Healthy habits. The foundation of a healthy lifestyle. We’ve talked a lot about forming habits on the blog in recent months (like morning routine and gratitude). During this time of year, I like to do a total check-in regarding habits to see if my actions are aligning with my beliefs.
While I was doing my self-reflection, it dawned on me not only the power of habits but the power of the right habits at the right time in life. For example, the healthy habits I had while I was severely struggling with depression are not the same ones I need to help me while I am running my own business, consulting other businesses on the best health patterns for their employees, and running a non-profit. Both habits are beneficial in their own time, but may not be beneficial out of context.
If you search “healthy habits” online, you will find basic answers such as “eat healthy”, “work out”, “sleep”, “drink water”. While these are all valuable solutions to the question “what healthy habits should I have?” I am also guessing you know these already and they aren’t the helpful answers you need.
Habits are greatly impacted by three things:
- Our awareness
- Our surrounding
- Our “time” or "stage" in life
If we want answers with more substance than “eat healthy”, we have to get more specific. This starts with our awareness of our current habits. Whether or not you have purposefully crafted the habits in your life, you do have habits and daily rituals that are playing into who and where you are now. John Dryden says that “we first make our habits then our habits make us.'' If we are seeking a healthy version of ourselves, we must analyze our habits and note their benefit in our current situation.
Of course, as bio-hackers (people who seek to optimize their health and their life), there are plenty of ways to hack our habits. Here is a list of healthy habits to surround yourself with. I identified them by different stages I have personally faced (and I have seen many of my clients face), but feel free to take a habit from a category that is different than where you find yourself now. These are just general guidelines to get you thinking about what habits would make a beneficial difference in your life today.
Healthy habits I would recommend to someone who is experiencing chronic physical illness/pain for the first time:
- Give yourself grace. For many it is hard to understand, but I want to say something that I could have used when I was first diagnosed: your life is going to be different and that is okay. It’s going to be different than what you pictured, it’s going to be different than your friend’s life, it’s going to be different and it will serve you well to let yourself dream of a new way of living as opposed to comparing your life to what you thought it was going to be. Give yourself the grace to embrace your unique body and your unique health
- Find a community. Find others who know what it is like to go through similar experiences. Online can be a great place for this connection. If you are looking to get plugged in, check out my online community here. I would also recommend following these Instagram accounts: @empoweredautoimmune, @neurohacker, @anxietywellbeing
- As beneficial it is to have support from people who understand your situation, make sure you are communicating with the people closest to you. Identify needs you might have and how they could possibly help you meet those, have conversations about any changes you need to make regarding how you are dividing your resources (do you need to take time off of work? Do you need to set more finances aside for supplements or treatment?). Building a support group around you (IRL) is going to be key for your long term success.
- Do research but stay open-minded. Educating yourself is an important part of the process to understanding a new diagnosis or lifelong change. Understanding what is physically happening to your body will better prepare you to take care of it and meet its needs. Be mindful as you take in research. Remember that there is a lot of floating information out there and not all of it will be true. Find resources you trust and educate yourself to the best of your ability. You can also schedule a free conversation with me here to discuss any questions you may have.
- Don’t be limited by your diagnosis. Often if you have been experiencing symptoms for a long time, a diagnosis can offer some relief. A sense of “I am not crazy, we finally found something!” And WHAT a GOOD feeling that can be. But a healthy habit to remember is to not limit yourself (or define yourself) by your diagnosis. You are still you. You are still capable of thriving and achieving your dreams (even if the route looks a little different). You are still you with hobbies and family and a hundred things to be thankful for.
Healthy habits I would recommend to someone who is in relapse:
- Create plenty of space for rest. Rest is healing, intentional time for your body to restore itself. For proper rest, you need to do a few things: 1) stop beating yourself up for needing rest, 2) put away your phone, 3) create a space that is peaceful and inviting to your healing, 4) find hobbies that let you rest (hellloooo, book club!)
- Create. Another perfect hobby that is also relaxing is to embrace your creativity. Brene Brown says: “there is no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t” (quote link). Creativity has several benefits, including stress-relief and confidence in our instincts.
- Practice gratitude. Gratitude can increase your health and decrease symptoms of depression. Read more about gratitude practice here.
