Updated: Apr 7, 2019
If you want to create a life that feels amazing—one where you have more energy, cultivate positivity and emotional wellbeing, sleep better, stress less, and fit in your clothes more comfortably, you’ll need to put some habits in place for healthy living. Eating well is a top habit for healthy living, but there are other important ones, too.
Think of your lifestyle as a stool with three legs. If one leg is shorter than the other two, the stool will feel imbalanced. Your lifestyle is similar. If you’re overly focused on one habit to the detriment of the others, you might not enjoy all of the benefits of healthy living. Don’t get me wrong—if you’re eating well, you’ll certainly get a lot out of that routine, but when you’re ready, you might want to put some attention towards some other healthy habits. Here are my top habits for healthy living plus tips on how to incorporate them into your lifestyle.
You knew this was coming! Eating well can rejuvenate your body and mind and help you stay youthful—both in terms of how you look and feel. I wrote extensively about the body and mind benefits of clean eating so if you need a refresher, check it out! Essentially, cutting way back on refined and sugary foods (the ultra-processed kinds) and embracing more whole foods will protect your memory, vision, skin, mood, gut, and more. If you want to take care of your body, you can’t skip this step. Since plants provide the substances that work this body-mind magic, consider ways you can eat more plant foods.
Embrace veggies and aim to have two cups at lunch and dinner. If that goal sounds a mile away, start with smaller steps. Aim to have at least one veggie with those meals, and see if you can find recipes that make that more exciting. (I have a free recipe booklet with meals and snacks you can make in under 10 minutes that will help you enjoy more of these gems! Grab your free copy here.)
Sprinkle plant proteins into meals and try a meatless meal every now and then. Plant proteins include pulses (the umbrella term for beans, peas, and lentils), nuts, seeds, and to a lesser extent, whole grains. You can find some tips on how to include them in your meals and snacks in my article for NBC News Better.
Reassess your convenience items to make sure they are based on whole food ingredients instead of artificial or overly processed ones.
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Find healthful ways to cope with stress
A top habit for healthy living is to learn how to manage stress better. Stress is an unfortunate part of life—there’s no getting around it. But you can control how you deal with it. Many people lean on less healthy coping strategies, like numbing stress with alcohol or other substances, skipping workouts because life feels overwhelming and too hectic to make time for physical activity, or by impulsively eating really rewarding but unhealthy foods to make those bad feelings go away. I’m a huge fan of meditation for stress reduction because it’s been shown to decrease levels of stress hormones and reduce impulsive behaviors, like overeating. It also improves sleep quality. Mindfulness can be practiced in a number of ways—you don’t have to sit on a pillow with your eyes closed saying OM.
Test out the STOP method. This is a simple yet effective way to develop more awareness. The acronym stands for Stop, Take a breath, Observe, Proceed. I like to practice this method when I’m outside. If you see a flower bed or budding tree, stop, take a couple of deep breaths (you can repeat IN and OUT in your head if that’s helpful), and then tune in to notice your surroundings. Observe what you see (colorful flowers, bright green grass, etc.) and feel (maybe a light wind or another physical sensation in your body). Then proceed—just go about your day. You can do this anytime or anywhere your mind needs a little break.
Practicing mindfulness is like giving the part of your brain that enables stress resiliency a workout so you’ll be better able to handle the usual overwhelm we all experience.
Establish healthy sleep habits
When you’re trying to live more healthfully, a top habit is to set yourself up to sleep better. Life will feel so much better when you sleep better! You likely know how crummy you feel when you don’t sleep well, but it goes beyond that: Insufficient sleep leads to more anger and irritability, increases your risk of injury during a workout, weakens your immune system so you catch everything that’s going around, alters your appetite-regulating hormones and interferes with your body’s normal calorie-burning process. The good news is there are many simple lifestyle hacks that can help you sleep better. Here are three:
Curb nighttime eating. If you’re routinely eating within a couple of hours of bedtime, you might want to address this habit. If you feel the need to snack that late into the night, it’s possible your meals aren’t filling enough, or that you’re snacking for reasons other than hunger. Try getting to the root of why you’re eating late at night and see if there are ways to finish eating at least two hours before you go to bed.
Eat more fiber.In one study, consuming too little fiber resulted in trouble falling asleep and less of the deep, restorative sleep you need to stay healthy. At a minimum, you need 25 grams of fiber per day, but most Americans get about half that much. Chia seeds, raspberries, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, black beans, and lentils are some top sources of fiber. If you’re routinely eating fruits, veggies, pulses, and whole grains, you’re likely meeting your needs. For some healthier, fiber-rich recipes, you can check out my article for NBC News Better.
Consider a magnesium supplement. This is one supplement most people need and there’s no harm in taking it unless you’re not choosing the right form. Some forms (namely, mg citrate) might induce a laxative effect or cramping, and that’s no good! I work with OMG! Nutrition because it’s a highly available form of magnesium (mg glycinate) that’s gentle on the GI system—and that’s so important to feeling amazing. For more on magnesium, check out my recent blog post.
Enjoy positive movement experiences
I’m talking about exercise here, but I phrase it that way because I want you guys to feel good about your exercise experiences. Creating habits for healthy living isn’t just about checking off the boxes. I said I want to help you create a life that feelsamazing and that means creating positive experiences with all of your healthy habits! Exercise is a fantastic way to manage stress better, keep your memory sharp, give you a metabolic advantage, and help offset diseases, like stroke, diabetes, and heart disease. But you’ll only benefit from exercise if you can make it a consistent habit so it’s super important to pick activities that spark joy. Sure, they might be challenging and feel like hard work, but they shouldn’t feel like torture. I’ve participated in many different activities throughout my life—running, spinning, yoga, boot camp, and Tabata, to name a few, and I enjoyed them all (except Tabata—I gave that up pretty quickly). But these days, walking and pilates feel best so that’s what I stick with.
Tend to your relationships
People who have healthy relationships tend to also be in better health. The science backs this up! How are you nourishing your relationships? If you haven’t given this a second thought in a while, you might want to think about it because it’s one of my top habits for healthy living. Creating a life that feels amazing means having good connections and a strong network of support. Here are some ways you can tend to your relationships to strengthen those connections.
Be present. When you’re with your family, be with them. We only have so many hours in the day to focus on things that matter to us, so if you find yourself checking emails or scrolling through social media while you’re with your family, you may not be focusing that energy well. When you’re online, be online. When you’re offline, be offline. One routine that works well in my house is to leave our phones down throughout dinner—even if they ring with calls or buzz with notifications.
Carve out time. You might carve out a date night with a spouse or a happy hour with a friend or even just phone your sibling, but the point is, you make time for the VIPs in your life.
Cultivate appreciation and respect.Sometimes life gets hectic and we forget about all of the ways our friends and family are there for us. Try to remember to thank them—even for small deeds—so that you continue to nurture those relationships. Did someone help you by picking up the dry cleaning? Even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal (it was on his or way and out of your way), show some gratitude.
These five habits for healthy living can help you create a life that feels amazing through and through! I’m excited for you to tap in to your more youthful and energetic self with more radiant skin, a strong body, and a sharp mind! My program, the 2 Week Refresh, offers tools, tips, and support to help you put healthy habits in place--for good! I also work through all of the pillars that support healthy eating and help you discover what works best for your unique body and lifestyle in my private practice. Click here to learn more or sign up for a free chat so we can get to know each other!