It’s September alright and the best way to celebrate what feels like another year is to get in shape. However, there are so many articles out there about how to stay healthy that you either get a plethora of new ways to get into shape or you get the same recycled strategy – both being overwhelming. But did you know that the best action plan to getting physically healthier actually starts by being mentally healthy? That’s right; you have to be mentally prepared if you want to get yourself physically prepared. Here are five simple tricks that will help you get there!
- Cook your own meals
Cooking is not just a way to get physically healthier. We need to eat so our brain can have the energy to tackle our next objective. Of course, cooking takes preparation, focus, and time (and if you’re a self-identified workaholic, you’re probably thinking that the last thing you need is to spend more time on tasks that can be handled with a push of a button on a smart device). Despite its daunting setbacks, cooking can help break up a second-nature lifestyle. It follows a different set of rules (and oftentimes a strict set of rules in order to execute it well) that require cognitive decisions. Unlike sending emails and ordering on an app, a one-tap-button can do all the work for us which means less brain power is used. With cooking, you HAVE to use both sides of your brain in order to succeed. Using your brain is the exercise your brain needs to improve itself. Think of cooking like updating your software by shutting down what it typically does by doing something completely different than its usual tasks.
Preparing your meal is also more like taking you away from your screens which now more than ever is what almost everyone uses to get by. Less screen time is essential for your mental health by reducing your exposure to blue light (which can lead to poor sleep) and blurred vision (which can cause headaches). Another reason to cook your own meal is the feeling of accomplishment. YOU took a few ingredients and made something edible. YOU nourished yourself. YOU took the time out of your day to self-care by making your own food. By associating cooking with these positive statements, your mind is reinforcing happy behaviors and enjoyment that even if your day goes down the drain at the very least you managed to put together a meal for yourself. Regardless of what that meal is, just the act of being in your kitchen with the objective to assemble a meal for yourself is time worth spent.
Overtime, your physical health will improve too since cooked foods are much easier to digest, help kill off harmful bacteria and, in some cases, increase the level of antioxidants (what your body needs to fight off infections). But for right now, cooking your meal, regardless of its physical benefits, will make you mentally strong to tackle anything.
2. Get some restful sleep
You know the spiel; “sleep eight hours a night”. Of course that’s healthy! Our body needs to rest in order to reset. But that’s just it; It needs to rest! Being in bed for eight hours during evening hours does not mean we have our best sleep to function the next day. You have to be in a resting state in order to see mental benefits from it. There are many strategies for getting sufficient rest – taking supplements, listening to relaxing music, going to bed earlier, not eating right before you’re about to sleep, not sleeping next to your phone etc. Do whatever works to get you in that relaxing state and do not let anything get in the way of it. There is nothing more important for your mental health than a good night’s sleep! Not being prepared the next day is worse than completing that one assignment late into the night because you sacrificed your sleep time just to ruin an entire day’s worth of productivity. Sleep is the one thing we crave and the one thing we lose the older we become. Figure out a system that gets you in that relaxing sleeping state and make sure you do it every night.
3. Work with your productivity hours
Are you a morning person? A night owl? An afternoon maverick? Figure out around what time of day that you tend to get things done and then plan around that. For example, if you know that from 12pm-4pm you are mentally ready and focused, then plan to do the challenging/dreaded tasks during those hours. Use the hours around that for menial tasks like grocery shopping or cleaning your home. If you stick to being productive during your productive hours, you will feel accomplished regardless of what you do outside of those hours. Overtime, you will be able to expand upon your productivity hours because you placed yourself in a mental trance that you know you will succeed in.
4. Take a walk
Again, this is not about being physically healthier. Why does your eye strain or your legs cramp after sitting in a desk behind a screen for so long? Because it’s your brain screaming at your body for being too stiff. In this technological era that we are stuck in, it seems like we need to feel pain in order to give ourselves an excuse to move. That is very tragic when you think about it. Your brain needs oxygen and energy to work under the pressure you set for it and you’re starving it by not moving. Set time for yourself to take a walk. It doesn’t have to be long and it doesn’t have to be far. Taking a walk daily will help circulate your blood and clear your head so that you can continue to work well throughout the day.
5. Do what makes you happy
Read number five again. Now reflect; are you doing something that makes you happy? Start with one thing. It can be riding your bicycle or raising your baby succulents or writing in your journal. Give what you love the time of day. Sometimes we forget why we are doing the things we are doing and that can lead to self-doubt, stress, and in extreme cases depression. I know it can be rough these days and surprisingly, the virtual world is actually making us more busy instead of less, but if you give yourself 25 minutes tops every day dedicated to what you love, I can assure you those endorphins that you get from being happy will make you a healthier person.
It is important to try to do these five tricks daily as it can become a great habit to have. You will constantly reinforce to yourself why you are where you are in life and feel grateful that you are a person who can give yourself love, attention, and appreciation. By having a positive mindset, you are motivated to seek out different areas that can make you physically healthy. Just remember that at the end of the day, it is what you think about yourself that matters the most.