“How do I live a healthier lifestyle?” is one of the most common questions I’m asked as a physical therapist and movement coach. There is an infinite number of technical tips and interventions I can educate my clients on, but the reality is none of them matter until we first address our the most basic levels of our health and beliefs surrounding our health first.
In my years of practice, I’ve noted common patterns of thoughts and habits among individuals who lead overall healthy lifestyles and consistently meet their health goals. And on the other hand, sets of habits among those who continue to fall short of living the life they dream of living.
There are several layers to living a healthy lifestyle, and it doesn’t help to focus on the more advanced layers until you have a solid base in place. Like any other skill in life, we need to master the basics before moving on to more advanced techniques. The base of healthy life choices addresses the lowest hanging fruit first. And this is where we’ll start today.
I would like to note that living a healthy lifestyle is a journey, not a destination. It will involve revisiting all aspects of your health on a regular basis. The earlier you can adopt the habit of reflection and continuous learning the better.
At the root of all of your choices is your mindset. It becomes impossible to move forward in a meaningful way without doing some work to address your mindset before all else.
Having the wrong mindset in place is hands down the biggest detriment I observe to living a healthier lifestyle. It doesn’t matter how much you change your diet or physical activity until you believe that you are a person who lives a healthy lifestyle.
Until you address this, you’ll just be an imposter to your mind. A great place to start is to look at the work of Carol Dweck, Ph.D. in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success to determine if you have a fixed or growth mindset when it comes to your health. Having a fixed mindset will keep you firmly rooted in place, while a growth mindset will allow you to continue to explore and develop your base of health knowledge and beliefs.
Another key component to making healthy choices is to surround yourself with the right influences. By being around those who are making the choices you want to see yourself making you’ve given yourself a support and accountability system. Research has found that those who surround themselves with people who have similar goals and interests are much more likely to succeed.
Finding your community can take some time and can happen in a variety of ways. Start by trying to find local people with similar interests. Check out local group classes and support groups until you find the right fit.
Another way to establish a sense of community is through online groups, podcasts, and audiobooks. Nothing quite compares to in-person interactions, but another way to spend time around the right voices is to seek out similar people online. There are infinite potentials in this day and age. Try finding topic-specific groups online to give you further recommendations, support, and resources. Seek out podcasts or audiobooks to both learn and keep yourself in the right mindset for success. These can be great motivators and everyday reminders.
Sleep forms the base of our health. You can start to focus on diet and exercise, but if you aren’t getting high-quality sleep at night these other choices won’t make the same impact. Research continues to show the detriment lack of sleep can have on our health, highlighting the importance of consistent sleep to our health and wellness.
So give your sleep habits a thorough audit. Are you going to bed early enough or struggling to fall asleep? Waking up rested or instead find yourself hitting the snooze button for hours? Are you staying asleep throughout the night or waking up every few hours? Make observations and then come up with a plan to address your most pressing sleep issues. You’d be amazed at the difference this simple step can make!
The best part about the above suggestions is that none of them require an investment of anything other than your time. The most basic aspects of your health are accessible to you today, so how can you get started?