This is the introduction to my series on My Healthy Life Habits: Common Sense Wellness
I believe there are 10 fundamental actions you need to practice in order to be healthy, both physically
and mentally. And if you think you can get away with just focusing on one or the other, you're mistaken. Ever wonder why you keep yo-yoing around your health goals despite doing everything you're "supposed" to? I propose there is something on this list that you are not practicing.
Before we get into the list, I want to stress that trying to incorporate ALL of these things at once into your life will overwhelm you. It's like those prescriptive diets (I hate diets) that tell you to clean out your cupboards, stock up on all the clean eats in the Grocery Shopping section of their book, and clear your schedule because you're going to start a whole new lifestyle on Monday. Yeah, right.
For some rare souls, this works. I think it's because they were ready for that kind of change or they are super control freaks (you know who you are) who thrive on lists of do's and don'ts. But if you're not ready to overhaul your life overnight, and most of us aren't, you're going to go strong for a few days, even a few weeks or months, but somewhere along the way you're going to run out of willpower.
You're going to start feeling like you're barely hanging on by your fingernails, and then you're going to lose your grip and fall off the cliff. For some of us that means falling into old habits and eventual, maddening weight gain. Aaaaannd we start all over again. Damn it.
So don't try to do all the things on my list at once. Pick one thing and work on it for a month. If you feel like that practice is solid, add another thing and work on that for one month, and so on. Be forewarned: you are going to slip on something eventually. That is the nature of our beast. When that happens, then you need to focus on whatever practice slipped for a full month before trying to add anything new.
This is a life-long strategy, not a quick fix. If you've tried the quick fix, or seven, then you know the results don't last. When I'm struggling with anxiety or weight gain or some other health issue, I know I've slipped up on one of my daily practices. This isn't a bad thing. It's reality, so I try not to beat myself up about it (see #7).
Okay, enough pre-list blathering. Here are my ten things I practice in order to be in my best health:
1. Drink Water
Nothing earth shattering here. Notice I'm not prescribing a certain amount or handing out water bottles or defining ounces per pound ratios. Nope. Not going to do it. If I drink one glass of water all day, then I've practiced drinking water and that's good enough. To make sure I get at least that one glass per day, I leave a cup by my bathroom sink. In the morning when I get up, I go straight to the bathroom (who doesn't?), fill my cup and drink it all at once. It's a small cup, only 8 ounces.
2. Move Your Body
This is not "exercising" exactly; this is more general than that. For instance, I make a point of not sitting down for the first 10 minutes I'm awake. For example, while the coffee is brewing, I put a few clean dishes away. My kids load and run the dishwasher at night, so in the morning the dishes are clean. I also make a point of getting up from the computer every hour and walking around the house, shift the laundry, prep dinner, etc. Why in the world is this on my list? Because people who tend to move more during the day tend to get more done AND have an easier time maintaining their weight.
3. Build and Maintain a Support Team
This sounds more official than it really is, but I like the wording because it makes me take this practice seriously. You've heard it a million times, but I wonder if you really get how fundamental this is to your success...in anything. If we want to be healthy, we have to hang out with healthy people. Oh, and enlist some professionals while we're at it, like doctors, mental health professionals, nutritionists, and personal trainers, to name a few.
4. Exercise on Purpose
Otherwise known as "intentional exercise", this is the stuff most people hate. This is the Zumba class, the yoga class, the 2 mile wog (walking/jogging combo), and the push-ups. Ewwwwwwww. Actually, I love exercising and its one of the easiest things for me to practice. I love working out, or as I prefer to call it, playing out, but I know most people don't so start easy and slow. Go for a walk for 10 minutes. Done. Move on.
5. Eat Real Food
What is "real" food, you ask? I'm talking minimally processed or better yet, fresh food. If it has an ingredient list, that means it's processed. For instance, those "yogurt" cups everyone's so fond of are not yogurt. If yogurt is one of the ingredients, it ain't yogurt. It contains yogurt.
Don't panic! I am NOT saying don't eat anything processed ever again or start eating real food exclusively tomorrow. I'm saying "practice" eating more real food. Start by doing just one thing for one month, like making your own mashed potatoes if you usually buy the instant stuff. Okay? *hands you a tissue* It's going to be okay.
6. De-stress Daily
Do you consciously choose to de-stress for a few minutes at least once per day? For instance, I take a glass of water with grapefruit essential oil out onto the deck WITHOUT my phone, and sip water while I watch the squirrels chase each other around my yard. That's one of my de-stressing activities. I have many more. It doesn't have to be meditation. It doesn't have to be anything complicated. Just a simple sitting still, being present, and letting go of the tension in your neck.
Why is this on the list? Because stress has to be managed on purpose or else we'll manage it by accident. What do you think is the most common knee-jerk stress management activity? I'll give you three guesses. The first two don't count.
7. Forgive Yourself and Others
Every. Dang. Day. Forgive yourself for being mean to yourself. Forgive your mom for bringing those damn cookies over. Forgive your friend for not understanding how much you needed her company when she had to cancel your lunch date. Forgive yourself for whatever mistakes you think you made today. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive.
8. Think Positive
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I can hear your eyes rolling. BUT, its still true that practicing thinking positive thoughts is vital to your success. All kinds of success.
I know a woman who always has a negative comment for everything all the time. Guess what? She's unhealthy, unhappy, and unaware that its her own fault. I bet you know someone just like that. Maybe...its you. Do you want to change that? Then get over yourself and get busy reprogramming yourself to think positive.
9. Be Grateful
Yep, right up there with thinking positive. You have to do this. Start out simple. Before you go to sleep at night, think of one think--just ONE thing--you are grateful for. Maybe it's the pillow under your head or the fact that you didn't kill anyone today (good enough for now, but you want to work on making your gratitude list positive over time).
Why is this important? If you're always focused on what's wrong with your life, that is what you will always get--more wrong. If you focus on what is good in your life, then that is what you are going to create: more good. It's not foofy inspirational speaker talk, its a fact of life. Think about this: if you want to walk to the grocery store but you face the wrong direction, how hard is it going to be to get to the grocery store?
10. Plan Ahead
You need a plan to get where you are going, but don't get too attached to that plan. Don't you want to just smack me? ;-) Once the plan is written down (yes, you have to write it down) and you implement the plan, put it into action, it is inevitable that the plan will be incomplete or not work at some point or just not fit what's actually happening in your life. That's when you revise the plan.
So those are my 10 practices for a healthy life.
Each of these practices needs to be incorporated one at a time, not all at once, and it's a practice, not a perfect anything. Some days I get it all in, some days I don't. I take note of what I'm having the most trouble with and spend a month focusing on that.
These practices all work together and it may seem strange to focus on say drinking water when there's so much more that needs to be done in order to achieve your goals. If you feel you're ready to add more than one of these practices, by all means, go for it. But if you slip up or start to feel overwhelmed, I strongly suggest focusing on one thing.
Don't feel like you have enough information to even get started? Don't worry. I'm going to break all of this down in upcoming blog posts. I'll go into depth on each practice, as well as let you in on a little secret I discovered about "stacking habits".
In the meantime, have a glass of water and relax. It's all going to be okay. Wait, it's all going to be fantastic!
Much love and light!
My Healthy Life Habits Series continues with:
Why is "Get a Good Night's Sleep" NOT on My 10 Healthy Life Habits List?
Let them Drink Water
Move Your Body
Build a Support Team
Exercise on Purpose (Or Die Trying)
Eat Real Food, Most of the Time