Healthy living isn’t just about meal plans and exercise; it’s a mindset. The healthy living mindset incorporates mindfulness, emotional resilience and self-mastery. Building a healthier lifestyle means you proactively set goals and create action plans to turn those goals into reality.
This guide focuses on strategies and action plans – something most other healthy living blogs skip. You’ll learn how to put ideas into action, and how to customize them for your unique needs.
Modern life makes many demands upon our time and energy; it’s easy to lose sight of how important health really is. We’ve all succumbed to the lure of comfort food; we’ve all blow off a workout in favor of a movie or happy hour with friends. Occasional dietary lapses and missed workouts aren’t a big problem. However, when this becomes a habit, that’s when the trouble starts.
Habits function as our friends – or our foes. Once you lose a vital habit like clean eating or regular workouts, each passing day makes it harder to get back into the groove. The habit of skipping important health practices can be tough to fix. In order to break the cycle you’ll need patience, perseverance, strategy, and momentum.
People fall off the self-care wagon for a variety of reasons:
- Stress at work or home
- Unusually busy schedule
- Relationship problems (conflict, divorce, breakup, illness)
To achieve a healthier lifestyle, focus on creating new habits. First, check out the ten strategies in this healthy living article. Second, choose one or two key strategies that inspire you. Third, anchor your goals to a Big WHY so that you build the motivation to stay on course when challenges arise. Finally, put the action plan into place, modifying it to meet your personal circumstances.
Remember, you’re not alone; many people are in the same situation. Reach out for appropriate support: hire a coach, trainer, nutritionist or meal service. Join a local, healthy community; take cooking classes or go to group fitness activities.
Consistency is the key. Develop a few new habits and integrate them into your life. It’s better to do a few important things consistently rather than start an overly-complicated plan that you can’t sustain. Taking on too much at once will result in failure, and you don’t need that! Start slowly and build on each success.
It’s never too late to regain your health. Your body knows how to regenerate itself. Give it the proper tools (nutrients, water, peacefulness, movement) and you’ll have increasingly better health.
Table of Contents
- The Top Healthy Living Strategy That All Experts Agree On
- Diets Don’t Work: Here’s What Does
- Always Be Prepared
- Detox Done Right
- The Secret to a Powerful Immune System
- Fight or Flight Can Kill You
- The Fountain of Youth
- Sleep Tight
- Numbers Tell the Story
- Obstacles to Better Health
1. The Top Healthy Living Strategy That All Experts Agree On
Experts agree that fruits and vegetables are essential to good health. They contain vital phytonutrients that prevent (and possibly reverse) chronic illnesses. The bright rainbow colors of fresh produce highlight their potent healing properties.
- Lycopene – the vibrant red color of tomatoes, watermelon and papaya are filled with a potent antioxidant that protects against cellular damage.
- Resveratrol – an amazing polyphenol that has protective benefits for your heart and cognitive health. It’s also anti-aging. Found in red wine, blueberries, cocoa, and red grapes.
- Beta-carotene – a form of vitamin A contained in yellow and orange produce that protects your skin, eyes, and lungs. Found in carrots, cantaloupe, and sweet potatoes.
Fruits and veggies are loaded with fiber and water, which keep your digestion and gut functioning normally. They’re also low in calories, filling, satisfying and versatile. Thanks to the abundance of food blogs, you can try a new recipe for your favorite vegetable every day. Or experiment with a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried before.
Herbs also have incredible healing powers. Ancient wisdom from indigenous cultures is coming to light about the healing properties and uses of plants, seeds, roots, and bark. These herbs can prevent illness as well as provide alternative or complementary medical treatments for a wide variety of common illnesses..
Plants are our allies in the quest for disease prevention. They reduce inflammation, protect vital organs, and combat the effects of environmental toxins. Adding herbs to your everyday cooking is a great strategy for healthy living.
Strategy: Power Nutrition
Big WHY: All plants have vital nutrients that support our health. Plant-based diets have been shown to reduce cholesterol, blood sugar and BMI. They also protect against heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. The United States lags behind other nations in adopting plant-based eating plans.
Action Plan: Add more plants to your daily meals. Fruit, vegetables, herbs, whole grains, beans and legumes all have the ability to boost our health. Reducing meat, dairy, sugar, and processed food will dramatically improve your health across the board. Get as much variety as possible. Set a goal of including 20 plants into your daily healthy food plan.
- Berries – all berries have antioxidant qualities, so enjoy all varieties. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are available year-round. Organic is best.
- Citrus – loaded with Vitamin C, lemons and limes make great additions to plain water. Add citrus juice to salad dressings for a splash of flavor.
- Apples – these are packed with fiber and immune-boosting power. Try all the varieties. Add to salads or enjoy as a simple, satisfying snack or dessert.
- Crucifers – this family of plants included brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, radish, and kale. Strong anti-inflammatory effects and packed with vitamins and minerals.
- Leafy Greens – all greens (lettuce, chard, spinach, watercress) are great for digestive cleansing. They also provide an alkaline boost which helps our lymphatic system .
- Basil – anti-inflammatory and good for the immune system. A wonderful addition to fresh tomato salad and pasta sauces.
- Cilantro – potent detoxification properties that help remove heavy metals and protect against free radical damage. Delicious in salads and salsas.
- Oregano – a superstar herb used for centuries. Contains antibiotic properties, as well as anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral. Delicious in pasta sauce, pizza and anything Italian.
- Parsley – fights bad breath and kidney issues. Sprinkle on salads, proteins, or veggies. Or make a healthy tabbouleh.
