It’s the best time of year to commit to better lifestyle choices and make conscious changes to live healthier, more fulfilled lives.
But it isn’t always easy to stay true to resolutions, and many of us fall in the familiar pattern of returning to our old ways by mid February. Sometimes the best way to stick to your resolutions is to make sure they’re easy to achieve so they can quickly become part of your routine.
If you’d like to improve your health and well being in 2019 but are nervous about committing to strict diets or workout routines, we recommend starting with the easily-attainable resolution of improving the air you breathe (or if you are tackling strict lifestyle changes, this resolution is a great supplement to improved eating and exercise habits).
Why prioritize your air quality in 2019?
Many of us take for granted that the air we’re breathing is healthy and safe since it’s not something we can typically see–but this isn’t the case, especially for air that’s indoors. In fact, indoor air can be 5x more polluted than outdoors, which can affect allergies, asthma, our ability to concentrate, the quality of our sleep, and more. Particularly “unhealthy” or “bad” air can even cause a variety of health problems, including dry skin and eyes, coughing and sneezing, headaches, hives, and nausea.
Don’t worry! Surrounding yourself with healthy air is easier than you think–the first step is understanding what’s in your air so you can make a few small changes to stay safe and healthy. To get started, here are five tips you can do year-round for healthy air:
Reduce Your Chemical Intake
Many of us are making the decision this year to be more conscious about what we put in our bodies, from choosing diets that eliminate processed foods to personal care products that are free of toxic parabens. The same thinking should be applied to which chemicals we allow in the air in our homes.
Our air is filled with a variety of different factors that determine how healthy it is, from dust, to carbon dioxide, to its levels of humidity, to its most underestimated ingredient–chemicals.
The type of chemicals typically found in your air are called VOC’s: volatile organic compounds. “VOC” is an umbrella term used to describe any organic chemical that evaporates easily at room temperature–and this trait is what helps make VOCs very common.
VOCs can sometimes come in scary packages–like Formaldehyde, Benzene, and Acetone. Once these chemicals are released in your air, they can easily travel into your lungs and, eventually, blood stream.
Short-term side effects of VOCs include headaches as well as itchy eyes, nose, throat, and skin. Too much exposure to VOCs has also been linked to eczema flare-ups, acne breakouts, hives, allergies, asthma attacks, and cancer.
Unfortunately, it’s very easy to accidentally increase the levels of chemicals in the air in our homes–VOCs are virtually everywhere. You’ll find VOCs in the ingredients list in paint, cleaning supplies, common household products, adhesives–even cribs and other furniture.
There are plenty of VOC-free products on the market, including paints, cleaning supplies, and furniture. The best way to start limiting the amount of VOCs in the air in your home is by making sure there’s plenty of fresh air–try to run fans and open windows during activities such as cleaning and painting. You can also place a few air cleaning plants around your home, which will help pull extra toxins from your air.
Avoid Fine Dust (PM2.5)
When we hear about warnings of “dust” in our homes, we typically assume it’s in reference to the particles we can see accumulating on bookshelves that indicate it may be time for a clean–but this isn’t the full story.
You may have heard of Fine Dust, or PM2.5, on recent air quality reports and even global health reports. Fine Dust is much different from the traditional dust we see around our homes, and it’s growing presence in our daily lives could pose a serious threat to our health.
Fine Dust is particulate matter that can be found in the air that is incredibly small–a single particle has a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, which means you can easily fit 40 fine dust particles across the width of a single strand of hair.
Although it may be small, Fine Dust shouldn’t be underestimated–in fact, its size is what makes it more formidable. Unlike larger (and more visible) dust particles, PM2.5 are able to bypass your nose and throat and be absorbed by your lungs and bloodstream.
Exposure to Fine Dust can have detrimental health effects, and has been known to lead to coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, irritation of the eyes/nose/throat, and can trigger asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory problems. Scientific studies have also linked exposure to an increased risk for heart attack, stroke, certain cancers, and birth defects.
A common misconception is that Fine Dust only affects outdoor air quality, but the truth is, PM2.5 can be just as prevalent in your home. Daily activities such as cooking (especially frying, sautéing, and broiling), burning candles, smoking, or using fireplaces or fuel-burning space heaters can add Fine Dust to your home’s air.
Control Your Carbon Dioxide
Carbon dioxide is by no means a toxic gas–it’s a very natural ingredient in the air we breathe. Humans play a role in adding carbon dioxide to our air, since we exhale about 2.3 pounds of carbon dioxide every day. While we may not notice carbon dioxide in our air the same way we would for other gases, it’s very important to keep it in moderation.
If there’s an above-average amount of carbon dioxide in the air you’re breathing, you’ll begin to notice some side effects, including decreased productivity, headaches, difficulty making decisions, drowsiness, and difficulty sleeping.
Luckily, lowering the levels of CO2 in your home is as easy letting some air in. Opening windows, sleeping with your door open, or buying a few air cleaning plants will keep a healthy amount of carbon dioxide in your air.
Be Mindful of Humidity
Humidity plays an important role in your overall comfort, and too high or low humidity can cause health problems. You are the most comfortable when the relative humidity of the air around you is between 20% and 60%.
If your indoor humidity climbs above 60%, you begin to risk mold and mildew growth in your home. On the other hand, if your indoor humidity is below 20%, you’ll start to experience eye, nose, skin, and throat irritation. If you wear contact lenses, they can become irritated when the humidity is too low.
Let Your Temperature Work for You
Temperature affects you in more ways than you realize–studies show that significant changes in temperature can cause you to become less productive and have trouble completing physical and mental tasks. Some studies have also proven that temperature can negatively impact your quality of sleep.
For the best comfort and productivity, stick to two temperature ranges, depending on the time of year:
Summer: 73℉ – 79℉
Winter: 68℉ – 76℉
And if you’re aiming for peak work performance, your productivity is at its best between 70℉ and 72℉.
Maintaining your indoor temperature is important beyond comfort and productivity–when temperatures are high, the chemicals found in buildings will leak into your air at a faster rate.