Leading a healthy, balanced lifestyle is more than just having a healthy weight and quitting bad habits. It’s totally possible to have a healthy lifestyle with an emphasis on balance.
When you do what makes you happy, as well as healthy, you’re more likely to stick with it. It’s time to do more of what you love – and less of what you don’t! – to improve your health and lifestyle.
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Stay Active to Improve Health, Body, and Mind
We can’t stress the importance of exercise enough.
It’s way more than just a way to keep your body in good shape or to lose weight.
Exercise has power over your mind and body to improve your health in a variety of ways. Here’s how to make exercise work for you for overall health benefits:
1. Get a Workout Partner to Stay on Track
If you’re not a fan of exercising – don’t worry; most people aren’t! – find ways to stay motivated. One of the best ways to do that is to enlist a friend for help.
Having a workout partner can:
- Motivate you to keep exercising
- Push you to work harder
- Make exercise more fun
- Help you feel safer when exercising
- Give you a person to confide in when you’re struggling
- Hold you accountable to meet your goals
Those are just a few benefits of having a workout buddy. Think of your chosen workout partner as your support system. This person is your go-to person who can keep you on track with your goals. When you rely only on yourself, it’s easy to fall off the wagon. One day of not exercising can quickly turn into two days, a week, or a month.
Wayne Anderson, MD, co-founder of Take Shape for Life, says that long-term fitness success is primarily based on an excellent support system. That doesn’t mean that you need to enlist the help of a huge group of family and friends. Just one trusted person can make a world of difference.
Humans crave socialization to meet a broad range of needs. One of the things that motivates us most is our social network. When you have at least one trustworthy person you can count on to get you through the times you don’t want to exercise or feel down on yourself, that one person can bring you out of your funk and get you moving again.
Make sure your workout buddy has similar fitness goals as you. He or she doesn’t even need to love the same types of exercises. When you choose someone with different interests, it can work to your advantage. You may wind up trying a fitness routine you never thought you'd like and find that you love it. But, it's important your buddy’s workout schedule and goals should align with yours so you can both be each other’s best motivators.
2. Figure Out Your Current Activity Level and Work Up
A good way to add more activity into your life without taking a huge leap is to evaluate your current activity level and work up from there. According to Together Counts and the International Food Information Council Foundation, once you decided to become more active, you've already completed the most difficult step.
The health experts suggest understanding your current activity level first:
- Not active: Your daily activity involves the bare minimum. You might have a desk job that doesn’t allow you to move much, or you stick to basic, everyday movements like walking your house steps or doing laundry.
- Moderately active: This group is for those who do some activity each day, like going on a brisk walk, completing a few minutes of an exercise video, or some other physical activity more than basic daily tasks.
- Very active: If you're in this group, you make it a point to do some physical activity each day, like walking for three miles or more.
Have you figured out what group you fall in?
Whichever group you see yourself in, there's always some room for improvement. Even very active people can benefit from switching up their routine to target other muscle groups. If you believe you fall into the “not active” group, find small ways that you can add some activity into your daily routine.
The good part is that you can start off as small as you’re comfortable with. Any activity is better than no activity. If you have a desk job, you can try to take a short break every hour or so. Stand up, move around your office, and do some stretches. Stay-at-home parents can do some exercises with their kids, run with them at the local playground, or toss a ball back and forth.
Those in the “moderately active” group are off to a good start but can add a few minutes of physical activity to their routines daily to give them an extra push. Even pushing yourself for 5 to 10 extra minutes on the treadmill can make a difference.
3. Get Help from a Fitness Tracker
Fitness trackers are not just a fad in the healthy lifestyle realm. They’re amazing tools that can keep track of everything from your daily calorie intake to any potential issues with your heart rate. Fitness trackers are monitors for your overall health picture. Since fitness trackers from trusted brands are usually incredibly accurate, you can get loads of information about your health and results from exercise.
One study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine (AJPM) found that people who used fitness trackers were more likely increase their physical activity by 38 minutes each week over those who didn’t use trackers. That doesn’t sound like much, but it shows that fitness trackers work. And, every minute extra you spend exercising is extra calories burned and more strength added to your body.
Fitness trackers can be the perfect motivation for visual people, especially. You may just like to see real numbers to prove that whatever you’re doing is working. A fitness tracker can provide you with graphs and goals that let you know what you've been doing and on what you might need to work.
You can track your heart rate to make sure you’re performing at your best. A target heart rate of 55 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate is the best way to get your heart pumping and calories burning. Your fitness tracker will always keep you in the loop.
Not only that, but they can also give you the urge to outperform yourself!
“I walked 9,547 steps today? Awesome! I should do 10,000 tomorrow.”
If you go into your weekly fitness regimen armed with a reliable tracker and a helpful workout buddy, you’re likely destined for success.
4. Find Exercises You Love
What’s your number one setback, do you think, when it comes to reaching your fitness goals? Is it that you don’t find the fun in your exercise routine?
Boredom with an exercise routine is one of the top reasons people quit working out.
Or, sometimes worse, people become so addicted to working out that they fail to find the enjoyment in it. Not only can excessive exercise be a potential symptom of a more serious mental health issue, but it can also overtake your life for the wrong reasons.
