5 Healthy Habits That Will Actually Change Your Life

02/05/2017 08:14 pm ET
Incorporating an extra few minutes of stretching into your morning routine can be especially effective at boosting your energ
Photo credit: Christopher Campbell/Unsplash.
Incorporating an extra few minutes of stretching into your morning routine can be especially effective at boosting your energy levels, flexibility, improving your mood and posture, and reducing various aches and pains.

Have you ever heard a saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? Well, let me tell you that it’s a big, fat lie.

We are, indeed, creatures of habit and even a small change in our routines can often feel like walking through hell. But it is possible and, actually, easier than it first appears, to change your life for the better. That is if you know what you’re doing.

The most important thing we need to know about the human brain is that completely eradicating bad habits is almost impossible -- we need to replace them with something else. Something new and better but just as addictive as, say, smoking.

In his book “The Power of Habit: Why Do We Do What We Do and How to Change”, Charles Duhigg reveals how willpower is the single most important keystone habit for individual success. People who exercise their willpower every day and train it like a muscle see a tremendous positive change spill over into every aspect of their life, touching everything.

What at first might seem like a small win, an insignificant new habit or routine that we adopt can actually turn out to be an enormously powerful, life-changing accomplishment, reshaping everything we know about ourselves, the way we live and work.

Do you really want to change your life? Then start small, but start strong.

1. Morning stretch

Waking up feeling sluggish and tight is a common issue among those who are physically active as well as the self-proclaimed couch potatoes. It’s an unpleasant way to start a day, to say the least. If a morning gym session or a run in the park makes you pull the covers over your head, start from something less intimidating but just as beneficial -- morning stretch.

Incorporating an extra few minutes of stretching into your morning routine can be especially effective at boosting your energy levels, flexibility, improving your mood and posture, and reducing various aches and pains. A full body morning stretch will take you as little as 10-15 minutes but the positive impact on your health and mental state will last throughout the day.

Besides the fact that morning stretch can help you start the day energized and in a state of zen, it is also one of the best ways to improve your self-discipline. We have already established that willpower is a muscle that needs to be worked out and stimulated on regular basis to reach its full potential and lead us through change. The reservoirs of willpower are at their maximum levels in the morning and gradually deplete throughout the day, as we exert energy and self-control over our thoughts and behaviors. That’s why adopting a seemingly minor change in your morning routine and making the early morning hours count can not only have an astounding effect on your health and productivity but also cause some seismic shifts in your life.

So put the phone away and get stretching.

2. Prepare your own super smoothies

Another healthy habit that’s been making headlines in the past few years is smoothies. There are many reasons why smoothies are having a rockstar moment. As most of us struggle to consume enough fruits and vegetables every day, blending has become the go-to solution to fast-track our way to super nutrition. The zero-effort effect of this new trend is making healthy eating accessible and enjoyable to the busiest and the fussiest folk out there. Throw a cup of spinach, frozen strawberries, and a banana into your blender and voilà -- you have a punch of energy in a cup.

Thing is, we all know that there are many things we could do better or healthier yet we often don’t because of a simple reason. It is inconvenient and requires a lot of willpower. Even despite the studies indicating that blending helps our bodies access more nutrients, it’s often a hassle to make a smoothie due to high noise and lots of washing and clutter included afterward. Fortunately, the new generation of blenders like Millo is created with a user in mind. The most common pain points are addressed and solved to a level where making a smoothie is just as quick and easy as brewing a cup of coffee.

As the creators of Millo say, “a lot of people skip the healthy to have the easy”. But when healthy becomes just as easy, we’re really hard pushed to find a valid excuse for not eating well or skipping a meal because we’re too busy to cook. Combining this powerful habit with a quick morning stretch can lead to elevated energy levels, clearer mind and a better physique without you having to turn your life around.

It’s time to ditch the lousy habits and blend your way to a healthier, happier life!

3. Minimize stimulants: coffee, tea, alcohol

We’re all guilty of an occasional overindulgence in energy or mood-boosting stimulants like coffee, tea, energy drinks or alcohol. But getting head over heels with quick energy fixes is a dark alley to go down. Artificial stimulants are like roller coaster rides -- after exhilarating highs come valleys of deep lows that cause midday crashes, fatigue, and hormonal disbalance.

