Changing your habits is not always easy. Being healthier should not be a burden, it does not mean taking anything away, limiting yourself to anything or something you dread. Instead it’s incorporating and adding more of the good stuff; and it should be a positive thing. Many things on the list I’m sure you already know about. However, I hope the sub points I offer will be helpful for you and something you can incorporate into your daily life.
Before we get into the list, I would like to say that health and well-being is for life, so incorporating new habits in to your life will take time. Be patient and trust the process. Take it slow and work up towards it, because that way it will increase the chance it will be realized for the long-term.
1. KEEP HYDRATED
We all know about the importance of keeping hydrated but for many people it is easier said than done. We have learned we should be drinking at least 8 cups of water per day. Although it is a good benchmark, it is really dependent on so many factors. For example, where we live and what the climate or temperature is, on our activity level, on our diet and what we are consuming, on our physiological state such as whether or not we are experiencing a fever, and lastly it is dependent on our body size. A good way to tell whether we are hydrated enough is to look at the colour of our urine. We want it to be a light or pale yellow, such as the colour of the light yellow Post-it note. Extremely saturated or bright, or extremely clear are not good signs.
- Start your day with at least one glass of warm water, preferably with some lime or lemon juice to kick start your digestion.
- If plain water is hard to consume for you, add some fresh fruit or vegetables such as slices of cucumber, fresh berries, lemon or lime.
- Mix it up so you don’t get bored. Get fancy and add some cayenne, ginger, mint or basil.
- One way that may encourage and motivate you to drink more water is to get a reusable water bottle that you love. Find one that you think is attractive and is proud to show it off. Take it everywhere you go and fill it up with pure filtered water as much as you can. I recommend getting a glass, stainless steel, and/or a BPA-free bottle. Not only will bringing it with you encourage you to drink more water but you will also save money from having to purchase water and waste more plastic!
- If that is still too difficult, it’s not ALL about drinking pure filtered water, incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet can help keep hydrated as well. Instead of reaching for the packaged snack of crackers or chips, reach for the fresh fruit and vegetables.
2. INCREASE YOUR ACTIVITY
Get moving friends! Exercise and movement is such an important part of health and well-being. It boosts our energy, improves our mental health and our mood, increases our endurance, improves our strength, keeps our heart healthy, reduces our risk of diseases and illnesses, and the list can go on forever.
- Experiment and find what types of exercises you love! If you are not a gym-goer, I recommend trying various classes and studios. Your local community center can be a great start if other more specialized studios are a little intimidating. It is a great way to try new things, meet new people and get motivated. Going to take classes may also keep you more accountable, you can also invite and tag along with a friend and make it a fun date. If you are on a tight budget but have the motivation, there are plenty of fitness videos out there as well.
- Similarly, change up your routine and exercises, not only does it allow you to work your body in different ways by using different muscles but it keeps it fun and challenging!
- Walk more! This is definitely my favourite way to get around. If walking to work or school is not an option, park a little further, or get off a few stops before your usual one and walk the rest of the way. Try taking different routes, you may end up discovering a new place or a new spot.
- If time is a hindrance, there is always a way around it. If you have time to sit down and watch your favourite TV show every day, you have time to move. Take that time to do a few exercises in your living room floor while you watch your show. Even if that means simply stretching or doing some low-intensity body weight exercises.
- Take a dance break, blast your favourite song or playlist and just let loose. No, “I can’t dance” is not a good excuse sorry.
3. CONSUME MORE GREENS
The developed world has been spoiled with all the packaged and processed foods due to need for convenience and efficiency. We all need to increase our consumption of nutrient-dense foods, meaning more wholesome, natural and unprocessed foods, so the one-ingredient foods that we find in the produce section. Many of us do not get enough nutrients, especially when we tend to reach for the packaged, boxed and unnatural foods. Getting the sufficient nutrients that we require will prevent us from overeating because when we are nutrient deficient we will continue to search for those missing nutrients. Therefore, it can support a healthy weight, whether that is weight loss or weight gain.
- Convenience is super important for many of us that work full-time and have so much other things going on. As a result, green juices and smoothies are a great option. Look for ones that are organic, either freshly made or cold-pressed, and local if possible.
- There is always a way to sneakily add more vegetables it into your recipes and into your diet beyond just adding them into smoothies. For example, instead of the usual pasta, substitute with spiralized veggies like zucchini, carrot, squash; try a savory oatmeal and porridge in the morning instead of the common sweet version; try a different type of dressing for your salad by making a veggie-based dressing; bake veggie chips for snacks; or add in greens into your desserts such as spinach brownies, zucchini bread, or avocado pudding. So many more ways, a quick google search can offer additional ideas.