For a healthy, balanced lifestyle, you want to find exercises you enjoy that fit seamlessly into your life. In other words, they shouldn’t feel like chores or something you feel that you have to do.
Start trying to think of exercise differently. Make it a priority, but in ways that will be fun. For example, shoveling snow and doing heavy yard work can burn between 400 and 600 calories per hour. Even lighter gardening can burn 200 calories or more per hour.
Exercise is more than just jogging, walking, or doing another boring work out video. Check with your local YMCA or fitness center for Zumba or yoga classes.
- Try a ballet class.
- Take a long bike ride.
- Go swim in a pool or lake.
- Take a long weekend and go on an adventure hiking local trails and mountains.
There are so many fun things to try that exercise should never feel dull. When you love staying fit, you’ll find it much easier to balance fitness with your normal, everyday life.
5. Make Small Changes to Get More Active
Going with the theme of making exercise a priority, but not letting it take over your life, comes this tip: Make several small changes to your lifestyle that can impact your bigger fitness goals.
Small goals seem much more attainable than big goals because they're ones that are more immediately within your reach. Start thinking about small changes you can make daily that lend themselves to the bigger picture of staying fit and active.
Here are a few ideas:
- Get a stand-up desk for work rather than sitting in a chair all day
- Take short breaks from work whenever possible, even if you just take a quick walk around the office
- Move as much as possible during the work day; sitting on an exercise ball can be a great way to work your core to stabilize your body
- Use stairs instead of an elevator whenever possible
- Park farther away from stores and the office, so you'll walk more steps
- Instead of lugging all your groceries in on one trip, make several trips, carrying one bag at a time
- Walk around one more block during your walks than usual
- Bike or walk to work one or two days per week
- Do more chores around the house that you may pay others to do, like scrubbing floors or mowing the lawn
- Walk your dog one more time around a couple of blocks each day
- Play video games that make you move, like those on Nintendo Wii or Xbox Kinect
- Play a game of tag with the kids after work
The goal is to keep yourself active without making it seem tedious. You'll soon get into the habit of doing more productive things so that you won't have to think about it as much.
Eat the Right Foods to Fuel and Nourish Your Body
Eating the right foods is just as important as staying active. If you’re active but not giving your body what it needs, you’ll undo your hard work. More importantly, you may damage your health.
If you’re burning a lot of calories but not fueling up your body with healthy foods, you could throw your metabolism out of whack. You may also have problems concentrating, become depressed, or slow your heart rate. And, if you don't provide your body with the right nutrients, you may be made more susceptible to injury when you work out.
So, let’s talk about fueling your body the right way to maximize your workout and improve and maintain your health.
6. Keep Track of Everything You Eat
Although you don’t want your diet to feel like a chore, just like you don’t want exercise to feel like a chore, you should get in the habit of keeping tabs on what you eat. Try maintaining a food diary, even if it's only for a couple of months.
No, it doesn’t sound fun. But, a food diary will show you exactly what you’re putting in your body – for better or for worse. If you have no idea how many calories you consume daily, you won’t know whether you’re on the right path. And, a food diary gives you a visual of the exact foods you eat so you know where you may need to make some changes.
It’s super easy to eat a 1,000-calorie dinner without realizing it. You may not even feel very hungry. Instead, you eat because the food tastes good and keep eating until you feel overly full. Your food diary will show you this big oopsie moment so you can recognize it better next time.
Pay attention to trends.
Do you eat more calories or junk food on the days you feel stressed out?
Or, do you “reward” yourself with special treats on workout days?
Maybe you don’t eat enough on super busy workdays because you’re running around the office like crazy. Your food diary will know all your little secrets and can help you tweak your eating habits. You'll soon learn how you can adjust your portion sizes of different foods for better balance, such as adding more fruits and veggies and cutting back on unhealthy fats.
Try to keep your food diary for as long as you feel comfortable with. As a bonus, if you ever need to visit a nutritionist, your food diary will be extremely helpful to determine what adjustments you should make.
7. Start Healthy Eating Patterns
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), healthy eating patterns are the key to maintaining a healthy diet and optimal weight.
A healthy eating pattern is one that provides your daily calories with the proper balance of food from all food groups with a lot of variety.
The good thing about healthy eating patterns is that they don’t deprive you of anything. You can eat sugars and fats and oils, but you control your intake with the right portions. It’s called a pattern because, once you get the hang of it, a healthy diet can become second nature.
And, since you aren’t depriving yourself of cravings – just learning to control them – you’re more likely to stick with a healthy eating pattern. The most important things to remember for a healthy eating pattern are:
- Limit your alcohol intake. You can drink it, but don’t go overboard. Women should drink no more than one alcoholic drink per day, and men no more than two.
- Watch the sodium. Sodium holds excess fluid in your body because it dehydrates you, which causes you to bloat and gain weight. Keep your daily intake under 2300 mg.
- Focus on the 10%. No more than 10% of your calories should be from sugar and no more than another 10% from saturated fat.
- Include all food groups. The more variety you put in your diet, the better! Shoot for low-fat dairy and whole grains as much as possible, and add in tons of colorful fruit and vegetables.
A healthy eating pattern is not a diet. Instead, it’s a lifestyle that teaches you how to eat in a healthy, balanced way. You can eat canned, fresh, or frozen foods if you watch calories and balance your food groups. When you get most of your vitamins and minerals from your food, you’re doing great things for your body!