- Rosemary – improves memory and hair growth. A great ingredient for shampoo. Also delicious with roasted vegetables and proteins.
- Thyme – boosts mood and helps relieve respiratory problems. Delicious in a pot of green beans or scattered on roasted vegetables.
- Turmeric – incredible herb with numerous benefits, especially valuable in fighting cancer. Used in beverages, curries, soups and more.
Whole grains, beans, and legumes are rich in fiber and provide powerful nutrients. Some people cannot tolerate grains, so become aware of symptoms that might arise when you eat bread or other grains. Avoid processed grains, like chips, cookies and white bread.
Beans and legumes can cause digestive issues or gas; it’s best to integrate these into your diet slowly until you get used to them. If you buying canned beans, make sure the cans are BPA-free.
Plants and herbs can be medicinal, and in some cases can be more effective than drugs (with fewer side effects). Online resources can provide information on herbal supplements for specific health conditions.
You can also find wonderful holistic and integrative practitioners in your area. Try an Internet search for: herbalists, nutritionists, acupuncturists, integrative and holistic doctors. Wellness centers and health food stores have helpful information about nutrition, herbs, and supplements.
2. Diets Don’t Work: Here’s What Does
How many diets have you been on in your life? How many times have you been promised a “magic bullet” that would solve all your health problems, help you achieve the perfect weight, amazing energy, and peak fitness?
Every month a new diet book emerges written by an MD who swears all their patients have achieved miraculous results. How can every diet get great results, when they all contain conflicting information? Low carb, high protein, low fat – what’s the answer?
The vast majority of diets don’t produce long-term, sustainable results. The restrictive nature of these programs creates a situation where you’re constantly using willpower to stick to the plan. That’s no fun, and it certainly doesn’t constitute healthy living!
The difference between a diet and a healthy eating plan is that a diet is a quick fix, while an eating plan is a sane, long-term health strategy. It takes patience to create new healthy habits; the rewards will have a positive impact on many areas of your life.
Benefits of healthy eating:
- easily maintain an appropriate weight
- prevent serious illnesses
- mental clarity and better decision-making
- increased energy and vitality
- resilience and ability to bounce back from difficulty
- sense of empowerment
- increased self-esteem
- increased happiness and quality of life
- better skin and anti-aging advantages
Strategy: Create a Personalized Healthy Eating Plan
Big WHY: Diets don’t work because they aren’t customized for your unique body and needs. An eating plan that doesn’t fit your lifestyle and personal preferences isn’t sustainable. Yo-yo dieting damages your body and makes you frustrated, fatigued and stressed-out. It’s not your fault that trendy, one-size-fits-all diets haven’t worked. You need a healthy eating plan that fits who you are.
Action Plan: Make a list of the foods you love, including fruit, veggies, complex carbs (beans, legumes, whole grains, starchy vegetables) and lean proteins. Your list should have at least one dozen fruits and two dozen vegetables. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to expand your range by trying new recipes until you have enough variety in your plan. Keep in mind that fresh produce is best; your choices will vary by season.
Use only high-quality olive or avocado oils, and a few raw nuts and avocados. Minimize all dairy – find substitutes (coconut milk) or buy only organic, grass-fed dairy products. Goat and sheep’s milk cheeses are easier on the body than cow’s milk.
Meat should be high-quality, pasture-raised without hormones or antibiotics. Fish should be wild and sustainable. Snacks should also come from your list of healthy foods.
Take advantage of online resources to search for recipes that incorporate more fruits and veggies into your meals. There are wonderful vegetarian and vegan cookbooks that will spark your imagination; browse them at the bookstore or your local library.
Experiment with new foods, but don’t force yourself to eat anything
you don’t like. There are plenty of healthy foods that taste delicious.
When creating healthy meals, keep these 5 keys in mind:
Key #1 – Pleasure
The thought of eating this meal makes you say, “Yum”. It’s important that you take time to enjoy and savor your food. Use your senses to experience the beauty, fragrance, and subtle tastes of food.
Key #2 – Nutrients
Variety in your food choices ensures you get the full range of vitamins and minerals for optimal health. Be adventurous and try new things, especially super foods like dragon fruit, kale, and quinoa.
Key #3 – Satisfaction
Eat enough food so that you feel full and satisfied, without feeling heavy. Eat slowly and be aware of the fullness signals your stomach sends out; stop eating when you’re full. You can always have a snack later.
Key #4 – Flexibility
Cook and eat as many meals at home as possible. It’s easier to know what you’re eating and to control the quality. But we all love to eat out, so when you’re dining out make a plan to stay on track. Start your meal with a green, leafy salad. Order extra veggies as a side dish.
A sustainable eating plan means you don’t have to be perfect all the time. Enjoy your food, surroundings, and company.
Key #5 – Balance
Eat a variety of foods so you won’t become bored. Look for healthier recipes for your favorite dishes. Ayurveda (the ancient Indian healing system) identifies 6 specific types of food that the human tongue can taste: sweet, salty, bitter, astringent, pungent and sour.
Try to incorporate a variety of tastes and scents into your meals – you’ll feel happier and more satisfied. Don’t stress about getting all 6 tastes with every meal; healthy living is about being calm and enjoying life.
- Sweet – fruits, dates, or a few drops of stevia or maple syrup
- Salty – sea salt, olives, tamari
- Bitter – raw salad greens, tea, turmeric
- Astringent – cranberries, green grapes, green beans
- Pungent – ginger, garlic, onions, hot peppers
- Sour – lemons, vinegar, wine
3. Always Be Prepared
If you don’t have a consistent eating plan, your body is under duress. It never knows when to expect fuel and nutrients. If you skip meals – by starving yourself or binge eating – this creates a disordered eating pattern.
