A New Year brings about a wonderous, fresh start. It is the time to forgive the past and move onto a new and exciting future. Hence, New Year’s resolutions are on most of our minds right now. And, besides weight loss and financial goals, healthy living is one of the top resolutions every single year. But very few people, only 8% in fact, follow through with their resolutions as time ticks by. Part of the reason is that these people don’t refine their goals and they don’t develop a plan to achieve them. So, let me tell you my 3 simple steps to a Healthy Living Plan.
Turn Your Goals into Your Reality
I previously wrote about turning your dreams into reality with goals, not resolutions. In that article, we talked about turning goals into SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. But you also need to be passionate about your goal, clarify the direction you want to go, take action, and make the effort to see your goals become a reality. SMART goals are great, but you need the drive to get behind them and make them a reality. And this is what I want to expand on today. I want to talk about how you can create your healthy living plan for the New Year and make it happen.
What is Healthy Living?
Before you start a healthy living plan, you need to be specific about what that plan will include.
There are 3 key principles to healthy living:
- Healthy, Balanced and Clean Eating
- Being Active and Daily Exercise
- Practicing Self-Care and Mindfulness
Include Clean Eating in Your Healthy Living Plan
The first key to a healthier lifestyle is to focus on what you put in your body. Once you start making better food choices, you will feel better and have more energy.
An important aspect of a healthy diet is eating mostly non-starchy vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and brussels sprouts. Drinking enough water and eating lean proteins and fats are also vital steps towards healthy living.
Getting enough fiber and resistant starches will also help establish good gut bacteria and help improve your immune system and overall health. These healthy food categories include whole grains, sweet potato, oats, banana, chickpeas, and lentils, among others.
If weight loss is your goal, avoid depriving yourself of food. This just puts your body into starvation mode and messes up your metabolic hormones. Instead, try to eat when you are hungry and stop when you feel full. Any food, even healthy foods, should be eaten in moderation to avoid excess calories, overeating and weight gain.
Include Being Active in Your Healthy Living Plan
It is not always easy to find the time and energy to commit to being active. You want to exercise, but it’s hard when you’re too tired or very busy. If you’re like most people, you’re probably feeling like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. But, it’s important to prioritize your health and take care of yourself.
People ask how I find time to run every day. The truth is, I just do it. There is no secret sauce. I make it a priority and commit to getting it done each and every day. I have for over 4 years now. Some busy days, I only run for 15 minutes. Other days, when I have more time, I will run longer. I do this daily cardio exercise because it is important to me. My health is important to me.
Being active is an important part of your healthy living plan. And it doesn’t need to be hard to fit into your day! Ultra-short workouts scattered through your day, called Exercise Snacks, can be just as effective as longer workouts in the gym.
To start, set small, easier goals for yourself in these three areas: cardio, strength training, and flexibility. One activity may include one, two or all three of these. For example, yoga incorporates both strength and flexibility with the different poses. Bonus, right?!
The next step is to find activities that you enjoy doing and stick with it for several weeks. As time goes on, you will be able to push yourself harder and harder until you meet your bigger goals.
The most important thing is just getting started! So, committing to start is your first step.
Include Self-Care and Mindfulness in your Healthy Living Plan
Self-care is a deliberate practice of taking care of yourself in a healthy and balanced way. It promotes the idea that you have the responsibility for your own health, and that self-care is essential to your well-being.
Self-care and mindful meditation will help you feel calmer, clear your mind, lower your stress levels, increase focus, and feel more grounded in your body. It will move you towards self-acceptance and self-kindness. Mindfulness affects body, mind, and spirit to help you feel balanced and in control.
We all need to take time for ourselves and balance our lives with both work and play. This can be challenging in many ways, but one of the most difficult is finding the time to do it.
The following are some tips on how you can easily make self-care a part of your daily life:
- Take 5 to 10 minutes a day for meditation and breathing exercises: It’s not enough time to disrupt your day, but it will help you stay calm when you’re feeling overwhelmed or frazzled.
- Keep a journal to jot down your thoughts and feelings in writing. You don’t have to keep them bottled up inside. Putting negative thoughts to paper can help free your mind of these worries and fears.
- Find creative outlets such as painting or drawing. Creativity is very grounding and healing when you are feeling down or stressed out.
- Read a good novel or watch a funny movie. Escape your cluttered thoughts for an hour or so on the weekends when you have more time to indulge in some entertainment. This can help release your happy hormones and relieve stress.
Take the 31 Day Healthy Habits Challenge
If you are not sure what to include in your healthy living plan, why not take my 31-day healthy habits challenge to learn some easy ways to make your life healthier. You may be surprised by the simple things you can do to improve your health.
Your healthy living plan does NOT need to look like an Olympic athlete’s training schedule. The best way to achieve a healthy lifestyle is to take it one day at a time and incorporate small changes in your life over time.
