A healthy lifestyle includes not only a healthy diet and regular exercise but also includes keeping emotional and mental health at its peak.
If you notice yourself becoming more prone to colds, sickness, and fatigue, it might be height time to assess your current lifestyle and start tweaking and removing habits that are affecting your health.
What is a Healthy Lifestyle Exactly?
There is no fixed standard for a healthy lifestyle. This means that each person has a unique definition of living “healthily” based on his/her experiences, beliefs, and culture. Some may define a healthy lifestyle as a set of habits that promote a strong immune system, while some may define it as a set of habits that helps prevent sickness and lessen long-term care insurance expenses.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that a healthy lifestyle is, “a way of living that lowers the risk of being seriously ill or dying early.” Whatever your definition of a healthy lifestyle is, what’s important is you are practicing healthy habits that promote good overall health.
Benefits of a Being Healthy
Now to better understand the significance of a healthy lifestyle, below is a list of its benefits which is based on recent research published by the National Institute of Medicine (NIH).
- It boosts the immune system - Fruits, vegetables, and poultry contain tons of minerals and vitamins needed by our body. Together with regular exercise and enough sleep, your body can produce enough antibodies to fight off various diseases.
- It promotes longer life - Research suggests that practicing a healthy lifestyle can increase life expectancy even for those who are suffering from various conditions. This is because a healthy lifestyle includes a healthy diet, regular exercise, and enough sleep which all promote a stronger immune system and healthier internal organs.
- It’s cost-efficient - Maintaining a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be expensive. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a healthy diet that contains mainly fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and grains is cheaper than foods high in saturated and trans fats. Additionally, maintaining a healthy lifestyle will make you less likely to need doctor’s appointments, treatments, and other medical expenses. You’ll even pay lesser premiums on your long-term care insurance.
- It helps prevent chronic illnesses - One of the culprits of chronic illnesses is linked to an unhealthy lifestyle including smoking, poor diet, and physical inactivity. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can keep your overall health at its peak by boosting the immune system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults who are eating healthily have a lesser risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
- It improves physical health - A healthy lifestyle also involves being physically active. Establishing a workout routine of at least 30 minutes a day and five times a week is enough to promote good cardiovascular health and burn unhealthy fats from the body.
- It improves mental health - Aside from a good diet and regular exercise, part of a healthy lifestyle is having the time to rest, relax, and do the things you love. This may involve reading, writing, listening to music, or taking a walk in the park. You can also do meditation exercises like yoga to promote both physical and mental health.
How to Start A Healthy Lifestyle?
Starting a healthy lifestyle is not like simply changing your clothes, rather, it involves commitment and effort. You might be wondering how you can start a healthy lifestyle, to help you with that, below are essential tips you should follow
Set SMART Goals - SMART is an acronym for:
- Specific - Make your goals specific. For example, instead of saying doing exercises 5 times a week, make it more specific by listing down the type of exercises you will do within 5 days (e.g. day 1: strength training, day 2: cardio, etc.)
- Measurable - This means assessing and evaluating if your current practices are going toward your intended goal.
- Attainable - Make sure to include goals that are challenging, but at the same time can be realistically achieved.
- Relevant - This means that goals should be aligned with what you really want to achieve.
- Time-bound - This means that you should set goals that can be realistically achieved within a specific duration/timeframe.
Start small - Starting healthy habits doesn’t mean that you have to see improvements right away. Experiencing relapses of previous habits may occur, but it should not be the reason to stop attaining your goals. After all, small steps can go a long way.
If you have difficulty maintaining healthy habits, you can start by doing it little by little. For example, you want to refrain from habitual alcohol drinking. Instead of abruptly stopping the habit, you can do so by gradually removing it from your habits (e.g., day 1, from 5 glasses, make it to 4 glasses; day 2: from 4 glasses, make it to 3 glasses; etc.)
Eat lots of fruits and veggies - Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are needed by our body to function well. According to Harvard T.H. Chan, a diet rich in fruits and veggies can lower the risk of chronic illnesses like stroke, high blood pressure, digestive problems, and eye problems.
Get regular exercise - Being physically active is another way to promote overall health. A study published in the National Library of Medicine, suggests that physical activity has a linear relation with health status wherein physically active people have a positive health status than those who are inactive.
Try to stick with a specific exercise routine. If you’re new to workouts and exercises, you can start with light and easy-to-follow exercises such as jogging, running, brisk walking, or stretching. Hiring a coach can be a big help for neophytes as well.
Get enough sleep - Sleep deprivation elevates the risk of depression and anxiety, and it also negatively affects one’s cognition and memory resulting in poor mental health. Additionally, some researchers state that lack of sleep may trigger one’s cravings for unhealthy foods which may increase your risk of obesity.
Stop/avoid smoking - Habitual smoking is bad for your health, and in the long run, will result in various illnesses such as asthma and lung cancer. One of the crucial steps toward your health goals is to stop smoking.
Drink plenty of water - Water is one of the most important elements needed by our body to function well. It’s also helpful in cleansing and doing bodily processes. Not drinking enough water can cause dehydration, which can be dangerous when it gets worse.
That’s why it’s crucial to stay hydrated. Ideally, doctors recommend we drink 8 to 10 glasses of water daily to keep our bodies hydrated and functioning.
Avoid highly processed foods - Highly processed foods such as canned, frozen, and junk foods are a big no if you want to stay healthy. This is because processed foods contain harmful substances that will take a toll on your health. Not only that, the nutrients found in raw ingredients are lost during the making of processed products.
Additionally, highly processed foods usually contain high levels of trans and saturated fats, which is not good for your heart. Though it’s okay to eat these kinds of food from time to time, it’s important to limit or better yet remove it from your daily meal plans.
Maintain healthy relationships - Healthy lifestyle is not only about healthy meal planning, exercising, and making fixed sleeping schedules, but it’s also about establishing and maintaining healthy relationships.
According to a study, healthy social interactions play a vital role in one’s overall health including mental, emotional, and physical health, and thus should be prioritized when aiming for a healthy lifestyle.
Maintaining healthy relationships mean keeping and cherishing people who care for you and removing toxic relationships as they can contribute to anxiety, stress, and depression.
Avoid negative thoughts - Negative thoughts are common and affect most of us, but we should not let them affect our mental and emotional health. People who have poor coping skills may overthink and overanalyze things which will later result in anxiety attacks.
Multiple problems arising at the same time can be stressful, but with proper stress management, you will be able to overcome all of these without having to go through panic attacks.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle requires both motivation and commitment. This means that even though how knowledgeable you are about healthy lifestyle practices, without motivation and commitment, you will go nowhere.