Most of us aspire to live the healthiest life we can, but it doesn’t always seem possible when stress and busy schedules keep us from meeting our health goals.
Eating right and getting daily exercise are both important parts of being healthy, but you can’t forget about your emotional and mental needs. It’s all tied together, and when one of those is out of whack it can leave you feeling anxious, moody, tired, or a combination of the three.
Stay in balance, and keep your body, mind, and soul in shape, with these 10 habits. Used daily, your well-intentioned health goals will last a lifetime.
1. Read the Label
You may think you know what’s in the food you buy, but often there’s a lot more involved in the simplest of items. Sugar can be found in just about everything, including spaghetti sauce, and refined sugars hide in foods like white bread, rice—mostly in the form of high fructose corn syrup.
Always read the label, looking for items that you aren’t familiar with (processed preservatives and sugar pseudonyms).
2. Carry Water With You
Most of us don’t drink enough water during the day. Avoid this issue by carrying a reusable water bottle with you. You’ll be able to keep track of how much you’re drinking and stay hydrated, which has benefits for your skin as well as your body.
3. Prepare Your Meals
It’s easy to rely on fast food and microwaveable meals when you have a busy lifestyle. If you plan ahead and prepare meals ahead of time, you’ll always have a quick and easy healthy option waiting for you.
Use a slow cooker to cook delicious dinners while you’re at work, or do all your grocery shopping for the week on the weekend and prepare meals, or meal components, on Sunday. For example, cook all your protein and grains, and cut your veggies so it’s easy to throw a meal together for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
4. Watch For Those Sneaky Bad Habits
It’s easy to ignore unhealthy habits when you’re always busy. Yet drinking excessive caffeine or alcohol, smoking, and staying up too late every night can have significant negative effects on your health.
Set small goals to turn these bad habits into healthy lifelong habits:
- Set a bedtime you can stick to—if 10p.m. is too early, be realistic and stick with 11p.m.
- Cut back on the coffee by compromise: I’ll only have one cup of coffee in the morning, and drink tea in the afternoon. I can have two cups on Saturdays and Sundays as a treat.
- Drink a glass of water between every alcoholic drink to help kick your hangover and slow you down.
The goal is to monitor that changes to stay in tune with your body so you notice how great you start to feel.
5. Keep Healthy Snacks Handy
You’ll be far less likely to binge on junk food if you have healthy options at your fingertips. Keep zip lock bags full of carrot sticks, granola, whole wheat pretzels, nuts, and dried fruit at your desk or in your car. When you’re hungry, grab one of these small, healthy snacks to stay full and ensure that you’re not reaching for a bag of chips at 3 p.m.
Daily exercise is important, but your health goals should always include fitness for your mind as well, which is where meditation comes in. Focusing on your breathing and the present moment, rather than worrying about the future, helps you stay healthy inside and out while reducing anxiety and stress. Not to mention, you’ll feel more refreshed for your workouts and will have the mental strength to push through plateaus and setbacks.
If you struggle with meditation, download a guided meditation app—with someone telling you what to do, the process is easier to ease into.
7. Mix Work With Workouts
Sitting at a desk all day is not a death sentence for a healthy life. There are many ways you can stay active throughout the day, boosting your burn and building strength at the same time. The best part: you don’t have to be obvious about it. Here are a few simple ideas:
- Calf raises while waiting at the copy machine
- Squats while waiting for coffee
- Wall pushups in the bathroom stall
- Take the stairs ALWAYS
8. Change Your Phrasing
When we’re trying to eat a healthier diet, we usually tell ourselves that there are certain foods that we “can’t” eat. Forbidding ourselves from enjoying the treats we love only makes us more tempted to eat them, making it harder to stick with. This is not only frustrating but can actually lead to bingeing on off-limits foods in a moment of weakness.
Instead, turn the negative thought of “I can’t” into something positive. If a slice of chocolate cake is calling your name, don’t tell yourself:
“I can’t eat that because it’s not part of my diet.”
Instead, assure yourself:
“I could have a piece of cake, but I don’t want to because it won’t help me progress toward my long-term goal of reaching a healthy weight.”
9. Eat Slowly and Mindfully
Eating slowly not only allows us time to enjoy the taste and texture of the food we eat but taking our time between bites can also help us feel fuller faster and more satisfied. That means you’re more likely to eat only what your body needs and enjoy every bite, rather than ingesting calories that your body can’t use, which will be stored as fat.
10. Give Yourself a Break
No one is perfect, so don’t pressure yourself to be when it comes to meeting health goals and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Remind yourself that one unhealthy meal or a single skipped workout won’t undo all of your hard work. Every day is an opportunity to improve your health and build the habits it takes to live your best life. Focus on what you are doing right, and encourage yourself to keep going—you can do it!