People are creatures of habit. Bad habits, healthy habits, positive habits – whatever the kind, we’re creatures of them. Once we’ve got that routine in place, it’s hard to shift – even when everything else changes around us, including the goals that we set ourselves. Which means that as our lifestyles develop, habits which once worked for us can hold us back, or even become unhealthy.
What comes to mind when you think about ways to get healthier? A diet? Intense sessions at the gym? Taking the stairs, not the elevator? These things can absolutely help make you healthier, but they tend to be short-term goals, and people often don’t keep to these newly learned habits. As tempting as it might be to completely overhaul everything, try to focus on developing new habits slowly, building them so they become part of your daily life.
Here are some changes you can make to slowly introduce change into your routine – let’s take a look at five healthy habits that will change your life if you work at them!
1. Rise to a challenge
It doesn’t matter if it’s a physical challenge, a mental challenge, or a personal one – working towards a goal gives you something to aspire to. Having a focus, even for a short amount of time, will help you channel your energy and help you feel accomplished when you get there. Once you’ve risen to the challenge, move on to the next. Make it a habit to give yourself something positive to work towards.
It could be a fitness goal, like a competition or race training, or a personal goal to do a good deed for someone else every day. Whatever you choose, make sure you pick a goal which is challenging, but that can be achieved. Not getting what you want is a surefire way to make you ditch those habits before they’re fully formed.
2. Cook at least once a day
Sometimes we might feel that cooking is time-consuming: especially if it’s a skill which we’re not blessed with! It might feel like cooking is the last thing that you want to include in your daily routine – after a full day at work, a session at the gym, ticking off household chores…making a meal every single day will surely just add to that list! Hear us out.
No matter how great (or not so great) a cook you are, or how full your schedule is – cooking once a day is a healthy habit to get into. It’s a proven fact that those who cook at home have a healthier diet than those who do not – as demonstrated by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in a 2017 study. Eating outside the home, it found, was associated with a higher fat and saturated fat intake, increased sodium, and more calories.
Of course, we all lead busy lives, so you can make this task easier for yourself by prepping meals beforehand. Planning ahead can lead to fewer snap decisions, help you control portions, and reduce stress through less time spent in the kitchen. Choose your recipes on the weekend, get your groceries, and batch cook what you can ahead of time. You’ll be in control of the food that you eat, and your health will benefit from it.
3. Take on one thing at a time
Those who multitask are often seen as capable, efficient, and productive. But actually, the reality is quite the opposite. While it’s an in-demand skill – taking on multiple things at once and excelling in all of them – multitasking actually drags down your performance, and increases your chances of making mistakes.
This doesn’t mean you can’t speak to your mom on the phone while you water the plants – though it’s a good idea to make single-tasking a habit – it’s more a case of making sure you don’t combine complex tasks or attempt to switch between important things in a short space of time. If you repeatedly switch back and forth, you’ll be creating a lot of lost time for yourself, and fewer chances to focus.
Instead of making your tasks a collection and tackling them all, go linear with the things you have to do, taking them on one after the other. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can get things done this way.
4. Wear sunscreen every day
Everybody knows it’s important to wear sunscreen during the summer months, but how many of us wear it every day, without fail? If you’re not doing it yet, you should be – and here’s why.
Wearing sunscreen is a preventive health measure, lowering your risk of skin cancer, protecting your skin from sun damage, and preventing premature skin aging. Again, this is common knowledge – but studies show that most of us aren’t wearing sunscreen. The American Journal of Dermatology conducted research which showed only 15% of men and 30% of women regularly use sunscreen on their face and other exposed skin when out in the sun for more than an hour.
UV rays don’t just affect us in summer, and they can penetrate clouds, or bounce off reflective surfaces like snow in the winter. To stay sun-safe, apply a broad spectrum sunscreen 15 minutes before sun exposure, applying to all areas of skin that will be exposed. Reapply for every two hours of sun exposure, or after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
5. Let it go
Learning when to give things up or let things go is a liberating, healthy process. Both mentally and physically holding on to things can cause clutter – in your mind, and in your home, too!
For physical clutter, hold a cleanout. Sell, donate, or throw out things which you’re no longer using, or you’re sure to never use again. You’ll gain more space, have room for things that you really do use, and will benefit from less cleaning to do! Not everything in your home has to have a purpose, but you should be able to use and enjoy what you do have.
Having too many things on your mind can also hold you back – the more that you have to remember, do, and worry about, the more you can feel stressed or be affected. Practice acceptance and letting go of things to help your mental load!
Read more: how to relieve stress
These habits are designed to be simple, but effective. Slowly, but surely, you’ll work towards real change in your daily life that comes without obsessing over calories or worrying about being as productive as possible. Keep working at your newly learned habits and you’ll soon see the benefits that living a healthy lifestyle can offer.
Sources and references:
Tiwari, A., Aggarwal, A., Tang, W., Drewnowski, A. Cooking at Home: A Strategy to Comply With U.S. Dietary Guidelines at No Extra Cost. In The American Journal of Preventive Medicine (May 2017); Vol. 52, Issue 5; 616-624.
Iannacone, MR., Hughes, MC., Green, AC. Effects of sunscreen on skin cancer and photoaging. In Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine (2014); 30(2-3); 55-61.
Holman et al. Patterns of sunscreen use on the face and other exposed skin among US adults. In Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (2015); 73(1): 83-92.