There seems to be two camps of health coaches online – the one’s who put pressure on you and make you feel guilty for not being able to find the time to prioritise your health and then there are the one’s who help you to find a way to make living in a healthy and balanced way just a part of life.
Luckily, I am in the second camp and I strongly believe that you don’t need to overhaul your entire life to live healthier.
We are all busy, there is so much to do and new things being added all the time – it feels sometimes like there is no time for anything, least of all fitting in an hour long workout in the gym or making a salad for dinner that takes absolutely ages and everyone ends up refusing to eat anyway!
So when you think of how busy you are and how you can’t fit in a workout, it kind of makes sense that any lifestyle overhaul you are about to do where you declare you are going to do an hour long workout every day and you are never going to eat any sugar again isn’t going to be very successful – or at least not for very long.
What can we do instead?
One word – habits.
We need to build better habits into our life – one small step at a time.
It’s not very exciting, and I fully understand why how reading that you might instantly just think ‘nope’ because I get it, if we decide we want to get healthy and get fit and *insert your goals here* we want it NOW.
It can be a little difficult to think ‘I want to get healthy and I want to tone up and I would like to lose a little weight’ and then get told to start by everyday this week just doing 10 minutes of walking.
It just doesn’t feel like enough or like it will even do anything.
The point is, we need to be looking at our health as going into it for the long haul.
We don’t want to wake up tomorrow and overhaul our life – do an hour in a gym, only eat salads and count every calorie we eat, go to bed really early and have 9 hours of sleep when we normally only have 6, only drink water and not drink any alcohol or eat any chocolate ever again – if you are being honest with yourself, when has that ever worked?
Real life happens and then we are back to square one again.
So why don’t we try a different approach?
When we build in habits, not only are we making it easier for ourselves to stick to it, we are supporting our health for the long term too.
If you added in a new habit every week, in a year you would be doing 52 things more than you are right now. That’s a lot.
Especially when you compare it to how far you are able to get by just overhauling your life overnight.
At the time it doesn’t seem like a lot, and that is the beauty of it really – it just fits in to your life. Doing a ten minute walk each day doesn’t seem like it’s much but think about how easy you could fit a ten minute walk into your day. It could be as easy as walking your kids to school, or doing a ten minute walk after breakfast.
Ten minutes of walking every single day, is a lot better for you than an hour in the gym everyday for a week and then nothing for 3 weeks while you are pepping yourself up ready for the next overhaul.
When you have your ten minutes everyday built up as a habit – something that you just do everyday because it’s part of your life you could add in an extra five minutes. You are already going for ten, so an extra 5 isn’t going to make much of a difference to your day. Then when that becomes a solid habit, could you maybe add in another 5?
Before you know it you will be walking 20 minutes each day with hardly any effort, and think how much healthier you would feel and how much fitter you would be getting if you were walking for twenty minutes every single day!
Or what if your goal was to get more sleep (something I am working on at the moment!), your first habit could be to go to bed 5-10 minutes earlier every night. Then when you are doing that add an extra 5 minutes etc etc.
The trick is to make the habit tiny.
According to James Clear in the book Atomic Habits (if you haven’t read it, it’s a must read!) we are aiming for 1% better – so that would mean going to bed 1 minute earlier every night, and while I understand the logic of it and it makes so much sense, for me that’s a little bit too slow and so I start at 5 minutes – but you do what would work best for you.
If going to bed one minute earlier seems more realistic for you than going to bed 5 minutes earlier – then do that.
There is no right or wrong – it’s whatever will fit best into your lifestyle.
What habit should I start with?
This will be personal to you and to your goals.
Take some time to map out your goals and decide which of those goals are the most important to you.
Then choose which habit will be the most beneficial in helping you achieve that goal.
When I choose a habit, I tend to choose the one that will have the biggest ripple effect on my life.
A ripple effect is a habit that has a knock-on effect on other areas of your life too (think of how when you chuck a pebble into a pond that one impact of the pebble hitting the water spreads out further than just that one spot)
An example would be the habit of getting more sleep would obviously help you feel less tired, but would also have the ripple effect of giving you more energy, of helping you deal better with any stress that comes up throughout the day, it would help you to make healthier food choices because you wouldn’t be choosing more sugar/carb heavy foods to give you more energy, and being able to cope better because you are less tired would mean you would be less likely to eat emotionally – and the list could keep going on.
That is what is meant by the ripple effect – so my advice is to go for a habit that is going to have the biggest ripple effect on your life because then you will be able to see benefits and results quicker which will help you stay consistent.
Not sure which habit to start with?
Here are some ideas to help you work out what would be best for you!
- Go to bed 5 minutes earlier
- Wake up 5 minutes earlier
- Walk for 10 minutes every day
- Do ten squats whilst waiting for the kettle to boil
- Journal for 5 minutes every day
- Keep a gratitude journal every day
- Drink one extra glass of water every day
- Replace one snack with a healthier snack
- Do 5 minutes of yoga every day
Just remember, this isn’t a list of things you absolutely must do to be healthy – healthy will look different for everyone, it is just a list to help you get some inspiration on what habits you could build into you life!
So what habit will you get started with? Let me know in the comments!