Have you put healthy living in the ‘someday’ basket? Perhaps you’re worried about what you’ll have to sacrifice? How hard it will be? Honing in on your health can be daunting, but these 6 steps will help you create a healthier lifestyle today, not someday.
Step 1: Take stock
Change requires an honest assessment of where you’re really at. Analyse your eating patterns, physical activity, moods, social network and destructive habits (i.e. smoking, excessive drinking, four coffees a day). Once you identify the things you need to improve, you can start to tackle what realistic action is required to make positive changes. “The core principle of implementing healthy behaviour change is making the healthy choice the easy choice. Putting this motto into practice requires us to remove the barriers that individuals face when trying to live a healthy lifestyle” says Dr Scott Young who specialises in human behaviour change.
Step 2: Iron out issues
From niggling muscle aches to destructive relationships, start addressing ongoing pain points. Book that overdue massage appointment or resolve a conflict with a friend, or whatever it is you need to do to improve your physical or mental wellbeing. Sometimes you don’t realise that it’s the little things are affecting your happiness. Once they’re sorted, you’ll feel a weight lifted.
Step 3: Focus on fitness
Exercise is a crucial piece of the health puzzle. The benefits extend from improved mental well being to weight management to joint longevity to heart health. Don’t let yourself be put off by intimidating gyms or “not being sporty”. Your approach to exercise can be completely unique and tailored to your liking. Set small, achievable weekly targets that fit in with your schedule (i.e. a 30-minute walk every morning) and always keep it fun.
Step 4: Eat mindfully
“It’s easier to become slim by design than slim by willpower,” says Brian Wansink, food psychologist and director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab. “We are all mindless eaters” adds Wansink whose research shows that people make more than 200 decisions about food every day and up to 80 percent of the eating we do is “non-hungry” eating — it’s no wonder we get paralysed by every decision we make about what we ‘should’ be putting in our mouths. To eat mindfully means paying full attention to what you’re eating and how you’re eating it, encouraging you to make better food choices and foster a healthy relationship with food.
Step 5: Address stress
Increased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in your body can cause a host of issues, including insomnia, irritability, elevated blood pressure, tight muscles, heightened blood sugar and compromised immunity. While bouts of acute stress are normal, long-term or chronic stress can be debilitating. Meditation, deep breathing, yoga or regular exercise are effective techniques to help manage stress, so it’s important to work out ways these strategies can be incorporated into your life.
Step 6: Restore your rest
Getting your health on track depends on 7-9 hours of shut-eye every night. Sleep deprivation can quickly creep up on you, resulting in weakened immunity, mood swings, poor concentration, fatigue, and a propensity to gain unwanted kilos. To enhance your sleep quality, switch off devices 2 hours before bed, do some light stretching, avoid heavy meals, alcohol and caffeine too close to sleep, take a warm bath, and always prioritise sleep time (even if that means sacrificing one episode of your favourite show).