Disordered eating leads to disordered thinking; your brain needs nourishment and hydration to process information effectively. Disordered thinking leads to disordered living; your undernourished brain makes poor decisions.
When your body is stressed and your brain isn’t working, you’re at the mercy of whims, cravings and emotional eating. Poor eating choices can wreak havoc with your life choices as well. This cycle causes a lot of unnecessary heartache.
Your body needs regular infusions of food and water in order to thrive. It’s an intelligent, aware, complex network of multiple systems – all of which need nutrients to function. When you fail to provide those nutrients, your internal systems cannot function optimally, and they go into survival mode.
Every cell, organ, muscle, and bone in your body needs nourishment to repair and regenerate. Impaired cellular health results in accelerated aging.
When the body’s detoxification system doesn’t have enough water and energy to function, your cells become packed with toxins. These toxins come from the external environment as well as unhealthy food choices. Toxins that cannot be properly eliminated are stashed in your fat cells and organs. This creates weight gain and starts you on the road to declining health.
You may not notice any symptoms of declining health at first, or even be aware that it’s happening. The process is cumulative. Over time your organs stop functioning properly, and later in life, you’re at risk of degenerative illnesses.
Strategy: Gain Control Over Your Food Preparation
Big WHY: Your body needs consistent, healthy food and beverages. Busy people need to schedule their food shopping and preparation. Make it a priority. You need plenty of food in the fridge and the pantry to make quick, healthy meals at home. Ideally, you’ll also pack a delicious lunch and snack to take to work or school. When you have more control over your food, you have more control over your health!
Action Plan: The key to preparing healthy meals is planning. You’ll need to schedule some time to shop, chop and cook your food. If you have a typical 9-5 job, most of the shopping and initial preparation will happen on the weekends. You might also decide to do some bulk cooking on Sunday so you’ve got several meals ready for the beginning of the week.
If you’re unhappy about spending your weekend shopping and chopping, make a schedule that works for your lifestyle. Enlist the aid of family members to pitch in. Make it fun. Healthy living is a grand adventure!
Experiment with new vegetables and fruits. Try new recipes. Ask your friends and family for suggestions.
Use the Internet to search for quick, healthy recipes. Stock the pantry with dried pasta, canned beans, quick-cooking lentils, high-quality tomato sauce, and salsa. Not every meal has to be a masterpiece, but you always want plenty of produce on-hand.
If possible, start each dinner with a beautiful salad. Buy several bags of pre-washed organic salad greens. Choose a day for veggie prep, and clean plenty of salad ingredients. Store your cleaned vegetables in glass food storage containers with a smidge of water inside to keep them moist. Or, wrap the cleaned veggies in a damp paper towel and store in a large baggies.
For an easy meal, make a main course salad. Load up your greens with fresh raw veggies, fresh or dried fruit, leftover roasted vegetables, raw nuts or seeds. Add proteins like salmon, tuna or even a burger. Include whole grains or starches like quinoa, rotini or roasted potatoes. Your body will thank you for all the beautiful produce, and you’ll sleep well because your dinner was easy to digest.
Multi-task while you cook; when you’re making a salad for dinner, make one for lunch the next day. This is a practical way to get more than one meal prepped at a time. Buy yourself a nice travel lunchbox, with containers for salad, dressing, and snacks. Start packing your lunch while you cook dinner. Make extra servings of your entrees so you have leftovers. Don’t forget to pack a healthy snack; avoid the vending machine trap.
Bulk cooking is a great way to save time. Depending on the size of your household, you might make large quantities of one item, like a big pot of chili or soup. Or a large pasta dish like veggie lasagna or baked ziti. For smaller households, you could make 2 or 3 dishes to last for several days.
For proteins, grill or roast several servings that can be used for lunches and dinners. Try to cook for 2-3 days at a time. Roasting a big tray of vegetables will give you side dishes and salad ingredients for later in the week.
Planning your weekly menu is probably the most important piece of the plan. Decide what the healthy eating plan looks like for your family. Once you have the list of foods you like, put together meal ideas for an entire week (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks).
You’ll probably have favorite meals that you make weekly. Try to mix in at least one new recipe each week to avoid boredom. Brainstorm a couple of meals that can be whipped up entirely from pantry ingredients; this way you’ll always have a healthy option if something unexpected comes up.
You might need to make a quick shopping trip at mid-week. Items like berries will only keep a few days in the fridge, so you may need to make a produce run. Keep a notepad in the kitchen so you can make a list of items that are running low, or use an app to stay organized.
If you get busy and thrown off course, have several options for a healthy take-out or restaurant meal. Try to find local restaurants or salad bars that use high-quality fresh ingredients. Avoid fast food as if your life depends on it … because it does!
In a pinch, make a meal from your healthy snack stash. Apples keep quite a while in the fridge, so you should always have those on hand (at home and at work). These amazing fruits nourish your liver, your microbiome and they’re wonderful for weight loss. Buy a variety: Granny smith, gala, honey crisp … each has a unique flavor profile. Dates make a great accompaniment to apples,. It’s a very satisfying combination.
Being prepared for the unexpected can help you maintain a healthy living program.
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4. Detox Done Right
Your liver is an amazing organ that is essential to the quality of your health. It filters your blood to remove toxins like pathogens, heavy metals, radiation, and pharmaceuticals. The liver also has the role of breaking down dietary fat. It helps regulate sugar in the bloodstream.