- Try new ways of managing your health (and stick to them). One of the battles that clients with chronic illness/pain often face is a feeling of hopelessness. When you feel as though you have tried everything, it can be hard to believe that anything will work for you. Try your best to resist the urge of listening to this. If you and your trusted health team are trying to find solutions that will work for you, you are on the right path! Don’t give up, and remember it can often take time to feel any difference (especially if you are approaching health from a nutritional and natural perspective).
- Epsom salt baths. Soaking in the tub is a great way to unwind, is beneficial for your muscles and the Epsom salt has added benefits such as giving you a supply of magnesium and reducing inflammation.
Healthy habits I would recommend to someone who is recovering (on the up and up):
- Celebrate the victories. CELEBRATE. Life is not always easy, relapses happen and heck...you’ve been through a lot to get here. Let yourself celebrate the good times. Find ways to celebrate that don’t harm your health (no gluten-binges) and let yourself feel grateful for this moment.
- Keep taking care of your body, even when it isn’t asking you to. If you have found a health plan that is working for you, keep going. Keep eating the foods that are healing, keep getting sleep, keep moving your body. This might also be a good time to try new healthy habits, but be sure to not overwhelm yourself.
- Keep a pulse on your labs. Don’t forget to check-up on your regular labs and health needs, including vitamin D levels, hormone levels, and histamine levels.
- Enjoy nature. One of my favorite things to do when I am feeling my best is to enjoy nature. Go on long walks or hikes. Take a kayak out on the water. Step outside in the morning and breathe in the fresh air. Nature will embrace you back, I promise. Read about the Ancient Art of Tree Walk here.
- Write letters to your future self. Now is a good time to pay your gratitude forward. Write letters of encouragement to yourself to look back on (or if not letters, make sure you are journaling your experiences right now!). The mind plays a powerful role in our health journey. Make sure to document the good times. You can also write letters of encouragement to others. Paying forward your positive energy could start a ripple effect of positivity.
Healthy habits I would recommend to someone with depression:
- Eat anti-inflammatory foods. There is plenty of research showing that inflammation in the mind is a cause of depressive symptoms. I could go ON about this for DAYS, but for now, if you are struggling with symptoms of depression, try eating an anti-inflammatory diet, including broccoli, turmeric and ginger. I would also recommend the book “The Inflamed Mind” by Edward Bullmore.
- Meditate. Meditation is a proven mood manager, stress reliever and a positive way for you to engage with your brain. Try meditating for 10 minutes every day. Consistency is key.
- Move your body. Exercise has for a long time been proven to reduce symptoms of depression. On top of the physical relief it can offer, I also recommend moving your body because it can elevate your connection with your mind, reconnect you to your intuition and give you a space to express yourself. I especially recommend mindful movement such as yoga or tai-chi.
- Keep small routines. Keeping consistency is a great habit when life feels flooded with brain fog (and other symptoms of depression). Routine helps us stay anchored. Keep simple routines like making your bed every morning or having a cup of tea before bed.
- Try lifestyle changes before resorting to medication. Hear me out. I have personally used antidepressants and I am not about to be a hypocrite and tell you to never consider them. I know what desperation feels like and anti-depressants often feel like the only hope. This is your a major news flash: THEY ARE NOT YOUR ONLY HOPE. Antidepressants have a high-risk factor for side effects and can have a negative impact on your overall health (including worsening your depression symptoms). I am not saying they are not an option, I am simply saying there are other options for you to try first that have less permanent fall out. If you want to talk about this with someone (for free), I would encourage you to make an appointment with me here for a free consult.
I know it can be so tiring to fight for your health when you are struggling to just make it out of bed in the morning, but you HAVE to be your best advocate. Your health is in your hands and there are people who are willing to help.
Healthy habits I would recommend to someone with anxiety or OCD:
- Police your thoughts. Did you know our thoughts create a “shortcut” in our brains? It’s true. The more you think about something, the more likely you are to think about it again until it becomes a “shortcut” your brain automatically defaults to. Try being more aware of your thoughts as you are thinking about them. If there are specific thoughts that you are aware of that you would like to NOT think, listen-in on your brain’s own dialogue and identify how often and when you think this thought. Identify: "is it triggered by certain emotions or events?" "Is it a constant thought playing in my mind?" "How does this thought change my behavior?"