It may seem like there are many things that need to be changed all at once to achieve your goal of living a healthier lifestyle. It can seem overwhelming. But the fact is that you only need to focus on one or two little things each day. You don’t need to deny yourself of things you like to eat. You can still eat your comfort foods. And your exercise can certainly be things you enjoy doing.
Step 1: What do you WANT?
The first step towards developing a healthy living plan is to get clarity on what you want your healthy life to look like. Be specific and add details. Break it down into basic parts and steps. This will help you find a workable diet for you as well as a realistic schedule for fitness and mindfulness activities.
Perhaps your healthy living goals might include:
- Getting more sleep
- Eating nutritiously
- Losing weight
- Working on mental health
- Reducing stress
Answer the following questions in Step 1 of developing your Healthy Living Plan:
- What are my goals?
- What are my priorities?
- Why did I choose these goals and priorities?
- What are the basic components to my priorities?
- What steps are needed to achieve these goals?
- How can I make my goals more specific and measurable?
- How will I know when my goal is reached?
Step 2: What CAN you do?
The second step in developing a Healthy Living Plan is review your goals and determine what you CAN do. Successful people determine if they have the means to achieve their goals, plan for obstacles and consider how they can overcome them.
For example, you might have the goal of exercising every day, but you know that your schedule is busy. Sometimes it’s hard to find a specific time that fits. If your plan is that you will only go to the gym if you have time, then that is unlikely to be a successful plan. Instead, consider a plan that has you looking at your calendar each and every morning, perhaps over a healthy breakfast, to schedule in your daily exercise. This gives you more flexibility in your day-to-day schedule. It becomes easier to stick with this goal. And there is no contingency for NOT exercising in a given day.
This step is also about identifying the obstacles that prevent you from reaching your goals. The key to this step is being honest with yourself. Attempt to understand any reasons that might prevent you from reaching your goals. For example, maybe you don’t have the ability, confidence, or finances to make the healthy changes you want.
Once you have identified any obstacles, try to find ways to overcome them. For example, if your goal of going to the gym is financially unrealistic, then perhaps you could do some body weight exercises at home instead.
Answer the following questions in Step 2 of developing your Healthy Living Plan:
- Can I realistically achieve my goals?
- Do I have the means to achieve these goals?
- What obstacles are in my way to achieving my goals?
- Can I modify my goals to be more achievable?
- How can I overcome the obstacles that are in my way?
Step 3: What WILL you do?
The third step in developing a Healthy Living Plan is figuring out what you will do. Will you eat salads every day? Do you truly like eating salads? Will you start running? Do you even like to run?
So, keep in mind what you are actually willing to do when developing your New Year healthy living plan. It’s not just about figuring out what to eat and do, but also about how to work it into your schedule. Keep your personal preferences in mind. And don’t do something just because a friend or neighbor says it worked for them. Find what will work for you. What are you willing to put your efforts into?
There’s no point on including something you hate to eat or hate to do in your healthy living plan. Instead, figure out what things will be easiest for you, what healthy things you like to eat, and what exercises you enjoy. Write these things down as part of your healthy living plan so that they easily become habits, and not just failed plans that sit on your refrigerator making you feel guilty.
Answer the following questions in Step 3 of developing your Healthy Living Plan:
- What am I willing to do now and until I reach my goal?
- Is this plan enjoyable for me?
- Can I sustain this activity or diet for the rest of my life?
- How easily will I fall back into old habits if I start this plan?
- Can I modify my plan to develop this into a life-long healthy habit?
Putting Your Healthy Living Plan into Action
It’s time to put your plan into action. Now that you have reviewed your goals, prioritized them, and identified any potential pitfalls, it is time to make changes. Are you ready to live your healthier life?
You have set your priorities. Perhaps this is adding more vegetables or fiber into your diet. Or perhaps you want to start exercising more. Next, the key is figuring out what you need to do first in order to live healthier so that you can have a happier life.
Now, Do the First Thing!
Healthy living is about making manageable changes in your life that will benefit your health. Winning at this is not about getting everything done at once. It is a life-long process of continual improvements along the way, tweaking your habits here and there towards a healthier you. But you need to start somewhere. There are a few ways you can approach this.
The first thing you change may be the most important habit you need to build, perhaps something that needs immediate attention. For example, if you are diabetic, you may need to cut back on added sugars, soda pop, and juices. Is there something on your list that is urgent or will make the biggest impact on your health?
Your first thing may also be the one thing that excites you the most. Maybe that is taking those dance classes you always wanted to take? Or maybe you want to join a walking club to meet new people while exercising? If it excites you into taking action and starting your plan, then that may be your first thing to do.
Your first change could also be an easier goal that will give you a timely, small win. The psychological effect of this is that you gain more confidence and motivation to make the other healthy changes you have planned out. What is the one thing that will have you saying . . .
“Yes, I can do this!”
Now all that is left to do is do the first thing.
I wish you well on your new and exciting healthy journey.