What are “lifestyle changes” anyway? It’s a rather vague expression that gets thrown around a lot.
And just how easy is it to actually change your lifestyle?
Lifestyle changes are modifications you can make in your daily routines or behaviours.
Often, they are mentioned in regards to making healthier choices when it comes to mobility, exercise, nutrition, stress, and sleep.
These choices, however, are only going to enact effective change if they eventually become habitual. Therefore, just like New Year’s Resolutions, they’re easier said than done!
This is because changing our routine and our lifestyle can be met with resistance from:
- Our environment: no matter how big we may dream, when the going gets tough, we fall back on the convenience of our environment. If you want to wake up early and go to the gym, it makes a difference if the gym is a 15 minute drive away, or downstairs in your basement.
This is why you need to plan in advance, start small, and be realistic!
- The people around us: ever heard of the expression “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”? The people closest to us tend to mirror (and reinforce) our lifestyle choices, values and beliefs. Though they care about us, when you start making choices that make them feel like you’re changing into someone different, leaving them behind, or doing better than them, they may initially be resistant.
This is why it helps to either talk to them about your decisions to change beforehand and maybe ask for their support, or find other people you can turn to for support!
- Ourselves: chances are, a lot of our current choices are made on autopilot. Conscious decision-making throughout our day is a finite resource, which is why we often resort to autopilot. Additionally, our routines and current lifestyle are likely rooted in our deeper value and belief systems. E.g. If we view exercise as punishment, even we when resolve to exercise more, we are much more likely to sit back on the couch and watch another episode.
This means that change will be an active, conscious process that takes time, and in some cases may benefit from the help of a professional!
Could you benefit from making some tweaks in your life?
If you can identify with any of the following, then you probably could!
- Do you live with chronic pain? (For more information on Chronic Pain, check out our Pain Series posts Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3!)
- Do you live with a chronic illness? E.g. Type II Diabetes, Hypertension (high blood pressure), Arthritis, Heart Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, etc.
- Do you regularly take multiple medications, long-term?
- Do you struggle with managing your weight?
- Do you live with high levels of stress, worry, or anxiety?
- Do you have trouble sleeping?
- Do you have a high rate of injury? E.g. back, knees, shoulders, neck, ankle, foot, etc.
Here are some examples of Lifestyle Changes…
If you know you need to change some things for your health and quality of life, but are at a loss for where to begin, here are some suggestions you can use to get you started!
MOBILITY & EXERCISE
- One minute movement breaks, e.g. set a timer for every 2-3 hours and then get up to stretch, or do a specific exercise (such as heel raises, squats, forward bends, marching in place, etc.)
- Parking farther away when going to the store, so you have to walk more
- Taking the stairs for 1-2 floors, instead of the elevator (or getting off the elevator a floor earlier)
- Choose an activity you enjoy rather than something you think you should do (e.g. if you prefer biking to running, or a Zumba class to going to the gym, that’s fine!)
- 2-3 days per week commit to going for a half hour walk
- Commit to a yoga video at home for 20 minute, 3x week. (If you are new to Yoga, check out our Yoga Series for beginners!)
GETTING FRESH AIR & CONNECTING WITH NATURE
- Sit outside on your patio or balcony for 10-15 minutes daily. Bring a book or a cup of tea. Maybe enjoy the scenery instead of scrolling on your phone!
- 2-3 days per week commit to going for a half hour walk
- Try to find routes that are along trails and in parks, rather than by a busy street
- Commit to at least one family meal on weekends without any screens or devices
- Commit to a phone-call (or a Zoom call!) with someone whose company you miss at least 1x week…
- Or a coffee-date with friends whose company you enjoy 1x every two weeks (once social distancing comes to an end)
- Meditation: sit comfortably and set up a timer. You can use a guided meditation from YouTube or a phone app if you prefer. (You can also follow this Meditation for Anxiety and Stress!)
- Breathing techniques, e.g. 3-4 seconds of inhalation for every 6-8 seconds of exhalation for 10 breaths
- Start a a gratitude practice! Every day, find three things you are truly grateful for, no matter how simple or mundane they may be!
- Try journaling about how you are feeling, your goals, what brings you joy, what you are excited about, etc. at least 1x week.
- Try out expressive writing! Set a timer for 10 minutes, and write (or type) freely about a problem you are having without worrying over grammar or punctuation. If you run out of things to write, keep repeating what you have already written until the time is up.
- Check out our earlier post on Stress Relief
- Substituting unhealthy food choices for healthier ones begins at the grocery store. E.g. instead of buying Cheetos for a snack, buy nuts or quality granola bars. Instead of chocolate, buy dates and other fruits you like. It’s best to make a list and plan this in advance! Keep in mind that it’s not enough to take out the unhealthy food, but you also have to find something to replace it with.
- Try natural smoothies instead of pop (or fruit juice with sugar added) as a beverage throughout the day. Believe it or not, a green smoothie of 1 banana, 1/2 cup of spinach, 1/2 cup of almond milk, a spoonful of almond butter and a spoonful chia seeds needs no added sugar! (You can substitute any of the ingredients based on preference or presence of food intolerances!)
- Drink 6-8 glasses of water / day. E.g. set up a reminder on your phone, carry a water-bottle with you, substitute pop with a glass of water during meals, etc.
- Commit to looking up 1 new, interesting, and healthy recipe to make every week
- Involve other family members in meal prep and cooking as a way to spend time together increase awareness of what goes into making everyone’s food
REDUCING SCREEN TIME
If you are looking to reduce your screen time (phone, tablet, Netflix), you have to find something to replace it with! Try something you would enjoy!
- Commit to reading 1-2 chapters from a book you are interested in every evening, instead of watching another episode from the latest TV show you are binging
- Make one night / week Family Games Night instead of watching a movie… e.g. cards, board-games, charades, puzzles, crafts, etc.
- Pick a goal you’ve had for a long time, or an activity you miss doing (e.g. drawing, crafts, knitting) and dedicate one hour in your evening to working on it
- If your mind is busy with planning to-do lists when you go to sleep, consider keeping a notepad by the bedside to write things down so you can let them go.
- Try melatonin, or herbal tea meant to promote relaxation (e.g. Sleepytime). Note: it’s always good to discuss with your doctor what sleep strategies may or may not be for you (especially if you have allergies, or are on specific medications)!
- Also, check out these tips from an earlier post on how to improve our Sleep Hygiene!
QUITTING UNHEALTHY HABITS
Just as with making changes to our eating habits, when looking to reduce or quit an unhealthy, habit, it helps to replace it with something healthier.
- When reducing caffeine intake, we can substitute for herbal tea, natural smoothies, or water beverages.
- When looking to quit smoking, sometimes you need to wean off the habit rather than quitting cold turkey, and replacing it with something else. Commonly, that can be nicotine patches, or chewing gum. Speak to your doctor about a strategy that is right for you!
- Reducing sugar and/or junk food by replacing them with healthier alternatives. Stock up your pantry and fridge with nuts, dates, and fruits as snacks instead! Switch from milk to dark chocolate. Every time you get a craving, maybe drink a glass of water and take a movement break instead.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where we will talk about tips and strategies to stay on track with your lifestyle changes! 😊
If you want to be more active but are limited by pain or a chronic injury, contact us to find out how we can help! Hopefully, we will soon be able to open our physical doors. But in the meantime, virtual sessions are available.