With so many people committing to New Year’s resolutions right now, it’s the perfect time to talk about ways we can all create a healthier lifestyle. From diet and exercise advice to self-care and meditation practices, today’s wellness guide shares 9 expert tips from Doctors, healthy lifestyle authors, Psychiatrists, and other wellness practitioners on how to create a healthier lifestyle.
How To Create a Healthier Lifestyle
While you might be thinking about a complete lifestyle overhaul, sometimes the best ways to create a healthier lifestyle are by taking small steps over a long period of time. Rather than going on another crash diet or over-exerting yourself at the gym this month, if you truly want to make a big change in your life, you’re more apt to stick with your New Year’s resolutions is you adopt small, but significant, lifestyle changes. The key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is to make it a part of your daily routine.
Develop Better Eating Habits
Have you ever heard the phrase, “You are what you eat”? Well, essentially, it’s true. When you fill your body with junk, it can’t function properly, as it doesn’t have all the nutrients it needs to be healthy. That’s why developing better eating habits is an important first step toward living a healthier lifestyle. It’s wise to incorporate more fiber and nutrient-rich foods (like vegetables, fruits, lean protein, beans, and legumes) into your daily diet.
Erin Wathen, a Certified Life & Weight Loss Coach, Food Addiction Counselor and author of the book Why Can’t I Stick to My Diet? suggests that we adopt a healthy long-term food plan, rather than changing our diet for short-term results. She says, “Wellness is more than the number on the scale, it is our life as a whole. Look at going on a food plan as a lifestyle change versus going on a diet. We go on a food plan with the intention to stay on the foods without exception, even if we get to our goal weight. We go on a diet with the intention of going off. A lifestyle change is a different mindset, which is a complete game changer.”
Self-Care is Essential
Whether you’re taking care of kids, running a business, or working overtime at your job, you’re probably putting other people’s needs ahead of your own. While it’s admirable to help others, to prevent burnout, you’ll have to start making time for self-care. From pedicures and spa treatments to Pilates and yoga classes, you can practice self-care in a variety of enjoyable ways.
Dr. Wayne Jonas, MD, a practicing family physician, Executive Director of Samueli Integrative Health Programs, and author of the book How Healing Works says, “Self-care is critical to surviving, and even more so to thriving. This New Year’s, take some time to set a self-care goal. Think about one realistic thing that you can set today that will improve your relationship with yourself because when you are your best self, you can share that with your family.”
While eating good foods and exercising regularly are essential for living a healthier lifestyle, developing positive internal habits is equally as important. That’s why practicing gratitude not only will improve your attitude, it can also boost your sense of wellness.
Melissa Okabe, a Yoga Instructor in Los Angeles, California recommends practicing gratitude on a daily basis. She says, “Journaling about the things you are grateful for each day can help to actively focus your mind on the positive things that you have. Instead of ruminating on the bad things that happen to you in your day, or wishing things were different- this exercise helps to bring a perspective that there is always something to be grateful for in your day. When we approach life with a mindset of gratitude- it can enhance the feelings of joy and contentment in our lives.
Boost Your Health with Vitamins
Arielle Levitan, M.D. is a physician of internal medicine, the Co-Founder of Vous Vitamin and the author of The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear the Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health. As a believer in taking vitamins to boost one’s health and well-being, she says, “Many women are unsure about what vitamins to take to feel and look their best. Getting a personalized multivitamin based on individual diet, lifestyle and health issues is the best way to do so. Replenishing vitamin deficiencies helps you feel satiated to avoid binging on bad foods, and improves energy, focus and the ability to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle.”
Focus on Your Mental Wellness
While most people think of physical health as the primary focus for wellness, the truth is, mental wellness is just as important. Our brains have an important role in helping our bodies function optimally, which is why it’s imperative that we are mindful about our thoughts.
Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed. is a psychotherapist in Sarasota, FL who has over 30 years of experience helping patients improve their mental wellness. Since mental wellness is one of the keys to a healthier lifestyle, taking care of yourself starts within. She says, “No matter what the issue, big or small, make decisions by considering whether what you’re doing will make you proud of yourself or ashamed. Then only make choices that will make you feel proud of what you did and you will not only be taking excellent care of yourself, but you’ll feel proud all the time.”
Get a Better Night’s Sleep
While some folks boast about getting by on 4-hours of sleep, the truth is – most of us are sleep-deprived. Leslie Fischer is the founder of Sustainable Slumber, a website that is devoted to helping people get a better night’s sleep, which is one of the keys to living a healthier lifestyle.
She says, “With so many competing priorities in people’s lives, it is easy to put sleep on the backburner. But being well-rested is one of the biggest components of being a happy person! When you are well-rested, a couple of interesting things happen. The amygdala is the part of your brain that controls our emotions. This is responsible for tension, frustration, and fear. When you are well-rested, the prefrontal cortex keeps our amygdala in check. We may not be able to control everything in our life that causes stress, but being well-rested means your amygdala will process that stress in a way that is healthy and in control.”
Catch Up on Health Screenings
Most of us only see our Doctor when we’re sick or got a negative report on a health test. But, taking a proactive approach to our health is often a wise choice.
Lisa Doggett, MD, MPH, FAAFP is a Family Physician, Author, and the Medical Director of AxisPoint Health, population health management company. She says, “Checking in with your primary care doctor may not be your top priority, and it’s easy to put off, especially if you’re healthy. But staying up-to-date with screening tests for cancer and chronic diseases, like diabetes and hypertension, is very important and may even save your life. For all women, testing for cervical cancer (age 21 and up) and breast cancer (usually starting around age 45 or 50) is strongly recommended. All adults also should be screened for colon cancer (usually beginning at age 50), HIV, high cholesterol, diabetes, and other conditions, depending on your age and risk factors.”
Meditate Every Day
One of the easiest ways to live a healthier lifestyle is by meditating. Whether you spend time journaling, focusing on your present surroundings, or being mindful as you do deep breathing, meditating every day can help you de-stress and feel happier.
Natalya Fazylova is a Doctor of Nursing Practice, Associate Professor at the City University of New York, and the author of Health and Wellness for Busy Women. She says, “Meditation is often referred to as the art of being still; it is intended to purify your mind of thoughts that trigger your stress response—the reaction that keeps you in emotional and physical bondage. Meditation may help you achieve a state of self-awareness and tranquility, giving your body much needed rest and balance.”
Make Time for Recreation
With a greater emphasis being placed on developing more work-life balance these days, making time for recreation often seems to be a low priority for Type A, productivity-junkies. But health and wellness experts say that making time for recreation and doing activities we enjoy is one of the most important ways to live a healthier lifestyle.
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist and the author of several books including Busy Parent’s Guide to Managing Anxiety and Unlocking Parental Intelligence. She says “Recreation includes whatever gives you pleasure and relaxation. Remember downtime is essential for self-care, the one area we seem to forget in our busy working lives. It is essential for your mental health to reduce anxiety, ward off depression, and feel self-regulated which means tolerating frustrations, disappointments, unpredictable downturns in your work, all the while maintaining acceptance of your self.”