We’ve all seen the studies about the healthy habits that healthy people do. They eat well, they don’t smoke, they are active, they get enough sleep and not much alcohol. It’s tried and true, but it’s also easier said than done. This post will help you implement my 4 critical habits into your life including:
Getting More Movement
Eating to Nourish
When put as simply as the studies put it, it seems like anyone should be able to attain this goddess-like health status. But the truth is, that it’s harder than it sounds. The magic is not knowing what’s healthy - most of us already do. The magic is in the details and the strategy.
Believe it or not, it’s not (necessarily) about getting up at 4AM every day, working out for 3 hours, prepping every meal, never eating carbs, and meditating for 1 hour every day.
It’s actually about the small, attainable goals. It's about the daily habits we create. It’s the little decisions - made consistently - that will hurdle us past a destiny doomed for mediocrity and early demise.
A Real Life Example
If we focus on the big lofty goals, we lose sight of the day-to-day. I like to compare it to climbing a mountain.
I trekked to Everest base camp several years back. If I’d focused only on reaching the top, the finish line, the last day… not only would I have missed out on gorgeous views and experiences along the way, but I’d have tripped, found myself lost, and likely not made it there as quickly - or at all.
But my focus, along with my close friend and our guides (who became new friends) Ram and Tej, was on each next step we needed to take, that aligned with our goal of reaching the base camp. We took it one day, one section of trail and one step at a time.
The small, hourly progress soon became many miles by the end of each day. Each day of progress added up to finally reaching over 18k feet and watching the sunrise over Mount Everest on the morning of my 25th birthday.
Had we lost sight of the steps, not taken our time to acclimate to the altitude, failed to nourish our bodies properly or push ourselves far beyond the line of comfort…
We’d never have made it to the last morning hike.
Nor would we have have woken up at 3AM to a darkness lit up by so many stars, it felt like staring at tiny shards of broken glass from a tray of crystal cocktail glasses shattered on black marble floors.
We wouldn’t have inhaled the coldest, most crisp, clean air to ever touch the flesh of our nostrils.
Certainly we wouldn't have stood in awe on that rocky earth, facing rays of sun, bright like fire and reaching through icy blue crevasses of the tallest peak in the world to warm our red, burning cheeks.
We never would have made it to the top without implementing consistency and developing healthy habits.
So you see, it’s the same with getting to your healthiest weight, finally feeling confident in your body, or learning to manage and mitigate anxiety.
It's not focusing on:
One workout class that pushed you so hard you almost painted the inside of your new Etsy face mask with this morning's celery juice.
A day of eating nothing but mixed greens, avocado and Keto-approved dressing.
Forcing yourself to meditate and getting more anxious with every passing second, because you feel like you aren’t “doing it right”.
It is focusing on:
Waking up, turning the alarm off and getting up rather than snoozing or scrolling.
Deciding to fill more than half of your plate with fibrous vegetables every dinner, and sticking to it until it becomes natural.
Going to sleep and waking at regular times every day - even on weekends.
Committing to daily walks or other movement throughout every day - and every week.
It’s doing whichever of those get you closer to the goals you set for yourself, and doing them consistently. Every day. Even and especially when you aren't seeing the payoff.
That’s the true test. When the results seem to halt, when it seems you are at a plateau; rather than question whether you should give up, turn back or throw in the towel, those who keep going, stay the course and trust the process are the ones who reach the summit.
The only way you fail is if you give up entirely. In every other case, you are still on the journey.
The healthy habits that have served me are as follows:
1. Start every day with movement.
No matter what.
Even on rest days, I am stretching or walking outside or on the treadmill. I’m going for a hike or I’m filming a workout. I move throughout the day, often and in varied ways.
Movement is critical and sets us up for a day of productive habits, lowers anxiety and gets us energized. When we start the day off with movement, it gives us a feeling of accomplishment that we take with us through the rest of the day. We are more likely to be active throughout that day as well.
2. Get your mind right.
For me, this looks like starting the day with a quick writing exercise. That could mean listing 3 things I am grateful for that day or writing freely and manifesting the day as if I’ve already achieved and received all the things I want from it.
