If there was a magic pill to make you perfectly healthy and keep you healthy for life, that pill would be in absurdly high demand across the world. Sadly, no such pill exists. Even the best medicines and supplements on the market today can only do so much. By and large, your short-term and long-term health depends on your choices.
Most Americans have developed a long list of bad habits that contribute significantly to health problems. From a poor diet to a lack of sleep and much more, these habits impact your mind and body in ways you may not realize. But breaking these bad habits isn’t enough. In order to see true results and maintain your health, you must learn to replace these harmful activities with good habits.
First and foremost, don’t expect change to occur immediately. You didn’t form your bad habits overnight, and they won’t go away overnight either. Work your way toward your ultimate goal. Give yourself time to adjust to each stage. For instance, imagine you’re trying to reach the recommended minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or about 30 minutes a day 5 days a week. Don’t force yourself to go from almost zero physical activity to half an hour nearly every day. Instead, slowly increase your exercise time over multiple days. Get yourself used to 10 minutes of moderate exercise per day, then 15, then 20, until you hit your ultimate goal. You’ll get used to your daily exercise time, and your body will adjust to this new level of activity.
Pro Tip: Trying to go from an unhealthy lifestyle to being in fantastic shape overnight sets you up for discouragement. Don’t hold yourself to an impossible standard! Work your way toward a healthy life.
Improve Your Diet
Everyone talks about wanting to eat healthier, but what does that look like? The exact types of foods you’ll eat will vary–for instance, a vegetarian has to turn to plant-based sources of protein rather than meat like many people do. But the exact foods you eat are less important than the micronutrients you consume. In general, a micronutrient-rich diet looks something like this:
- 2-2.5 cups of non-starchy vegetables daily
- 1.5-2 cups of fruit
- 67 grams of protein daily (on average–find more exact figures here)
- 44-78 grams of fat daily (saturated fat should be no more than 22 grams of this)
- 225-325 grams of carbs daily
- Any dietary supplements recommended by your doctor
Talk to your doctor for a meal plan that fits your nutritional needs while catering to any dietary restrictions or preferences you may have.
Increase Your Physical Activity
Remember our example of gradually increasing exercise? This “baby steps” approach can put you on the path to excellent workout habits. But don’t stop with conventional workouts. Where can you fit physical activity into your day? Try making these minor changes to your routine to increase your activity:
- Park farther from the store entrance and briskly walk the extra distance
- Talk the stairs instead of the elevator to work or class
- Take a quick walk during breaktimes
- Walk or bike to nearby errands instead of driving
- Spend more time cleaning your house
Remember Your Mental Health
Finally, remember that your brain is an organ and needs as much attention as any other part of your body. Your mental and physical health are intimately connected. As cliche as it may sound, stress can and likely will impact your physical health in tangible ways. Whether you get less sleep, pay less attention to hygiene, work out less (or too much), or eat less healthy food, the consequences of stress can impact your health for a long time. Find ways to give yourself a mental break and talk to a counselor if things go on for too long.
Work Toward a Healthy Lifestyle
Plenty of us live with health problems that we can never fully cure. Others may rely on doctors for help managing or curing a severe condition. But the foundation of wellness lies with us. Creating and maintaining healthy habits for life can help more severe illnesses be a little more manageable.