With the new year upon us many of us have a desire to better ourselves. In many ways, each new year is a fresh start and a chance to break old patterns and change unhealthy habits.
Here are 10 keys to cultivating a healthier lifestyle for 2019 and beyond.
1. Ditch resolutions.
The trouble with resolutions is that we often don’t follow through and succeed with them. Why? Because a resolution is more like a temporary pledge – you never really set up your lifestyle in a way that supports the change. Lasting success comes when you create habits that support the changes you want to see in your life. It means not giving up when you have a slip-up and sticking with it even during difficult, stressful times.
This year, be bold and ditch the New Year’s resolution. Instead, use the momentum of the New Year to cultivate healthy habits that you can maintain for a lifetime. Building consistent, healthy habits is the key to lifelong well-being. After all, what we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while.
2. Identify the areas you need to strengthen for long-term health.
We all know we need to eat right, exercise, get plenty of sleep and drink lots of water in order to be healthy. Many of us think we’re doing a decent job of being healthy. However, most of us are not. One study found that very few adults (only 3 percent) actually meet all the criteria of living a healthy lifestyle. Researchers looked at four keys to healthfulness, including:
- Not smoking.
- Maintaining a healthy weight (a BMI of 18-25), or successfully losing weight.
- Eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
- Exercising 30 minutes or more, five times a week.
Few of us actually do all these things. And while these are important, there is more to good health than checking those boxes. It’s also about having a positive attitude, a positive self-image, taking care of your mental health and spending time with friends and family. So, before you enter into a commitment to begin a healthier “you” in the New Year, decide which areas you desire to strengthen. Begin with your top one or two areas and work down your list.
3. Know what works for you.
Your ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle will depend on coming up with strategies that work with your personality. Take a moment to reflect on the times you succeeded and the times you struggled. What circumstances were most helpful to you and encouraged you to do your best?
What situations did you find distracting? What kept you from sticking with your goals? Whatever your goals are, before you can make changes to your lifestyle, you need to know where you’re starting from and understand your reasons for making changes. Know what works for you and what doesn’t.
4. Disrupt and change unhealthy habits.
The things we do on a regular basis, from brushing our teeth to the snacks we reach for, often become our habits. The first step toward changing any behavior is to evaluate our current habits.
If you’re in the habit of exercising every morning, that’s good. If you’re also in the habit of buying a bag of chips and a soda every afternoon, that’s not. You need to look for ways to disrupt the patterns of unhealthy habits and establish new patterns, while continuing with your healthy habits. Start making small daily changes. Pack healthy snacks to take to work. Carry a refillable water bottle with you so you can stay hydrated throughout the day.
5. Make small, powerful changes.
Don’t try to make huge, sweeping life changes all at once. That can leave you feeling overwhelmed and tempted to give up altogether. Start small and build. If you’re trying to get in the habit of working out more often but are out of shape and intimidated by the idea of exercise, start by doing the easiest, least-daunting exercise you can do. Try walking around the block for 10 minutes when you get home from work. Or even just doing a five-minute workout in your living room.
Whatever it is, start doing it on a daily basis. Once it feels like a normal part of your life, you can gradually increase it. If you have a setback, don’t beat yourself up; just go back to doing what you were doing. The goal is to create habits that feel easy to achieve.
6. Build a life that blends work and fun.
Many successful entrepreneurs claim that work–life balance is a myth. The concept of finding balance often forces us to make concessions. We feel like we’re in a huge juggling act, and we’re left dizzy with obligations and stress. Instead, embrace the fact that work and life are often blurred. More and more, companies understand that we need to address life matters while at work and that we need flexibility in our work schedules.
The point is, instead of focusing on the boundaries where your work life ends and personal life begins, look for ways to blend the elements of your life. Focus on making consistent, healthy, positive choices that reflect your values, responsibilities and goals across all the aspects of life.
7. Eat a healthy diet.
As the saying goes, you are what you eat. The meals and snacks we consume have a direct impact on our health. That doesn’t mean you should skip exercise — regular workouts will keep your metabolism revved up and help you burn fat. But you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. A poor diet can cause a myriad of dire health problems, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke, and these problems are increasingly being seen at a young age.
Even if you’re a healthy weight, making sure you eat a nutritious diet is important to your long-term health. That means cutting back on sugar, boosting your intake of veggies and fruits, and avoiding processed “convenience” food. You don’t have to give up all things yummy and fattening, but practice portion control.
8. Get enough quality sleep.
Sometimes we overlook the importance of getting enough sleep. After all, if we’re eating right, working out and avoiding bad habits like smoking, does it really matter if we’re getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night? It sure does! Sleep plays a vital role in our health and well-being through our lives.
Getting enough quality sleep aids in both mental and physical health. Sleep is key to brain function — it affects how well you learn, work, think, react and get along with others. Having an ongoing sleep deficiency raises your risk for chronic health problems.
During the day, your body gets broken down by your environment and the tasks you perform. Sleep restores you. Make sure you make sleep a cornerstone of your new healthy lifestyle.
9. Manage stress.
Our world requires us to live in a highly active and pressurized environment. Activities in our lives occur so fast it’s often a struggle to keep up.
This causes stress to accumulate. It’s important that we distinguish between the things that are within our control and the things that aren’t. For example, getting a flat tire is out of your control, but getting a bad review for mediocre work is within your control.
You can reduce and manage your stress by taking control of the things you can control. This way, when unexpected stressful events occur, you will be relaxed enough to focus on them and solve those problems without becoming overwhelmed. You can also engage in relaxing therapies such as meditation and breathing deeply to help you manage feelings of stress.
10. Slow down and reflect on the moment.
Many of us are so focused on our jobs and everyday tasks that we forget to enjoy the moment we are experiencing.
Pause throughout your day and appreciate the beauty of the world around you, the sound of laughter, how the sun feels on your face, how your legs feel as you walk. Make time to enjoy each part of your day, and then step back and enjoy the process you are a part of.
The business world is systematic and requires constant innovation and analysis — it’s focused on the final product. Learn to enjoy each step of this process. Doing so will contribute to your product’s overall success, and will make the final outcome much more enjoyable.