How to Create and Maintain Healthy Habits
Written by Anderson Niu
January 1st, 2021
Do you struggle to start new habits? When it comes to health, many people struggle to adapt to certain routines. In this article you will find special tips for creative folks on how to create and maintain healthy habits.
2021 is here, and it came with a long list of precautions that we must follow in order to stay safe. Nonetheless, considering that people are remaining at home, it can be challenging for some to remain motivated during this self-isolation period. That is the reason why I bring here some tips on how to create and maintain healthy habits that will help you to boost your energy.
Despite knowing that it is crucial to practice healthy habits, our brain is always looking for easier, tastier, and more fun things to do, and that, my friend, is one of the main reasons why we sabotage ourselves and procrastinate important things.
Here I bring 5 healthy habits we must create and maintain to stay healthy, but remember that every idea or suggestion mentioned here will depend on your force-of-will. Without it, you will not be able to create and maintain good habits. So, considering that, please enjoy the article and let us know in the comments if you had some challenges when creating new habits.
1) Take Care of your Mind
Healthy Habits for your Mind
Sometimes we might feel mentally overwhelmed, and this can be a huge problem if we don’t know how to deal with information overload.
Let’s take this time to slow down your brain activity and concentrate only on your body. This is an important step for taking care of your mental health and self awareness.
Mindfulness is a process that helps us to find balance between our body and mind through meditation, which allows our thoughts to flow without any kind of judgement. Healthy habits, such as the traditional meditation is the most popular method of mindfulness; nevertheless, it is not the only one, but, no matter what approach you adopt, it will demand patience and self-discipline to bring the results you need.
There are 4 different states of consciousness, detected as wave frequencies by our brain, and mindfulness helps us to reach them with more ease through consistent practice. The states are the following:
- Beta – When we are awake and thoroughly conscious
- Alpha – When we are relaxed, but still conscious about what is going on
- Theta – When tasks become so automatic that you can mentally disengage from them
- Delta – When we are sleeping and dreaming.
Once you understand how your body and mind operate in a relaxed state when meditating, you will be able to reduce the time required to get into those more relaxed states, such as alpha and theta while doing some of your stressful tasks.
“But Niu… How can a creative guy like me practice such healthy habits? It requires a lot of discipline, and I am not good at maintaining that…“
Well, there are a few tricks we can use to help our brain understand that the task is not that hard. Hence, with time, our mind and body start to gradually feel more comfortable with these healthy habits.
Just to clarify, this section of the article is not focused on teaching you mindfulness techniques, but if you are interested in learning more about “how to practice mindfulness”, please let us know in the comments.
It is important to start slow, and gradually increase the portions applied (repetitions, amount, time, etc). It is also important to establish a trigger for a new habit if we want to make it part of our routine, so here are two suggestions for you to break this barrier and start meditating consistently.
Idea 1: With your smartphone, set your alarm clock for a “meditation time”.
Try to establish a time that you can do it without interruptions, such as bed time, or after coming back from work.
Example: I try to sleep every day at the same time. When it is 10pm, my alarm clock indicates “meditation time”. As I know that I should sleep properly, I just go to bed at 10pm every day, and I practice my mindfulness exercise in bed to relax my body and prepare it for falling asleep.
Still hard for you?
- Try to take notes of the times that you are not productive throughout the day, such as when you are walking, strolling, or just doing nothing.
- Consider those times to consciously pay attention to your breath and try to breath in and breath out in the same rhythm as long as you can.
- After concentrating on your breathing, get used to that practice every time that you feel you are not being productive.
- Once you get used to it, start applying the same principle when you are quiet to create such healthy habits.
Idea 2: Search for a local training program that teaches you how to practice mindfulness.
- By going local, you have the chance to meet others and learn together with them.
- Not having someone to compare our results with can be challenging for some people.
- This is one of the principles that made Crossfit so popular nowadays – The idea of working and growing as a team.
Too hard for you?
- If you are more of a self-learner, you can search for online trainings and practice their exercises.
- Now, If you still prefer to learn from locals, first, ask some friends or professionals to help you.
- If possible and safe (COVID-19), hire someone to go to your house and teach you there.
- Remove some distractions from your daily activities, such as phone notifications, alarms, and music.
- Once you get used to silence or less distraction, try idea 1 here and see if it works for creating these healthy habits.
2) Take care of your body
As we are talking about healthy habits, we know they are not easy to be maintained, so let’s start with the easiest one, shall we? Let’s focus on the inside first.
Are you familiar with any one of the following cliché statements?
“Next year, I will definitely be fit”
“I will exercise properly next year”
“In 2021, I will go on a diet”
Going on a diet is a quite common promise we make to ourselves for the new year. Promises that many times are broken or even forgotten throughout over time.