If you’re about to raise your hand and argue with me that a number of studies have connected caffeine with a boost in memory or that, like most drugs, it can pep us up by increasing the levels of feel-good chemical dopamine in our brains, don’t bother -- yes and yes, both facts are true. The issue with artificial stimulants is that they’re addictive, so losing control over how many cups or glasses of the magical elixir we consume is really very easy.

High doses of caffeine can cause jitteriness and nervousness as well as increase anxiety and panic attacks. Slowly reducing the number of coffees you have every day (you shouldn’t consume more than three cups a day) will help you to take back control of your energy flow without experiencing the annoying withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, fatigue, and headaches.

Swapping coffee with tea could relieve some of the discomforts that stem from going cold turkey on this deeply rooted habit. Although tea is also a source of caffeine that can provide a spike in energy, it doesn’t have the same jittery after-effects that are associated with coffee or energy drinks. Sipping a few cuppas of tea a day can help you stay alert and in a better mood without any of the long-term risks.

And if you really want to be the master of your own body and mind, replace the artificial stimulants with natural energy boosters, such as water, organic food, exercise, and vitamin D (sunshine!).

4. Cook your own food

Life tends to be hectic if you’re working full-time, pursuing personal passions or hobbies and have a bustling social circle to maintain. No wonder home cooking often takes a back seat, as we run around relying on sandwiches, fast food, and ready-made meals. But nothing screams “Help me!” louder than a fridge full of microwavable meals and takeaway boxes. It’s a slow death of the mind and soul!

Besides the obvious financial benefit that comes with ditching take-outs, cooking at home can turn your life around by helping you become healthier, happier and more productive. First of all, you have full control of the food you cook and consume, keeping your nutrition in check and cutting out unnecessary sugars and fats.

Learning about food, trying new recipes and creating meal plans will also contribute to jumpstarting your healthy lifestyle and developing new habits. As you start preparing your lunches and dinners, you will quickly learn which foods make you feel more energized and ready to tackle the day’s hurdles head on, and which put your digestion system under pressure and your mind to sleep. And if you’re really pressed for time, get that smoothie game on point to squeeze a good dose of fruits and veggies into your diet.

Only 57.7% of Americans regularly consume five servings of vegetables more than four days a week, denying themselves the essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber required to keep our immune system strong, detoxify from harmful chemicals and allow our bodies to function effectively. Insufficient consumption of fruits and vegetables and nutritious food, in general, leads to poorer mental performance, weaker immune system and decreased levels of energy. So, really, put down that burger and explore the adventurous world of cooking at home. Great things will follow.

5. Go hiking

For the world to be interesting, you have to pull your eyes off of the screen and start engaging with it.

Offering a ton of benefits, everything from sculpting and toning your muscles, to boosting your brainpower and activating your happiness hormones, hiking is probably one of the best outdoor workouts to get into. Studies show that spending time in nature makes people feel more alive, reduces stress and even helps to prevent depression. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst went as far as saying, "we know that just looking at photos of nature reduces stress". That explains every default desktop background image ever.

Unlike many other outdoor sports, such as bouldering or waterskiing, hiking is a low-gear activity. All you need to get started is a comfy pair of proper hiking shoes and a day bag. And whether you set out for a one-day hike or embark on a long-distance trek, the incredible sense of accomplishment, freedom, and happiness is guaranteed to overwhelm you as you reach the final destination and take in the views.

Mustering the willpower to tame this one habit can eventually change your entire life, as you become healthier, happier and more aware of your surroundings.

Conclusion

Transforming our habits requires incredible stamina, self-discipline, and vision. It’s an arduous, tiring journey but one that can help us unlock our true potential and find a new meaning.

A huge shift can be caused by the tiniest changes -- a regular morning stretching routine, followed by a super smoothie has the power to change the dynamics of the entire day and a weekly hiking trip in the forest can launch us into a happier, more fulfilling future that would otherwise be out of reach.

By boldly embracing the proven benefits of healthy lifestyle habits, we’re setting ourselves up for continuous, sustainable success and happiness. Is that not a good enough reason to try something new?

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