4. LIVE WITHOUT RESTRICTIONS
When people think of eating healthier or being healthier, they think it is very restrictive in the sense that there are many things you should not do or cannot eat. But it is only as restrictive as you allow it to be. Being healthy and healthier does not only mean the foods that you eat or the things that you do such as exercise. It also means your general wellbeing in terms of your mental and emotional health. By giving yourself restrictions, it greatly diminishes the benefits of eating a healthier diet or engaging one more exercise. Your mental, emotional and psychological health is just as important.
- Although it is important, it is NOT all about the food. You may eat the healthiest and cleanest diet, but it does not mean you are healthy. It is okay have some dessert, it is okay to have a little bit of chocolate. Trust me, there are many companies out there that have created healthy treats and snack that taste amazing, so actively look for those if you really find yourself wanting the junk food. Look for clean ingredients lists, the shorter the list the better. If you do end up eating something you think you probably shouldn’t it is not the end of the world. Just accept it, enjoy it and let it go.
- Stop obsessing! There is a time and place to calorie count. For example when I first became vegan I did so to ensure I was eating enough and getting all the nutrients I need. It is totally okay if it does not become obsessive and negatively affect your health emotionally and psychologically.
- Instead of thinking about restricting think about simply adding more of the good stuff. By adding more of the good stuff, the bad stuff will naturally be decreased. For example, instead of thinking you need to cut out the junk food and the processed foods, focus on ways you can incorporate more of the fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. Often times you feel so good when you eat healthier that you will stop wanting to reach the junk without hesitation.
5. ALL ABOUT BALANCE AND VARIETY
Our body is always searching for homeostasis, a stable equilibrium. When there is too much of one thing, our body is super intelligent in knowing how to combat that and balance it out. However, our bodies can only efficiently and effectively do that if we are giving it the best tools to do so. In the short-term, our body can often be able to handle it when we undergo too much stress or do not feed it with the best food for example. However over the long-term, our bodies will eventually get overworked and problems will start to arise and our health will be compromised. As a result it is extremely helpful to eat a wide variety as well as a balanced diet; one that is full of colour and full of nutrients to keep our bodies healthy and working the best that it can.
- It is fantastic for those people who meal prep for the week. Unfortunately there is definitely some cons to meal prepping, especially when the same types of foods are being eaten. If meal prepping is something that you do, I highly recommend you to change up the types of foods you eat as much as you can. Or, instead of just eating broccoli as your vegetable portion, mix in some other types such as peas, kale, chard, beans, etc. When you batch cook your grains, again mix it up, such as cooking half rice and half quinoa. The greater the variety the more likely you will also get a wider variety of nutrients.
- Eat organically. This one I know is tough for many people, because in general it tends to me more expensive. Eating organically is super important, we reduce our exposure to pesticides, herbicides, chemicals, and GMO foods. What I recommend is following the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists. These lists provide foods that we should always consume organic and foods that we can be more lenient towards.
6. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Our bodies are honestly beyond amazing. Just think of the things we have put it through over our life, and yet we still manage to survive. Often times we stop thinking about our selves and our body because life gets busy and just gets in the way. We become so out of tune with our own bodies that it ultimately can increase the risk and lead to many unwanted illnesses, diseases and other health problems.
- Eat seasonally and locally. I am definitely guilty of this because I do eat fruits throughout the year that not only is not seasonal but is not local either. But again it is about balance. Nevertheless eating seasonally and locally is highly beneficial, helping us be not only more in tune with our body but with our environment which obviously has a huge impact on our body, and the cycle continues. Supporting your local farmers is also incredibly important. When foods are seasonal and local, less pesticides and sprays will have to be used in order for it to withstand the distance and quick spoilage. So I personally would choose local first, but having both local and organic is the best case scenario.
- Eat when you’re hungry. Even writing this out seems a little ridiculous because you would think that is very obvious. However, you’d be surprised at how we become so used to a routine that we are out of touch to when we are actually hungry and are craving fuel. I know it is difficult when we have allotted break times and we base most of our meals around the clock. However, instead of being in tune with the clock, be more in tune with our bodies. If you’re hungry now but it’s not yet noon, go ahead and eat!
- Stop eating when you’re full. Another obvious given. I am also guilty of this, because I hate wasting and I have learned to finish off my plate. This makes listening to our bodies even more crucial so next time maybe we’ll prepare or cook less, or scoop less onto our plates or bowls. Remember that it takes at least 20 minutes for our stomachs to send a signal to our brain telling it that it is full, so meal times should never be rushed or stressed. We should focus all our energy on chewing, digesting and eating the meal and not on anything else.
7. INCORPORATE MORE SELF-LOVE AND SELF CARE
This goes with listening to your body because many of us put ourselves on the back burner and forget about taking care of ourselves. When we get a symptom or get sick, it is our body telling us something is wrong and we have not been taking care of it as best as we can.