Even if you have a healthy diet, your liver is likely overburdened by daily exposure to environmental toxins. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the offices we work in; these all contain chemicals that must be neutralized by your liver.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t have a perfect diet. So, the liver also has to deal with fatty cheeseburgers and fries and sugary sodas. Alcohol, stress, and lack of exercise add to the liver’s workload.
When the liver can’t keep up with the demands placed on it, it becomes sluggish. Toxins escape into your blood and lymphatic system. This is the beginning of the aging process and a general decline in health. Exactly the opposite of healthy living!
Strategy: Love Your Liver Healing Program
Big WHY: Your liver needs help to recover its capacity for optimal performance. If you provide the proper nutrients and cleansing routine, your liver will rejuvenate and get back to work protecting you.
Action Plan: Your liver needs a few things in order to regenerate: nutrients, water and time. The best thing you can do is to eat a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables. Limit caffeine and alcohol. Reduce all fats, especially from animal sources. Give your liver some quality healing time.
Here’s a sample liver cleansing routine:
- Start every morning with lemon water
- If you have a juicer, make fresh celery or cucumber juice
- Wait until later in the morning to have your caffeine, or skip it altogether
- 30 minutes after your green juice, have some fresh fruit or a smoothie
- For lunch, have a large salad full of raw veggies (limit fat)
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day
- Mid-afternoon have a snack of 1 or 2 apples and a few dates or grapes
- For dinner have whole grains and vegetables – and lean protein if desired
- If you’re hungry later, have another apple or other fresh fruit
- Keep fats to a minimum, even avocado and nuts
- Stop eating 2 hours before bed
- Have a glass of lemon water in the evening
Try to do this daily routine for at least 7 days. Pay attention to how your body feels and to any symptoms that resolve, like heartburn or indigestion. If it works for you, incorporate these concepts into a permanent eating plan.
This routine accomplishes several things:
- provides plenty of nutrients from fresh fruits and vegetables
- provides hydration from water, green juice, lemon water and fruits
- gives your liver a break from processing fat, which it desperately needs in order to get back on track
The morning steps are the most important since your liver has been busy processing toxins all night. Hydrating first thing in the morning and avoiding fat will allow the liver to continue its cleansing efforts throughout the morning.
If you want protein and fat, push them later into the day or evening so your liver can do its work. If you love brunch on weekends, hydrate first thing in the morning and push your brunch time to noon. Allowing your liver those few extra hours of healing time will pay off in the long run.
Add these liver healing foods into your meals: apples, arugula, asparagus, beets, berries, brussels sprouts, citrus fruits, cucumbers, red dragon fruit, melons, papaya, and spinach.
For a comprehensive understanding of how to heal your liver, read Liver Rescue.
5. The Secret to a Powerful Immune System
Did you know 70% of your immune system is located in your gut? Recent scientific studies have concluded that your ability to combat foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses, depends on the strength of your microbiome. The gut microbiome is a term used to describe the various microorganisms that reside in your gastrointestinal tract.
These microbes are a collection of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that inhabit our bodies. They have the ability to collectively fight off harmful microbes from food, air, and water. Your unique microbiome determines how strong your immune system is.
It also appears that the composition of your microbes can determine whether you’re thin or fat. Studies indicate that obese mice have higher percentages of organisms called Firmicutes , while thinner mice have more Bacteroidetes. Scientists are currently hard at work mapping and identifying the vast array of organisms that make up the human microbiome. It’s a massive project!
For the time being, we’re not exactly sure which organisms contribute to poor health, versus those that promote healing. What is clear is that the typical diet of processed food, meat and sugar has a very negative impact on the gut microbiome. When the bad gut bugs overpower the good guys, the result is declining health. The more diverse your gut bugs, the better equipped you are to guard against obesity, diabetes, allergies, colitis, and arthritis (to name a few).
Several interesting studies speculate that when the gut bugs are hungry, they send signals to your brain that cause cravings for the food they want. That’s all well and good if your gut bugs enjoy fiber and nutrients, but not so good if they feast on junk food and sugar. The content of your gut microbiome can also influence gene expression, which can tip the balance as to whether certain illnesses impact your health or not.
Probiotics are supplements containing various strains of organisms that can positively improve your gut health. Several strains have been studied extensively, like acidophilus, lactobacillus casei and lactobacillus rhamnosus. Many other fascinating studies are underway; knowledge of the microbiome is expanding rapidly.
Strategy: Care and Feeding of Your Microbiome
BIG Why: Your gut is the command center of your immune system. The microorganisms in your gut can ramp up your immunity, or squash it. They can cause you to be overweight, diabetic or allergy-prone.
Action Plan: Feed your gut bugs a healthy, diverse diet. They love fiber! If possible, go to the farmer’s market and get local, organic produce. This type of local food still has beneficial soil organisms intact.
Eat as many different plants (fruits, vegetables, herbs) as possible. Seek out new foods to add to your diet. If you don’t eat beans and legumes, start adding them slowly into your daily meals. Organic whole grains are also a good source of healthy fiber.
Start a garden and spend more time outdoors. Studies show that being in nature increases your microbiome diversity. Don’t be afraid to get dirty.
Avoid antibiotics and nonessential medications. Antibiotics can wipe out your gut bugs. If you must take antibiotics, take a probiotic supplement at a different time of day. This will help replenish the good bugs in your gut. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG is especially good for this task, and it’s available in many grocery and drug stores.
