How to be healthy and fit – 7 healthy habits of highly effective people!
Approximately 1.9 billion people are suffering under the burden of being overweight due high saturated fat diets and lack of physical activity? So presents the massive question “How to be healthy and fit?” What about the other 5.5 billion people out there who are managing to kill it? What extraordinary (or ordinary?) measures are they taking to stay healthy?
From personal experience I’d say it’s quite simple actually, they do nothing extraordinary at all. Last year I read a book that completely changed my life! So I decided to put together this blog post around “The 7 Habits of Highly Healthy People.” My hope is that it might guide, encourage or inspire you to pick up your game and love on yourself!
1. Physical activity is a top priority.
Here in New Zealand we all know the saying “Push Play – 30 minutes a day” right? Or am I just showing my age? Thanks to Anette King and the government’s campaign to help get Kiwi’s moving back in 2002, we all started to understand that purely exercising on the weekend was not enough. Exercise needs to be a part of our daily routine just like brushing our teeth. In theory that sounds great, but what about those of us who don’t enjoy going to the gym? How can you sustain a habit that you just outright don’t like?
Finding the right fit.
I believe it’s super important to find the right fit. Maybe for you that’s joining an indoor netball team? Or trying out kick boxing? It may be as simple as going for a walk with your head phones in so you can listen to your favourite audio book at the same time. If you are anything like me, you have to be doing two things at once to maximise productivity, otherwise you get itchy feet! Or maybe it’s doing Pilates and combining a mental break with your strengthening? The main point here is that if you like what you’re doing, you are more likely to do it. Setting goals and tracking your results will also help motivate you to stay on track!
2. Eating not only a healthy diet, but a varied and colourful one.
High carb burgers and sugary drinks are miles away from recommended health foods and for good reason. I don’t know about you but I often find myself using the excuse that ‘good nutrition seems so complicated’ and ‘this article tells me to eat kale and that one tells me not to’.
My personal struggles.
Sometimes I just give up and put into my body whatever makes me happy in that moment. A couple years ago I was struggling with a combination of working really long hours, being very stressed from running two business’ and just down right not caring about what I put into my body. This left me 20 kg’s heavier than normal. Not only that but I was also feeling really low on self esteem. Especially when my job is to motivate and inspire others to take care of themselves, I felt like such a fraud when I wasn’t even doing that for myself.
The importance of work/life balance.
Thank goodness now, 18 months later I have found some work life balance or I should say life work balance, because life always needs to come before work! I started to take my own advice, lost 20 kg’s and feel as if I’m living my true life.
If we were honest with ourselves it’s pretty black and white right? Anyone could go to a supermarket and point to what is healthy and what’s not. So let’s not complicate things. If it’s natural it’s a YES. If it comes in packaging and is processed it’s a NO. According to Nicola of Eat Well NZ we want our diet to be varied and colourful! “Variety ensures you get a good range of nutrients, and a range of colours equals a range of antioxidants and nutrients.” Thanks Nic!
3. Get adequate sleep.
Sleep is essential for restoration and healthy people are very particular about getting at least seven to nine hours of sleep each day. But we are all different right? We all expend different amounts of energy and hence need different amounts of sleep. Try sleeping for 7 hours then asking yourself the following questions. Do the same again for 8 and 9 hours and see what the results are:
Do you feel:
- Sleepy when driving or at work?
- Sluggish when you wake up?
- Are you experiencing any sleep problems?
- Do you depend on coffee to get you through your day?
Sleep also impacts your immune system, weight and risk of serious illness.
The 5 stages of sleep.
Sleep happens in 5 stages. Stages one and two are when you are in a light sleep. The brain slows down brain waves and if you were to take a “power nap” you’d want to wake up after this stage. Stages three and four are the deep sleep stages. “This is when the body repairs muscles and tissues, stimulates growth and development, boosts immune function, and builds up energy for the next day.”
Understanding sleep cycles.
According to sleep.org‘s article “Understanding Sleep Cycles” the 5th and final stage of sleep is the REM sleep stage, or Rapid Eye Movement. In this stage your brain downloads all the data it learnt that day and stores it in your long term memory. It is also the time when you dream. Therefore if you don’t give yourself enough time to sleep, you will most likely wake up before your body has had a chance to enter this phase. To optimise your learning potential it is definitely advisable to get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
A few recommendations for regular sleep
This is often easier said than done so the following are a few recommendations I have to help you keep reaching your goals.
- Have a regular bed time and try to keep to it.
- Have a sleep ritual other than just brushing your teeth. Mine is to put a meditation on my phone, put lavender oil in my diffuser and lie on my “shakti” mat to help loosen up my neural tension.
- Turn off all electronics before you go to bed.
- Try black out curtains.
- Consider buying a new mattress or even a memory foam topper.
- Exercise daily to make sure you expend enough energy to fall asleep easily.
4. Taking time out to relax/unwind and breathe.
Healthy people understand that having a positive mindset will enable them to get the most out of their day and improve their ability to handle stressful situations. Stress is a major factor contributing to high depression rates in New Zealand, and surprisingly enough shallow breathing is one of the culprits.
