Everyone has been here before: starting a new diet then getting off-track a few days later, or signing up for a gym membership but never showing up. Motivation to get healthy is definitely difficult to muster, and you are not alone. Having a chronic disease like cough can be an added challenge to getting healthy. But no need to worry: here are some simple but effective ways how to stay motivated to be healthy by not only building healthy habits but maintaining them.
Shift Your Mindset
It has been said that a healthy body leads to a healthy mind. The converse is also true. The mind and body are linked, and often influence each other.
Have you ever noticed that when you are in a funk, your body feels heavy, sluggish, and tired? In the same way, when you are tired or sleep-deprived, you tend to be irritable, have more negative thoughts, and become easily distracted. When you are in this state, it is definitely harder to gather the motivation to eat healthy and work out.
However, it is important to zoom out and see the bigger picture.
Consider the long-term effects of your current habits. Sure, you can burn off the burger you just had for lunch. But what if you get stuck in that habit of not only eating junk food, but also putting off exercise? Do you see yourself eating processed foods, sugary drinks, and alcohol forever? What would that mean for your future health?
Putting things into perspective now will really get you thinking about your habits. Are your habits contributing to the achievement of your health goals? If your answer is no, then it is important to learn why your habits matter in the long run.
Be Conscious and Consistent
Starting a new healthy habit can be challenging. What makes it difficult?
Old habits tend to be “hardwired” in your brain.
On one hand, this is what makes habits so efficient because it reduces the effort and brain power needed to perform a task. But on the other hand, because it is automatic, you need to exert a conscious and consistent effort to change the behavior. This is basically what makes any kind of change difficult, but the great news is that the human brain can change and adapt if we choose to.
Here lies the importance of making conscious decisions. Instead of automatically scanning the menu for what you would normally eat, try to be more conscious and choose a healthier alternative. When you find yourself repeating the same mental script on whether or not you feel like going to the gym today, why not stay present and choose to make the decision to go?
These are just some of the ways you can “trick” your brain into starting a new habit. However, you need to be mindful and consistently choose healthiness.
Consistency is key
This cannot be stressed enough. You will realize, once you zoom out and assess the bigger picture, that your success is hinged on the healthy habits that you do every day. Consistently showing up to work out and choosing healthy food options will not only reach your health goals sooner, but it will also build your confidence and self-esteem.
This is not to say that you should totally deprive yourself. We all need that occasional slice of pizza or glass of wine. But, a good rule of thumb is to have everything in moderation.
By choosing to exercise, preparing your own healthy meals, and setting aside time for relaxation, leisure, and socialization, you can be assured of personal success. These small habits will all add up over time.
Map Your Success
Here is a step-by-step process on how to craft your personal health plan:
Select a goal
Choose the health goal that you truly want, not what you feel like doing in the moment.
Ask a Big Question
Do you have big dreams that pair with your goal? Do you want to climb Mt. Everest? Be able to chase after your grandchildren? These are just some of the questions you can ask yourself that will not only direct your efforts but also give you a motivation boost.
Pick One Choice for Change
Select a choice that feels like a sure bet. Yes, you want to lose weight, eat healthy, and exercise more often, but trying to achieve all three at once can be overwhelming. Break down your goals into smaller and more easily digestible parts. It is likely that fulfilling this first goal will make it easier to fulfil your second and third.
Make a verbal or written promise to yourself or another person. Holding yourself accountable can be a solid source of motivation for the days when you might have none. Be specific about your goal and how you plan to achieve it. For example, try “I am committing to my health by taking a 10-minute walk twice a week”.
Scout Out Easy Obstacles before They Are Problems
Make habits easier to build by making your environment conducive to success. Keep unhealthy food at the back of the pantry, or remove it altogether. Sleep in your workout clothes so you wake up ready to hit the gym. Keep your water bottle beside you throughout the day to stay hydrated.
A movie night, luxurious bath, or a nice drive out of town can be some of the ways you can reward yourself after hitting your health goals for the week. Try to avoid food rewards, as they might be counterproductive.
Feel free to tailor this plan to your specific needs. No one-size-fits-all in health, so it is best to plan with your own needs in mind. If you need help, you can consult your doctor or nutritionist/dietitian
Examples of Healthy Habits
Armed with this more realistic mindset, here are just some of the healthy habits you can adopt:
- Use makeshift gym equipment at home – If you are too busy to hit the gym, you can use a lot of the things you already have at home. Climbing up and down stairs can be a solid cardio workout. If this is too easy, you can add weight by filling and carrying jugs with water. No workout bench at home? No problem, you can use stairs or a sturdy seat at home for planks and triceps dips. A jump rope is also a simple but effective tool that you can use to burn calories.
- Drink an extra glass of water a day – Everybody knows that water has numerous benefits. Not only does it regulate your temperature, it also lubricates your joints, protects your spinal cord, and clears waste from your body through sweating and urination. The human body is about 75% water, so remember to keep your water bottle with you throughout the day to stay hydrated.
- Replace soda with infused water – Unflavored tea, coffee, or fruit-infused water are great substitutes whenever your sweet tooth is acting up. Realistically speaking, it is difficult to give up sodas cold turkey, but gradually lessening your sugar intake will do wonders for your body.
- Take a 10-minute walk – Do this whenever you can. At the office, take the bathroom farthest away from your desk. At home, keep your work area far away from your bed. Carving out time for a walk not only boosts your health, but also gives you a chance to mentally time out and rest.
- Go to bed half an hour earlier – Adequate sleep does not only give you a much needed energy boost, it can also drastically improve your mood and lower your risk of heart disease. It might help to switch off your phone and read a book, or dim the room so that you fall asleep sooner.
- Weigh yourself every week – If your goal is weight-based, measure it weekly. This will help average out daily fluctuations due to your most recent meal or how much water you have drunk that day. Ideally, you should do this at the same time on the same day every week. Be mindful of clothes since this can affect your weight; consider weighing yourself unclothed. If you have a medical condition, consult your doctor or dietitian to come up with a meal plan that can help you reach your goals.
- Start the day with a healthy breakfast – A high-fiber breakfast not only keeps you full, but gives you enough energy for the day ahead. It also lowers your risk of diabetes and improves heart health. Spice up a bowl of oatmeal with a different mix of fruits everyday. Add salsa, cheese, and eggs into a wheat wrap for a hassle-free burrito. There are endless possibilities and lots of healthy recipes you can find online.
- Include greens and lettuce in your meals – Try making salads a consistent side dish. Lettuce not only has just 20 calories per 100g, but it also keeps you full longer.
- Eliminate unhealthy foods – Take a good long look at your pantry, and get rid of processed food, sugary drinks, and high-fat items. Replace them with low-fat dairy, whole grains, and healthy oils.
Building healthy habits takes time. It is definitely alright to enjoy a treat every now and then. Be patient with yourself as you slowly get rid of the unhealthy food and habits that are holding back your health. It is comforting to know that anytime you get off track, you can also start again.