Consider getting your gut microbiome tested. Biohm offers a microbiome test that provides a comprehensive report on your gut bugs. As more information is discovered about the variety and function of these microorganisms, our understanding increases in how to enhance their positive impact on our health. They also make a probiotic supplement that has been extensively tested.
6. Fight or Flight Can Kill You
Our world is a very stressful place. We’re over-committed and over-scheduled. Even when we have downtime … fearful thoughts and recurring problems keep us feeling stressed-out. The flight or fight stress response was designed to help us deal with short-term, urgent situations. Unfortunately, modern life is a series of continuous challenges that keep our minds and bodies in a state of high alert.
This situation creates internal damage to our bodies, especially to the adrenal glands. The adrenals secrete hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that are intended to give us a short-term burst of energy. When stress becomes a way of life, these hormones can wreak havoc on our bodies and actually contribute to health problems.
High levels of cortisol cause fat storage and weight gain, especially around the abdominal region. This fat storage occurs around your critical organs like the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Visceral fat has been proven to be a major threat to your health, increasing your risk to diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Because stress is so prevalent in our lives, we fail to take it seriously. “Oh, it’s just stress!” There is no such thing as “just stress”. Stress is a serious threat to your health and well-being, and you need to resolve or manage it.
Your emotions play an important role in your ability to recognize and respond to stress. The mind-body connection is very real. Your thoughts and feelings can have either a positive, healthy impact on your body … or they can aggravate and exacerbate health issues.
There are numerous methods that help calm the mind: meditation, visualization, deep breathing, and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to name a few. The concept of mindfulness teaches that awareness and acceptance of the present moment can have a profound healing effect. Accepting the present moment is very calming; it helps you focus and get clear. Once your mind is clear, you can begin working through possible options and solutions.
If you find yourself stress-thinking, running negative soundtracks or recurring thoughts through your mind – apply one of these calming techniques to let go of unproductive thoughts. One simple method is to take three deep breaths whenever you feel stressed. Create a personal mantra and say it silently to yourself while you breathe. “Everything is going to be fine” is a good place to start, or “I can handle this problem … it’s all working out now”. Anything that feels good to you will work. Breath through your nose slowly and evenly.
The trick is to be aware of stressful thoughts when they occur, and to immediately start breathing with your mantra. This requires daily practice. You can do this in almost any situation; in the office at your desk, in the car with snarled traffic, during a difficult conversation, in bed before going to sleep. Every little bit helps! Calming your mind is the first step toward calming your body.
Calming your body can be accomplished through bodywork, like massage or EFT. Exercise also helps, especially walking in nature and yoga or stretching. A healthy eating plan is essential for helping your body cope with stress. Fruit and veggie snacks can keep you on a calmer path. Stress-eating is very common, so try to avoid vending machines and poor food choices. Keep healthy snacks available at home and at work – even in your car, if you have a long commute!
You can also do a stress evaluation to identify sources of current stress in your life. Common sources of stress are relationships, career, money, and health. Take a look at these areas and make a list of your top stressors. Rather than managing this stress, can any of these people or situations be removed from your life?
Our relationships are a source of pleasure and joy as well as a source of stress. We all go through rough patches in our significant relationships. That’s normal. But a relationship that never has any good patches might not be in your best interest. Consider seeing a counselor if you have doubts that a relationship can be saved. Breaking up is hard, but sometimes you need to let go in order to have the quality of life (and health) that you deserve.
Relationships at work can also cause stress. If you have a difficult boss or a toxic work environment, consider your options. Is it time to dust off that resume and find a better gig? If you’re in business for yourself, hire a coach or other professional to help with whatever problems you’re having. Sometimes you need an objective outsider to show you a new direction.
If you’re having issues with a coworker, look for options to change roles or minimize contact. Sometimes you’ll just have to get over it. We don’t have to like everyone we work with, and the path of least resistance is to accept the person as-is. We all have faults and quirks, and we need to understand the human condition. You probably don’t know what this person has been through, or if they’re having problems at home. Take the high road – it’s a good opportunity to practice your deep breathing.
Your career might be your primary source of stress. If you’re swamped with work and never have time to relax, consider changing jobs. It’s always a good idea to keep your eyes open for new opportunities and to keep track of changes happening in your industry. Also, look for new ways to get better organized and more efficient in your current job. Talk with your manager about getting help – whether that means more personnel, new software or extra training. It never hurts to ask. If you need help about how to have these kinds of conversations, contact me for coaching.
Finances can be a major source of stress for most people. Unexpected expenses have a way of popping up at the least convenient times. Take action to make sure that your spending habits are in line with your income. Everyone should have a budget. If you need help, hire a coach or advisor to help you get organized and make a plan to ease your financial pain.
If you need to cut back on spending, get everyone in your household on board with a plan. Start cooking at home instead of eating out. Pack a healthy lunch and take it to work or school. There are plenty of online resources for money management. If you need to earn more money, investigate starting a part-time business. Taking action and setting goals will help relieve stress!
Health issues – whether yours or a loved one’s – can create enormous stress. Even getting a negative diagnosis, like cancer, can cause massive fear and panic. It’s important to understand that fear actually damages your body. The best thing you can do in a health crisis is to try to remain calm. Practice deep breathing, meditation, and EFT. Search for the absolute best practitioners – people who are experts in your condition, and make sure you like and trust them. They should feel like partners in your healing journey.
If you need to take time off from work, do it. Healing requires rest and patience. Tune in to what your body needs; invest the time to prepare healthy food and beverages. Spend time in nature and with people who inspire and uplift you. Laugh, and enjoy life as best you can. Your attitude is very important, and being proactive about your health will pay huge dividends.