My chat with a physiotherapist who explained the importance of deep breathing
A year ago I had a conversation with a physiotherapist here in Auckland who had been studying the effects of shallow breathing. She explained that we were designed to breathe deeply into our tummies using our diaphragm as this will expand your rib cage giving a natural intercostal stretch. However most of us breath shallow into our chest where we recruit a whole bunch of muscles in the breathing process that weren’t designed for it. This means we create a lot of tension in those muscles which leads to a feeling of stress, anxiety and in some extreme cases depression. If you know you struggle with depression, I would definitely recommend contacting a support service such as depression.org.nz or trying out Breathing Works.
Breathing in Pilates
In Pilates, breathing is one of the 6 main principles and every movement has a specific breath pattern. Even if you struggle to get your head around it to begin with, just taking the time to focus on where, when and how you are breathing can make a huge difference to your day. In fact when I ask my clients how they feel post Pilates, they never answer with ‘exhausted’ or ‘tired’, they always answer with ‘rejuvenated’, ‘refreshed’ or ‘definitely worked out but feeling good!’
5. Prioritising your mental/emotional health.
Healthy people realise that if they aren’t looking after themselves, they can’t look after others. This means nourishing your mind, body and soul. I think a lot of people have the body down pat, that’s easy. Eat well, exercise often. The soul is something we often nourish inadvertently as it’s essentially doing something that makes you feel good about yourself. For some people this might simply be socialising with your friends. You can’t deny the benefits of having your soul filled with good conversation and a sense of being nurtured by people who care about you. I know for myself, being a creative person, my soul often needs a creative input like going to a museum or watching some contemporary dance to feel fulfilled. But the mind?
Being open minded is a good place to start!
The mind is a tricky one. Having a positive outlook and trying to approach every situation with an open mind is definitely a good start, but not really a long term approach to investing in your mental health. As I said at the beginning of this blog, last year I stumbled upon a very old, but very insightful book which I will openly say changed my life as I know it. The author introduced the concept of having my own personal mission statement. Sitting down and figuring out who I want to be by the time I die, not how many houses I want to own or what I want my successes to be. Rather what do I want my character to be.
The eulogy exercise
He did this with the simple yet challenging exercise of writing out your own eulogy. Morbid I know, but profound. I had to write out what I wanted my family, friends, co workers and community to say about me. Once I had figured out who I wanted to be, the task was to start living it!
What I learnt from the task
This is a daily task involving all your interactions with others, the way you make decisions and living a purposeful and fulfilling life. I think this process has actually made me value everyday more. I’m a very goal oriented person. I’m a Taurus, stubborn and determined. Anyone who knows me well, will confirm that I don’t take no for an answer. Though this means I get sh*t done, it also means I’m very future focussed. I was always living in the future and unsatisfied with my now. After going through this task and realising that the now was building me into the person I wanted to be, I started to feel much more content with my now. Don’t get me wrong, I still live everyday heading towards a goal, but I appreciate the journey more along the way.
What’s the book called that changed my life?
I know, I know, you are dying to know… “What’s the book called?” Alright I’ll tell you, it’s Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. In the book Stephen breaks down the first 3 habits which help you to take care of you, and then the second 3 habits help you relate/communicate with others. He explains concepts like the “win win” strategy and how much better off everyone is if we negotiate until everyone feels like they’ve won. Rather than trying to get the best deal for ourselves even if it leaves the other person feeling really crap about the interaction. It’s definitely a good read and if you are like me and don’t have time to read, get it on audiobook and listen to it while you are walking or driving! 🙂
If you’d like to learn more about the book by watching a quick video with animations, check out this awesome youtube video by Fight Mediocrity!
6. Have a supportive community around you.
Although some people enjoy time to themselves, it’s undeniable that we as humans are designed to connect with others. Having a strong social support network around you is critical for good mental health and can assist you through stressful or challenging situations.
I know for myself, whenever I’m having trouble with my business I can always call my brother, my dad or my business mentor to help me talk it out. Whenever I’m having trouble emotionally or relationship wise I can always call upon my bestie Tracy to give me some good advice or just be a listening ear. If I spend a weekend away with my family and in particular my beautiful nephews and niece who are 4 and 3 and 1 years old, I always come back feeling nourished and connected. Not only can friends and family help you out in times of need, but they can also help keep you accountable to the person you want to be and help you to avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits. I believe it’s super important to invest in the people you have around you, they will help build your character and stand by you through whatever life throws at you.
7. Drinking lots of water.
Last but not least, healthy people understand the benefits of drinking plenty of water throughout the day. The basic formula for figuring out how much water you should be drinking is to divide your weight in kg’s by 30. For example if you weigh 60 kg’s then you should be drinking 2 litres of water. However there is actually quite a bit more to figuring out this equation. Check out this fun/interactive test to check if you are drinking enough water to suit your lifestyle! https://www.h4hinitiative.com/tools/hydration-calculator
To sum it all up, for healthy people, healthy habits are the mantra they live by to keep them fit and happy.
- Eat well.
- Exercise often.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Take time to relax.
- Prioritise your mental/emotional health.
- Surround yourself with a supportive community.
- Drink lots of water!
I hope you guys found this inspiring and educational. I would love to hear your own personal stories, tips and tricks and the mantra that you live your lives by!