A complete 180 on your current health and fitness situation sounds appealing, but there’s one important thing to remember when deciding to change your lifestyle: We are humans. Our bodies cannot handle drastic changes, and research indicates that an immediate overhaul is not a recipe for success. It hinders the ability to maintain a wholesome lifestyle in the long-run, and potentially heightens your risk of certain conditions due to yo-yo-ing between good and bad habits.
So how do you avoid the yo-yo cycle?
The key is kick-start a positive and healthy mind by introducing small, achievable habits. The smaller the habit, the better you’ll feel about yourself once it becomes a part of your natural routine.
To help you on your path to a healthier you, here are seven small habits that can attribute to making a huge difference.
Enjoy the Morning Sun
Most of us spend the day chugging away behind a computer, out of the sun, under neon and artificial lights, effectively depriving ourselves of natural sunlight and increasing the likelihood of SAD – seasonal affective disorder – which is a form of depression. You can overcome this by safely exposing yourself to a little bit of sunshine every day. Research proves that the brain’s serotonin levels (the happy chemical) is directly related to the amount of sunshine you receive. Sunshine enters through the pupils and communicates with the pineal gland in your brain, telling it to release serotonin. So when you’re sipping your morning coffee, head outside for five to ten minutes and safely take in the morning sun, or venture on a lunch time walk to rejuvenate your mind; it’s an easy and effective way to get you through the rest of the afternoon. Among the mood benefits, safe sunshine consumption can also:
- Provide relief for those who suffer from skin disorders.
- Lower blood pressure
- Kill bad bacteria on the skin
- Increase oxygen content into human tissue and bloodstream
- Build the immune system; and
- Create vitamin D in the body
Drink a Glass of Water First Thing in the Morning
We all understand that drinking eight glasses of water per day is important for overall health and body function, but what many people don’t know is that consuming water first thing in the morning offers valuable therapeutic benefits. By reaching for the water jug upon awakening, you’ll:
- Rehydrate your dehydrated body: While your body repairs itself during sleep time, it’s also fasting. It’s likely that you will feel naturally dehydrated. Water helps to refresh your system and disperses natural energy to the places where you need it most.
- Flushes out toxins: While you’ve been sleeping soundly, your body has been hard at work to replenish your energy and balance hormones. Because of this, you’ve got some toxins waiting to be released. The key to flushing them? Water!
- Kick start your metabolism: Water is like an alarm clock for your metabolism. It has been proven to increase the potential for burning calories and fills you up in the process.
- Give yourself natural brain fuel: We all know that your body is mostly made up of water, but did you know that your brain alone is 75% water. Deprive yourself of water, and it’s likely that your mind isn’t going to function the way you’d like it to. Having fluids will leave you feeling sharp and clear.
Prioritise Your Food
In a perfect world, food would magically appear with a simple click of the fingers. Unfortunately, it’s not the case. In reality, we are often the victims of our own food environment, grabbing anything available regardless of its health implications.
You can avoid reaching for the unhealthiest thing in your cupboard by prioritising and planning your food for the week.
Tip: Account for those nights where “you just can’t be bothered” by making a large batch of food and freezing it. You’ll thank yourself when you don’t have to pop down to your local take-out and are faced with unwholesome options.
Only Eat Foods You Love
When organising your food plan, only include meals that you genuinely enjoy eating. So often we align eating “healthy” with having to eat stir fry chicken and vegetables five nights a week. By day three, the idea of eating a box of chalk sounds better than chewing on another green bean. Keep it interesting and avoid food boredom by incorporating meals you’ve never tried, healthier versions of your favourite meals and assigning food days to your week, i.e. “No meat Monday”.
Put the Kettle On
Give your kettle a work out and recharge your energy with natural teas. Ginseng or green tea is an optimal solution for ingesting your daily antioxidants and protecting the body’s cells against damage. Start sipping on tea when you’re craving a soft drink; it will replenish your energy and keep you naturally buzzing for a lot longer than a can of coke.
Say No to Added Sugar
Natural sugars are unavoidable, but you can start to control your added sugar intake. It may be as simple as passing up on the two teaspoons of sugar you have in your morning coffee. The slower you ween off your sugar consumption, the easier it is to stay clear of it for good.
Fit Short Bursts of Physical Activity into Your Day
Research has shown that short bursts of activity or interval training can help you burn fat faster. But when you’re stretched for time, there are still little things you can do to increase your fitness levels. Some ideas include:
- Push ups or sprint up and down the stairs while waiting for the kettle to boil.
- Get off your bus one stop earlier or park a little further away and walk to work.
- Download the seven minute workout app and kick start your day.
- Chair yoga when you need a break from your screen
Embracing small habits is one of the best ways to improve your overall health and fitness. Go slow, don’t over-commit to too many habits at once and forgive yourself for any slip-ups. Good luck!