Living a healthy lifestyle isn’t about following strict “rules”, depriving yourself of all your favorite foods, or beating yourself up when you think you’ve make a mistake. Being healthy is about feeling good, being fit and strong, sleeping better, and being more in tune with the mind/body connection. Most people find that the more they take care of their body, the better they feel, and the more they enjoy life.
It doesn’t make sense that these things can only be accomplished by going through life following rigid rules. Following strict rules is not easily maintained and is likely one of the reasons why so many diets and exercise fads “fail” or fade over time. Don’t fall for the “all of nothing” mentality that many diet and exercise routines would have you convinced is the key to ultimate success. Making the healthiest decision, some of the time or most of the time, is still better than not trying at all. Something is better than nothing.
Instead, those who choose to focus on planning and preparation tend to be the most successful when it comes to maintaining healthy habits in the long run. The key is to make it as easy on yourself as possible to choose the healthy habit over the non-healthy habit. Check out the tips below for some ideas on how to get started and maintain healthy habits.
Nutrition: Meal prep.
When hungry and in a hurry, we often choose unhealthy foods to eat. If you have ever grocery shopped while hungry, then you probably know the feeling. For a lot of people, Sunday is a good day to make a couple of healthy meals that will last through the week. By making meals ahead of time and storing them in the fridge, you will have a quick go-to healthy meal option that will make it easier to drive right past all the fast food places on your way home. Even if you start out only prepping one meal, such as breakfast, that takes care of one third of the meals you will have for the whole week.
Fitness: Plan your workout
Rather than planning to go to the gym “tomorrow” and backing out in order to snooze longer or go home after work, try to plan as much as you can in advance. Start the night before. First, recruit an accountability partner if you feel that you may be tempted to skip the gym. Next, lay out your gym clothes, pre-set the coffee, and prepare a snack that you can grab as you head out the door in the morning. By doing this, you are making things much easier on yourself for the next day.
If you find that you simply do not have the time to go to the gym, try fitting in 10 minutes of exercise, three times over the span of the day. Even just going for a walk outside your office is an improvement over sitting all day.
Sleep: Set a Bedtime
“Just go to bed earlier”, this is often easier said than done. One way to start going to bed earlier is to set a specific bed time. Rather, think of it as a pre-bedtime. At this pre-appointed time, stop doing all tasks that are not preparing you for bed. For example, if you’re pre-bed time is 9:00, make sure that you stop doing any household chores, looking at your phone, etc. After 9:00 is the time to focus on preparing for bed. Try taking a relaxing bath or reading a book. Then, stick to your usual firm bed time (the time at which you lay down for bed). Of course things will come up and you may not always be able to stick to the routine. However, imagine how good it would feel to get better sleep, even if was for only one night per week.
Mind/Body Integration & Quality of Life: Practice Mindfulness & Gratitude
Practicing mindfulness can help with many areas of your life, including the ones listed above. Eating mindfully can help you maintain a healthier weight. Practicing mindfulness can improve resilience and sleep, just to name a few. Being more mindful also helps to reduce stress and decrease aged-related cognitive decline. Overall, practicing mindfulness can help you be successful in many facets of your life, including mental and physical health. Devoting a small amount of time per day to practice mindfulness is better than nothing. Practicing five minutes of mindfulness per day is a great place to start and even just 5 minutes per day has been shown to impact overall feelings of well-being and improvement of mood and perspective. Another component to improving and maintaining well-being is practicing gratitude. Starting a gratitude journal can be a great way to remind yourself of the positive things in your life and the accomplishments (big and small) that you make along the way to your version of a healthier you. Gratitude has been shown to shift perspective in a powerful way when practiced regularly. Simply writing down a few items per day (be specific) you are grateful for is beneficial. That said, even acknowledging one thing per day is better than nothing and will form a pattern of perspective over time.
Living a healthy lifestyle often comes down to properly preparing. Plan out as much as you can. If you work out in the morning, preset the coffee, lay out work clothes (and gym clothes), and pack a lunch. Doing as much as possible the night before will not only help alleviate stress, but it will help you stick to your plan.