We all have behavioral habits — actions that we take every day. Whether it’s brushing your teeth, drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning or a mid-afternoon sweet snack, your daily actions can contribute to your overall health and well being.
A habit can be broken down into three parts. First, there’s a cue — a trigger in your internal or external environment to take action. Then there’s the action, which is followed by the reward.
If, for example, you find that you’re regularly reaching for sugary treat in the afternoon, the trigger might be that you’ve skipped lunch, or you simply want to take a break from work or study. It might feel like the easiest solution is to take a few minutes out by reaching for sweet processed food to snack on. Your reward then comes in the form of a sugar hit.
As much as these actions become habitual, there are always many choices available to you. If all of your habits add up to create your lifestyle, it’s worth focusing on healthy habits that will help you to feel your best!
What are healthy habits?
Healthy habits are the actions you take every day, often without thinking about them, that improve your health.
You may have many daily habits that you don’t even consider because they are so much a part of your routine. Some of these may help to improve your wellbeing, others might not.
Ultimately, your daily habits are a choice! While it is not easy to change a less healthy habit, it is definitely possible.
Try these habits to improve your health
If you haven’t been feeling like the best possible version of yourself, you can change your behaviour to choose actions that will make you feel better. Start with small actions that match up to the cue of the habit you want to change.
Here are some healthy habits that may help to improve your health, fitness, and overall wellbeing:
Healthy eating habits
It’s so easy to grab “convenience food” as we rush through our busy lives, without considering the impact this can have on our health. Establishing healthy eating habits can give you more energy overall, as well as helping to make your training more effective.
Here are a few healthy eating habits you can implement:
1. Carry a water bottle
Staying hydrated is important for your digestive health, your skin, and your fitness too! If you carry a water bottle, you’ll be reminded to drink regularly, and you won’t be tempted to purchase a less healthy drink to satisfy your thirst.
2. Have healthy snacks on hand
When you’re training regularly, you may find that you get hungry more often! Making sure you have a healthy snack like a handful of almonds, a piece of fruit or a bliss ball on hand can prevent you from heading for the vending machine.
It takes a small amount of forward planning to put a snack into your bag for the day, but it’s totally worth it when you do get hungry!
3. Buy fruit and vegetables
It’s much easier to make a healthy choice when you have one in the fridge ready to go. When you are at the supermarket, make a point of going to the fruit and veg section at every visit.
Even if you’ve just popped in for milk, pick up a piece of fruit or a vegetable snack while you are there! This means when you are hungry or preparing your next meal, you’ll have nutritious ingredients ready to include.
1. Cook new recipes regularly
Try to make one new recipe each week — you might find something that you enjoy! It’s easy to get into the habit of making the same meals each week, but this can get boring and you could even be missing out on important nutrients found in a wider variety of foods.
While making healthy food choices is important, it’s equally important to enjoy your food.
2. Healthy sleep habits
Sleep is so essential for workout recovery but also for many other factors including your immunity, ability to concentrate and mental health. You can create habits to improve the quality and amount of sleep you get each night.
3. Set an alarm to prepare for bed
It’s easy to get caught up finishing off tasks or watching a Netflix series and before you know it, it’s hours past the time you intended to get to bed.
Try making yourself accountable by setting an alarm to start preparing for bed. This might sound counter-intuitive, but the time that you go to bed is just as important as the time that you want to get up!
4. Include exercise in your day
Getting exercise each day will help you to sleep better at night. Exercise produces a range of hormones and endorphins that can improve your overall wellbeing, facilitating a better night of sleep.
Healthy lifestyle habits
Your thoughts shape your actions, so it’s also important to focus on how you can make healthy thinking part of your day.
1. Practice discipline
While you won’t always feel motivated to do a workout or choose a healthy meal over a less healthy one, you can use discipline to reinforce the choices that bring you closer to your larger goals.
2. Be grateful every day
Expressing gratitude can be an effective way to boost your mood and help you to maintain a positive mindset. Practising gratitude doesn’t take a lot of time or effort and it has been shown to positively affect relationships and overall wellbeing — why not give it a shot?
3. Start a mindfulness practice
A mindfulness practice can help to keep you grounded when life gets stressful. There are lots of different ways that you can practice mindfulness and meditation, so try a few to see what suits you best.
4. Maintain a positive mindset
It’s not always easy to stay positive when you experience a setback. Treating setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow can help you to stay positive and bounce back faster.
If you have an injury, you might need to find a training style that’s safe for you to do while it heals. If you get sick, use this as an opportunity to catch up on books you want to read or podcasts you’d been meaning to listen to.
Healthy exercise habits
You don’t have to put aside a lot of time to exercise. A 2020 study by Harvard University in the US found that moderate to vigorous exercise for just 30 minutes a day is one of the key habits that can improve your overall health, and help to prevent lifestyle diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
Finding time for fitness when you lead a busy life can be challenging, but it’s worth it. Here are some fitness habits to strive for:
1. Warm-up and cool down
When you’re pressed for time, skipping your warm-up and cool down seems like a way to save time. However, taking five minutes for your warm-up and cool down is important to help reduce the risk of injury as well as ensure your body is ready for the workout ahead.
Your warm-up prepares your neuro-muscular system for exercise, so it’s important not to skip it! Cooling down is also important to return your body to its resting state gradually. Your cool down helps to regulate blood flow as your heart rate slows and helps to prevent possible dizziness.
2. Do strength training
Building lean muscle has many benefits that include improving your metabolism, increasing strength and muscle tone.
3. Make time for cardio
Not everyone loves to do cardio, but it is worthwhile! Try combining low-intensity cardio with something else on your to-do list by commuting to work or using the time to catch up with a friend.
4. Stretch and recover
Your workout recovery is just as important as your workouts are. You can speed up muscle recovery with active recovery sessions and timely rest days. Resistance training puts stress on the muscles, breaking down tissue and stimulating repair and growth that ultimately makes the muscle stronger.
That’s why it’s important to have a post-workout snack and allow time to recover between workouts. If you follow a workout program, make sure it includes regular scheduled rest days.
No matter what health and fitness goals you set for yourself, there are healthy habits you will need to put in place to reach those goals. To make a lifestyle change that sticks, you’ll need to make small, sustainable changes.
When you want to implement a new habit, connect it to a cue that already exists in your day, and make sure there is a reward that will help to reinforce that habit.