Strategy: Get Serious About Managing Stress
Big WHY: Stress is a real problem. It damages your organs and increases aging. Better health requires that you make a plan and take action to manage stress.
Action Plan: Perform a Stress Assessment on your life. Make a list of what’s stressing you in relationships, career, finances, health and anything else. For each person or situation, write down what’s causing you stress, if you have the power to remove it (yes/no), and brainstorm possible solutions to managing the stress. Extra credit if you use a spreadsheet and track your progress in implementing changes!
Prioritize the list of stressors and create an action plan for the top 5 items. Your action plan can include mind-calming techniques, body-calming strategies, healthy eating ideas, searching for appropriate help like coaches, counselors, and financial advisors. If possible, share the plan with your significant other or a close friend and get their feedback and suggestions.
Learn techniques that calm your mind and body. Improve your relationships at home and work. Evaluate whether you need to make changes in your work environment or career. Take control of your finances. Pay attention to your health and address any problems calmly and patiently.
When you fail to take action to calm your mind and body, you’re at the mercy of life’s random events. If you don’t know meditation or EFT, take a local or online class. Sign up for beginner’s yoga or tai chi classes. Partner with a friend or spouse and learn these strategies together.
Explore new walking trails in your town. Join Meetup.com or other social sites, and look for groups of healthy people to connect with. Go to the farmer’s market in your area and get healthy fruits and vegetables for your eating plan. Actively look for fun things to do with your family and friends – be the initiator of healthy social activities.
Surround yourself with people who are positive, inspiring and fun! Limit or eliminate negative people from your life. This can be a challenge, but you deserve to be happy and healthy. It’s OK to take care of yourself. Healthy living means that you have the skills and the awareness to care for yourself and live a happy, conscious life.
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7. The Fountain of Youth
Exercise is essential to healthy living; it strengthens your muscles, heart, and lungs. It reduces the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and stroke. If you have a regular exercise routine, good for you! Make sure you include exercise in all these categories: cardio, strength training, balance, and flexibility.
If you’ve let your workout routine lapse, you need to get back on the horse. Start slowly to avoid injury. Be gentle with yourself, and seek out exercise options that fit your lifestyle. These might include joining a gym, taking a class, starting a home workout, hiring a personal trainer or joining a local hiking or fitness group.
Busy people typically have the most trouble incorporating a consistent exercise routine into their lives. You probably need to schedule healthy activities on your calendar. The best way to ensure exercise is a priority in your life is to work out first thing in the morning.
Try to enlist a friend or create a social activity around exercise. Take your friends or family for a walk, a hike or a swim. Get out from behind your desk at lunch and walk outside. Perhaps you can form a walking group with your colleagues. Or join a gym close to work, and get some exercise during lunch or immediately after work.
As you get older, it’s more important to stretch. Make sure to stretch your muscles after every workout. You can also stretch daily to relax muscles and ease joints. Throw an exercise mat down on the floor and stretch while watching TV. If you missed your regular workout, do interval training during TV commercial breaks.
A recent breakthrough in exercise efficiency is the concept of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Alternating intense bursts of cardio activity (60 seconds) with short rest periods (15 seconds) for a total of 10 minutes, has been proven to provide the same physical results as an hour-long workout. It’s a very efficient workout strategy because it takes so little time and delivers great results.
Strategy: Fast, Efficient Exercise (That Fits Your Lifestyle)
BIG Why: Your body needs exercise to stay healthy and vibrant. Exercise is the number one strategy for anti-aging! You’ll look better, feel better, live longer and have more self-confidence.
Action Plan: Seek out local exercise options with family or friends. There are lots of short video HIIT routines online that you can try out. Find a mix of cardio and strength training. Be sure to stretch after every workout, and also in the evening at home.
Experiment with local classes that appeal to you – yoga, dance or even marathon training. Start slowly, and gradually challenge yourself as your fitness level grows. Reactivate a sport you used to love or take up a sport you’ve always wanted to try.
If you don’t like the gym, or don’t want to exercise around others – start a home exercise program. There are personal trainers who will come to your home and help you create an appropriate routine. It’s worth paying for a session or two to get started on a personalized exercise program. When you’re ready for the next level, have the trainer come back to add more challenging elements to your program.
If you belong to a gym – go! Get help from the staff to establish a strength training routine. If they offer classes, try a few different varieties. Take your own music with you to get your energy flowing.
If you hate exercise, try putting on some great music at home and dancing. No one’s watching; it doesn’t matter whether you have dance moves or not. This is a great stress reliever and a good way to get some cardio.
Here’s a personal favorite from JT – get up on your feet and move!
8. Sleep Tight
Sleep is essential to good health. During sleep, our bodies go into repair mode. Your body needs to rest and process the events of the day, as well as to eliminate toxins and rejuvenate cells. We all need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night.
Without adequate sleep, you’re at risk for the following issues:
- brain fog
- memory problems (short and long term)
- overly emotional (angry, fearful, sad)
- anxiety and depression
- weakened immune system
- increased risk of diabetes and heart disease
- high blood pressure
- weight gain
- poor work performance
- impaired motor coordination
Occasional insomnia happens to everyone from time to time. If the problem persists, take it seriously and actively seek solutions to the problem. Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe actions and habits that have been proven to induce good sleep. Create a regular bedtime ritual that signals your body that it’s time to sleep; this is a powerful weapon against insomnia.
Strategy: Create a Deep Sleep Routine
Big WHY: Your body needs regular, reliable sleep in order to function optimally and keep you healthy. You’ll look better, too!