8. Be Smart About Dessert
Remember how we said you don’t need to cut out sugar completely from your diet? We weren’t kidding. There are so many ways to eat sugar in healthy ways so that you don’t need to deprive yourself of treats!
The most important thing to remember is your sweet treat portions. You can learn to limit yourself and have enough to fend off your craving. It’s a good idea to stick with treats that come pre-portioned, like 100 to 200 calorie snacks. If you stick to healthy eating patterns, then there’s no reason you can’t have a sweet snack each day to curb the cravings!
But, an even better way to control the sugars is to make your own yummy treats at home. Not only will you know every single ingredient you put into your snack, but you can also add a lot of fresh ingredients to avoid overly-processed food.
Fresh fruit is the perfect complement to many desserts and can even become a natural sweetener for some desserts! A good place to start is researching sweets and desserts for people with diabetes. Since a diabetic's body struggles to process sugar correctly, he should make changes in his diet to help his body regulate sugars.
Some tips to cut out as much sugar as possible and make healthier desserts overall include:
- Use yogurt instead of heavy cream in recipes
- Lower your carbohydrate intake through the day if you plan to have dessert
- Use raw honey or coconut sugar in place of sugar when possible
- Substitute unsweetened applesauce for sugar in cake, cookie, and cupcake recipes
- Use pureed avocado in place of butter
Of course, opt for sugar-free and low-fat or fat-free ingredients when you shop for baking supplies. Sugar-free pudding, light whipped topping, and fat-free yogurt, for example, can shave off a lot of sugar and calories from homemade desserts while still giving you the flavors you crave.
9. Visit the Farmer’s Market More Often
A simple, doable change to make in your diet is to stay dedicated to adding more fruits and vegetables into your diet. Do you have a local farmer’s market? If so, head there once a week. Picking out gorgeous fruits and veggies grown locally may be enough to excite you about eating them more often!
Get the kids involved. Not only is it an excellent opportunity for a family outing, but it's also a great way to teach them about where their food comes from and how to create a healthy diet.
So, what’s all the fuss about fruits and vegetables?
- Boost the immune system, thanks to powerful antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients
- Help you avoid the doctor and medicine
- Improve digestion from increased fiber
- Give the body energy it needs to get through the day
- Maintain a healthy weight or help you lose weight
And, a diet rich in fresh veggies can:
Notice that the emphasis is on fresh fruits and vegetables.
Although it's perfectly fine to eat canned and frozen fruits and veggies sometimes, you should opt for fresh whenever you can. They typically have the most unaltered nutrients. And, keep an eye on sneaky sodium in canned vegetables, which manufacturers use as a preservative.
You can opt for low-sodium or sodium-free varieties. And, always rinse your canned veggies in water to reduce sodium content. Shoot for making at least half of every meal filled with vegetables and fruit. With so many to choose from, it’s easy not to get bored!
10. Avoid Overly-Processed Foods
Fresh, whole foods are better for you than processed foods. It’s just a fact. Between boxed foods, canned foods, and fast foods, our diets consist of somewhere around 70% processed foods.
Let’s get real about harmful ingredients in processed foods:
- Sodium. Sodium is a preservative that helps give processed foods a longer shelf-life. Some sodium is good for you, but too much leads to fluid retention and raised blood pressure.
- Trans fats. Trans fats can boost bad cholesterol and outweigh the good cholesterol in your body, leading to potential heart problems.
- Refined grains. Whole grains are the best for your body to regulate insulin production and reduce the risk of heart problems. Many processed foods use refined grains, though, which can increase the chance of a heart attack.
- Sweeteners. High fructose corn syrup may cause metabolism interference that can lead to weight gain and heart disease. Aspartame, a sugar replacement, has been found to have potential carcinogenic effects on the body.
It’s difficult to escape processed foods though, right?
Again, it’s all about creating a good balance so you can stay healthy and not feel overwhelmed. Even some processed foods aren’t necessarily bad for you if you take some small steps to make them a little healthier. You can rinse off canned beans, for example, to remove the salted juices on them. Toss them with some unsalted nuts onto a salad for a healthy lunch.
Jarred peanut butter, in small amounts, is a healthy snack to add to whole grain crackers or toast. And, frozen veggies and fruits without additives, like sugary juice or cream sauces, can be almost as healthy as their fresh versions.
It’s still okay to use some processed foods for the convenience. Just be sure to watch out for added sugars, high salt content, trans fats, and refined grains. Canned and frozen foods that maintain as much of the original integrity of the food as possible are the way to go.
11. Make Small Tweaks for Big Results
If making small adjustments to your activity level helps you feel more comfortable, then you should do the same for your diet. Small, healthy changes in the foods and portions you eat can lead to significant changes over time.
Starting small is a good way not to feel overwhelmed and it can help you avoid a yo-yo weight gain and loss to which many dieters succumb. It’s important never to feel like you’re dieting because you’ll be less likely to stick with your changes.
Yo-yo dieting not only makes it difficult to maintain a healthy weight, but it also puts you at risk for heart attack and stroke due to constant weight fluctuation. So, tweak to your heart’s content. Your body and health will thank you.