- No matter what your passions or hobbies are, make time for what you love. We’re all busy people with busy lives, but dedicating time for yourself is incredibly important. It keeps us grounded, keeps us sane and fuels our soul. Perhaps that is treating yourself to a spa day or a bath. Maybe that is taking an afternoon to go for a walk and enjoy the fresh air. It may also be treating yourself to a sweet treat or a night in and just watching Netflix instead of going out.
- Embrace and love your flaws. We are so critical of ourselves, and often see our weaknesses rather than our strengths. Our flaws and our imperfections are what makes us unique and makes us who we are. No one is perfect. This is something we all have to constantly work on for sure, and with all the social media and this perception of perfection, it makes it even harder. Remember, you only see a small fraction of reality, highlighting only the best parts so take it as it is and don’t compare yourself to others.
8. DE-STRESS, RELAX AND RECOVER
I have written a more in-depth post about resting and recovering, in which you can read HERE! This 8th tip also relates to the self-love and listening to your body. We are so used to our daily routines and schedules that we forget our bodies need to recover from all the stress we accumulate and take on over the course of a day. We cannot overwork our bodies so harshly and so constantly without giving it some good recovery and relaxation. Again, we have our preferred ways in stress management techniques but here are some of my favourite ones.
- Have more rest days. Trust me this one is a difficult one for me, because I love keeping my body moving and active. Rest days can simply be lowering the intensity and not necessarily taking out all physical activity. Rest days can also include strictly taking time to stretch your body. There are heaps of videos and information on specific stretches for the body so I recommend following them. Otherwise I HIGHLY recommend going to a stretch and recovery class. I learned so much from going to these classes and new ways to stretch my body and heal it. The foam roller and lacrosse balls are my best friends.
- Engage in a guided meditation. I get that it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, even the word and the idea of meditation can deter people from it. However, just like everything else. Before you’re so quick to judge have you ever tried it? Fully committed and let yourself into the process because it honestly it’s so refreshing and cleansing for the mind and soul. Again, I recommend a simply YouTube search online, even if it’s a quick 3-5 minute guided meditation can be beneficial.
- Take a few deep breaths. I suggested this to someone not that long ago, and they thought I was crazy when I told her to breathe more. Yes it’s something we do 24/7 but to consciously take long deep breaths, and actively breathe out all the negativity and stress is incredibly underrated. Take a moment now, close your eyes, inhale and exhale at least 5 deep breaths.
9. GET POSITIVE
This one is definitely not always easy to accomplish. We all get those down days, and days we just simply can’t be bothered. Adding more positivity in your life can make a huge difference. More so for our mental, emotional and psychological well-being. Obviously we cannot always be on a high all the time, but just having a more general positive outlook can be very helpful when dealing with everyday stress and challenges.
- Start your day with a positive or motivational quote, message, song, or video. This can do wonders and can definitely impact the rest of your day in terms of your perspective and how to go about the day.
- I heard this from a friend who did this and it’s a great tip. Look yourself in the mirror every morning and smile at yourself. You can even add an affirmation while you do so and make it even more powerful and impactful. There has been many studies on this topic and the act of just smiling can induce more positivity and happiness.
- I also cannot take credit for this one but I thought it was such a good reminder. Wear a rubber band around your wrist. Every time you have a negative thought, whether that is being down or hard on yourself, whether that is directed at others or at the universe in general; flick the rubber band against your wrist. It does not have to be a hard flick that it becomes painful. It is simply a reminder and an awakening. It may be surprising how many negative thoughts we have throughout the day. Slowly we can change our perspective and our outlook to make it a more positive one.
10. BE HAPPY
At the end of the day, health and being healthy comes down to happiness. We want to incorporate more love, more joy and laughter into our lives. There is so much to be thankful and grateful for and that alone should serve as a good motivator to spark happiness and contentment into our daily lives. We just need to actively engage in and encourage things that makes us happy. It is inevitable that we will come across unexpected and not ideal situations as well as experience more negative and dark emotions. But, it is how we get through them and overcome these obstacles that will not only make us stronger but will increase the amount of happiness into our lives. Everyone’s happiness meter varies but below are a few things that honestly makes me the happiest.
- Spending time in nature and outdoors; more specifically being in the forest. The groundedness I feel and the energy I receive from the magical power of the trees is just the most amazing thing.
- Helping people. No matter how big or small the act of kindness is, just paying it forward is something we need more of in this world.
- The power of music can do wonders. I don’t care what anyone says, any Chris Brown song that comes on can instantly brighten up my mood. Blasting his smooth vocals and beats during my commute is the best thing ever.
- Watching cute baby and animal videos. I could probably do this all day if I could.
Wow, that was a lot. But I just wanted to share with you as much as I could. I hope at least one thing was helpful for you, or that it was a reminder of the little things you can do to be healthier and be that best version of yourself.
I wish you all the best in your health journey and I am here to support you!