Action Plan: Here are some sleep hygiene tips and practices. Healthy living depends on good sleep, so guard your sleep jealously and don’t let anyone or anything interfere with it.
- Go to bed at a regular time every night
- Make sure you get at least 7 hours per night
- Stop eating 2-3 hours before bed
- Don’t exercise vigorously 2 hours before bed
- Monitor your caffeine consumption – many people find a caffeine cut-off time of noon works well
- Create a sleep-friendly bedroom with a comfortable bed, pillows, and linens
- Your bedroom should be dark, with no ambient light – use a sleep mask if necessary
- Turn off electronic devices
- Most people sleep better with a cooler room temperature
- Do some light stretching or yoga to unwind
- Deep breathing will calm your mind and body
- Before sleep is the perfect time to meditate or do a positive visualization
- Take a warm bath or shower before bed
- Read a good book (nothing too violent or scary)
- Tackle noise pollution – use a white noise machine or a sleep app to provide soothing ocean sounds, or whatever sounds you find relaxing. A fan is a good option to create calming white noise; it will also keep your room cool
9. Numbers Tell the Story
Routine blood work is an important preventative process designed to alert you to health problems before they become serious. Talk to your doctor about which tests are appropriate for you, and how often to get those tests. If your diet and exercise programs have lapsed, you might want to keep an eye on some key numbers as you make changes toward a healthier lifestyle.
Here are a few basic tests. Keep a copy of your results so you can compare them to prior test results. This will provide feedback that your new healthy habits are making a positive impact.
CBC – complete blood count; measures red and white blood counts
Metabolic panel – checks for issues with kidneys and liver
Lipid panel – checks cholesterol levels, which can indicate artery or heart issues
Thyroid panel – measures key thyroid functions
C-reactive protein – measures inflammation in the body
Vitamin D – low vitamin D levels have been found in many illnesses, from colds and flu to cancer
Fasting blood glucose and Hemoglobin A1C – measures the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood; used to check for diabetes and blood sugar issues
If you find some of your results are out of range, you can use the Internet to search for appropriate foods and/or supplements to help with your condition. Diet and exercise can frequently improve your overall health and negate the need for pharmaceutical intervention. Take the initiative! Proactively learn about and manage these key health indicators.
If one of your numbers is “normal”, but at the edge of the high or low range, keep an eye on it. You might want to be retested in a few months after implementing healthy living strategies.
If you don’t have medical insurance, or if you have a high-deductible plan, you might prefer using an outside testing lab. This means your doctor and/or insurance company aren’t involved. The blood tests from Life Extension are reasonably priced and very reliable. You select and pay for the test on their website. They send you an order for the blood draw, and you take it to your local Labcorp to have your blood drawn and tested. Results are available through the website or via email or US mail. You can share these results with your doctor as well. Prices may be cheaper than using your insurance … check with your provider. As a bonus, you won’t have to wait for an appointment with your doctor.
Speaking of numbers, you should also track your blood pressure and weight. If you need to lose weight, it’s best to avoid weighing yourself obsessively. Water can come and go in your body and daily fluctuations are normal. Monthly weigh-ins work better than daily or sporadic checks. A saner approach would be to use clothing fit as an indicator of whether you’re moving in the right direction or not. Pick out a couple of outfits, and try them on every week to see how you’re doing. Are your pants looser? Is your belt tighter? Are the seams of your tops falling farther down your arms? These are all good indications of weight loss. You can also check your face in the mirror. Does your skin look clearer? Dark eye circles fading? Is your face less puffy? These are great signs that your health is improving!
Strategy: Know Your Numbers
Big WHY: Blood tests can highlight areas of potential concern and alert you to issues before they become major problems.
Action Plan: Talk with your doctor about getting your routine bloodwork done. Make sure you have copies of your test results. Research any out-of-range numbers and make a healthy living plan to resolve them.
Knowledge is power, so don’t be afraid to understand exactly where you’re at.
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10. Obstacles to Better Health
Unfortunately, one of the primary obstacles to our health is the food we eat. It’s becoming less obvious which foods are healthy; there’s so much conflicting information out in the world today.
Organic food is the best food. It’s grown without chemicals using natural, sustainable methods. It’s better for your health and better for our planet. It may be a bit more expensive, but the health consequences of eating pesticides and herbicides can be devastating.
The complete picture surrounding the dangers of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is unknown. GMOs are laboratory-made entities, not food created in nature. Foods like corn are genetically modified so that the hybrid crop is more abundant than the non-GMO crop. The primary threat of GMOs is that they are engineered for herbicide tolerance – this means most of the crops are sprayed with a toxic herbicide like glyphosate.
Recently, the World Health Organization designated glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. Carcinogens cause cancer. GMOs are widely used in the products we consume daily, like children’s cereal.
At least 30 countries have banned glyphosate, and lawsuits are being brought in record numbers against the manufacturer. Many countries have passed laws requiring GMO food to be labeled. Sadly, the United States is not one of those countries. We have a right to know what is in our food, and we have a right to choose whether we want to eat GMOs or not.
At present, the only way to know what’s in our food is to buy organic – or look for the non-GMO label. Some food producers and manufacturers are voluntarily labeling their products. If it doesn’t say organic or non-GMO, don’t buy it! Products that are at the highest risk for GMOs are made from oats, corn, soy, canola, apples, potatoes, sugar beets, alfalfa, summer squash, and papaya.
Additionally, some crops are heavily sprayed with pesticides. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out an annual list of “dirty” produce, called the Dirty Dozen. Check their website for the latest dirty list … always try to buy organic (non-sprayed) for items on their list.
