We all know we need to develop them, but sticking to them? That’s the tricky part. Studies suggest that forming a new habit can take at least 66 days (or two months) before the changes take effect and become more automatic.
But we all know that the best defense is a good offense, right? So, how can we make healthy habit-forming easier in our always-on, busy culture?
That means eating a well-balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, etc., and pairing that with healthy proteins—beans, nuts, fish, or poultry. We should also aim to get 30 minutes of vigorous exercise five days per week—yes, you read that right! And Dr. Bhuyan says supporting our mental health is key to overall wellness which includes managing stress through things like mindfulness or medication, as well as getting enough sleep every night (around eight hours) in a space that is unconnected to too many devices.
Sound overwhelming? It doesn’t have to be.
Keep reading to find seven simple ways you can form healthy habits and hit your wellness goals one at a time.
Keep a Bottle of Water Nearby with Your Daily Intake.
Okay, so we all know we’re meant to drink more water but it’s not always easy. And the jury is still out on how much we’re supposed to drink each day, too. According to Dr. Bhuyan, It depends on several factors including your weight, activity level, how much fluid you are getting from foods, and more. “While everyone has heard the eight glasses of eight ounces of water as a rule of thumb, that may be too little or too much for some people,” she notes.
The Institute of Medicine advises men to drink 101 ounces of water per day, while women consume 74 ounces, which is a little over nine cups. Another approach is to drink a half to one ounce of water for every pound you weigh. The most important thing is to stay regularly hydrated throughout the day before you feel thirsty.
If adding flavor to water will help people stay hydrated, that is better than not drinking water. But if you can drink water, it’s better because even zero-calorie sweeteners have mixed evidence about their health impacts. Hydration tabs are fine to use only if you are having vigorous workouts and need to replenish electrolytes.
Swap Out Your Diet Soda for Carbonated Water.
If you’ve always wondered if carbonated water is just as quenching as regular H20, then today you’re in luck sparkling water is just as hydrating as regular or still water. However, due to the added carbon dioxide, your body absorbs the liquids in slightly different ways. Regular (still) water gets absorbed by the body faster than carbonated water but the gas that gives seltzer its pop separates from the actual water when it gets into your belly. As a result, both are equally hydrating.
But here’s the caveat. Some people might feel fuller on sparkling water which means they may actually drink less water overall. On the other hand, some people find sparkling water more appealing, so in that case, they’re more likely to keep drinking it and stay hydrated throughout the day. Just be mindful of the bubbles in carbonated water as they can be the sneaky cause of bloating. Of course, sparkling water is a good option for people who are trying to cut back on soda so adjust your healthy habits to suit you.
Invest in Preventative Care.
If there’s one healthy habit you should invest in, it’s preventative care. Taking care of your health both mentally and physically is the key to detecting disease and illness before it becomes serious. But when you have a lot of balls in the air—work, parenting, relationships—it can be challenging to find the time to see a healthcare professional let alone book the appointments. And let’s face it, no one needs more stress.
Move Your Body Five Days a Week.
How much exercise should we incorporate into our daily routine and what type?
According to Dr. Bhuyan, 30 minutes of vigorous activity five days a week is recommended for optimal health and wellness. “This means your heart rate should increase and you should have trouble speaking,” she adds. “While walking Fido while chatting on the phone is good for cardiovascular health, it’s better to have a more vigorous activity to see the maximal benefit.” And for people who sit at a desk all day, Dr. Bhuyan advises a walking pad and standing desk or take frequent breaks to incorporate movement.
Improve Your Posture.
We can only imagine how many of you instantly sat up straight and put your shoulders back after reading this line. Improving our posture can improve our health, too because it can protect you from injuries, especially during exercise. Good posture also helps with flexibility and muscle tone. There is also emerging evidence that good posture is helpful in maintaining attention and productivity.
Go to Bed and Wake Up at the Same Time Every Day.
Going to bed at the same time every night can help you fall asleep faster, boost performance, and make you happier. It helps your internal circadian rhythm. Adults should get more than seven hours of sleep while teens should get more than nine hours. Practicing mindfulness and stress management can also help with restful sleep.
So, how do we make it a healthy habit? The key step is removing electronic devices from the bedroom. This includes phones and laptops. Many people spend hours scrolling aimlessly on their phone prior to bed and this should be avoided. Finally, the bedroom should be reserved only for sleep and sex, not work.
Eat More Greens and Fiber.
Culturally, we tend to focus on the excessive amounts of sugar, salt, and calories we’re eating but there’s one superfood we’ve been neglecting to eat: fiber. In fact, only 5% of Americans are meeting the Institute of Medicine’s recommended daily target of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. In fact, it’s so dire, nutritionists are calling it the “fiber gap.” Eating more greens and fiber is essential to a healthy diet—we’re talking better gastrointestinal health and a reduced risk of heart attacks, strokes, high cholesterol, obesity, type 2 diabetes, even some cancers.
So, how do we build healthy eating habits when we’re busy and don’t have time to cook or prepare a meal on the go? “Eating healthy doesn’t have to be time-consuming—it just takes a little planning. For example, throw some beans on a salad for fiber. Add some fruit to oatmeal in the morning. When making choices, swap out white refined carbs for alternatives: zucchini spaghetti instead of spaghetti, cauliflower rice instead of white rice, etc.
What healthy habits or lifestyle changes have improved your wellness?