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Navigating a busy life: A guide to a healthy lifestyle

October 27, 2023
14 minutes
Lifestyle Health & Wellness
Healthy habits

There's no way around it: today's world is fast-paced, and many of us feel like we're never quite doing enough. When it comes to work, family, and social obligations, it can be tough to balance the ups and downs of life with living a healthy lifestyle.

The key to living a healthy lifestyle? Knowing where to start. We understand that you're super busy, and it can be tough to fit the foundations of a healthy lifestyle into your daily routine.

We're here to help.

Here, we'll delve into everything you need to know about getting started with a healthy lifestyle, from starting a fantastic nutrition plan to practicing mindfulness to keeping your stress levels low. Whether you're looking for some tips to add to your already-healthy routine or you're just getting started with a wellness journey, we've got you.

Healthy lifestyle foundations

If you're curious about starting a healthy lifestyle, it's important to get back to basics. All too often, it's easy to get caught up in the latest technology, workout craze, or nutrition trend, all while forgetting that nailing the basic tenants of a healthy lifestyle is key toward creating a sustainable plan.

It's important to remember that health isn't about a number on the scale or the way we look in a swimsuit. Health is about increasing both the quality and length of your life by providing your body with everything it needs to function at its best.

Three lifestyle factors--nutrition, exercise, and sleep--can set you up to meet and exceed your health and wellness goals.

Nutrition

Food is the foundation of wellness. Depending on how you approach nutrition, it can either be an amazing medicine or the cause of disease. While there's no need to eat perfectly all of the time, getting most of your calories from whole, nutrient-dense foods can help boost energy levels, improve sleep, and help you avoid diet-related disease.

Knowing how to eat well and actually doing it are two different things. Many people who are interested in health and wellness find that despite knowing exactly what they should be eating, it's hard to stay on track.

There are several techniques you can use to stay motivated to continue following your nutrition plan, including:

  • Think about adding instead of subtracting: When you're focused on all the foods you're working to eat less of, it can feel like you're being deprived. Instead of focusing on what you're not having, try focusing on what you can have.
  • Switch up your routine: Instead of sticking with the same meals from week to week, take some time to introduce new recipes.
  • Make it simple: Convenience is key, and when it comes to staying on track with your nutrition, getting into a meal prep routine can make it easier to stick to it.
  • Choose foods you love: You don't have to forgo delicious meals when you're eating healthy. If you're not a fan of eating chicken and broccoli day in and day out, exploring recipes that are a good fit for your taste buds can help you stay on the path to wellness.

When you decide that you'd like to clean up your nutrition, it may be helpful to start slowly. Going all-in on a new nutrition plan can work well for some people, but others find that it's easier to make small changes--such as swapping out a morning sugar-laden latte for a bowl of oatmeal and berries--than to do a complete nutritional overhaul.

If you're not sure what type of nutrition plan is the best fit for your body, it's a good idea to talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian. You'll be able to get valuable insights into the meals that will work best for your health and fitness goals, as well as be able to track your progress over time. Working with a healthcare professional will also help to ensure that you're choosing a sustainable nutrition plan, rather than a too-strict set of guidelines that will send you reeling the minute you decide to venture off-plan.

Exercise

Movement matters, and finding the motivation to work out can be a smart first step in getting and staying healthy. While your exercise needs depend on your individual fitness level, body type, age, and health and wellness goals, it's important to get moving a few times each week.

If you want to get started with an all-out fitness program, more power to you--but this isn't necessary for your body to enjoy the benefits of regular exercise. It's recommended that you shoot for about 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. This could be walking after dinner for half an hour each weekday, doing yard work for about 20 minutes each evening, or spending some time chasing after your kids a few afternoons each week.

In order to stick with physical activity long-term, it's important that you find exercise that feels good for your body. You shouldn't dread your workout. If you find that it's tough to get moving on your own, teaming up with family, friends, or neighbors can help you stay motivated to keep moving. If you're more of an introverted exerciser, you may be interested in online fitness challenges that keep you on your toes with others around the world.

A few tips when it comes to keeping yourself moving:

  • Remember, motivation wanes, while habits stick. Getting in the habit of moving regularly--even when you're not particularly in the mood to exercise--can help you continue to work toward your goals.
  • Small rewards like new shoes after you hit your mileage goal for the month or a manicure with friends after you stick to your plan for a few weeks can help keep you pushing forward.
  • Keep track of your statistics--like how long it takes you to walk a mile, or how long you're able to make it through your favorite dance workout video before you have to take a break--can help you to see that you're making impressive progress.