Here are a few things you can do:
- Make an organized shopping list and stick to it to avoid buying snacks and unnecessary foods that will tempt you to overeat
- Make it a point to eat more protein, which can help you feel fuller for longer, allowing you to eat less through the day
- Buy whole pasta and bread and brown rice rather than white to add more fiber to your diet and keep you feeling full
- Add one more scoop of fruits or veggies than you normally would to each one of your meals
- Consider using single-serving frozen dinners low in sodium and calories, like Lean Cuisine, when you're in a time crunch, rather than visiting the local McDonalds
- Buy fruits and vegetables that are simple to snack on, like baby carrots and grapes
- Replace some of your coffee for green tea, which has less caffeine and can aid weight loss by boosting metabolism
- Brush your teeth immediately after a meal, which tells your body, “Okay, I’m done eating!”
- Grill or bake your foods instead of deep-frying or pan-frying
12. Portion Control is the Key to Balance
Overeating without realizing it is one of the most common causes of weight gain. We tend to eat mindlessly. We grab a bag of chips, intending to eat only a couple of handfuls and end up eating half the bag. Do you know how many calories you could have saved if you put some chips in a bowl first and stopped when it was empty? Hundreds, easily.
Portion control is one of the simplest – but most important – dietary changes you can make. It’s simple because you can use bowls and plastic containers in your home to help you portion your foods. Or, if you want to understand the proper portions of foods, you can buy portion containers that come color-coded and pre-measured for the perfect servings of fats, vegetables, protein, and more.
Portion control is important because it makes you more aware. You'll soon learn where in your diet you may need to make some changes, like eating more healthy fats and fewer carbs. To help control your portions, you should first think about your home.
It’s fine to have some candy and salty snacks in your pantry, but that’s where they should stay. If you keep them on your desk or in a bowl on the table, you’ll probably be more tempted to eat them. If they’re in a cabinet out of sight, you may be more likely to grab them only when you have a craving. Just be sure to put some in a small container and leave the rest for another time.
When you bake a cake, you can control your portions by cutting small slices. You may even consider using smaller plates or bowls for meals. Whatever works that doesn’t make you feel restricted is the best way to stick with it!
13. No Need to Cut Coffee, But Limit It
Coffee is a go-to daily morning picker-upper for many men and women. In fact, 64% of Americans drink at least one cup of coffee every day, and some drink four or more.
Drinking one cup of coffee each day isn’t something you should be concerned about. And, if you opt for decaf, you’re in the clear. But, drinking numerous cups of coffee daily can have some serious effects on your health. You can get addicted to caffeine, much like you would alcohol or smoking.
Caffeine can cause withdrawal symptoms when you stop consuming it, like headaches, anxiety, nausea, and restlessness. You may even get to the point where you crave it and can’t seem to function without it. That doesn’t sound good, does it?
According to Dr. Mark Hyman, coffee can also:
- Increase stress hormones
- Cause heart burn and indigestion
- Inhibit the way your body produces insulin and processes blood sugar
- Affect the production of serotonin, which helps you relax and sleep
- Cause irregular liver detoxification
But, don’t feel like you need to cut out coffee completely. Take baby steps. Decrease your amount of coffee by one cup per day and continue to do so until you get down to one or two cups.
You can even replace a couple of mid-day cups with decaffeinated coffee if it makes you feel like you aren’t depriving yourself. You may crave the smell and flavor more than the caffeine itself.
Get a smaller mug for coffee or order a small instead of a large at the café. And, see where else in your diet you can cut out some caffeine, like soda, candy, and protein bars, so you don’t overdo your caffeine intake.
14. Find a Support System
Remember how important we said it is to have someone to exercise with to keep you on track? The same holds true for making over your eating habits.
If you’re single, find a trusted friend or family member who can join in on your healthy lifestyle changes. He or she should be just as motivated as you are and capable of making small changes that can make a big difference. Talk to each other daily about your highs and lows. What did you do well with today? What did you struggle with? You’ll probably find that many of your partner’s struggles are similar to yours so that you don't have to feel bad for not sticking to your goals.
If you have a family of your own, get them involved in the process! When you teach your kids about healthy eating, you may be more likely to practice what you preach. And, you can all hold each other accountable. Cooking healthy meals for your family is much easier than cooking separate meals for you and them.
Do you have a significant other who isn’t quite ready to stick to healthy eating patterns? That’s okay! Lead by example instead of nagging your partner. Make cooking together a priority. Your partner may start gaining some interest in your healthy eating plan.
And, be sure to compromise. You can always use similar, healthy ingredients for meals but make separate meals that hold each other’s interest.
Reduce Stress to Gain Clarity and Improve Health
Stress is a reliable component to undoing your hard work from healthy exercising and eating. Symptoms of stress can affect your physical health as much as your mental health.
You may find yourself eating too much or too little, lacking the motivation to stay active, or withdrawing from your friends and family, who may also be your support system.
Stress, unfortunately, is a part of everyday life for most people. From worrying about money and bills to feeling anxious about meeting an important work deadline, stress can consume almost every facet of life. But, it’s necessary to remove as much stress as possible to stay focused, happy, and appreciate the world around you.
