We all want to live a healthy life and make the most of our time here. However, the world we live in today makes that anything but easy. There are a thousand vices to indulge in, a thousand ways to waste your time, and a thousand reasons why a healthy diet is hard to find. Let’s face it, American life isn’t set up to help us get healthy.
So if you want to develop healthy lifestyle habits this year, it’s going to be up to you. No one’s going to cook healthy meals for you, nobody will make you wake up early and go for a run. It may be easy to order pizza and watch TV. That’s a pretty comfy life that people a hundred years ago could never have even dreamed of. But let’s be honest, it feels way better to feel good.
So how can you take big steps towards a healthy lifestyle this year? Well, today we’re going to cover some of the best ways to make big changes. From little things that take just a couple minutes each day, to big decisions that will affect almost everything you do. There’s no better time than right now to start living a healthier life. Especially with spring coming in full force and summer just around the corner, it’s time to make moves.
Cook your own meals
We’ll start with something simple but essential. After all, the food you eat is the basis of everything your body will become. Over the course of the next decade, every cell in your body (except for your neurons) will be replaced by new ones. Your skin sheds, your muscles rebuild, your bones are replaced. Seriously, look it up.
So where is all the material for your new body coming from? Your food, of course. Your diet is the basis of all healthy habits. So why cook your own meals? Because it’s the simplest way to take control of what you’re putting into your body.
If you aren’t used to cooking for yourself, it will help you become more aware of what exactly you’re eating. Plus, it will give you a chance to make changes if you don’t feel your best. If you’re already cooking for yourself, then you’re on the right track, and we’ll talk more about healthy dietary choices in a minute.
Wake up early and exercise first thing
One of Americans’ favorite phrases is “I’m not a morning person.” Now I just don’t buy it. When I was a teenager, I certainly didn’t think I was a morning person either. Then I got a job at a breakfast restaurant and had to learn to be one. It wasn’t easy, but I taught myself how to stop hitting snooze, and start getting going earlier.
Why wake up early you ask? Well, it’s not just so you can say you did it. Once you’re used to waking up, the morning is likely to be your most productive time of day. Your head isn’t cluttered yet, your body isn’t worn out, and you can get off on the right foot. By ‘the right foot‘, I mean exercise.
Exercising in the morning is one of the healthiest ways to start your day. It turns your metabolism on and gets your body burning calories right from the start. This won’t just help with an extra poundage you’re looking to lose, but also increase your mental clarity throughout the day.
One of the best parts of building this habit, is it makes you choose between staying up late and doing things that aren’t great for you like drinking or eating ice cream while binge watching Netflix, or going to bed early and waking up feeling good. Once you get used to doing the latter, you’ll never want to go back.
Limit your screen time
Speaking of Netflix, screens are one of the easiest ways to fall into unhealthy habits. After all, our world today is filled with screens of all shapes and sizes. We are bombarded with media of all types from all angles. It’s almost impossible to escape. Now, I’m not advocating going phone free or throwing out your TV. However, it can be helpful to build some intention into your screen time.
If you spend every night watching Netflix before bed, ask yourself how many hours you watch a night. Is that a healthy amount? Do you get enough sleep? If your sleep feels restless or you’re never waking up as refreshed as you’d like, it might be because of watching TV before bed.
Some people struggle less with evening screen time and more with screens during the day. Whatever type of device or entertainment it is that gets you, you should ask yourself if you’re satisfied with the amount of time that you spend on it. I know a lot of people that are constantly scrolling their Instagram and Snapchat feeds. However, the same people say that it’s all garbage and they wish they didn’t spend so much time doing it.
Well, time to put a little intention into your screen time and consider a couple of ways to cut back if you find yourself overusing.
Develop intentional routines
Speaking of intention, there are a lot of ways to build intention into your life. After all, the world is full of people that want your time and ads that call for your attention. It can be really hard to stay focused on what matters. As we just mentioned, it can be really helpful to set a couple of rules or intentions for how you use your phone throughout the day. However, it doesn’t end there.
Try setting intentions about when and how you’ll eat, how much you’ll exercise, or how you’ll interact with people. There are so many parts of our lives that get put on autopilot. After all, we don’t have time to constantly be thinking about everything. However, if you let your habits dictate your lifestyle, it’s easy to hold onto unhealthy choices you never meant to make.
For some people, intentional routines look like practicing yoga, meditating every morning, or stretching at night. For others, it’s taking a walk in nature every day, or remembering to say ‘I love you’ to their parents or partners. Only you know what you need more of in your life. Think about it and try to find ways to add to it in.
Modern life is getting more and more spread out while at the same time, people seem to be getting more and more packed in. Whether you live in the city or out in the county, cutting down on driving time can have a big impact on your life. For city dwellers, this is especially true.
Think about your lifestyle and where you spend most of your time. Does the city bus go right past your work? Do the streets where you live have nice bike lanes? What about the subway? Any mode of alternative transport to a car will get your legs moving more, and you know what that means!