Sleep

When it comes to your health, rest is key. In today's go-go-go world, it can be tempting to burn the midnight oil. While it may feel good to check items off your to-do list late into the night in the short-term, doing so can hurt your productivity the next day, and can eventually hurt your long-term health.

Sleep needs are individual, so it's important to pay attention to the amount of sleep that allows you to feel your best. The recommended eight hours of sleep per night can be a good jumping off point for most adults, but you might need more or less sleep depending on your personal needs.

Establishing good sleep habits can help you stay on track with healthy actions throughout the following day. When you get solid rest at night, you're more likely to exercise and make nutrition decisions that fuel your body than when you're tossing and turning into the wee hours.

It's important that you set the stage for great sleep, night after night. Some great ways to improve your sleep quality include:

  • Cool off. Experts say that the ideal room temperature for sound sleep is about 65 degrees. Of course, this is individual--if you find that 65 degrees is too cool for you, it's ok to crank the thermostat up a few degrees. If it's cool outside, opening a window in your bedroom for a little while before you go to bed can let in some fresh air and begin the cool-down process.
  • Set a schedule. A bedtime isn't just a good idea for your kids--it's a smart move for you too. When you go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning, your body begins to know what to expect. This can make it easier to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
  • Darken your room. While you don't necessarily need blackout curtains to get good sleep, it's smart to close the blinds and draw the curtains each night. The darker you can make your room, the better.
  • Make your nutrition work for you. Most people find that they get their best sleep when they stop eating a few hours before bedtime. The old adage of "breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper" can help you rest easy--when your body isn't working to digest a large meal at the end of the day, you may find that it's easier to fall and stay asleep.
  • Cut the coffee. There's nothing wrong with a cup of coffee in the morning, but if you're struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep at night, it may be time to cut the caffeine habit. If you're not willing to go cold turkey, try switching to half-caf, and be sure to stop drinking caffeine before noon.

Sleep is deeply individual, and it's important to take the time to figure out what sleep techniques work best for you. If it's not distracting, wearing a smartwatch or other wearable health device to bed can provide valuable sleep insights that can help you make the most of your non-waking hours.

Meal planning for busy people

cheerful aged couple making meal at home, smiling elderly gentleman stirring meal with spatula while his wife seasoning salad

Convenience is king when it comes to food, and meal prepping can be a super-helpful way for you to stick to your nutrition plan when things get rough. No, you don't need to eat every meal out of a plastic container, but having some tried-and-true healthy favorites in the fridge can set you up for success.

Try these tips to get into a meal prepping groove:

  • Designate a grocery day. You don't need to run to the store every day after work to pick up a few things for dinner--this makes it all too tempting to order in. Plan your meals for the week according to plan, then take a few hours to hit the grocery store to get everything you need.
  • Make meal prep an appointment. Just like you wouldn't blow off a scheduled appointment, you don't get to blow off meal prep. Set your prep time into your calendar each week.
  • Keep it fresh. It's tempting to prepare the same foods week after week, but doing so increases the likelihood that your prepped food will sit in the fridge while you munch on something more enticing. Trying a new recipe each week can introduce the variety you need to stay interested.

Incorporating exercise into your schedule

Whether you've been promising yourself that you'll finally exercise tomorrow, you've been waiting for the weather to clear up, or you're telling yourself that taking the dog out was enough, it's easy to make excuses not to exercise when you're busy. No judgment--we've all been there. Thankfully, there are some ways that you can make it easier to get the movement your body craves, no matter how jam-packed your schedule may be.

Try these tips to incorporate exercise into a busy schedule:

  • Shift your sleep. Many people find that it's easiest to exercise in the morning, before the tasks of the day begin to pile up. Moving your bedtime to an hour earlier so you can wake up and work out can make it easier to get moving when you have a lot on your plate.
  • Find a workout buddy. It can be all-too-tempting to drive right past the gym or the park on the way home after a long day at work, but it's harder to cancel when you know you have someone depending on you. Teaming up with a friend, family member, or co-worker for daily or weekly workouts can help you stick to the plan, even when things get busy.
  • Multitask. While this isn't always ideal, sometimes, multitasking is the only way to get your movement in--and that's ok! Whether you need to go for a walk while you take a conference call, do a few minutes of yoga here and there between appointments, or make playing with the kids into a game of tag to get your steps in, small efforts add up.

Mindfulness and stress management

Stress is a part of life, but that doesn't mean that we need to constantly exist in a state of stress. When stressful events happen, it's easy for us to take the physical, mental, and emotional stress of the event into the rest of our lives. While some of this is unavoidable, practicing healthy mindfulness and stress management techniques can both improve your mood and bolster your overall well-being.