More importantly, lowering stress is an essential part of keeping a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
15. Gain Perspective on What You’re Stressing Over
The people who are the most susceptible to adverse effects of stress are the people who let it consume them.
Did you forget about your baby’s checkup at the doctor today? It’s not the end of the world because you can reschedule it. But, a person who struggles to gain perspective on a stressful situation may let her worry spiral out of control so that she feels like a failure as a mom or that she is harming her baby.
Stress happens in life; it’s how you process it that can make you walk a fine line between normal stress and harmful stress. Just as a food diary can help you gain perspective on your overall eating habits, so can a stress journal.
Try jotting down your thoughts about a stressful situation as soon as they happen. Write down everything that happened, how it made you feel, how you responded (anger, sadness, physically ill, etc.), and when and how the stressful feelings went away. Revisit items you wrote down in a week, again in a few weeks, and again in a month or two. You will likely notice that you forgot about most of the stressful situations from a couple of months ago because they’re now irrelevant.
If the situation you are currently stressing over won’t matter a year, a month, or even a few days from now, is it worth all the negative energy you put into it? Probably not.
Look at the big picture instead of the immediate one. How does the situation fit into your life long-term? If it’s not something that can have a significant impact on your life in general, then it’s probably something that you can remedy or let it take its course without letting it consume you.
16. Let Go and Laugh More
Did you know that adults laugh only about 5.6% of the amount children do every day? That statistic goes to show how difficult adults have appreciating the little things in life because all the details overwhelm them.
Laughter is truly one of the best medicines. It has a variety of positive health effects, including:
- Lowered blood pressure which can, in turn, reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke
- Working out your abdomen and back muscles
- Stimulating the brain to improve focus and enhance learning
- Relaxing constricted muscles
- Increasing lung capacity to improve respiration
- Boosting the immune system by increasing antibodies
- Regulating hormones and increasing feel-good hormones
- Lowering stress and anxiety
- Promoting positive, healthy relationships that can make you feel less lonely
It’s sad that we have to remind ourselves to have fun, but if that’s what it takes, do it! Give yourself a quick reminder in the morning to find something positive at work to make you happy.
Tell some jokes to your coworkers or see who can win a light-hearted contest.
When you’re home with your family or kids, enjoy them. Act like a kid again.
Turn on some music and have a dance party.
Create a cooking contest.
See who can do the most tricks on the trampoline within two minutes.
Try to avoid looking at your phone, checking e-mail, or signing on to social media as much as possible. All it takes is a disheartening post or rude comment to flip the stress switch back on.
If you really need some good belly laughter in your day, utilize your lunch break to get the laughs rolling. Check out some funny YouTube videos or look up your favorite comedian to remind yourself that you can even let go and laugh during your work day.
17. Learn to Say No to Others
It’s a great thing to worry about others, but not to the point that you start to neglect yourself and your needs. It’s okay to turn someone away when you need time for yourself. This isn’t selfish; it’s necessary.
Learning not to commit to every single offer that comes your way is a good practice to master. You'll learn that it's okay not to over-commit yourself because that leads to unnecessary stress on your mental and physical health. You’ll also learn that it’s more than okay to say “yes” to yourself so you can have a good balance of helping others and yourself.
How can you say no more often without feeling guilty, which can also lead to stress?
First, say it nicely. There’s no need to explain why you’re saying no. But, keep it straightforward and pleasant. Thank the person for thinking of you and let him or her know that you just can’t commit to it right now. Then, you can always suggest another time that may be better for you, if you want to.
You may also want to consider setting yourself up for a "budget" of time for others and yourself “This is how much time I want every week for myself, and this is what I can devote to others.” If requests from others start cutting into your “me time,” then it’s best to say no.
You can do a similar budget for helping people financially, but you may want to switch it to a monthly budget. If you have $200 to spare for friends or family in need every month, stick to that budget, and you'll feel a lot less stressed about how much you've given away.
18. Don’t Bring Work Back Home
The stress of work is real. In fact, work stress is responsible for 10% of strokes. And, increased productivity in the workplace in recent years, but not much movement in wages has led to a lot more work for less money.
Twenty years ago, cell phones were only starting to become a thing. Now, almost everyone has one, and we're connected to it regularly. After you get home from work, do you shut off your job switch completely and turn it to personal mode? Probably not.
You might still hop on the computer or phone and check your email. Maybe you text a coworker to ask questions about your current project. If you work from home, you may have an even more difficult time disconnecting yourself from your job. And, even if you don't physically do anything work-related, it's common still to bring the stress of the work day home with you, which may lead to misdirected anger toward your family.
One of the best things you can do for your stress level is to leave your work at the office, whether it’s outside or inside the home. If you work from home, give yourself a start and stop time as you would at a regular office job and close the door behind you when you’re done. If you work outside of the home, leave your paperwork and any other work items there. Keep your hands off your phone for anything other than personal entertainment and phone calls.
You can also create an end of work habit that helps you unwind after a long day. This can be anything that helps you relax after work. Do it at the same time every day once you finish your workday. The ritual can get your mind in gear to switch from work-mode to personal-mode before you head back home.
Improve Your Sleep to Boost Immunity, Metabolism, and More
Sure, you’ve heard that sleep is important. But did you know that much of your health relies on a good sleep schedule? Getting a good night’s sleep does more than just make you feel rested so you can take on your day.
