One of the pillars of personal development is a healthy lifestyle. You can’t hope to improve your life without taking care of your health first.
Without health, even if you have the best resources in the world, you won’t be able to enjoy them. Of course, many people battle with different diseases in their daily life, including me. But we must try to achieve optimal health in spite of the diseases, to live your best life.
To start living healthy you must consider different aspects of it like, getting a good amount of sleep daily, eating good food and getting physical exercise. So easy to say! I know how hard it is to implement in real life. Yet, there are people who are busier than you who accomplish all these, so you can too.
It all comes down to how you prioritize health in your life. Nothing worth having in life is easy. All those people who consistently post pictures of their smoothie bowls and six-pack bodies on Instagram, spend their time and energy to accomplish it. It is because they have made it a priority.
I don’t want to make it sound harder than it really is. I am an advocate of starting things small and working your way up from there.
So let’s see how to change your lifestyle to be a healthy one.
1. Change your eating habits
When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need- Ayurvedic proverb
When it comes to food, there is no life without eating your favorite chocolate cake or pizza loaded with cheese. But save those for occasional treats.
I do not believe in following trendy diets or any diet which helps you lose weight fast only to gain back double of it later. I believe in cleaning out your existing diet without compromising much on the foods you love.
Clean eating should be more of a lifestyle than a diet. According to me, the word diet creates pressure on you and you feel bad when you cheat on it.
WHAT IS HEALTHY EATING?
Healthy eating is, becoming more conscious of what you put into your body rather than just following your craving for instant gratification from sugary and processed foods. Healthy eating is, being mindful of what you eat and taking a decision to stop torturing your body with junk food.
To make sure you get all the nutrition you need, it’s good to plan your meals in advance. Make sure you include a different variety of fruits, vegetables, and protein in your weekly menu so that your diet is balanced.
Foods to avoid/ reduce in your diet:
Junk foods that do not provide any nutritional value, like
- Processed foods
- Sugary drinks
- Foods that contain trans fat (donuts, cakes, fried salty snacks etc.)
- Fast food
- Soda and carbonated drinks
- Packaged ready-to-eat food items
- Foods containing artificial flavors
Foods to add instead:
- Whole foods (foods that are unprocessed, unrefined and free from additives)
- Lots of vegetables and fruits
- Healthy fats (avocado, nuts, fatty fish etc.)
- Lean protein
Simple Swap technique
Whenever I crave for sugar or junk food, I do a simple swap. That is, if I feel like eating a cake or some bakery food, I go grab a fruit. Or have a refreshing salad. In fact, you can start your healthy lifestyle journey with such simple swaps.
Introduce healthy eating habits into your life by taking one meal at a time and one day at a time.
Prepare healthy make-ahead snacks
Your environment has an influence on what you eat. Try going to the supermarket when you are hungry. You end up buying packaged foods that you never intended to buy. They never add any nutritional value to your body because all they provide is empty calories.
To avoid this, resist the urge to buy such packaged snacks. Instead, prepare healthy snacks at home that require only a few ingredients and no cooking. Instead of stocking your pantry with fried chips or other junk that you bought from the supermarket on a whim, place only healthy food ingredients.
So when you are hungry, you have no other option but to eat those. You can also store nuts like cashew, almond etc in containers and keep them within your reach.
Once in a week, prepare make-ahead snacks so that when you feel low in energy, you can grab them easily without feeling guilty later. Here is a post on 45 easy no-bake energy balls.
You can also store nuts like cashew, almond etc in containers and keep them within your reach.
Make changes slowly
Since your aim is to start a healthy lifestyle and not a diet, make gradual changes over time.
If you are used to drinking 10 cups of coffee a day, don’t reduce it to 3 cups at once. As I said, do simple swaps and reduce the intake of junk food slowly and gradually. After a while, you will crave for healthy meals more than junk.
2. Be more active
Starting a healthy lifestyle definitely includes taking care of your fitness by being more active and doing exercise.