Many people find that meditation is a simple, free, and fast way to re-focus and de-stress. Meditation doesn't have to be complicated, and you don't need to be able to empty your mind in order to gain the benefits. Simply setting a timer for five minutes, closing your eyes, and focusing on a word or idea can help your mind and body reset. As you begin to notice the benefits of meditation, increasing the length of your practice or the number of sessions you do each week can help you continue to lower stress levels.

Mindfulness-based movement--such as yoga--can also offer both physical and mental health benefits. While yoga classes can be a fun, effective way to get centered and meet other like-minded people, there's no need to go to a studio to enjoy the benefits of yoga. Getting started only requires a mat and a YouTube video, and you'll notice the immediate benefits--like a clear mind, deeper breathing, and increased energy--right away.

A final note on stress management: don't be afraid to reach out and ask for help if you're struggling. It can be easy to try to deal with stress on your own, but doing so isn't just difficult--it can be exhausting. Turning to your community or a trusted therapist when things get rough is a key part of managing stress.

Why hydration matters

Quick--when last did you have a glass of water?

Hydration is a key part of keeping your body healthy long-term, but it's easy to forget to drink up when we get busy. It can also be hard to remember to drink water when we're enjoying other beverages.

Benefits of drinking enough water each day include:

  • Regulation of kidney function
  • Supports digestive health
  • Boosts energy levels
  • Can contribute to healthy weight maintenance
  • Improves skin health
  • Boosts focus

Knowing how much water your body needs to feel great is a smart place to start. Many experts recommend drinking half of your body weight in ounces of water each day--for example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you'd aim for 75 ounces each day, plus more if you're exercising, breastfeeding, or spending time in hot temperatures.

Setting an alarm on your phone to remind you to drink water can help you stay hydrated, as can starting a water challenge with the people you're around during the day. When you begin to boost your water intake, you may feel that you're constantly drinking--don't worry, this will fade over time. A word of caution: if you're new to hitting your hydration goals, you may want to stop drinking a few hours before you go to sleep, so you aren't constantly waking up to use the bathroom.

Prioritizing self-care

When you're busy taking care of others, it's easy to put yourself last. Whether you end up picking at leftover food on kids' plates because you feel too busy to make a healthy dinner for yourself or you fail to get the sleep you need because you're working to meet deadlines, many people have a tough time prioritizing self-care.

Doing so, however, is key to your long-term well-being. Self-care looks different for everyone, and it's important to pay attention to what self-care behaviors help you feel restored, revitalized, and ready to live your best life.

If you're not at the point where you feel you can prioritize your well-being for your own sake, think about how prioritizing your well-being helps others. When you're healthy and happy, it's easier for you to keep others healthy and happy. When you have high energy levels, the people around you benefit. If you have little ones at home, engaging in self-care helps them see the importance of doing the same.

Self-care isn't always about taking a bubble bath or getting a massage. Some less-often-discussed self-care activities include:

  • Asking for help when you need it
  • Calling a friend to talk when you feel stressed
  • Setting boundaries with others
  • Declining invitations when you feel overwhelmed or in need of rest
  • Spending time by yourself
  • Relaxing with your pet or a family member to recharge
  • Preparing and enjoying healthy food
  • Participating in physical exercise that is challenging and fun
  • Going to the doctor for regular check-ups
  • Talking with a therapist to support your mental health

We've all heard the saying "put your own oxygen mask on first," and this is as true in life as it is 30,000 feet in the air. When you put yourself first, you're reminding yourself--and everyone else--that your well-being matters.

Long-term strategies to maintain overall wellness

You don't just want to have a long life--you want to have a high quality of life for years to come. Implementing healthy living strategies now can help you enjoy the decades ahead.

Some tips for maintaining your health over time include:

  • Find an activity that contributes to both your physical and social health. Joining a walking or running club, playing a sport, or exercising with family can boost both your physical and mental health, as well as solidify healthy habits that will support your health long-term.
  • Follow your doctor's health screening guidelines. Early detection of health conditions is important. While it can be easy to turn a blind eye to your doctor's screening recommendations out of fear of getting unwanted information, ignorance is not bliss when it comes to your health.
  • Pay attention--and speak up when something feels off. You know your body better than anyone else. If you feel that something isn't quite right, don't be afraid to ask for a second opinion or a referral to a specialist.
  • Weed out unhealthy habits. While some unhealthy habits may seem like they don't affect your health now, it's important to play the long game when it comes to your health. Smoking, vaping, and drinking to excess can all harm your health over time. Quitting now--or getting the support you need to quit--is a key first step in improving your long-term health.

Evidation: Here to support your health, one day at a time.

At Evidation, we're here to help you learn how to have a healthy lifestyle, one step at a time. Download the Evidation app today to learn more and get started.

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