My 8 Healthy Habits For Improved Health And Wellbeing
Making healthy changes in life is hard, no matter how much determination we have or how much we want it, change is no easy task, but there's a lot we can do take make it easier on ourselves. One thing to keep in mind when making changes is that it's not a race, slow down, pace yourself and introduce change bit by bit to avoid overwhelming yourself. Planning is a really useful way to keep yourself from making changes too fast, write out a plan of the things you want to change and your reasons why. Exploring the 'why' can help you to understand yourself more and find out if there are certain ways you can apply the changes to benefit you better. Be sure to think of various ways that you could apply these changes without causing too much disruption and write them all down. I find one of the best ways to create a healthy change in life is to introduce it as a habit. Habits are much easier to pick up as they are a mini breakdown version of a big change. Creating one or two small healthy habits can be a really great way to get started on a bigger change such as eating healthier for example. Also studies show that if you complete your new habit at the same time each day it is more likely to stick and become part of your normal everyday routine.
Another great tool after the planning stage is to think about changing your perspective/situation on the good habits you want to start. Jeremy Dean, author of Making Habits, Breaking Habits, says "One of the best ways of changing an existing habit is to change the situation." I think this also applies to new habits that you are wanting to start but are feeling a bit reluctant. Say for example the change is to eat a banana each time you are about to reach for a chocolate bar, you may not look forward to it at first. However, if you change your situation and perspective of it and associate the banana with something more positive, such as taking a 5 minute break while you have your snack and allowing yourself that time to relax, you would then start to look forward to eating that banana. Trust me, I've tried and tested this one!
Once you have successfully started one new healthy habit you will feel so much more able to start a few more, here's my 8 healthy habits that I have introduced into my daily life.
1. Morning Tonic:
Choose hot or warm water over cold, especially first thing in the morning. This is a recommended and traditional Ayurvedic practise used to flush the lymphatic system, strengthen the digestive system and reduce metabolic waste. Every morning I mix 1/2 cup boiled water with 1/2 cup filtered water to cool it down. After drinking the majority of this I fill the cup back up again and add in 1 tsp ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar) occasionally also with some freshly squeezed lemon juice and drink with a stainless steel straw to protect my teeth - this is my morning tonic. If you make ACV tonics always be sure to get the ratios right, a safe mix is 1 part ACV to 10 parts water.
2. No screens before 8am:
We've all heard about the effects of blue light emitted from our everyday devices and it's definitely not breaking news anymore, but that doesn't mean that it's no longer important to monitor. I find that I'm actually really sensitive to staring at screens for a long period of time and that early in the morning my eyes just can't tolerate them. Unfortunately I've suffered the effects of eye strain far too many times leading to headaches, migraines and even insomnia, so I decided to put some time limits on for myself which I've roughly been sticking to for the past month and feel so much better. My phone used to be the first thing I'd look at in the morning, now it's the last thing I look at before I leave the house for work and I really don't miss it.
3. Make the bed the first thing in the morning:
I remember reading somewhere that this is actually recommended for help with productivity and mental wellbeing. Which now makes sense as to why I've always felt the need to set the bed after getting up everyday. "A tidy bed just feels better" I would think to myself, but now I understand why, it's actually proven to boost our productivity for the day and helps us feel ready to tackle other tasks as we have already achieved one within minutes of being awake! I came across this idea again a few months ago as it was echoed in the speech from Naval Adm. William H. McRaven, if you haven't heard his speech yet go watch it now, it's an absolute must! In his opening sentence he says "if you wanna change the world, start off by making your bed." Who knew there were such amazing mental benefits of simply just making your bed each day!