So get a bike, or start walking or riding the bus to work. Get a subway pass or just stop using your car to run errands. It won’t just improve your health, but it will also save you gas and the planet pollution.
Cut down on sugar and bread
So, speaking of pollution, let’s get back to diet. Because let’s be honest, most of the things that are in food these days are polluting your body. From strange chemicals you can’t pronounce, to processed carbs and sugars, there are a lot of bad things being put in food these days.
Now there are hundreds, even thousands of books written about dieting and healthy eating. I’ll let you get into those on your own. However, eliminating most or all of the sugar and bread from your diet is one of the best ways to take a big step towards a healthier life.
It’s no secret that sugar is bad for you, but most people aren’t aware of just how bad. What’s more, it’s highly addictive. Our bodies literally crave it. Bread is the same, it’s not just the GMO wheat that’s used to make bread in the US, but also the fact that most breads are filled with sugar. Seriously, you might as well be eating cake. Carbs and sugars are two of the most addictive and unhealthy foods out there, so bite the bullet, and cut most or all of them out of your life. Instead, eat healthy fats, proteins, and vegetables. After about a week of adjusting, you’ll feel better than ever before.
Drink more water
Speaking of what you put into your body, let’s talk liquids. Pretty much every cell in your body is composed of somewhere around 70% water. Some cells are over 80% H2O. We already mentioned how your body replaces nearly all of your cells on a regular basis (some more than others). Sure, you’ve got to eat healthy, but you won’t get anywhere if you don’t drink enough water.
It’s not just for building cells, either. Drinking enough water is an essential part of flushing chemicals and toxins out of your system. If you’re dehydrated, your body will hold onto everything rather than wasting water on expelling it. Your bodily processes slow as well. That means less muscle growth, brain growth, and general well being.
There are two parts to this point though. It’s not just about drinking more water, but it’s about drinking less other stuff. After all, 90% of the other fluids most people drink are bad for you. Think about it. Juice is all sugar, soda is all sugar, beer and alcohol is, well… beer and alcohol. Unless you’re drinking whole milk and kombucha all day, you’d probably be better off with plain water.
Do at least one thing outdoors every day
It’s not just exercise that’s healthy outdoors, just being outdoors is healthy. Exercise or no, it’s important to spend time outside every day. Sunshine, fresh air, and nature have all been shown to have measurable benefits to your health.
So go outside! Take a walk. Sit in the grass. Soak up the sun (or the clouds). Dip your toes in the river. Beyond the healthy benefits your body gets from being outside, your mind will feel better too. After all, there’s no better place to reflect, ponder, and let go of whatever is stressing you out. This is especially true if you live in a city, so develop a way to get out every day, even if it’s just for a short walk.
Build healthy relationships
We just touched on this idea, and it’s a big one, but so many people overlook it. Health isn’t just about your body, it’s about your mind and your emotions as well. It’s been well documented by science that our emotions have some of the biggest effects of anything on our overall health. It’s not just negative emotions like stress that affects us either, happiness does too.
Dan Buettner studied where in the world has the highest populations of people over one hundred years old. He calls them ‘blue zones’. He then categorized what it was that made these blue zones unique in hopes to discover the secret to living a long and prosperous life. One of the things that every single one had in common was that multiple generations frequently lived under the same roof. Kids, parents, grandparents, and often even great-grandparents all living in the same home.
What does that have to do with it you ask? Everything. Our relationships have a huge impact on our health. It’s not just healthy family relationships that can have a positive impact, either. Having strong and loving relationships with your partner and your friends can keep you healthy as well. After all, stress is one of the fastest ways to age, but love is one of the best ways to stay young forever. So fill your relationships with love and gratitude.
Speaking of gratitude, that’s the last thing we’ll mention today. Think of it like saving the best for last. Although gratitude isn’t something that normally comes to mind when people think of healthy living, your mind is the most important part of a healthy lifestyle. Developing a healthy attitude towards yourself won’t just make you feel good, it will help you make healthy and happy choices about your life.
Be grateful for the body you have, it could be a lot worse. Be grateful for the education and financial privilege you have, after all, you’re reading this article in your free time. If nothing else, you should be grateful to have whatever amount of health you do. Not everyone is lucky enough even to have those basics covered.
So why is gratitude so good for you? Well, as we mentioned at the beginning, having a healthy lifestyle isn’t easy in this world. In fact, it’s downright difficult. So you’re going to need a lot of momentum to keep yourself going when it gets tough. That’s because eating healthy isn’t cheap, exercising isn’t comfortable, and doing what’s right for your body isn’t always fun. But living from a place of gratitude will help keep you focused and happy.
So start your days by thanking yourself. Thank yourself for the healthy habits you already have and for the ones you are about to build. Thank yourself for all the hard decisions you’ve made along the way and the times you toughed it out for the better. Be thankful for your relationships and loved ones. Literally anything. Just like all other healthy habits, the more you practice gratitude, the easier it gets.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a healthy spring.
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