Living a healthy, sustainable life is all about having a strong foundation of healthy habits that make up a healthy routine. The 5 most important areas to focus on to stay healthy are sleep, stress management, movement, social support, and food quality. You can implement small habits from each of these pillars to gradually improve each area, and build your routine. The good things about these habits, you can always start again, no matter how far you fall off the wagon.
Hands down the most important factor in your health is sleep. You do it every day to recover from the stress of the day and to prepare for all the stressors of tomorrow. Still, client after client reports lack of sleep or lack of quality of sleep almost daily. While you can’t force yourself to sleep or to get good sleep, you can improve your sleep environment and sleep ritual to give you the best chance to catch some Z’s.
Go to bed at the same time every night. You’re a creature of habit, and your brain likes it that way. By creating a normal bedtime, your brain will recognize the pattern and start to turn off each night.
Wake up at the same time every morning, and no snoozing. See above.
No caffeine 5 hours before bed. Caffeine takes a minimum of 5 hours to exit your system, so steer clear before bed. I like to be safe and don’t do caffeine after noon. If you struggle for energy in the afternoons, focus on your nutrition earlier in the day. Caffeine only releases hormones to mimic higher energy; increasing heart rate and blood pressure among other things, but it doesn’t provide your body with any real energy it can use.
Turn off your damn screens. I know it’s hard, but it’s a must. Research shows that even the charging light on your phone can affect the quality of your sleep. I have an alarm that goes off 30 minutes before bed and it’s bye-bye phone after that. Try it out!
On that same note, your room should be as dark as possible, like black. As I mentioned, even the slightest light can be sensed by your brain, so grab yourself a sweet sleep mask and rock it.
Sleep plays a huge role in reducing and balancing your cortisol levels every day (that’s why sleep is listed number one), but there are other things you can do to control your stress levels. Stress isn't inherently bad for you, and it’s more about how you react to and recover from stress that’s important, rather than the amount of stress you face.
Here are some helpful ways to address stress:
Spend time outside.
Do things you enjoy; with people you enjoy.
Intense exercise releases cortisol so be sure to balance your routine with active recovery activities like walking, or yoga.
Get away from your screens.
Ask for help.
Your body is designed to be in motion, sedentation basically kills you. Your movement shouldn’t be confined to just a few hours at the gym each week. Get up from your desk, move around during the day, and find physical activities that you enjoy. Your time spent in the gym should be focused on getting you stronger for those activities. Then look for ways you can increase your non-exercise activities like, walking the dog, gardening, or taking the stairs.
It’s tough to do anything alone and with marketing and social media bombarding you with delicious snacks and rock-hard abs, staying healthy isn’t any different. Having other people to rely on for encouragement, accountability, and for enjoyment is an essential piece to your health.
Your network should include people who have accomplished the goals you want to achieve and people in the same place as you right now. You can turn them for guidance and for support.
Don’t be afraid to rely on your network. Share your goals, fears, and mistakes.
One of the toughest things you’ll have to do with your support network is to remove people who aren’t pushing you in the right direction. It can be scary to let people go, but every beautiful garden must be groomed.
Nourish your body
Eating has become so muddled by diet culture that it is almost impossible to know how to eat correctly. Like most things in health, I like to keep it simple.
Focus on the quality of the food you eat and whenever you can, eat whole unprocessed foods.
Try to eat a variety of foods from various sources to ensure your meeting your nutritional needs.
Stay hydrated, water is vital to pretty much everything your body does. Drinking mostly water also helps eliminate empty calories from other beverages, win-win.
Slow-the-F-down. Take the time to actually eat when you’re eating. Clear out other distractions and pay attention to what you’re eating and who you’re eating with.
Obviously there is a lot going on in the article, but you don't need to implement everything at once. I like to have my clients start where they're struggling the most and begin to implement small habits to improve that area over the course of 6 weeks (but you can take as long as you need). Once you have a habit mastered and it becomes a normal part of your routine (usually 2 weeks), add in another habit. Continue to try out new habits for, well, the rest of your life
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