When it comes to your health, your lifestyle choices are much more dominant than your genes. It’s always a good time to adopt new habits to improve your well-being. Healthy habit formation requires practice and routine. After approximately 21 days, engaging in a new behavior begins to feel natural. This means you could form a healthy habit in just three weeks. Habit replacement is the most effective method for making lifestyle changes. Instead of just stopping an unhealthy habit or simply starting a healthy one, find a behavior that needs improvement and replace it with something related. For example, the habit of snacking while watching TV can be replaced with basic hand-weight exercises, or walking on a treadmill while watching TV. Here are a few lifestyle changes for better health:
- How often you’re physically active is just as important as how much you exercise. So don’t follow your morning workout with hours sitting at your desk, in your car, or on the couch. Moving more can help improve everything from your circulation to your stress levels and sense of well-being. Add more movement into your life by breaking-up sedentary activities with physical activity. Here are a few ideas to get you inspired: Swap-up your coffee break for a power walk; after all, walking is the best exercise, set your alarm 10 minutes early to do morning stretches, wait for your lunch to reheat in the plank position or see how many squats you can fit in before your coffee is done brewing, take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, use the jungle gym for pull ups, dips, lunges, and push ups while your children play.
- Manage your stress. Stress causes an increase in cortisol levels. When it becomes excessive or ongoing, this can have a negative impact on your health. Everybody has some form of stress in their lives, but it’s how you deal with it that counts. Healthy ways to cope with stress include: Getting 7–9 hours of sleep per night. Remember, sleep shouldn’t stress you out! Keeping active and eating a nourishing diet, as covered in points #1 and #2. Taking time to relax and switch gears after work. Scheduling “free time” to completely checkout with fewer responsibilities. Unplugging yourself from electronics. Yes, this means putting away your cell phone, tablet, and laptop. Communicating your feelings and needs to family and friends.
- Don’t drink too much alcohol. While moderate alcohol consumption is considered safe for some people, there are many alcohol-related health risks that aren’t apparent until later in life. Alcohol is high in calories and dehydrating, and cutting back has benefits. Keep your alcohol intake down by: Setting a drink limit for yourself. Drinking slowly. Matching every alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic drink. Eating before and while you are consuming alcohol. Not drinking for health benefits. Enjoying some non-drinking days every week to prevent alcohol from becoming a habit. Be aware of factors that make alcohol consumption unsafe, including when you are pregnant, driving, and taking certain medications.
- Sleep should always be a priority. 40% of women and 30% of men have trouble with insomnia. When you don’t get the recommended 7–9 hours per night, it can have a significant impact on your physical and mental health, not to mention work performance and social life. If you have trouble falling asleep, have restless sleeps, or are losing sleep due to stress, shift work, or waking children, it is time to make sleep a priority with these healthy sleep tips: Make time to sleep. If you have to, set the bedtime alarm on your phone. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. All of these can disrupt your sleep. Unplug from your computer, tablet, cell phone, or e-reader before bedtime. Instead, unwind before bedtime with a bath or some light reading. Use a natural sleep aid to help improve sleep quality.
The most effective way to make lasting changes in your life is to start small. This includes approaching each habit you have and evaluating the way it is impacting your lifestyle. Then make simple, realistic changes as needed. Changing just one behavior at a time can led to lasting changes in your life, and is much less intimidating than attempting to completely overhaul your current lifestyle.