Everyone wants to live a healthy life, but how many of us actually have the time, energy, and willpower to stick to rigorous exercise plans and restrictive diets? The demands of the real world present some real challenges, but the good news is that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a lot easier than people think. The key is to start small and build on your accomplishments. Below are a few starter tips that will help you take the first small steps on the path to good health.
Plan Your Meals
Meal planning can not only save you time, but it can also improve your health. Even a loose structure can help you avoid unhealthy shortcuts (I’m looking at you fast food and frozen meals). You can also try your hand at “food prepping” and prepare parts of your meals when you’re not pressed for time, like on the weekend. This will limit the time you will need to cook before each meal. Having those ingredients ready to go makes it easy to create healthy meals on the spot. Also, try setting aside enough time to eat without distractions. Eating in front of a television may seem relaxing, but mentally tuning out leads to overeating. By paying attention to your body’s limits you will eat less and enjoy your food even more.
You don’t need a full-blown workout to reap the benefits of physical activity. Increasing movement throughout your regular routine can be just as effective. I’ve read about people who do wall sits while brushing their teeth or calf raises while standing in line. If you’re motivated enough to pull this off, then you’re my hero. As for the rest of us, we can still incorporate movement into our daily lives with simple tradeoffs. Try taking the stairs instead of the escalator or parking a little further away from the front of the store or going for a walk during your lunch break. All movement counts.
We all know how important it is to get a good night’s sleep, and we all know it feels after a night of restless or abbreviated sleep. Sleep deprivation has been linked to lack of impulse control, energy loss, and decreased motivation. People who don’t get a good night’s sleep are much less likely to exercise (if you’re exhausted you don’t much feel like working out now do you?) and more likely to have weight management issues. Want to stay sharp, focused, and energized during the day? Then set a regular bedtime routine and get some quality REM sleep at night.
Mental Health Management
Up till now we’ve been focusing on physical health, but remember that mental health is just as important. One way to improve your mental hygiene is to learn positive methods of coping with stress and to manage negative thoughts that burden you. Seeking help from a medical professional, either your doctor or a therapist, is a sign of strength and self-awareness, and a vital component of psychological well-being.
I’m sure you’ve heard it many times before: drink more water. Staying hydrated is one of the most basic and important components for good health, and it is also one of the most overlooked. Dehydration leads directly to poor mental functioning and lower energy levels. Drinking water helps maintain a healthy digestive system, boosts the immune system, and having a glass between meals can even help to curb cravings. If drinking more water seems like a chore, there are many ways to make it more enjoyable, like adding no-calorie flavor.
To Sum It Up
The bottom line is that there’s no silver bullet for healthy living—it can’t be boiled down to a single trick or mantra. A healthy lifestyle is a combination of many different factors ranging from activity and diet, to bedtime routine and mental hygiene. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, take heart. You don’t have to be perfect—no one is!—and you’re already on the right track by taking an active role in your health and becoming better informed.