We know that making healthy choices can help us feel better and live longer. Maybe you’ve already tried to eat better, get more exercise or sleep, quit smoking, or reduce stress. It’s not easy. But research shows how you can boost your ability to create and sustain a healthy lifestyle.
“It’s frustrating to experience setbacks when you’re trying to make healthy changes and reach a goal,” says NIH behavior change expert Dr. Susan Czajkowski. “The good news is that decades of research show that change is possible, and there are proven strategies you can use to set yourself up for success.”
Lots of things you do impact your health and quality of life, now and in the future. You can reduce your risk for the most common, costly, and preventable health problems—such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity—by making healthy choices.
We have listed below simple yet effective ways to develop healthy habits:
1.Know Your Habits
Regular things you do—from brushing your teeth to having a few drinks every night—can become habits. Repetitive behaviors that make you feel good can affect your brain in ways that create habits that may be hard to change. Habits often become automatic—they happen without much thought.
“The first step to changing your behavior is to create an awareness around what you do regularly,” explains Dr. Lisa Marsch, an expert in behavior change at Dartmouth College. “Look for patterns in your behavior and what triggers the unhealthy habits you want to change.”
2.Eating a Sustainable Healthy Diet
Eating a sustainable diet is one of the most essential healthy habits. Eliminate sugars, caffeine and flour-based products like pasta and bread. Introduce high-quality fats like olive oil and avocados. Eat plenty of leafy green vegetables and citrus fruits. Turn to seafood, poultry and eggs for protein. Make permanent changes in your diet through small steps, like always eating salad for lunch or forgoing your evening glass of wine. You’ll see long-lasting changes fad diets just can’t achieve.
3.Doing Something Physically Active Everyday
Exercise is the second pillar of healthy lifestyle habits. The benefits of exercise are endless: a stronger heart, increased bone density and muscle mass, better balance, a sharper mind, elevated mood, lowered stress – the list goes on. You don’t have to be a marathon runner – a brisk, 30-minute walk five times a week is all it takes to start seeing the benefits of exercise. Still sounds overwhelming? Do something physically active every day – yard work, housework, walking the dog – and work your way up. Exercise will soon become a daily healthy habit.
4.Make it Fun
The best way to stick to a routine is by making it enjoyable for yourself. We have this deep-rooted notion that to achieve something, we must first suffer. That is not always the case. You can take up a sport that you enjoy and turn it into your exercise routine. You can add various enjoyable activities to your day that will benefit your health while being fun.
You can apply the same principle to your diet as well. A good diet need not be a bland diet. You can add your favorite fruits, nuts, and various palatable yet healthy recipes to your meals. The biggest advantage here is that you don’t have to find ways to avoid the things that you like.
5.Build a Support System
Based on research, our behavior in maintaining our health is a reflection of the behavior and habits portrayed by those closest to us. Our family and friends have a big say in our daily lifestyle, directly as well as subconsciously. When surrounded by people who prioritize health and fitness, we are influenced to do the same.
Another benefit of involving your loved ones in your health-oriented activities is that they will help you stay on track and provide the moral boost required during tough days.
“Remember that building new healthy habits can take some time and it’s OK to treat yourself to avoid feeling deprived,” says Jeffers. “Stay focused on your goal, and if you slip along the way, just start again.”