The human body is designed to move constantly. Therefore, try to be more active by doing what you love. It could be dancing, doing yoga, walking or lifting weights.
Some tips to stay active:
- Walk small distances instead of using vehicles
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Park your car away from the office and walk
- For every hour of sitting, stand up and do a stretching exercise for 10 minutes
- Doing housework like cleaning, laundry, mowing the lawn etc. help you to burn calories and control weight.
Doing regular exercise has many benefits for your body and mind. Exercise helps you control your body weight and helps to prevent many diseases.
Exercise gives you immediate benefits like increased energy and mood and a feeling of well-being. Doing physical activity makes your brain release chemicals called dopamine, adrenaline, endorphins etc. These are feel-good chemicals that give you a high after doing exercise.
You feel renewed and fresh after a workout session because of these chemicals. They also help to reduce stress and improve your mental health.
The Department of Health and Human Services states:
For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, it should be spread throughout the week.
Adults should also include muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
Hence, exercise becomes an unnegotiable part of your life if you want to start a healthy lifestyle.
- How to start an exercise habit and stick with it
- 10 healthy habits that are worth adopting into your life
3. Improve your mental health
There is no health without mental health.
If you are physically fit, but your mind struggles with issues like anxiety, emotional outbursts, depression, eating disorders etc, you need to cure it.
We all waste no time to get to a physician if our body gets sick. But due to the stigma surrounding mental health issues, many people suffer silently. But thanks to the new awareness many people now understand that having a mental illness is normal and it is absolutely okay to seek treatment.
Now even if you don’t suffer from a mental illness it is necessary to keep your mind healthy.
Tips to keep your mind healthy:
- Research proves how meditation can change your brain. MRI scans taken from individuals who did regular meditation practice show that, amygdala (the brain’s center that triggers fear and anxiety), physically shrank! Doing meditation regularly helps you to control stress, anxiety and mood swings. To learn to start meditating, you can read this article on how to start a meditation habit.
- Eat foods that stimulate your brain like fatty fish (a rich source of omega 3s which is a building block of the brain), coffee and green tea (for antioxidants), dark chocolate, eggs, broccoli, avocado, blueberries, nuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds, flax etc.
- Keep learning new things. Sign up for new courses and start new hobbies. It helps to keep your mind young and active. Learning new skills stimulates brain cells and lowers the risk of dementia.
- Do deep breathing. Deep breathing helps to oxygenate your body, activating the parasympathetic nervous system which brings relaxation. It also helps all your systems like the respiratory system, cardiovascular system, digestive system etc.
The famous life coach, Tony Robbins include a breathing session in his morning priming (read more about it here). Because according to him, it helps to boost energy, relieve pain and remove toxins from our body.
He recommends taking 10 power breaths three times a day in the ratio 1:4:2.
- Spend time with nature. It helps to boost your happiness, reduce anxiety, soak in more sunlight and invoke creativity. Go for an evening walk in the woods or spend time in your garden daily to rejuvenate your mind.
- Write in a journal. Journal writing helps you to unwind from all the overwhelming or disturbing thoughts and help clear your mind. I use my bullet journal to brainstorm new ideas and keep track of my daily activities. My new love is for printable planners that enables me to print readymade trackers and planner pages as much as I want.
4. Get adequate sleep
Getting adequate sleep is an important pillar when it comes to building a healthy lifestyle. But it is also something that we neglect most because of our busy lifestyle.
Getting a good amount of sleep is absolutely necessary if you want to be at your productive best. Because sleep deprivation affects your brain’s ability to concentrate and perform at its best.
Poor sleep is also associated with reduced immunity and many diseases. Therefore, no matter how busy you are, try to get 7-8 hours of sleep daily.
Starting healthy habits to establish a healthy lifestyle involve making incremental changes in each area of your life. Start small, and make the changes you really want in life. Feel free to ditch any habit that’s not working for you. Remember it’s a journey, not a destination.
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