Looking after your health is like looking after a car: you need to feed it regularly with high-quality food and listen to make sure it runs smoothly. Occasionally, we forget how to look after ourselves properly, placing our general health and wellbeing in the backseat, behind life’s other priorities. This can slow down our ‘engine’ and make us feel tired, sluggish and unhappy. If you’ve been waiting for ‘one day’ to get your health on track, today is your day.
Here are seven positive health habits you can start today.
1. Set a goal
If you want to lose weight, build muscle, get fit or eat more vegetables, setting a goal to strive for is vital to your success because it gives you something to focus on. The goal doesn’t have to be big – in fact, studies show that breaking one large target into smaller ones is actually a better way to work. Perhaps your goal is to lose 10kg. You’ll have a much easier time staying motivated if you break it down, giving yourself a weekly goal of losing a small amount each week, rather than if you focus on the whole amount.
2. One thing at a time
Don’t know where to start? One of the simplest ways to jumpstart good health is by focusing on just one thing to change. This can be done by replacing the bad habit with a good habit. For example, if you want to cut back on the amount of coffee you drink every day, you could try replacing the last cup of the day with decaf coffee, herbal tea or water. You don’t have to change all your bad habits at once – taking it one step at a time is more likely to lead to lasting success.
3. Make a game plan
Many of us tend to launch into our new diet, exercise plan or commit to breaking a habit before we’ve given ourselves time to think it through. Spending time planning how we can best achieve our goal (and which goals to focus on first) could mean the difference between following through with our intentions or throwing in the towel when the motivation wears off. No matter your goal, take time to think about why it is important and do some research to find techniques that you can try to stay on track.
4. Move more
Moderate and intense exercise is important for calorie burn and heart health but don’t underestimate the power of simply moving more in the day. Take the stairs instead of the lift, carry a shopping basket at the supermarket instead of using a trolley and walk everywhere. Look for ways you can move more every day.
5. Go for green
When it comes to your diet, it isn’t about what you exclude but what you include. Add more greens to every meal. For example, you might have a salad for lunch today and add an extra serve of veggies at dinner. The Healthy Living Pyramid suggests the majority of our diet be made up of vegetables, legumes and fruit.
6. Only eat foods you love
Life’s too short to eat bad food. If you know that cakes, pastries and take away food is packed with sugar, fat, preservatives and artificial additives, why would you put them into your body? Sure, once in a while it’s nice to splurge but there’s nothing positive about eating bad food for no reason. Look after your body and it will look after you by helping you feel healthy, energised and happy.
7. Learn to sleep again
Feeling fatigued and lacking in energy makes it easy to give in to bad habits such as mindless eating and taking the car when you could just walk. Quality sleep not only gives you energy, it also helps the body produce hormones that help regulate hunger and feelings of fullness. Most Australians don’t get enough sleep. The Australian government recommends that adults get seven to eight hours of sleep a night, although older adults tend to sleep more lightly and for a shorter time.