Basically, there are two healthy habits we must take to manage our nutrition levels in our body:
Hydration Healthy Habits
We need water to hydrate our body. By doing so, we increase our immune system’s efficiency, protecting our body from potential threats, such as the CORONA VIRUS (COVID-19). Additionally, hydrating our body helps our biological system to provide us with more energy for our daily tasks.
Now, if we don’t hydrate ourselves properly, our immune system gets weakened. With low immunity, we often feel tired and/or demotivated to do certain things. The problem is when those “certain things” are related to our work or directly affect someone else.
It is a no-brainer that we must drink a lot of water if we want to stay healthy. However, there are so many distractions and “so much to do” that people end up forgetting to drink water; moreover, sometimes they substitute water for other drinks.
According to The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, on average, women need to consume around 2 – 3 litters of water per day, whereas men need to consume between 3 – 4 litters per day to fully hydrate their bodies.
OMG Niu! That’s a lot of water!
I know, but you don’t need to start your new habit by drinking that much all of a sudden. Remember: every change needs time to be settled, so let’s take it easy here.
It is important to start slow, and gradually increase the portions applied (repetitions, amount, time, etc). It is also important to establish a trigger for a new habit if we want to make it part of our routine, so here are two suggestions for you to break this barrier and start drinking more water consistently:
Idea 1: Follow this rule: every time that you go to the kitchen, you must drink a full glass of water.
- Once you notice that you are drinking better, fill a squeezer or a bottle of water,
- Keep it somewhere easy to find and use its volume to count how many full bottles you must drink per day until you consume a minimum of 2 liters of water that day.
Too hard for you?
- Count and mark somewhere visible how many times you go to the kitchen throughout the day.
- Try to remember the rule and choose between morning, afternoon, and evening.
- Once you have chosen your time period, start by applying the rule only to that specific period and see if it helps. Take your time to try it until you notice that can adapt to it.
- Change the period if it still doesn’t work.
In this approach, going to the kitchen is your trigger. Kitchen reminds us of putting something in our mouth. It can help your brain to remember that and make you feel thirsty.
Idea 2: Use some daily tasks as triggers, such as brushing your teeth, making the bed, taking a shower, eating, etc.
- Choose the ones you are more comfortable with or the ones you do on the autopilot.
- Every time that you finish that task, drink 1 full glass of water for every hour you spent on it
- Once you notice that you are drinking better, fill a squeezer or a bottle of water,
- Keep it somewhere easy to find and count how many full bottles you must drink per day. Remember that the minimum is 2 liters of water per day.
Too hard for you?
- Change the tasks and try again for at least 3 days to see if you can adapt to it.
- Didn’t work? You can also change the time you drink the water. Instead of drinking at the end, consider that you are only able to start that task if you drink the water.
In this original approach, the water is a reward that you get by finishing a task. In the backup plan, you will use the water as a condition/ requirement for starting a task. Check which feeling triggers you the most.
Nutrition Healthy Habits
A balanced diet is one of the most important aspects of our health, and it is often taken for granted because we don’t see the results of what we eat right away. Just like drinking more water, a good and consistent diet will enhance our immune system protecting it from potential diseases and health problems.
Remember that we are all unique. Our genetics also play an important role here when it comes to the right amount of nutrients each one of us needs per day. Hence, if you are willing to change and correct your eating habits, make sure you get some help from a nutritionist, who will know exactly how to balance the nutrients of your meals to achieve your end goals.
If you don’t want to start with a nutritionist, that’s ok. You can definitely do on your own, as long as you keep it consistent and you know how many calories you are consuming per day. Once you get more comfortable with your change, go see a nutritionist to adapt it to your body’s needs.
How to create Nutrition Healthy Habits
It is important to remember that every change takes time, and, if you are willing to change the food you are used to eat, be ready for fighting against your bad habits.
Triggers are also a good tip for food, but it is harder because there are many options for food; therefore, something stronger must be considered to convince our brain that some foods are not meant to be eaten anymore, even if you love some of them. Hence, here are 2 suggestions for you to avoid eating non-healthy food.
Idea 1: make it harder for you to reach the non-healthy food.
- Define what are the types of food that you should stop or reduce the consumption
- Place them inside a container behind other foods – at the bottom of the fridge or at the bottom of the cabinets.
- Drink more water when you feel the desire to eat that type of food until you feel full of water.
Too hard for you?
- Define 2-3 days that you can eat that food and pay attention if you are able to follow up with that.
Idea 2: Remove from your groceries list the food you must stop eating.
- Make a list of the food you KNOW it is not good for your health.
- Later, select only 2 items to be your favorite ones
- Remove the rest of the “bad food” from your list and follow it the next time you go to the supermarket.
Too hard for you?
- Try to stick with half the items you had on your “bad food” list
- With the half you decided to keep purchasing, buy them in smaller quantities
- Apply idea 1 when practicing at home.
