How to develop healthier habits that last a lifetime
Good health isn’t a destination. There’s no end game. Forget all the unhealthy messages from the diet era of the 90s and early 2000s. Living well is a lifelong commitment, not a 30-day challenge. While these experiments can be important for habit-setting, we need to reframe our expectations to focus on wellness and longevity, not quick wins.
Good habits are the framework for a healthy life.
Habits can either enable or hinder our health. Habits are stubborn and resilient, because a lot of the time, they form unconsciously. But they’re malleable. There’s a cue, a set of actions we take, to engage in a habit. When we rearrange our behaviors and environment, we change our habits – and in turn, our life. We have more agency than we realize.
The pillars of a healthy life + 15 healthy habits
Consume a wholesome, balanced diet. Prioritize and organize foods, shop on the perimeter of the grocery store, where there’s ‘real’ foods, not packaged items. Focus on sustainability, not perfectionism. Follow the 80/20 rule – 80% healthy foods, 20% treats, adding plants into every meal.
Spend a day a week meal-planning. Every Sunday afternoon, prepare your lunches or dinners for the week. If you get home at 6.00pm every night, cook five dinners for weeknights, to minimize the temptation of convenience.
Listen to your body. Your body is constantly communicating with you. Are you making a mental note about which foods make you feel unwell, bloated, or lethargic? Every body is different. Know what works for you to make better food choices. Monitor your body’s response to sugar, dairy, wheat, soy, and lectins.
Follow chefs, watch YouTube, and buy cookbooks. Inspire yourself to be more creative in the kitchen. There’s always a healthier alternative to your favorite dishes. Create a group of go-to meals that are healthy, delicious, and easy for you to put together – where you know the ingredients and the nutrient value.
Move, every day. However, whenever. Don’t overcomplicate this. Aim for 10,000 steps every day. Take the dog for a walk, meet up with a friend, walk solo with a podcast, play a sport, do the housework, or use the treadmill at the gym. Every step counts.
Strength train, 3 x per week. Alongside your steps, go to the gym to work your muscles. This isn’t only helpful to strengthen your body. It’ll also regulate your mood, boost energy, and help you think clearly. Your habits complement all parts of your life, not just your health.
Drop the guilt. Don’t be hard on yourself if you skip a day, week, or month. What’s important is how quickly you get back into that rhythm. It’s easy to talk yourself out of going because it’s been ‘too long.’ You only ‘lose’ if you stop altogether.
Define your goals. Beyond living well, what are your short-term health goals? These serve as milestones on a lifelong journey. Are you trying to lose weight for a wedding, preparing your body for pregnancy or working to improve your energy levels? Use these goals as your motivating guideposts.
Track your data. Having a reference point to measure your progress can be helpful. Some people prefer to be instinctive and track how they feel in clothes, and in their energy and mood. Others require tangible data. If this is you, track your daily step count, weight, heart rate, BMI, calorie consumption, and body measurements. Wearable tech and personalized food supplements can give you a 360° insight to your health and fitness.
Sleep eight hours a night. This is non-negotiable. When your sleep is off, it affects everything in your life. Sleep should be honored and prioritized, not something you cut to get more time in the day.
Go to bed at the same time, every day. Even on the weekends, aim for the same bedtime. Your body functions best with a consistent sleep schedule.
Tools for emotional and mental health. There’s a myriad of options available to maintain emotional and mental wellness. Tools to turn to when you’re in “fight or flight” mode. Explore outlets such as meditation, journaling, visualization, intention setting, yoga, therapy, and time in nature. Find what works for you. When you feel tension, resistance, anxiety, or fear in your body, dedicate time to process unresolved emotions.
Take a tech detox. You might be consuming too much content that’s skewing your reality and affecting your mental health. If you’re feeling “off” and you don’t know why, delete social media for a week. Reduce outside noise to make room to hear what’s going on inside. Practice the art of presence.
Food for the brain. Consume “healthy” content, instead of “fast food” information. Listen to podcasts, watch educational videos on YouTube and read books.
Prioritize your relationships. Connection is the number one measure of happiness and a fulfilling life. Spend time with the people who light you up. Deep, loving relationships improve your mental, emotional, and physical health. Surround yourself with positive people who want the best for you.
To master healthy habits, you need to be honest with yourself. Always. It’s easy to talk yourself out of doing things, especially with today’s busy lifestyle. Zoom out and picture your life in five years. What do you need to be doing now to achieve that future reality?
You will trip up – that’s part of being human. Treat yourself like you’d care for your best friend. If you can do this and use these 15 suggestions to craft your own habits, your health will become your greatest asset.
Create your future reality, by taking ownership of your health, today.
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