Every Sunday I map out my week in my planner, but each morning I also give it another once-over to adjust for any new tasks that have come up or plans that have changed. And - this is key - then I stick to it as closely as I can.
When planning it out, I am realistic so that sticking to it is not only possible, but probable. I leave space for unexpected things to come up, because I know this is inevitable on most days. I also know that we all typically underestimate how long each task will take.
We put too much on our plates, and feel discouraged, stressed and anxious when we can’t cross everything off the list.
Rather than set yourself up for that feeling of failure and stress, be realistic and leave room. You will feel (and be) accomplished at the end of the day and actually finish what is on your list.
Remember, this is what works for me. This is what gets my head in a happy and productive space. For you, it may be different.
It may mean mediation or reading a book in the morning instead. It may mean a walk in nature, doing some breath-work or snuggling your dog. It might be coffee and soft jazz on your porch.
Whatever gets your neurons firing and starts you out with a positive outlook - do that. Do it every day. Don’t skip on this one.
3. Focus on eating to nourish - most of the time.
This doesn't mean a strict diet. This means I wait until I’m actually hungry to have my first meal. Breakfast is an important meal, but it doesn’t have to happen the minute you wake up. That is a myth, old news.
Prioritize feeding your body with the fuel it needs to flourish. If that is the focus 80% of the time, we can feel great about the 20% of the time that it couldn’t be further from our minds.
I’m talking about enjoying a cookie after dinner, having a couple glasses of wine with friends, having a second helping of your mom’s famous lasagna when you go home for a visit.
Life isn’t always about providing our bodies with nutrients needed to survive. We’ve accomplished a lot as a species to be able to sit on our soft couches in our warm homes, safe from lions and bears, and know that food is only a few steps away. So learn to enjoy that without guilt. The way we do that is with that 80/20 (ish) ratio of nourishing to not-so-nourishing.
Just remember that most of us operate at more of a 40/60 ratio, and tell ourselves it’s 80/20. Be honest with yourself and make the changes you need to make in order to right the [nouri]ship. Then, be consistent.
4. Sleep. For 8 hours. Every Night.
Having a regular sleep schedule, getting 8 hours of uninterrupted (or as close as you can get) and restorative sleep is a non-negotiable.
What better time to start a regular sleep and wake habit than during a lockdown?
As I write this, we are still in the midst of a pandemic and are mostly staying at home. Would I rather be out laughing and spilling red wine as I gesture aggressively at a dinner table among my favorite people? Usually, yes.
But since we mostly still cannot go out on the regular, we have fewer excuses to get in control of our sleep. Glass half full.
I can’t begin to list the benefits of regular restorative sleep, and I can’t begin to list the problems that a lack of it causes now and down the line.
But a short list of things that are affected by your sleep patterns are brain health/cognitive decline, weight gain or loss, stress and anxiety, depression, gut health, aging and more. If you take one thing away from this post, let it be sleep.
These still seem kind of big right? Right.
So here’s the real secret. It’s not about planning to never mess up. It’s about those small decisions, remember?
To get movement in every morning: start with a goal to stop snoozing today. Get up with the alarm, make your bed and put on your spandex before you do anything else in the morning. Start with that goal.
To get your mind right: Pick the one or two things that help you feel focused and then choose one action that will help get you closer to accomplishing it. If it’s journaling, put that notebook right by your bedside or next to your coffee machine every night before you go to bed. Put it where you will see it right at the time you want to start incorporating it. Start with that goal.
To focus on eating to nourish: Commit to filling half of your plate with fibrous vegetables and about a quarter with clean protein before anything else goes on the plate. Start with dinners only.
To focus on regular sleep: Decide your bedtime and wake time, set a reminder on your phone, dim the lights, lose the electronics and commit to it every night this week - including the weekend. Make note of how you feel after a few days of this. Start with that goal.
If you haven’t noticed, I want you to start small. When you think it’s small enough, go a little smaller. Be consistent with that one thing until it is second nature. Until anything other than that, just feels off.
Only then, move on to the next, slightly larger goal. Let's make this your year.