When we think of the word "healthy," many of us picture a pair of running shoes or fresh-cut veggies, dumbbells or a kale smoothie. But, a healthy lifestyle isn't solely about exercising and clean eating. Although those things are certainly beneficial and necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle, there are other factors that help as well.
Choosing to adopt a healthy lifestyle also includes getting proper sleep and managing your time well, along with many other things. But, before I dive into describing these areas that we can improve in, I want to first bring your attention to the word at the beginning of this paragraph: choosing. It is important to know that practicing a lifestyle of health is truly a choice. Not only that, but it is a commitment.
You have to want it. Because if you want it, you'll work hard to pursue it. The reason you want to pursue a healthy lifestyle versus being on a "health kick" is because one is lasting, and it's easy to know which one that is.
Why pursue a healthy lifestyle?
We know the consequences of our bad choices, don't we?
When we don't manage our time well, it's easy for us to become overwhelmed, stressed and anxious.
When we don't eat healthy foods, we are not giving our bodies the proper nutrients they need to get us through the day. Instead of having energy and feeling good, we get stomach aches or become sluggish.
When we don't get a good night's rest, we quickly see the result. Crankiness. Short temper. A hectic, rushed morning.
When we don't regularly exercise, we gain weight more easily and are not able to properly strengthen our muscles. Gaining weight allows us to have an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
Along with knowing the consequences for unwise health choices, we also know the benefits of our good decisions.
What Constitutes a Healthy Lifestyle?
There are many ways you can do this, but I am going to highlight 4 key areas in which making small, positive changes can make a big, positive impact.
1. Exercise regularly.
It can seem overwhelming at first, but give yourself some grace and do what works for you. This doesn't have to look like swiping your membership card at the gym every single day. There are plenty of ways to get active.
Join a yoga class. Take your dog for a run. Ask a friend to play tennis. Swim a few laps.
If you think exercising as a desire to stay active to keep your body healthy and not a strict contract, it's much easier to stick to and much more fun.
2. Adopt healthy eating habits.
Yes, it is better to eat natural, unprocessed foods. And there are tons of books, articles and resources out there to help you make better eating decisions. But, this goes beyond the content of your food.
Start practicing portion control. American portions are incredibly large. Cut your meal in half and box it up for later. You'll be surprised at how full you can actually get by eating less. It's okay if you're hungry 2 hours after lunch, eat a small snack. It is better to eat six small meals each day than three over-sized meals.
Drink plenty of water. Your body needs it to survive. Drinking water helps energize your muscles, lubricates your joints, and helps nourish and protect your brain. Not to mention it is extremely good for your skin. The benefits seem endless.
3. Get enough sleep.
I can't stress this enough. According to Healthline, 1 in 3 Americans don't get enough sleep at night.
Sleep is your time to recharge. Your body needs to rest and regain strength and energy. Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. A lack of sleep can lead to health problems, aging skin, a decreased mood, weight gain and other issues.
Try going to bed at an earlier time. Make yourself some herbal tea. Read a book. Turn on a sound machine.
Whatever helps you drift off, invest in it and stick to it. You will wake up in a better mood, feeling more energized and ready to take on the day... guaranteed.
4. Manage your time well.
This is an important one because it affects so many other areas of our lives.
Our planners and iCals get filled up so quickly nowadays. It's more rare to have a day without commitments than it is to have a day filled with scheduled responsibilities.
When we're so busy, it's easier to skip the gym (who has time?), pick up fast food in between meetings (it's convenient), work late into the night, which can steal hours of sleep (stuff needs to be done).
I absolutely understand that there are things that have to get done. But, there are 24 hours in a day. So, let's manage our time well. Let's plan ahead, set boundaries, create a schedule, and most importantly... stick to it.
This way you can have family time, me time, social time, work time, etc. and not feel frustrated or stressed out.
Be Disciplined and Reap the Benefits
When you discipline yourself in these areas, you will reap many benefits.
- Increased mood
- More energy
- Less stress
- Business success
You will see success in so many areas as you make this lifestyle choice. The benefits are worth the hard work and diligence it takes to continue on the healthy path.
Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.