Solid, uninterrupted sleep every night can:
- Decrease the risk of heart problems, diabetes, and stroke
- Lower the risk of obesity and keep weight loss on track
- Improve your overall mental state to fight depression and anxiety
- Lower symptoms of stress
- Improve focus and problem-solving skills
- Boost your productivity and energy throughout the day
However, we know it’s not always as simple as wanting to get a good night’s sleep. Many people have to make some adjustments to work toward better sleep.
Here are some ways you can improve your sleep to boost your health and create a balanced life.
19. Create a Strict Sleep Schedule – Even on Weekends
You tell yourself, “Just one more episode” of your favorite show, only to realize you’re still watching four episodes later and there are now only 6 hours left until your alarm sounds. You may be an adult, but your body still needs a sleep schedule, regardless if you work the next morning or not.
One of the most common and successful ways to treat insomnia is to have a strict, early-morning wake-up time. Although insomnia patients can’t get themselves to fall asleep at a certain time, they can control when they wake up. As part of treatment, they wake up very early, like 4 to 5 AM, every morning, even when they’ve only been asleep for two hours.
They'll feel exhausted and sluggish at first, but that's a good thing because it will help them fall asleep faster. Eventually, they’ll end up on a more normal sleep schedule. That's the power that creating a sleep schedule can have on your own sleep patterns.
If you find yourself having a difficult time falling asleep, then wake up early. In contrast, if you just can’t crawl out of bed at 5 AM, try to head to bed at 8 PM. Your body will eventually follow suit and go along with the schedule you make.
That doesn’t mean you can never have a late night or a day of sleeping in. A night out with friends and a lazy Saturday are both great for your soul. But, don’t make a habit out of playing catch-up on sleep on your days off. It could throw your schedule off track much quicker than you were able to get it on track.
20. Unwind Your Brain and Tune Out Distractions
Now, it's time to learn to relax your mind so you can focus on sleep. It’s a tough task because of all the electronics we have surrounding us, from our cell phones to our televisions and even the glow of the alarm clock.
To keep our circadian rhythms – our 24-hour body cycle – on track, it's important to manage the flow of light and dark when our body expects it. If you watch TV before bed, you disrupt the process. The same happens if you check your phone before bed or use a night light.
About 90% of Americans admit to using some electronics before bed time, according to a poll from the National Sleep Foundation. The same study showed that those who used electronics within an hour before they tried to go to sleep suffered from more sleep disruption than those who turned their technology off.
The best thing you can do for your sleep is to keep the lights lowered for at least an hour before you're ready to go to bed. Instead of watching TV, record your favorite shows and take a warm bath. You can catch up with them tomorrow after work.
During this hour, you can also set your phone on silent and flip it over, screen down, so the light doesn’t tempt you to check it every time you have a new text. Think of the hour before bed as your “me” time. Read a book with the light lowered, knit something, or do some logic puzzles. You can even journal your thoughts from the day to let go of whatever stress is currently in your brain.
Try to create a routine, if possible, by doing the same activities every night. This will help signal to your body that it’s time to relax and can get you in sleep mode faster.
21. Consult Your Doctor About Worrisome Sleep Troubles
Although you can remedy many sleep disturbances on your own, you may still struggle to get a solid night's sleep even after making substantial changes to your routine. If you have concerns over your sleep patterns, talk to your doctor. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away and can have some serious effects on your health and your life.
A few reasons it might be time to talk to your doctor are:
- You still struggle to fall asleep after keeping a strict schedule and bedtime routine
- You consistently worry about things that have happened through the day and can’t “turn off” your brain
- Your lack of sleep is severely affecting everyday activities, such as work, exercise, or driving
- You still feel extremely tired even when you get a full night of sleep
- You experience pain when you sleep to the point that it wakes you up or prevents you from falling asleep
- You snore excessively or stop breathing periodically
Severe sleep problems may signal a sleep disorder, of which there are over 100 different types.
Your doctor can help you rule out some problems through questions, tests, and even overnight sleep studies. A sleep study may require you to stay in a medical facility for a night or two, or your doctor may give you a testing device to bring home and use as you sleep.
Sleep is one thing you absolutely can’t afford not to get enough of for a healthy and balanced lifestyle, so don’t be afraid to seek medical attention if you have concerns.
Do More of What Makes You Happy and Less of What Doesn’t
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
You’ve likely heard this famous phrase at some point in your life. It sums up the importance of balance perfectly, right?
To have a healthy, balanced lifestyle, you need to have a healthy balance between your personal and professional lives. Work is important, but it’s not more important than your happiness and self-fulfillment.
It’s time to do more of what makes you happy and less of what doesn’t.
22. Keep a Journal to House Your Thoughts and Gratitude
Being mindful is the process of becoming aware of your thoughts by living in the moment. Mindful people are ones who don’t let life pass them by. Instead, they live it, breathe it, and pay special attention to everything that happens.
Becoming more mindful of your world can take practice, but it’s an important part of happiness in your journey. You’ll notice the little things in life that you may not have noticed before. Sometimes, the little things are the ones that can have the most positive impact on your life.