- Create a mantra. Tagging on to the idea of policing your thoughts, create a mantra for yourself that you use to replace your old thoughts. For example, every time I think “I am disgusting because I left a dish out”, replace it with “I am allowed to not have a clean kitchen 100% of the time. This does not change who I am as a person.” A mantra I commonly repeat when I am experiencing anxiety is “I have everything I need. I am not in danger and I am capable of meeting my own needs. Focusing on what is wrong will not fix any real problems in this moment.”
- Check for mold. Mold exposure can lead to symptoms of anxiety, depression, irritability, sleep disorders, brain fog and more. It is more common than you might think. Here is a simple test to check and see if your home is impacted by mold.
- Try these natural anxiety hacks.ALYSSA ADD LINK TO ANXIETY BLOG HERE Add one or two (or ten!) of these hacks to your daily routine and keep track of how they are impacting you. I recommend journaling at night as a regular practice and in this journal, rate your levels of anxiety and what helped throughout the day.
- Practice shutting-off your brain. Unplug from the outside world two-hours before going to bed. If you want to read a book, indulge in a nonfiction or something that helps you relax as opposed to focus on tomorrow’s to-do list.
Healthy habits I would recommend to someone trying to make drastic lifestyle changes for their health:
- Identify 3 unhealthy habits you have that you want to change. For some people, going all-in is the best solution, but I have found that is a slim group of people. For most of us, we make longer-lasting impact when we start small and see success. Start with identifying three unhealthy habits you have, then work towards stopping those habits.
- Fill in the gap. The best way to stop doing something is to start doing something else. Identify 3 healthy habits you want to develop and start doing them in place of the habits you are quitting. This can be as simple as the way you respond in a certain situation, to how you eat or even how you talk to yourself.
- Find a way to celebrate/reward yourself that has nothing to do with food. This one is pretty simple. Often in our culture, it is normal to celebrate with food, drinks and a lifestyle that does not support our optimal health. Similarly, what is our go-to for comfort, success, or basically every emotion? Food. “I’ve had a long day, I deserve this ice cream”. Do you see the incoherent logic in that sentence? Your long day does not equate to being deserving of more sugar/calories/gluten/etc., and in fact, your eating the ice cream will likely make you feel worse physically and mentally! Find things that feel like a celebration and reward that don’t revolve around you consuming them.
- Find people who are living out the changes you are trying to make and listen to them. I love gathering inspiration from people who are already doing the things I want to be doing. This can be following them on Instagram, making friends with them in real life, reading their books, listening to their podcast -- whatever the outlet, surround yourself with success stories that keep you inspired.
- Support, support, support. I will say it as many times as I need to. Support (community) is a huge part of every success story. You don’t have a community that supports your new life decisions currently? Go make one. I know it can feel intimidating to find a new tribe that will help you with your goals, but I promise you they are out there. (psssst - you can join my free online community to get started!)
How Your Surroundings are Impacting Your Health
1. You are Your Tribe
Have you heard the saying “you are the five people you are closest to?” It’s a funny thought, isn’t it? That you are molded to be more like those you spend time with, even if you feel they are very different than you. Even if you don’t want to be more like them. Even if they are a friend you have had forever and you are just hanging out with them out of loyalty's sake, but you don’t really like their choices, but that’s okay because maybe you will be a good influence on them…
The attitudes you surround yourself with, the social media content you consume, the way you allow other people to speak to you ALL shape how you perceive yourself, speak to yourself and who you become. Are you choosing to surround yourself with the habits you hope to have? Are you choosing to make new friends who have similar interests and grow outside of your comfort zone? How do the people in your life feed who you want to become?
2. Solutions to Your Pollution
Let’s talk about everyone’s favorite topic: pollution. Even if you are not living in LA, chances are, your surrounding environment could be making a huge impact on the quality of your life. Before you think I am suggesting everyone moves to a far off camp in the wilderness with no electricity or modern-day luxuries, here are some easy steps for everyone to take to improve their quality of living:
- Check for mold
- Purify your water (drinking and bathing!)
- Purify your air
3. Nature Bathing
While you do not have to completely move away from civilization to purify your life, I do recommend bathing in nature as often as possible. “Bathing in nature” is as simple as leaving your phone and all electronics in the car, and finding a place in nature that is as remote as you feel comfortable. Be there for as little as 30 minutes all the way up to a week getaway and see how it changes your thinking. You can read more about “nature bathing” (Shinrin Yoku) here.
Try These Healthy Recipes:
So which habits are you going to hold onto this year? Which ones are you ditching? And what new ones will you start this year? Drop me a comment and let me know.