Creating Healthy Habits

It’s that time of year! Everyone has made their New Year resolutions and promised themselves that this year is really the year. Many people set their sights on goals such as eating healthier, exercising more, or simply becoming a better version of themselves. These goals have merit to
them—eating well and exercising at least 150 minutes a week, or 30 minutes for 5 days per week, have been shown to have a myriad of physical benefits according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). These include reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, maintaining a healthy weight, better management of chronic health conditions, and improved functioning in daily activities. Moderate exercise can be done by almost anyone. Going for a walk, doing yoga, or riding a bike are all forms of exercise that produce these benefits, and that many people have an enjoyable time doing.

What about the psychological benefits of creating these healthy habits? Engaging in physical activity has been shown to reduce overall stress levels in adults, and lowering stress is something we can all benefit from. In addition, it has been demonstrated that after just 10 minutes of physical activity people tend to feel an improvement in their mood. Eating a healthy diet allows people to feel more energized, less sluggish, and improve concentration and attention. Some studies have even found that reducing consumption of processed foods has been linked to lowering levels of depression and anxiety.

Knowing the benefits of exercising and eating healthy isn’t enough though. Most people understand that these are things that they should do, yet they just can’t seem to find the motivation or energy to stick to their resolutions.

So, how do you learn to follow through with these newly made plans?

  • One important way to help create healthy habits is to build up the support around you. Many people choose to find someone to be their accountability partner, or a person with similar goals that can serve as a motivation to continue and checks in about how your goal progress. Having like-minded people in your circle can be an effective way to increase commitment to your goals. Plus, it can help build or strengthen friendships or relationships with others.
  • Another way to help you stick to your goals is simply to plan for them. Using a planner or scheduling app on your phone, block out time to go for a jog, hit the gym, or do yoga. This can be in the morning before work, on your lunch break, or can help you decompress at the end of the day. It’s important to find a time that works for your schedule and a time that you can sustainably commit to. It can also be helpful to meal plan or meal prep at the beginning of each week. Doing this allows you to choose to eat healthfully for the entire week all at once, instead of being faced every day with the choice to have a healthy meal over the (often more convenient) option of running through a drive thru.
  • Lastly, it’s important to find balance. Committing to a new lifestyle, new diet, or any big change can feel daunting. Remember to reward yourself with things that make you feel good, whether that be a day to rest and recharge, your favorite dessert at the end of the week, or time spent connecting with friends or family. Over-doing it in the beginning can lead to burnout and can make the commitment to live a healthy lifestyle feel more like a burden when it is meant to improve your wellbeing and be a form of self-care. Take it slow and don’t be afraid to experiment to find what works for you. Every body is different and every person is worthy of feeling their best through the means that work for them.

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