One of the best ways to become more mindful of your world is to begin a gratitude journal. Some of the happiest, most attentive people on Earth keep one. Even Oprah boasts about her gratitude journal and how it’s helped her stay positive and remember all the good things that have happened in her life.
You can keep a gratitude journal however you see fit. Use it daily to write down your most positive thoughts from the day and anything for which you're grateful. It can be as simple as someone complimenting you on your outfit to as big as receiving a work promotion. Look back on your journal as frequently as you need. You’ll remind yourself of all the small things that made you smile that sometimes get lost within the big stressors of life.
If you’re more into the digital scene than pen and paper, you can start a blog to house your thoughts. Keep it public to share your thoughts with others or set it on private to keep it close to your heart.
23. Give Back to Others
Finding happiness in your life is all about doing things that are good for your soul. Volunteering is one thing that research has proven time after time to mend and improve your soul.
There is a real term, known as helper’s high, used to describe the positive feelings you get from volunteering. Not only does volunteering benefit others in some capacity, but it benefits you, too. And, there’s nothing wrong with reaping some of the benefits for yourself to live a healthier, happier life.
Some of the positive mental effects volunteering has include:
- Lowering the risk of depression and anxiety
- Creating strong social bonds and relationships with others you volunteer with or help
Reducing stress levels
- Providing a strong sense of accomplishment and worth
- Giving volunteers a higher feeling of life satisfaction
But, volunteering goes beyond providing mental benefits. Research shows that it’s good for your physical health, too. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics showed that volunteering, especially in adolescents, can:
Overall, volunteering research lends to the idea that volunteering may lower one’s risk for heart disease while also making him feel better about himself and happier with life.
Of course, volunteering for the right reasons is an important part of the process. Find a cause you’re passionate about. You’ll be more likely to stick with your volunteering efforts and find true happiness in what you’re doing. You can check on VolunteerMatch.org to find volunteer opportunities near you based on the causes that interest you.
24. Find a Hobby That Makes You Happy
As you get older, it’s easy for you to become more detached from your inner child and doing what makes you happy. But, this is the time that it’s more important than ever to get back to the things that once made you happy. Did you collect stamps as a kid or make your own jewelry? Did you enjoy dabbling in art projects but haven’t picked up a colored pencil in ten years?
Work and must-dos have a way of taking over our lives and pushing out the other stuff. Unfortunately, the “other stuff” is sometimes the most important. Research suggests that having more value for your time than for money is the key to happiness. That means that making your time more meaningful by doing more of what you love can improve your attitude.
Another study showed that participants who engaged in multiple activities that they enjoyed regularly were more likely to be a healthy weight, have lower blood pressure, be less at risk for depression, and have a more positive psychological state.
So, start being a kid again! It may seem strange to have a hobby as an adult, but it’s necessary for your happiness and a healthy life balance. Find someone to share your passions with, like a close friend or even a co-worker.
If you don't have a hobby in mind that interests you, you can still get involved in some local events or classes to find one. Take up a painting class or join an online writing class. Your library can also be a great resource for finding free classes or meetings in your area, like poetry gatherings or book clubs.
25. Make Bold Career Moves That Get You Closer to Goals
If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut in life, you may have yourself to blame. An important part of growing and gaining happiness in life is doing the things that you’re scared to do, but are also things that you know will make you happy.
It’s nerve-wracking to make bold moves, especially in your career. You probably think about everything that can go wrong instead of what can go right. Have you always dreamed of authoring a book, but instead you edit the books of others for a living? It’s not what you want to do, but it pays the bills. So, you stick with it, but it isn’t making you happy.
Continuing to do something you aren’t passionate about can result in burnout. If you keep pushing off your goals, they’re less likely to happen.
Stepping outside of your comfort zone often comes with some great results that can make you happier about your life. You may even be surprised by how many opportunities open for you once you take the first step toward controlling your career and success.
Don't worry; you don't need to wake up and quit your job one day suddenly. Making small changes that can lead to a significant change will work, too. Just start moving. If you’re taking steps to get you closer to your goals, then you’re being bold and working toward creating a career you love.
26. Improve Your Relationships with Friends, Families, and Co-workers
Are your relationships bogging you down? They may be doing it more than you realize. From your co-workers to your spouse, all your relationships can affect your mental health in significant ways. These are the people you interact with daily so that they can have a considerable impact on your emotions, and even other relationships.
Think about your current relationships. Who do you think of first? Does this person make you feel happy, sad, or angry? If your thoughts are anything other than positive, you may need to take a closer look at the relationship.
What, exactly, bothers you about this person or your dynamic with each other? Do you have trouble communicating with your boss? Perhaps you feel like he devalues your work while he praises others for doing the same job.
Unhealthy relationships in your life – regardless of with whom – can increase premature mortality by up to 50%. Healthy relationships are necessary to:
- Foster trust with others
- Build up your confidence
- Create strong communication skills
- Feel secure
- Feel supported
- Learn to respect others and how to be respected
If you think your relationship with your boss isn't a positive correlation, then it's time to do something about it.
If talking with your boss about your concerns doesn’t correct the problem, or at least begin the process of improvement, then you can speak to your company’s HR department about the next steps to take.
For any relationship, it’s important to spend as much face-to-face time with the other person as possible. Texting on the phone and posting on social media don't provide the same quality communication with others as a face-to-face conversation, and may even harm your social connections.