Another health problem is highly processed packaged food. Large corporations hire teams of “food scientists” to manipulate the ingredients in their products to make them taste better. They create chemical additives to engineer the flavor of foods to make them more addictive. These chemicals are combined with salt and sugar to make a ratio that makes human taste buds react. Fast food restaurants employ food scientists as well, in an attempt to make their food more appealing and addictive.
There’s a reason fast food is so cheap. It’s low-quality food that’s loaded with preservatives and additives. Fresh ingredients are rare since their products must be prepped, packed and shipped to the store.
Plan your meals and cook them at home. If you want to eat out, choose a local farm to table restaurant with fresh, healthy ingredients. These establishments are popping up everywhere now, and they source their food mindfully because they care. Your body knows the difference, and it will thank you for choosing real food!
The next obstacle to your health is saturated fat. The current trendy diet (keto) tells you to eat loads of fat and no carbs. This might work for a select group of people for a temporary weight loss diet – but in the long term, eating saturated fat will damage your health.
For example, one recent study of people with pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes found that their muscles were full of microscopic fat particles. Anyone with blood sugar issues needs to avoid fat … that is a proven, scientific approach to restoring your health. It’s also a great strategy for weight loss. Each gram of fat contains 9 calories, while both carbs and proteins contain 4 calories per gram. If you do the math, you can eat a lot more high-quality healthy food by limiting fat and increasing fruits and veggies. Avoid processed fat-free products, as these are also loaded with chemicals and fillers.
Saturated fat clogs your arteries and burdens the liver, resulting in dirty blood, weight gain, and heart disease. This fat is found in animal products (chicken, beef, pork) and in dairy products (milk, butter, cheese). Most of the animal products we eat these days are loaded with toxins from factory-farming: antibiotics, growth hormones and GMO feed.
The average meat consumed today is not the same product that our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate. They ate wild animals who grazed on grass and plants. Today’s factory animals are raised in stressful, crowded conditions and are fed GMO grains to make them grow fatter, faster. When you consume today’s meat, it’s a very unhealthy man-made concoction.
If you want to eat high-quality meat, look for grass-fed and pasture-raised products. Whole Foods carries these types of meats, but you can also find great local sources. Studies have proven that the healthiest diet is comprised of mostly fruits and vegetables – with minimal fat and meat. Fresh, wild fish is your healthiest protein option.
Strategy: Healthy Food Sources: Go Local
Big WHY: You need fresh, organic fruits, vegetables, and proteins. The best source for these products is your local area. It might surprise you to discover how many wonderful, healthy items are right around the corner.
Read all food labels and avoid GMOs, chemicals, and additives. Check out local farmer’s markets to look for fresh produce and meat. Some small farmers cannot afford the cost of inspections required for organic certification. As long as the produce isn’t sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, and it’s grown sustainably from non-GMO seeds, it’s a good choice.
For meat, look for pasture-raised animals that are not given antibiotics or growth hormones. Sign-up for mailing lists of local farms so that you’re aware of specials and off-season products.
Visit your local grocery stores to determine what types of organic products they carry. You’ll find small but thriving organic produce sections in mainstream stores. Even Target, Walmart and Costco carry organic items. You can also find high-quality online stores that sell flash-frozen meat and seafood, shipped directly to your home.
Love Your Life
At this point, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the strategies presented here for healthy living. Don’t try to implement everything all at once! If you put too much pressure on yourself, you’ll become overwhelmed and give up. Instead, set small, measurable goals. Successful change happens one step at a time. You can do this!
- Prioritize: pick a couple of strategies to start (depending on what’s most important to your current health situation)
- Implement the action plans
- Tweak each plan to fit your unique needs and preferences
- Keep at it until you’ve developed a new habit
- Celebrate: recognize your accomplishments and reward yourself appropriately
- Repeat the process until you have amazing health
- When people ask you how you got into such great shape, share this guide with them!
If you’re unsure where to start, take a look at your current health status. Do you have any issues from a recent bloodwork report? If so, do some research to figure out what strategies will help move those numbers back into the normal range. Healing your liver is always a good starting point.
If you’re experiencing insomnia, start with a sleep program. Sleep impacts so many aspects of your life that resolving just that one issue will create a positive ripple effect on your overall health.
If you’re eating a diet full of junk food and chemicals, start with the strategies on increasing fruits and vegetables in your diet. Focus on quality, food source, and variety to create a healthy eating plan.
If you have digestive issues, focus on your gut microbiome. Use complementary strategies (herbs and probiotic supplements) to create a full gut healing program.
If your diet is good but you’re not exercising, focus on finding creative ways to integrate exercise into your life. Getting started is always a challenge; your muscles will be a bit sore at first. Take it slowly and consistently; the soreness will go away. Find ways to make movement fun, and get a buddy or group to be active with.
If you’re drowning in stress, dig into the issues that are plaguing you. Use the anti-stress strategies to calm down and create a sense of peacefulness. You deserve to enjoy life. Find ways to ease stress and reclaim your joy and aliveness. Healthy living means loving your life as it is, even while you’re implementing changes. Taking action will increase your self-esteem and give you the strength to make new positive choices.
If you’ve been ill or feeling under the weather, focus on cleaning up your liver and strengthening your immune system. Get plenty of rest and implement a clean eating plan with lots of fruits and veggies.
Last, but not least: you can’t go wrong by adding fruits and vegetables to your diet. This is the top healthy living strategy for better health. Fall in love with the bounty of the earth. Get into the kitchen and let your creativity soar! Your body will thank you in ways you can’t even imagine.