerve Exercises To Improve Physical & Mental Health
- 6 Free Ways To Start A Toxin Free Lifestyle (& Why It’s Important To Improve Health)
- 6 Detox Pathways To Support To Remove Toxins From The Body
- 15 Easy Ways To Reduce Chemicals In Your Home (& Why It’s Important For Health)
Other Chronic Illness Blog Posts
Click to read my other blog posts with tips and treatments that are helping improve my health and manage chronic illness:-
- 6 Things To Do In Bed To Manage Symptoms
- Morning Routine – 7 Things To Ease Symptoms In The Morning
- Hydration – 9 Tips To Stay Hydrated
- Elimination Diet That Eased My Symptoms
- 12 Vagus Nerve Exercises To Improve Physical & Mental Health
- 6 Free Ways To Start A Toxin Free Lifestyle (& Why It’s Important To Ease Symptoms)
- 6 Detox Pathways To Support To Remove Toxins & Help Ease Symptoms
- 15 Easy Ways To Reduce Chemicals In Your Home (& How It Can Ease Symptoms)
- 10 Tips To Stay Cool In The Summer Heat & Ease Symptoms
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I hope these tips are useful. Have you tried any of these things and found them beneficial? If you have any other free tools to improve health and heal I’d love to know. Leave me a comment below or message me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Pinterest with any suggestions.