Tips for Achieving a Healthy Lifestyle
Do you want to be healthy… I mean down to your core healthy? If so, I’m here to let you in on a not-so-little secret. Your key to success for a healthy lifestyle doesn’t necessarily start with how many miles you run or walk, how much salad you eat for lunch every day or how many minutes you meditate in the morning. These and many more components all play important roles in a healthy lifestyle, but there’s one thing needed to bring it all together so that you can live your most vibrant and healthy life. Planning. That’s right, planning. It may not sound very sexy, but it’s where we all have to start and the place we sometimes have to come back to. That can be true even if you have a regular exercise routine in place but still aren’t feeling your best; you eat the healthiest of diets but still don’t have enough energy or you’re a master at mindfulness but can’t quite manage to get movement into your schedule. If any of this is true for you, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and come up with a blueprint for the healthiest you possible.
Jessica Martin-Brassington from over at Unprocessed Jess is a health and wellness blogger, health coach and busy mom. She also speaks from experience after having lost herself in trying to be all things to everyone. Fortunately for us, she reclaimed her health, found herself and her voice and is now helping other women find the healthiest versions of themselves.
She says, “whole health is way more than the food on your plate and looking great naked (even though it helps). It’s so much more than that. It’s addressing all the areas of our life – physical, our relationships, our work life purpose and our spirituality – because they’re all connected, and they affect the other in a negative or positive way.” I call this Integrated Living, she calls it Whole Health. Either way, we’re talking about the same thing and all of these factors are what a healthy lifestyle is all about. But planning is key.
“Health should be something that doesn’t wax or wane with the seasons of life. It should be something that’s integrated into your life regardless.” – Jessica Martin-Brassington
So where do you start? You have to prioritize. You have to put yourself first. This isn’t selfish or self-centered. It’s what’s going to take you beyond just surviving and skyrocket you to thriving. As Jessica cautions, “if you’re not okay, you can’t be the best version of yourself for your relationships or the roles that you serve.” I’ll admit, this is a tough one for me too, and I am completely a work in progress. But the minute you make the commitment to putting as much thought into how you’re going to make some time to exercise as you do into getting little Jimmy to soccer practice, you’re on your way.
Jessica recommends asking yourself why you’re doing the things that you’re doing that are taking away from yourself. Make a list of everything you’re doing in a day, from getting the kids up and out the door, to driving to and from work, to sitting and waiting for someone to finish an activity. This “where am I spending my time list” will help you see where your time is going and where you can or cannot add things in.
Big Picture – What’s Important to You?
You have to know where you are before you can know where you’re going. To help figure this out, Jessica, who received her health coach certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) has her clients do an exercise where they rate how satisfied they are in different areas of their life. This Circle of Life exercise was developed by IIN and covers a wide range of areas including spirituality, career, health, physical activity, home cooking and relationships.
I encourage you to finish reading this, do the exercise, then come back and go through the steps. There are no wrong or right answers, it’s simply a matter of trying to get you to start where you are. This gives you a visual depiction of areas you most need to work on or that are out of alignment. Are you skipping meals then going through the drive-thru because you’re too hungry and cooking will take too long? Are you not getting enough sleep? Are you sitting all day and not moving? These are the questions you need to ask yourself. See which areas you’re doing okay in and which areas are lacking. The areas that are lacking are the ones that you need to focus on adding more room for in your day. These should be included in a big picture priority list.
Time to be Realistic
The next step in planning for your healthy lifestyle is to make a list of all the things that have to be done each day. You can do this by going back to the list of how you’re spending your time and highlighting the things that absolutely have to be done. This probably includes but is not limited to kids, eating, work, errands, homework, etc. These shouldn’t be the things that you have to do because you signed up or volunteered for something. These are the things that you have no choice in. Jessica says this list should only include the things that are already “have tos” in your day, not what you think should be added. If you already consider exercising or cooking at home or other things like that as non-negotiable items, those should be highlighted on your list. The items you highlighted are going to be considered your “have tos.”
Scheduling Time for You – Crowding Out the Undesirable
Next, you’re going to look at everything that’s not highlighted on the list of how you’re spending your time. Are there things on there that you don’t really enjoy, that you find yourself complaining about, and that are taking away from your time to be healthy and that you truly don’t have to do?
Instead of serving on four PTA committees, can you cut back and serve on one? Instead of always being the first to take on extra projects at work, can you cut back and take on one every now and then? Jessica says one of the main things she has learned about being able to get healthy and stay healthy is how to say no.
She learned this the hard way but now puts herself and her health first. She talks about her daughter writing a paper for school where she described her mom as happy. Jessica says that certainly wouldn’t have been the case three or four years earlier. Would your children or spouse describe you as happy? Which is the better choice – to be an involved parent and role model for good health or to be someone who signs up for everything but is then miserable and complaining every step of the way?
Keep your answer in mind as you begin Jessica’s process of figuring out how you’re going to start crowding out the undesirable stuff with the components of a healthy lifestyle. This isn’t about being perfect, this is about starting where you are with realistic expectations.
Begin with a planner or blank online calendar. Then decide whether you’re going to start with two or three days or an entire week. Fill the items from your “have to” list into the planner or calendar. Then, figure out where you freed up some minutes from your list of how you’re currently spending your time, and look at your big picture list of items you want to be doing to feel good and healthy. Focus on the first one or two priorities at the top of your list. Whatever is most realistic for you. If your goal is to exercise five days a week, but you’re currently not doing anything, then figure out when you can exercise one to three times a week to begin with. If exercising for an hour seems unrealistic, start with 20 or 30 minutes. Once that becomes part of your routine, you’ll probably be able to find where you can fit in another one or two days or more time each day.
It’s the same with meditating or any kind of spiritual practice. If your goal is to work in something like that with your morning routine, start by waking up 15 minutes earlier. Or instead of spending 15 minutes on your phone first thing, use that time to get yourself ready for the day mentally.
Put these kinds of things into your calendar at the beginning of the week (many people find that Sunday is best for this) and plan for and around them. As you’re able to start fitting in one or two things each week, you’ll see how they are possible. You can then either build on them the following week or continue down your big picture list of priorities and keep adding in.
Once you’ve seen how this could actually work for a couple of days, Jessica recommends using Google Calendar to keep track of everything. This is a useful tool because it can be kept for just one person or shared with your spouse or entire family.
Whatever tool you use, this is how you’re going to crowd out the undesirable stuff and add in the things that are going to make you healthier, more engaged, more focused and better able to show up for the things that really matter. When it comes to your health, a little planning can go a long way – in fact, it can change your life.
Lean on Your Community
What are your health goals, and what two steps can you take to achieve them? You can reply in the comments section below or head over to the Peppermint Tea and Me Facebook page and leave your answers there. We’re all here to support each other, so let us help you. Also, let us know how you’ve identified ways that you can free up time for yourself so others can get ideas too.