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One of the most common reasons people fail when trying to change their habits is that they don’t start small.  They immediately go all-in, changing everything all at once.  This sets them up for failure.  Initially, they will feel excited about all the changes they want to make, but within a week they start to feel pressure, and sticking with every single change feels impossible. So, they slip, then eventually they just stop, and nothing has changed.  They are back where they started.  Well, not quite where they started.  Now they also feel bad about themselves for failing to stick with what they committed to.

Does this sound familiar?  It’s almost impossible to make every change overnight.  So, you miss a workout or eat an unhealthy meal and it feels like a complete failure.  And soon you think if I can’t do all of it, there’s no sense doing any of it. So you quit. 

The better approach is to make a few simple changes to your day.  Building slowly over time and adding other healthy habits every so often will help to create the new lifestyle that you want in a relatively painless way.  This approach is one that you can stick to. So, make a plan.  Write down what you want to add.  Pick one or two and start there.  It will make it easier if you add a new habit in front of or behind an existing habit.  Example: drink your 1-2 glasses of water right after you brush your teeth.

Good healthy habits can make a big difference in your overall health and your life.

Here are some researched healthy habits that can change your life

1. Drink water first thing

This will help with your energy levels in the morning. When you are sleeping, your body is metabolizing and repairing muscles and tissues. You wake up dehydrated.  With dehydration, fatigue levels go up.  People reach for coffee first thing, which only dehydrates them more.  Just drinking one to two glasses of water first may give you more energy than drinking a cup of coffee.

2. Meditate for 10 minutes

Meditation can help reduce anxiety, improve immune function, and help reduce pain.  Especially it will help with mental clarity and a feeling of calmness.  Meditation can be daunting.  Go with an open mind. The first 16 sessions can be very difficult, but if you stick with it you will notice or feel or see the benefits.  So give it time.  Start with guided meditation which can help you stay on track through the process.  Two good apps are “Calm” and “Headspace.”

3. Be grateful

Things can seem to pile up, and for some reason we notice the negative more than the positive. Find at least 1 to 3 things each day to be grateful for and do it purposefully so that you are focused.  Write it down or tell a friend.  This will create optimism and give you a healthier outlook on life.

4. Go for a brisk walk outdoors everyday

It’s such a big booster to get fresh air, sunlight and to be out in the greenery.  Research shows exposure to greenery is good for health.  You can use the walk for a mood booster and, if you want, you can also incorporate it into one of your exercises.  World Health Organization (W.H.O.) guidelines are at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week.  A walk can count as exercise if you get your heart-rate high enough.  Use a heart-rate monitor and walk in your moderate heart-rate zone.

5. Do strength training at least 3 times per week 

The W.H.O. guidelines are muscle/strength/resistance activity at least 2 times per week.  As we age, we tend to lose muscle mass as a normal part of aging. Another part of aging is losing bone density.  Weight training can slow that process down and, if done properly, can also help with posture.

6. Eat “green” daily

Eat a variety of greens to get a variety of vitamins and minerals. One of the easiest ways to add greens is though smoothies; just don’t rely on them for all.

7. Eat at least 2-3 brightly colored fruits and veggies every day

You should strive for more. Different colors mean different phytochemicals which give different health benefits.

8. Listen to nature sounds or relaxing music every evening

This is a great way to wind down. Music has many health benefits. Especially reducing the stress hormone cortisol.

9. For brain health

Read or learn something new daily.  Your mind will feel sharper. As we age, there is a natural decline in our memory; mental stimulation slows that decline. So, read a book, learn new things such as a new language. There is an app called “Duolingo” that can help. Watch educational videos like TedEd. It’s all about keeping your brain engaged and stimulated.

10. Spend quality time with loved ones every day

You will feel more connected with no phones or technology. Cuddling with a pet or a person can release a cocktail of hormones in the brain including dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, all of which make good feelings. Oxytocin has been shown to decrease depression.  Cuddling can lower your blood pressure and heart rate.

11. Turn off phones and electronics at least one hour before bed

The biggest change will be better sleep.  Phones and electronics emit blue light which stimulate the brain to think it is daylight.  Blue light makes it harder for your body to produce melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep cycles. Try reading a book and drinking some yummy sleepytime tea, letting your body know it is time to wind down.

Hopefully, you’ve identified quite a few changes you can implement into your daily life.  We can all agree that making change and beginning healthy habits is a great idea.  Just start slow!  Gradually add habits. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Try to make it fun and look forward to it. It’s not about perfection.  It’s about effort.  And, when you bring that effort every single day, that’s when transformation happens. That’s how change occurs.

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