14 Habits to Improve your Health & Wellbeing

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People aren’t healthy by accident or luck. They plan to be, by cultivating healthy habits daily.

Today I would like to share with you some healthy habits that I, as a dietitian, think could really make a positive difference in your healthy journey. The key to build healthy habits is to shift small positive actions from intentional to automatic, by repetition. You have to give it time, so those little actions you adopt, become natural and part of your daily routine but with time you won’t even have to think about it. It’s usually said that a habit takes 21 days to form, but in fact, that time depends on its complexity. Now, choose the ones you think will have the greatest positive impact in your day right now and start small, adding one habit at a time to your routine. Strive for progress and not perfection.

1. CONNECT WITH NATURE – can you believe the average person only spends around 6% of their day outside? Connecting with nature can really do wonders for your health and wellbeing. Try to spend at least two hours a week outside – you could do a picnic or hike on weekends, take a walk on the beach shore or start your day by drinking your morning coffee while taking a stroll in the park or in your balcony. This daily early connection with nature will help you feel more mindful and the exposure to sunlight will tell your body that it’s time to start the day. Nature is so impactful, that even a simple plant in a room can have a significant impact on stress and anxiety.  

2. GET ORGANIZED – A clear space equals a clear mind. A cluttered room or desk is just too much information for the eye to process and also a visual reminder of how many things you have to do. Simple actions like making your bed or clearing your desk before starting your day can help you think more clearly and will give you the momentum to accomplish bigger things throughout your day. When you come home to piles of things to do, it can take a toll on your mood, sleep, and health choices, so try to leave everything in order before getting out to work.

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3. GOOD FATS – if you still run from any fat on your plate, know that good fat, like the ones present in olive oil, avocado, coconut, seeds, and nuts, not only do not harm, but help reduce cholesterol and inflammation, help you absorb some vitamins and regulate the production of hormones. One super important fat is omega-3, that you can find mostly in wild-caught fish. If you practice a plant-based diet, omega-3 can be added to your diet through flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and algae although they don’t yield as great levels of omega 3 compared to sources like fish. In this case, you can consider the addition of a vegan omega-3 supplement to your diet.

Zest and The City - Banana Oatmeal

4. PLAN AND PREPARE YOUR DAY – your food, your workout, your work… I like to take 5 minutes every night to get ready for the next day. Set everything ready for your healthy breakfast, double the amount of food you cook for dinner so you can have “leftovers” for lunch, get your snacks and bottle of water set, and your gym bag ready to go. Also, I love to make lists and schedule everything. Prioritize the 3 to 5 most important things that need to be done daily and make an effort to live by the list. Also, honor the commitment you’ve made to scheduled events and do them in the time you’ve set for them. 

5. GO TO SLEEP AND WAKE UP EARLY – Maybe this one won’t work for everyone. I used to be an owl myself. But with time I started to realize that, with the same hours of sleep, waking up earlier my productivity, motivation, and workflow skyrocketed. It’s also healthier because you align your schedule with your natural circadian rhythm. From 8 to noon you will have the highest alertness interval of your day, and when you end up sleeping until noon, you end up losing this period of high productivity. Therefore, close your laptop and put your phone down, it’s time to get some repairing sleep. If you’re having trouble getting to sleep, try a hot herbal infusion, like camomile or lemon balm, read a physical book, and try to aim for a bedroom temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit or 19 degrees celsius. Even if you’re not an early bird, give this one a try but please, do not sacrifice on your sleep hours. Always aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep. 

6. GET SERIOUS ABOUT YOUR WATER INTAKE – I know I know. You’ve heard a thousand times that you need to drink lots of water… But let’s be honest, do you? I’m also guilty of it. Drinking the amount of water we need daily should be easy. But it’s so obvious that it becomes overlooked. So, to make this habit easier, try to always have a bottle of water in sight as a constant reminder to drink more. Drink one glass before every meal and eat water-rich foods like vegetables, soup, fruits, or smoothies… Tired of water? Try infused water, sparkling water with lemon or iced herbal tea.

