A past post covered the importance of understanding willpower, decision fatigue, and habits.
This leaves us with the question, “What else can I do?” with the end result of healthier living in mind.
The following suggestions all improve your well-being at little to no cost in terms of both time and money.
It’s also strongly recommended that you stay open minded about these suggestions as success in one area will lead to spill-over effect in another.
For example, we’ll look at meditation. Meditation is supposed to improve your mind and bring forth a sense of calm focus. Learning how to meditate made me mindful of how much food I was eating. Because of this, I would feel full with less food (and some people do claim that mindfulness with food also helps with efficient absorption of food). By eating less unnecessary food, my body fat decreased. Would you have expected to lose fat through meditation? I personally didn’t. I learned to meditate because of the other positive benefits. Long story short, keep an open mind. I’ve personally tried all of these suggestions myself.
It may be tempting to implement all these actions at once. Think back to Chimichanga and New Year’s resolutions. The more drastic the change, the harder it is to follow. It would feel like tearing your life down and trying to build everything again from the ground up. Even then, that doesn’t guarantee the possibility of returning to your bad habits.
A recommended way to approach this would be to work on one habit at a time. This ensures that you won’t be drastically changing your life and relying on willpower instead of an effective system. Chances are, you’ve got a lot going on in your life and it feels as if your health has to be lower priority for now. That’s completely understandable! No matter how busy you are, however, you’ll have time to make small, incremental changes until they become a habit.
A whole article can be written on any of these items, so I’ll expand on them in later posts. For now, let’s explore the actionable steps for each category.
Eating Healthy Food
Start by replacing one meal at a time with a healthier meal. I recommend that you start with breakfast for the first week, dinner for the second week, and lunch for the third week because people have much more control over what they eat for breakfast as opposed to eating lunch or dinner with friends. If you’re already eating healthy, then great!
Once you are consistently eating healthy, pick a day to binge and eat whatever you want. I usually binge eat on Saturdays because that means I get to binge on food with a few friends if we go somewhere to eat. To minimize negative effects, drink fruit juice (I prefer grapefruit, orange, or apple) before eating and take in some form of caffeine after eating. There’s a bit of long-winded science behind this but for now, just understand that fruit juice before eating and caffeine after eating works as damage control.
Start by making your sleeping space as dark as possible. This will help you sleep at night. Blue light from your phone and laptop also makes it harder for you to fall asleep at night due to preventing your body’s creation of melatonin. An app that you can download to turn off the blue light at night time is f.lux, which is free and works for both your laptop and your phone. There are also other options available.
Commit to getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night. This is understandably difficult to do sometimes, so do what you can here given your circumstances.
Try to sleep at the same time every night. If you can and enjoy taking naps, choosing to nap at the same time every day is also beneficial.
Come up with a routine to do before bed time. This will help you unwind and fall asleep, too. Maybe you enjoy reading before bed. You could also write a list of things you want to do the day after so that those tasks aren’t stuck on your mind and you don’t have to worry about forgetting them overnight.
Stick to 10-20 minutes per day. Everyone can make 10 minutes to do something. Consider downloading the trial for Headspace (I personally still use Headspace), which is one of the most effective meditation programs out there. If the 10 day trial doesn’t have you convinced, Tara Brach has free guided meditation tracks as well.
Note: Meditation doesn’t have to be a religious practice. Many high level performers in various fields have some form of meditative practice.
People can get results by working out in the gym as little as three times a week. If you’ve never worked out before, that’s one way to start. We’ll cover workout programming in another post.
You can also start by running once or twice a week. Be sure to increase your mileage gradually in order to reduce the likelihood of getting injured.
If you’re already doing some sort of physical training, well done! We will have more posts on effective training methods in time.
You already have fun activities planned out over the course of the week or month. One thing you can do is substitute some of these activities for physical stuff even if it’s just a walk. This way, exercise isn’t as strenuous.
The key here is to focus on having fun with the understanding that this activity will benefit you both physically and mentally. You don’t need to physically exhaust yourself completely in order to get results!
Try writing during the morning before you start your day or during the evening before you go to bed. This doesn’t have to take more than five to ten minutes.
You can get something done with as little as five minutes. Some may also find it therapeutic to write for longer.
You can even make your own journal. I suggest picking a notebook that you wouldn’t mind staring at for months at a time.
In terms of content, some items to write about include:
- Short term goals (such as 3 tasks you’d like to get done today)
- Long term goals (being reminded of your goals helps with achieving the goal)
- “What did I achieve today?” (if you’re writing at the end of the day, of course)
Chug some water as soon as you wake up.
Buy a cheap refillable water bottle and carry it with you so that you have a convenient water source to drink from with minimal effort.
Be careful with drinking a lot of water before sleep- it may disrupt your sleep by making you get up in the middle of the night to have to use the bathroom.
Cold showers are hard to get into the habit of doing, but you can get results from as little as five minutes in the shower. Another option is taking a cold bath with ice, but this requires time (and, of course, a bath tub). I used to do cold showers six days a week and allow warm showers on Sundays. You can get results with as little as three per week. They also get easier to tolerate over time, in case you were curious.
One way to do this is to turn your back to the shower and count 100 seconds, turn one side to the shower and count 50 seconds, turn your other side to the shower and count 50 seconds, then turn your front to the shower and count to 100 seconds.
Also to note- cold showers burn serious calories, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself having to eat more. Keep the food healthy for best results!
A Few Final Suggestions
Some of these items are easier to implement than others. Depending on your current habits and what your body personally needs, some of these items will benefit you more than others. If you are choosing to try several of these improvements, then the order doesn’t matter a whole lot.
I’m not a doctor and don’t pretend to be one, so if you have any pressing concerns, you can consult a doctor before trying something out.
Stick around for individual posts on each of these items!