Healthy Habits for Regular Physical Exercise
“I would rather take 3 months to create a consistent habit than do something super different for 1 month and then forget about it.”
To illustrate this statement, check the following story:
- John was a sedentary guy, so he created a commitment to go to the gym and exercise regularly
- He really started exercising, just as he planned, by going every day to the gym
- He exercised every day because he was motivated at that moment; after all, he was really doing it
- One month passed and he was still going to the gym every day, but one day he decided to skip it
- On that day he didn’t go, he started thinking about the pros and cons of not going. As he was relaxed, he thought that it was no big deal to skip one or two days
- Later, he ended up skipping more days because he eventually realized that it was boring to him going to the gym and spending time to get there
- A few days after reflecting about this, he decided to go just a few days per week
- 2 months later, he is gradually feeling more bored whenever he thinks about going to the gym,
- A few months later, he prefers to avoid this feeling by not going anymore.
- By not going anymore, he feels bad, but somehow cannot find the strength to keep up with that routine he created on the first 3 months.
Moral of the Story
This short story shows that John started his new endeavor very motivated, but he spent most of his energy on an extreme move. After all, he suddenly changed from sedentarism to a daily physical activity PLUS a new routine of going to the gym, coming back, taking shower, etc.
There is a saying that “Everything that comes quickly, can also go quickly”, and, unfortunately, John changed his routine so fast that he also got bored of it fast. This happens a lot with creative minds who like to create things and explore possibilities. To them, when there is no more uncertainty, it is not exciting anymore; therefore, many people lose interest in remaining on that path.
This short story represents a frequent problem for most people that lack discipline, and creative individuals struggle a lot with this kind of commitment because it involves repetition. Hence, many of us don’t feel comfortable with repetitions! We want challenges; we want something new to learn every day!
How to Create Physical Exercise Healthy Habits?
It is important to start slow, and gradually increase the portions applied (repetitions, amount, time, etc). Additionally, it is important to establish a trigger for a new habit if we want to make it part of our routine. So, here are two suggestions for you to break this barrier and start exercising consistently.
Ps.: Before starting, you should define when is the best time for you to do some exercise. Once you have that defined, try to apply one of the following ideas:
Idea 1: Wearing training clothes or something that can make you feel ready to exercise.
- When you wake up, wear your training clothes and only take them off after you exercise
- When you come back from work, wear the training clothes, and only take them off after you exercise
- If you exercise at home, wear shoes, socks, or your training clothes, and only take them off after you exercise
Idea 2: Define one macro nutrient or specific food as a trigger. Every time that you eat a good portion of it, you must exercise that day.
- “Every time that I eat pasta, I have to workout”
- If I eat bacon today, I must workout
Healthy Habits to Enhance your Sleep Quality
I will just be direct here: there are two things you need to know about good sleeping habits.
- Going to sleep every day at the same time creates a balance on your internal system, which includes hormones, immunity, and energy level. All of them, together, help you to control stress or even prevent it.
- We all need to sleep to recover our energy at the end of the day. A proper night of sleep is required to fully renew our energy for the next day.
Our body energy is a resource that people usually take for granted. Somehow, our body will take it from us, whether it is from a good source or from a bad one.
Here is an example for you as a metaphor (I love metaphors):
Soil = your body
water = your sleep
carrots = your energy
You irrigate the soil with 5 liters of water every day because you will harvest some carrots soon.
Your harvest, to be considered good, usually produces 100 carrots per harvest.
One day, you decide to take some of the water to make water balloons to play with your friends.
The next day, you should irrigate the soil again, but now you only have 2 liters of water for it.
If you keep using a large amount of water for other things, such as playing around or wasting it (pulling the all-nighter), your soil won’t have enough water to nurture the carrots properly.
Eventually, the soil will get dry and unproductive.
If you don’t irrigate it with a minimum of 5 liters of water per day, gradually, the soil will try to survive by consuming the nutrients from the carrots you planted.
At the end, instead of harvesting 100 carrots, your soil will just provide you with 50.
If you depended on having 100 carrots, for any reason, you would be in trouble, don’t you agree?
Moral of The Story:
Our body works the same way. If we don’t treat it with good care, it consumes all the good energy sources you have to survive. This makes us feel tired, demotivated, bored, or even sad. Therefore, when it comes to health care, consistency is the key. Even though you are a person who doesn’t like routine, your body needs it.
Key Points of This Article:
1) There are basically 2 things we should focus on to stay healthy
- Our body
- Our mind
2) We discussed here 5 habits that we must have in order to stay healthy:
- Eating properly
- Drinking more water
- Practicing exercise
- Clearing our mind
- Focusing on a good sleep quality
Did you like this article?
Tell us in the comments below what you think about these ideas.
Try them out and share your results :)