5 Healthy Habits That Are Simple and Start at HomeJune 3, 2020 - Katie McCallum
Forming healthy habits is hard. Maintaining them may be even harder. We all want to be the very best versions of ourselves that we can be, but it isn't easy.
On average, it takes about two months to form a new habit — but ultimately, it ranges anywhere from weeks to months, depending on the particular habit you're trying to form.
And between the fast-paced lives we lead and the seemingly constant grabs at our attention, desires and taste buds, keeping up with a healthy habit can sometimes seem almost impossible. You may feel great about how committed you are to making it to yoga every morning, yet also feel guilty about dropping off the Whole30 diet after only a few days.
Rather than overcomplicating healthy habits to the point where you're left with a laundry list full of lofty goals you know you'll never meet, consider starting with healthy habits that take only a few adjustments to your everyday routine.
Here are five healthy habits that are easy to start at home, as well as tips for helping you stay on track.
1. Move more and sit less
Whether working out is something you look forward to or something you dread, you probably can't deny that exercising just makes you feel better. Not only does exercise give you an energy boost and help you manage your weight, it also reduces your risk of several health conditions and improves your mental well-being.
But staying active doesn't just begin and end with the 30 minutes you dedicate to your workout. It also means reducing the amount of time you're sitting all day.
You can't — and probably shouldn't — exercise all day. But you can make an effort to stay active throughout the day while still getting your work done.
Here are a few ways to move more and sit less:
- Park at the back of the parking lot
- Take a five-minute walk
- Use a standing desk and shuffle from side to side if you work at a computer
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Walk to nearby stores and restaurants
2. Set yourself up for sleep success
You already know what happens when you don't get enough quality sleep — you're low on energy, you can't concentrate, you're less productive and the list goes on. Lack of sleep actually affects more than how you feel the next day. Over time, insufficient sleep affects your overall health and can lead to a variety of chronic health conditions.
But there's a lot more to getting a good night's sleep than just going to bed on time or keeping your room dark.
Here are tips for improving your sleep:
- Train your brain and body by sticking to a consistent sleep schedule
- Keep your bedroom quiet, dark and cool
- Use your bed for sleep, not for watching TV or reading a book
- Limit afternoon naps and caffeine
- Avoid alcohol and screentime before bed
- Exercise regularly
3. Stay hydrated
We all know how easy it is to grab another can of soda or cup of coffee instead of another glass of water. With the wide array of beverages available these days, water always seems like the boring option.
Your body relies on water to perform a laundry list of vital tasks, including supporting your brain function, helping circulate blood throughout your body and regulating your body temperature. Since you're constantly losing water throughout the day as you breathe, sweat and use the restroom, it's critical that you replace the water you lose.
Here are tips for staying hydrated:
- Know how much water you need to consume every day
- Make drinking a glass of water part of your normal routine
- Carry a water bottle
- Try unsweetened sparkling water or flavor your water by adding fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs
- Track your water intake using an app
- Choose hydrating snacks, such as cucumbers, celery, strawberries or watermelon
- Distribute your water intake throughout the day (playing catch up at the end of the day doesn't negate the fact that you were dehydrated all day)
4. Pack in the fruits and veggies
According to the CDC, we're not eating enough fruits and vegetables. In fact, only 9% of Americans meet the daily vegetable intake recommendation. If you're thinking that we're doing better with our fruit consumption, we're not. The same report found that only 12% of Americans eat enough fruit every day.
The USDA's My Plate (aka, the food guidance system that replaced the food pyramid) suggests that half of our plates be filled with fruits and vegetables. Answer honestly: Can you even remember the last time half of your plate met those guidelines (other than when eating a salad)?
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables comes with important health benefits, including weight management and a reduced risk of many chronic health conditions. The reality is that if you're not eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, you're missing out on the health benefits they provide. It also may mean you're filling up on calorie-dense foods or ones that are heavily processed — which, when eaten in excess, can come with health disadvantages.
Here are a few ways to get more fruits and veggies into your meals:
- Reduce veggie burnout by exploring the produce aisle and embracing variety
- Learn the various cooking methods and seasonings that make vegetables taste good
- Make more veggie-packed meals, such as salads, stir-frys and soups
- Get creative and replace carb-heavy food items with veggies
- Keep frozen or canned vegetables on hand
- Tempt your sweet tooth by placing a fruit bowl somewhere you can see it
- Stroll a farmer's market as healthy inspiration
5. Reward yourself the right way
After a long week of work, a hard workout or some other goal or challenge you've met, it's natural to want to reward yourself. Rewards are important. A reward makes you feel good, encourages you to continue to make good choices and, frankly, you deserve it.
But if the reward you choose is inherently unhealthy, is it truly a reward? Whether it's eating an entire family-size bag of chips, drinking two too many glasses of wine or binge-watching TV all weekend, not all rewards are actually rewarding to your body and brain.
Rather than overdoing it on unhealthy indulgences, consider making your reward something that you not only enjoy, but are grateful for. It could be a person, a pet, a hobby or just some nice weather — whatever it is, invest your time there as your reward. For instance, if you're grateful for your husband and your quiet backyard, give yourself a guilt-free hour to sit outside with him and a glass of wine while he grills dinner for the two of you.
A lot goes into forming and maintaining healthy habits. By starting small and choosing habits that are easy to stick to no matter where you are, your likelihood of making healthy choices — day in and day out — greatly increases. And be sure to give yourself plenty of leeway as you're forming healthy habits, making sure you're not packing on the guilt when you make a misstep.
Remember, moving for just 10 minutes is better than not moving at all. Going to bed late now and again happens. Replacing even just one can of soda with a glass of water is progress. Ordering a burger instead of a salad doesn't mean your diet is out the window. And rewards are important, as long as you keep them healthy or indulge in moderation.
Regularly seeing a primary care physician is part of a healthy lifestyle, too
A primary care physician can help give you specific guidance on how to achieve and maintain the healthy habits above. Your Houston Methodist primary care doctor is here to see you conveniently and securely, virtually and in person.
- Need a primary care physician? Find a primary care office near you.
- Is it time for an appointment with your primary care doctor? Schedule online here.