7. TRY MEAL PREP – On an average day, you typically make 35,000 decisions. Just like finishing up a workout and feeling physical fatigue, your brain gets tired throughout the day as there is only a finite amount of mental energy to spend.  This is called decision fatigue! And that’s one of the reasons why it’s so hard to eat healthy after an exhausting day at work or school. So, to make your decisions easier, take time to plan and prepare your food in advance, wether on the night before or one day per week. Also, keep fruit on your countertop, healthy snacks like nuts and seeds handy, and veggies prepped and ready to be eaten in the fridge. Your mind will get clearer, you’ll save time and money while eating healthier. It’s a win-win. 

8. MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF – With work, school housework, our self-care time is often neglected. Minimize your to-do list and give yourself designated time to relax every evening. Light a few candles, enjoy a tasty healthy meal, and curl up with a good book. Meditation and yoga are great ways to reduce stress but even just 5 minutes of closing your eyes and taking some deep breaths will make you feel more relaxed.

Zest and The City - Nourishing your body, mind and soul

9. ADD SPICES AND HERBS TO YOUR FOODS – Did you know that some herbs and spices can have 10 times more antioxidants than nuts and seeds? Just a spoon of oregano on top of spaghetti with tomato sauce and broccoli can double the antioxidant power of that meal while boosting its flavor and limiting sodium intake. Cloves, dried peppermint, anise, cocoa powder, and oregano are the herbs and spices with the most antioxidant capacity. But any other is excellent too.

Zest and The City - Easy Wholesome Vegan Meatballs

10. FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE – It takes time, and conscious effort to rewire your brain with positive thought patterns. When you focus on the positive you enter on a cycle of good thoughts and feelings that lead to actions and positive results – that obviously lead to more positive thoughts and feelings. Every time you spot yourself complaining, gossiping, or negative thinking, make an effort to stop and try to understand why you’re feeling those feelings and emotions and what can you do about it. When feeling overwhelmed a thing that might help is to make a list of what you can change and a list of what you can’t. Putting everything on paper will help you clear your mind. Focus only on the first one what you can change because – “If it’s out of your hands, it deserves freedom from your mind too”.

11. EAT UNTIL YOU’RE FULL – It can take up to 20 minutes for your brain to understand that you ate enough. Try to take some time to eat slowly and without distractions, so you can be aware of the feeling of satiety. Put only what you intend to eat on your plate and calmly really taste and enjoy what you’re eating. 

 

12. GET MOVING – another obvious one, but I could not talk about this one. Sitting at a desk for the majority of our day is doing us no favor, so focus on moving at multiple times throughout the day by stretching, doing some yoga positions, or some light exercises from time to time. I like to use a smartwatch to count my steps and try to always reach for the goal. The secret here is to start small and vary the things you do to find what you enjoy the most. Besides the long term health effects, intense exercise will also boost the hormones of happiness, satisfaction, and make you feel more relaxed and tired, making you sleep better. 

13. SKIP THE EXTRA CUP OF COFFEE – You probably feel you don’t function without coffee, and I’m not gonna tell you to drop it. But instead of reaching for your third or fourth mug of coffee, try to have a cup of tea instead, just to vary the type of antioxidants you’re ingesting. Also, tea will give you a more smooth energy boost than coffee which is perfect for the afternoons. Red, green, black, or white, you choose.

Zest and The City - Bowl with Yogurt and Fruit

14. DON’T TAKE YOUR HEALTHY ROUTINES TOO SERIOUS – like we love to say in Portugal – nem 8 nem 80 (no 8 no 80). Neither of the extremes is healthy. Learn how to let go a little and not feel guilty about it. Good food and workouts are awesome until they become obsessive and impact negatively your social life, career, and relationship with yourself. Forget the all-or-nothing mentality and try to develop a healthy lifestyle, with free days and some indulgences. Lifting the dietary restrictions acts like a powerful form of reverse psychology. Because when you give yourself full permission to have anything you want, it actually helps you NOT want it.

These are only my suggestions for today, but if you have any other habits of your own, I would love you to share them with us in the comments down below. See you at the next video/post! Love, Ana 💛

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