4. Start noticing your self talk:
This is hands down one of the best things I have ever done in my life. For those who aren't sure what I mean by 'self talk' I mean that voice in your head, you, the voice that talks to you everyday without you even realising. Your inner voice or self talk is one of the most powerful things as it can have a huge impact on everything from your beliefs, self esteem, confidence and decisions. I used to be an extremely negative person but completely believed I was just being realistic. I had so many negative beliefs and would easily get caught up in a depressive state of mind and struggled so much to pull myself out. It was only until I started learning about self talk and inner critics that I decided to pay attention to what I was telling myself in my head. It wasn't long until I noticed that so many of my negative downward spirals started with my inner voice saying "I just feel like..." This sentence would then finish with something along the lines of "they don't like me, I'm useless, I can't cope etc". Every time I heard myself say this I stopped, I completely cut it short and purposely moved onto a more positive thought. Fast forward a few years and those "I just feel like" voices are much more few and far between, now my subconscious is completely wise to them and notices as soon as my inner voice utters those words. The result now is that it makes me smile and I literally laugh at how well in tune I am with myself. It takes time and practise for your subconscious mind to notice your negative self talk but don't give up because the benefits are unbelievable!
5. Add 1 extra portion of fruit/veg each day:
Ok, so we all know fruit and veg is healthy and important but so many of us struggle to get the recommended daily portions. It's an easy thing to forget and especially if there's no time to prepare your own meals and you are having to rely on coffee shops or cafes for your food. One thing I started doing to increase my daily portions was simply to have 1 extra piece of fruit a day. This is so much easier than trying to think of multiple fruits/veggies to add in and various ways to do so all at the same time. Baby steps are key!
6. Replace afternoon chocolate bar with a banana:
A few years ago I worked in an office where I had a vending machine directly opposite my desk, and it was all too tempting. I got into a habit of buying chocolate everyday whenever I was craving something sugary, and my daily chocolate bar ended up being a daily craving. Remember how I mentioned that habits take best effect when done at the same time everyday? Well at 3pm every single day I started craving chocolate and nothing would satisfy until I had a chocolate bar, my body had become so used to it. Obviously knowing this was not a great cycle to be stuck in I decided to substitute the chocolate bar with a banana. Less exciting but cheaper and healthier! I had to try and trick my body for the next couple of weeks by giving it natural fruit sugars with all the added benefits rather than the horrible refined processed rubbish I was used to. It didn't take long before I started craving fruit as my sugar fix and now I honestly can't go a day without it. And I still have my 3pm banana!
Even though I am the sort of person that can sit still for long periods of time, my body hates it! My body definitely feels at it's best just after an hour pilates or yoga session where I can stretch everything out and ease my muscles. I struggle a lot with back and neck ache and because of this I find it impossible not to stretch multiple times throughout the day. I'm so used to stretching at any time or place now that sometimes I don't even realise I'm doing it. Even in the middle of work, people are so used to seeing me stretch everyday that they walk past and say "ahh Alison's just doing her stretches again" it's actually pretty funny. Stretching helps to take the stress off your muscles, it helps to relax you and increases your blood flow so it's definitely worth taking a few minutes out of your day to stretch.
8. No screens after 8pm:
I've already mentioned my 'no screens before 8am' rule, but I also have a rule for screen use after 8pm. These two rules go hand in hand with each other to help me limit my screen usage and also help me to switch off - technically and mentally. I find it far too easy to get caught up in flicking through Instagram or researching anything and everything online and I'm sure I'm not the only one. For someone that can struggle to sleep at night, screens are definitely not my friend in the evening. Staring at a screen just before you go to bed can stop your body from producing melatonin which is what we naturally produce to help us relax and fall asleep. Also consuming so much digital information, triggers our brain to stay active, which then becomes very difficult to reverse quickly, meaning that it takes us longer to fall asleep. Again I am not strict with this but I always use 8pm as a guide to remind myself screen time is nearly over for the day. This was pretty difficult to do at first but once you've mastered it for a few weeks it definitely gets easier and my sleep has improved unbelievably!
Hopefully this has given you some ideas of healthy habits you can start or even just given you a bit of extra motivation to continue your own healthy habits. And remember, if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.