Eat healthy. Exercise. Drink plenty of water. Get enough sleep. You know these are the pillars of a healthy lifestyle. But even the best intentions don’t amount to much if they aren’t put into practice.
It’s hard making habits that stick—around 80 percent of folks fail to achieve their New Year’s resolutions. So, don’t feel bad if you’ve tried to master the same healthy habit time and again. What’s important is your willingness to give it another go.
Reaching your goals can be easier when you turn to science. Forming healthy routines requires working smarter, looking ahead, and adjusting your mindset. Think about it this way: your brain is lazy. It consumes the most calories per pound of any part of your body, so it likes to run on autopilot as often as possible to conserve energy. People tend to stick to certain behaviors because it requires less thought, which in turn uses up less brain power.
Your mind may not immediately adapt to change, but the good news is the human brain can literally rewire itself over time. All it takes is a conscious effort for a few weeks, and suddenly those new, healthy patterns become second nature. The longer you go, the easier it gets.
View this post on Instagram
28 Days to a Healthier You
Work smarter, not harder, and start tackling your goals today. Below, you’ll find tips to achieve some of the most sought-after healthy habits. Choose one area to improve, and take it one day at a time. Before you know it, new, healthy habits will be yours.
Putting It into Practice
Nutrition is the foundation of a healthy life, and a balanced diet is the quintessential example of outsmarting your own brain with simple changes.
Day 1 – Track your current weekly eating habits, including meals and snacks. Assess where you spend most of your day and when you most commonly reach for snacks. Pick three unhealthy processed foods you eat often and would like to replace with healthier options.
Day 2 – Research whole and low-glycemic foods you enjoy eating to swap out your three picks from day 1. Make a shopping list. Plan a few fun and tasty weeknight meals while you’re at it—eating healthy doesn’t mean missing out on rich and varied flavors.
Day 3 – Hit your local grocery store to start phasing out the processed foods and snacks stuffed in all the places you usually hunt for a quick bite.
Day 4 – Drink a full glass of water before dinner and adjust your portion sizes. Whole foods tend to be more filling, and a little goes a long way.
Day 5 – Determine if you snack because you’re hungry or simply bored. Avoid temptation by removing nearby treats altogether. Jot down a list of activities you find rewarding and will use to help curb your cravings—perhaps crafting, reading, or exercise.
Day 6 – Check your pantry for foods that are close to expiring, look up more delish recipes to use them up, and plan your next trip to the grocery store.
Day 7 – Take note of where you succeeded during the past week and where you fell short. Jot down a few ways you can improve. Repeat this routine over the next several weeks to enjoy more energy and the overall benefits of healthy eating habits.
Break away from screen time to focus on your goals and those around you. Spending time with the people you love and visualizing what you want to achieve can be a game changer.
Day 1 – Fill a water bottle and write a list of physical and social activities you enjoy. Look into local clubs, museums or galleries, browse local events, or check out classes online. Make a concrete plan to add at least one activity this week.
Day 2 –Commit to one simple, healthy change each week and continue to build for the duration of the challenge:
- Week 1: Keep your water bottle nearby to sip throughout the day.
- Week 2: Place your phone beyond arm’s reach when you go to bed. And don’t go to bed until you’re tired, or you risk upsetting your circadian rhythm.
- Week 3: Set your alarm for the time you’d like to wake up—the same time seven days a week—and make yourself crawl out of bed when it goes off. No snoozing!
- Week 4: Congratulations! The worst week (Week 3) is over. This week, avoid all screens (not just your phone) 30 minutes before bedtime to give your brain the best quality sleep. Tune out at night to wake up refreshed and tackle every busy day.
Day 3 – Plan a weekend activity for you or your family. It could be as simple as hitting the drive through for ice cream, taking the dogs to the dog park, going on a short hike, or trekking through the nearest natural history museum. For a longer adventure, consider a camping trip or all-day hike. And don’t forget your water bottle!
Day 4 –Think about your one-, five-, and ten-year plan. It may be daunting to think that far ahead, but a plan builds excitement as you set goals to work toward.
- Week 1: Spend 20 minutes making a dream board.
- Weeks 2–4: Look at your memory board and make a list of three tasks you would like to complete this week to work toward your goals.
Day 5 – Spend 30 minutes working on your list from Day 4
Day 6 – Today’s the day! Take time to enjoy your weekend activity. Focus on staying present and in the moment. This is when memories are made.
Day 7 – Call—not text—someone you care about. Bonus points if you block out some time on your calendar to meet up in the next week or two. Use your smartphone’s calendar app to track your many newfound outings and send invites to your friends and family to keep everyone synced. Repeat this routine over the next several weeks to enjoy more time with those you love and reap the rewards of healthy living.
It’s time to rethink your exercise routine. You don’t have to go to a gym or be miserable to burn calories. There are a ton of fun ways to get moving.
Day 1 – Choose the best time of day to fit in a workout—by which I mean move moderately to elevate your heartbeat, but not so much you stress your body. If possible, avoid blocking out time first thing in the morning or last thing at night, as it’s more difficult to increase your heart rate.
Day 2 – Exercise for at least 20 minutes. Measure your metrics with a fitness wearable, if you have one.
Day 3 – Take note of how your body feels, such as any particular soreness or pain. Work out for 30 minutes, avoiding the same muscle groups you worked out the day before, if possible.
Day 4 – Increase your exercise time to 45 minutes and increase or decrease the intensity of your workout based on how you feel from the last several days. Enjoy a healthy post-workout snack as a reward.
Day 5 – Enjoy a rest day from your workout, but be sure to walk or move for at least 30 minutes.
Day 6 – Exercise for 45 minutes to one hour. Continue working out for at least 45 minutes, five days a week.
Day 7 – Note any lingering soreness or pains. Avoid burnout by slowly increasing the intensity of your workouts, whether you’re jogging, swimming, pogo-sticking, or curling dumbbells. Get comfortable with the motions by repeating this routine over the next several weeks. Your healthy exercise habits will be set in no time.
View this post on Instagram
Your mental state can affect your body physically. So try mindfulness to relax, beat stress, and get through the day.
Day 1 – Close your eyes and take five deep, purposeful breaths to start the day. Focus on eating your meals slowly.
Day 2 – Spend time outside, either before or after your workday, as well as during lunch. Take 10 purposeful breaths at some point during the day.
Day 3 – Find a creative outlet that interests you—painting, hiking, yoga, cooking—and try it out this week. Raise your breathing exercise to 30 purposeful breaths today. Listen to some relaxing pink noise if you find yourself fidgeting after the first couple minutes.
Day 4 – Make the time to breathe deeply 50 times, in and out. Congratulations—again—you’ve hit the ideal number of breaths! This number fully relaxes your brain and induces a calming feeling. Continue doing this every day, as possible.
Day 5 – Tell yourself positive affirmations, either out loud or in your head, during your breathing exercise or during other quiet moments.
Day 6 – Start a journal. Write down what’s on your mind. Doing this before or after your breathing exercise makes for an incredible, stress-busting combo.
Day 7 – Like the rest of these healthy habits, be honest with yourself about how well you did, how well you’re doing, and what you plan to do over the next few weeks. Before you know it, you’ll be carving out time to breathe because you *want* to.
I’ve been practicing what I preach—and learning along the way.
The secret to success is it takes time—allow yourself two to six weeks for an action to become etched in your brain. Making progress is a lot easier with an end goal in mind. Be sure to reassess your goals every seven days to celebrate your success and chalk up any setbacks or shortcomings as opportunities to learn. And remember, small steps lead to big rewards.