People should have at least three to five meaningful relationships in which you can interact in person and form deep connections.
Take Hold of Your Health
Through the hustle and bustle of everyday life, you may not notice that your health comes in last place before your kids, work, and everything in between. But, to live a healthy and balanced life, you must keep yourself healthy in more ways than diet, exercise, and happiness can provide you.
That means taking control of your health to keep it on track for the long haul. The more you do now to watch your overall health, the less likely you’ll have to worry later.
And, you’ll become more aware of your body so you can more easily recognize when there might be a problem.
27. Make it a Point to Schedule Time with Your Doctor
It seems that when we transition from child to adult, we no longer think visiting the doctor regularly is an important part of life. Only about 68% of adults who believe they’re in excellent health visit a doctor at least once a year. And, only 20% of those adults under 65 have health insurance.
Much of the reason may be the expense of health care and insurance. Other adults just choose not to get regular checkups either because life gets in the way or all the new medical research that continuously comes our way is scary. Unfortunately, avoiding the doctor may turn out to be costlier than visiting him once a year – both financially and for your health.
At the very least, you should have an annual checkup with a primary care physician. Think of him as your go-to medical person if any problem does arise. He’s the one that will tackle any concerns and get you to the right person, if necessary. You can talk to your primary care physician (PCP) about any medical concern you have, whether it's a pain in your knees or overwhelming stress.
Women should also add a yearly visit with their gynecologist in to ensure that the reproductive system is in good, working order.
When you choose to visit the doctor, you decide to control your health. It may even relieve some stress off your shoulders knowing that you have a PCP in place, just in case a severe health problem arises.
28. Quit the Bad Stuff
Do you have any bad health habits? Smoking, drinking, or a lack of exercise, perhaps? You probably already know that it’s best to quit. Not only do habits like drinking and smoking directly affect your health, but they also can cause a financial burden, which is a stress you can cut out of your life. Look at your habits concerning the bigger picture.
Does smoking get you closer to being healthy or happy? It may make you feel calm at the moment, but it doesn't help you get closer to a happy, balanced life.
Is drinking alcohol getting you any closer to being happy with your body, career, or life? Likely not.
Does skipping exercise several days in a row make you feel better about yourself? It probably makes you feel guilty.
Smoking, drinking, and other bad habits have severe effects on your health. But even more importantly, your bad habits can weigh you down emotionally, too.
Smoking has links to stress, depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia. The benefits you feel from smoking are short-term, feel-good benefits, not long-term solutions.
Drinking has serious mental health effects, too. Alcohol affects your brain’s chemistry, which can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, and aggression.
Breaking bad habits isn’t easy, but it’s a necessary step toward living a balanced and healthy life. Start by understanding what makes you crave your habit. Do you turn to smoking when you’ve had a bad day at work? Or, you reach for a bottle of wine when you want to turn your brain off from worrying about bills. Whatever your trigger is, you can find something else to do or focus on that’s a healthier alternative.
After a rough day at work, visit an art gallery or park for an hour before heading home. You'll give yourself time to unwind and clear your head instead of reaching for your pack of cigarettes.
When you start stressing over finances, get help from a trusted friend, relative, or accountant who can look at your bills and budget from a new perspective. Save some wine to celebrate with when you pay off debt!
29. Monitor Your Moods and Behaviors
Being more aware of your overall health is one of the best things you can do to build a balanced, healthy lifestyle. That includes being in-tune to your body, moods, and behaviors so you know if something is wrong and can get help right away.
Sudden changes in your behaviors, feelings, or sleep patterns can signal physical or emotional problems, like depression. And, your moods are the best way to show you how you feel about something in your life, like your job or relationship.
Do you consistently feel happy and confident after work? That’s a good sign that you love what you do and have a job that’s healthy for you. But, do you feel constricted in your relationship and frequently angry toward your partner? There may be some unhealthy underlying issues that are signaling to you that something’s not right.
Your intuition is there for a reason. It helps lead you to make the right decisions in every aspect of your life. How can you listen to your intuition better?
It all goes back to mindfulness as we mentioned earlier. You can become more aware of your feelings when you pay attention to them at the moment. If it helps you to stay more aware of your moods and how they fluctuate to catch potential problems, you can track your moods on paper or a digital app.
And, your tracking may help you notice patterns in your different moods so you can find the underlying causes. From there, you can combat your triggers to create a personal strategy for health and happiness.
Conclusion: A Healthy Lifestyle for Your Mind, Body, and Soul
Creating a healthy, balanced lifestyle goes far beyond taking care of your body. It is all about balancing your needs, wants, and interests to make you both happy and healthy.
Your mental health is as important as your physical health. A balanced lifestyle works with both to improve your overall health. It’s important not to make your steps toward a healthy, balanced lifestyle feel like work. If you want long-term results, you need to focus on lifestyle changes that work for you while bringing you closer to your ultimate goals.
When you feel happier about your job, relationships, and personal life, you’ll find it easier to keep doing the things that make you feel that way. Find a hobby, fulfill your passions, and take steps toward your goals. Make small tweaks to your diet and exercise habits to bring you closer to a better you.
Congratulations – you’re on your way to a healthy, balanced life!