It’s summertime again. Outdoor activities beckon, pool days await, and temperatures soar. These are some of the best things about this time of year, but they can also be stressful if you aren’t in good health. Carrying around extra weight can mean you aren’t able to move as quickly as you would like, wearing a swimsuit induces anxiety, and that staying inside where there is air conditioning is the only way you feel comfortable.
To be sure, our society puts an undue burden on us to look a certain way, but what no one can deny is how you feel when you are not healthy. No matter what you see in the mirror, if you don’t have energy, mental clarity, and a body that functions the way it ought to, your confidence will take a hit. Conversely, it’s amazing how much less critically we view ourselves when we feel strong and healthy.
In light of this, let's say you want to change your lifestyle to become healthier. Where do you start? Before you launch into making changes to increase your health, it’s important to stop and identify a few over-arching concepts to set yourself up for success:
Why: why do you want to be healthier? For your kids? So you can enjoy retirement? Be specific.
What: what changes do you feel you can make and what are the (realistic) results you expect?
How: what accountability can you seek out and is there a way you can reward yourself for progress made?
Any change in behavior can feel daunting, and it can be tempting to simply put it off for another day. You didn’t find yourself here overnight and returning yourself to good health won’t happen quickly either. But if you trust the process, the cumulative effects of small, positive decisions will add up over time.
If you have ever tried a crash diet or launched yourself into an intense workout regimen after living a sedentary lifestyle for a while, you know this approach almost always backfires. Living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean cutting out all carbs and doing two hours of cardio a day. There are many different ways to make your lifestyle healthier. There are also more facets to this journey than some people think, and they vary from person to person. Generally speaking, though, there are three major areas—diet, exercise, and mentality—which are the most important to focus on when creating a healthier lifestyle for yourself.
Diet: When it comes to what you eat, you may not want to “diet” in the sense that you are cutting out entire food groups. Instead, eat in moderation and assess your portions so that you are eating a well-balanced diet. You should be eating at least 3 meals a day with some small snacks in between. This can help keep you from over-eating at meals.
If you have a busy schedule and it seems like you always find yourself eating at the nearest fast-food restaurant, try meal planning and cooking on the weekend. This way, during the week you will have enough food prepared so you can pack a nutritious, home-cooked lunch each morning.
Exercise: Starting an exercise habit can be tough. Many people think it consists of going to the gym for a large chunk of time and coming home too exhausted and sore to do anything for the next couple of days. For a physically fit person, spending hours in physical activity might be feasible—and even fun— but especially when you are just starting out, it’s a recipe for injury and burnout. When it comes to exercising, what you need is very specific to you and your body. That’s why it’s always wise to talk to your doctor about what they recommend, as well as meeting with a trainer at your gym to tailor a plan to your lifestyle and fitness level.
Mentality: Whether it be going to the gym for 30 minutes or two hours or just going on a short walk every day, figure out what works best for you. There are many different options for exercise like yoga, walking, running, strength training, and even guided cardio classes—whatever consistently gets you moving and active for a part of your day is a great start. You can and should change it up and eventually increase intensity for your mental and physical health, but to start, just get moving.
Don’t forget, rest days are crucial to staying healthy and letting your body heal from the work you’re putting in, but just make sure that after you rest for a day you get back on track.
Set reasonable goals for yourself instead of unrealistic ideals that you know are unobtainable. You will feel much more accomplished when reaching multiple small goals than when you set one big goal that you can’t reach.
Always remember, mental and physical health go hand in hand. The one factor that ties every other factor of living a healthy lifestyle together is your mentality. Poor mental health can reduce energy and focus and can increase chances of heart disease. Getting plenty of sleep every night is crucial for mental health and living healthier overall.
When life seems to be getting more stressful than normal, make sure to take some time for yourself. You can do this by taking up a new hobby, challenging yourself to learn something new, or putting yourself on a “technology fast.” Taking care of yourself mentally is vital to creating a healthier lifestyle.
Prioritizing exercise, diet, and mental health will give you a good foundation for creating a healthy lifestyle. Different techniques work for different people and body types but generally speaking, figure out what you can do to take care of yourself and your body.
If you have decided to make a few changes and create a balanced lifestyle for yourself, great! Make sure you ease into it so you can maintain your new habits. Over time, you will see and, more importantly, feel the difference! Eventually, it will become easier, and you will find your healthy lifestyle is simply your life!
So, what will be your first step in creating a healthier lifestyle?