Up until about this time last year, I was constantly running on fumes. After high school, I went directly to college, started my dietetic internship, and then finished grad school all in a span of about 6 years. I certainly didn’t have any time to spare for “healthy habits.”
Between homework, tests, work, and research projects, it felt like I was stretched pretty thin at all times. But surprisingly, that was okay because I was so used to it.
Then, in May when I graduated, everything pretty much stopped.
I went to work and I came home. And I had time to breathe, to think, to do whatever I wanted to do without having to think about what was next on my agenda or which deadlines were approaching. I finally had time for myself.
And so I shifted my focus to start doing things that were good for me and made me feel good. I incorporated a few healthy habits into my daily life: I started exercising more, cooking healthy foods, finding new hobbies, and making time for the things I enjoy that I had put aside in the past. It felt awesome!
I realized pretty quickly how I had sacrificed my health and wellbeing in favor of deadlines and duties—even though I didn’t have to.
Truthfully, most of these healthy habits require very little time commitment. If you have time to scroll through Instagram and watch a few makeup tutorials or cute dog videos (guilty), then you have time to add one or two of these healthy habits into your routine.
So while those adorable dog videos may be good for your soul, these healthy habits are good for the rest of you. Keep both as part of your daily routine and feel better overall.
1. Get moving!
When life gets busy, exercise is usually the first thing out the window.
Believe me, I’ve been there. Who has an extra hour in the day to spend at the gym when there are so many other things that take priority?
But trust me when I say that exercise is one of the most important things you can do for pretty much every aspect of health. In fact, the benefits of exercise extend far beyond your waist line.
Working out can promote mental health, boost energy levels, improve your sleep, reduce your risk of chronic disease, and just make you feel better overall.
If you’re able to squeeze in a quick gym session, that’s great! Whether it’s for an hour or just a quick 30-minute jog, before work or on your lunch break, every day or just a few times per week, you’re sure to start reaping the benefits that come with being active.
But if you can’t find the time to stop by the gym, don’t sweat it (pun intended). You can fit exercise into your daily routine in other ways.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator, do a quick lap around the office once an hour, or park at the very end of the parking lot to get in some extra walking.
Regardless of how you do it, this is one healthy habit that should definitely be part of your day.
2. Try a new recipe every week.
It’s so easy to fall back on what we know and are familiar with. We’re all guilty of it; most of us have a rotation of recipes that we default to when we’re pressed for time and low on energy.
My “default” recipes, for example, include spaghetti, rice or quinoa with black beans, pizza bagels, and Greek salad. In all honestly, I could probably go a very long time just rotating through these recipes without any complaints.
But there are two problems with this:
#1: most of the time, those no-effort recipes that we fall back on aren’t the healthiest. But even if they are…
#2: repeating the same recipes again and again lacks diversity, in both flavor and nutritionally.
See, even eating the same salad with the same ingredients again and again can be a bad thing if it means you’re missing out on other important nutrients in your diet.
Eating a varied diet provides you with a broader range of nutrients, essentially filling in the gaps where you may be missing a vitamin or mineral here and there.
So instead of pulling out that bag of frozen ravioli for the millionth time, hop on Pinterest (or check out some of my recipes) for a little inspiration to mix things up.
I recommend starting with a new recipe every week to build up your repertoire, but you can even try two or three new recipes a week if you’re a little more ambitious.
3. Take 5 minutes to meditate.
Once reserved for hippies donning dreadlocks and Buddhist monks, the practice of meditation has skyrocketed in popularity recently.
That’s because taking just a few brief minutes out of your day can make a huge impact on your health and wellbeing.
Meditation can relieve stress, improve your mood, and ease anxiety. These factors all have a ripple effect on the rest of your health, meaning you’ll see lasting impacts when it comes to sleep, immunity, and even chronic disease.
Meditating requires very little in terms of money, equipment, time commitment, and experience. Literally all it takes is five minutes—find a comfortable spot, close your eyes, focus on being present in the moment.
There are some great tools for meditation if you’re just getting started. Apps like Headspace, Buddhify, and Omvana all offer guided meditation, plus there are plenty available on YouTube as well.
4. Unplug for an hour a day.
I’ll be honest in admitting that this one is pretty hard for me. Not because it requires much effort (or any at all, really), but because our generation has become so dependent on our cell phones.
Have you ever been out to dinner and seen the couple at the table next to you, not even talking because they’re so engrossed in whatever’s going on on that screen in front of them?
I haven’t gone that far, but I’ll admit that you won’t usually find me without my phone.
From the time I wake up and head to the gym to the time my head hits the pillow at night, my cell phone is typically right by my side. I listen to music on my commute, I mindlessly scroll through my newsfeed when I have a few spare minutes, and I check the news every once in a while to see if there’s anything good.
But in a world so conditioned to be constantly connected, it can be invigorating to step away, even if it’s just for a little while.
Turning off your phone and computer for just an hour each day is a great way to relieve the stress that comes with being persistently plugged in, allowing you to focus on the things going on in your real life, distraction-free.
Whether that’s your family, your friends, your spouse, your dog, or even yourself, it can make a huge impact on your health and your relationships to put the phone down for a little bit each day.
5. Practice positive affirmations.
If you’re not familiar with affirmations, they’re affirmative statements that can provide encouragement and promote positivity. They’re also one of the easiest (and most effective) healthy habits you can add into your routine.
A few months ago, there was a viral video circulating of a dad holding his daughter up in the mirror and having her repeat a series of morning affirmations, like “I work hard. I am beautiful. I am respectful.” (Watch it here and have a few tissues at hand, just in case…)
Repeating a few affirmations each morning is a great way to start your day on the right foot. It gets things going with a positive tone and can really brighten up your outlook, fostering self-confidence and optimism. All of this can have a major impact when it comes to mental health.
You can come up with your own set of daily affirmations or do a quick search and find plenty on the Internet.
A few of my personal favorites:
- “I believe in myself and my abilities.”
- “I can do it and I will.”
- “Today, I will make great things happen.”
Do you have any healthy habits that you practice? Or do you have any tips for squeezing some of these in when you have a schedule that’s jam-packed? I’d love to hear from you—leave a comment and let me know!