You ever wonder how to be healthy? I’ve narrowed it down to the 5 essentials for balanced healthy living. Following these guidelines could put you on the path to good health, happiness, and wellbeing.
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People who’ve known me for a while probably think that I’ve always led a healthy, well-balanced life. I thought the same things for many years. After all, I watched what I ate, played sports, and I had a good group of friends, supportive family, and successful jobs. That’s healthy living, right?
Those components are definitely the building blocks of balanced healthy living, but there are still a few other pieces. And those small, but important missing pieces are what caused my health to suffer.
If you’re like most, you might think, if I could just find THE diet to follow so I can eat the perfect things to change my body and improve my life. You wouldn’t be totally wrong, but you also wouldn’t be totally right. Diet is a very important part of healthy living, but it’s not all of it. I go into more detail on that in this article, Why Eating a Good Diet is Only Part of the Health Equation.
I was eating the right things, or at least what I thought was right at the time (sorry I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, I had bad info!), but my health was still suffering. I was exercising and socializing, but my energy was low, my thyroid was off, my hormones were out of balance, and my adrenals were shot.
What was I missing? Balance. The B word. It’s something many of us dream of and never obtain, or just get in short, fleeting moments.
I checked many of the boxes off on my balanced healthy living list, but I was missing the emotional, spiritual, and mindset piece. I was always pushing myself to do more, and that voice that did the pushing, wasn’t so nice. I spoke nicer to my friends’ pets than I did to myself.
There was no such thing as quiet time in my life. There was constant movement. Go, achieve, accomplish, participate, do. There was no stillness. No center. No purpose or higher meaning.
It wasn’t until my mom died that I finally slowed down to evaluate my life. And when I did, I didn’t like what I saw.
I was put to the test when I was offered a big promotion that I had been gunning for at my 14-year corporate marketing job. I paused, fighting with my go, do, achieve mentality that had been pushing me to climb the corporate ladder. I shook my boss’ hand, thanking him for the opportunity. Then I turned down the promotion, and quit on the spot. Then I moved to Paris to reconnect and start living again.
My off balance might look different than yours. You may be a pro-meditator and have a spiritual practice that grounds you and centers you, but you just can’t commit to eating better food. Or maybe you’re all about “you time,” but you don’t make time to connect with others. Whatever it is, and it may change year to year, month to month, it’s good to be aware, so you can adjust your lifestyle and choices for better, more balanced healthy living.
The thing is, it’s all connected. You ever have a really bad day at work and then felt like you needed, or deserved, a drink or greasy burger and fries? Or have you had a bad argument with your significant other and the next day at work, you were super lethargic and just phoning it in? All of the essentials for healthy living affect each other.
Your health affects your energy, just like your relationships and stress levels do. So when you can optimize these key areas, you have a better shot of stepping into a balanced healthy life.
So let’s discuss how to be healthy and what the keys areas are for balanced living.
Five Essentials for Balanced Healthy Living
What you feed your belly, nourishes your entire body. It’s the fuel that drives your engine.
Food influences your mood, energy, and overall health and wellbeing. It’s the gas in your vehicle that makes you go, so of course you want to put the best possible gas in for optimal performance.
With all the fad diets and new information that seems to come out every month, it can be difficult to know what to eat. Let’s dig in with a few fundamental rules on healthy eating. If you want to go deep on healthy eating, read this.
How to Eat Healthy:
Eat food in its most natural state. It should look like food, not a food by-product
If you’re going to eat meat or fish, look for organic, grass-fed, and wild caught
Avoid processed, packaged food in favor of food that grows from the ground
Don’t eat ingredients you can’t pronounce except for maybe acai and chlorella
Ditch sugar – it’s an addictive drug that can cause harm to your overall health
Pack your plate with plant-based food like leafy greens and other vegetables
Cut down on toxins by drinking clean water and buying organic produce from the Dirty Dozen list
Curb your refined carb intake. White bread, flour, and chips are empty calories that spike your blood sugar and can inflame your body, leading to disease
Cook with the right oils
Chew your food, mindfully, at the table, without multi tasking
Listen to your body. If you have a bloated belly and low energy after eating something, think twice about eating it again! Food allergies can wreck havoc on your system
Don’t get bogged down in the minutiae of each and everything on your plate while ignoring the rest of the items on this list for balanced healthy living
With the right food in your body, you should have plenty of energy to move, so make sure you do just that!
We spend way too much time sitting at our computers (guilty!). Not only is sitting all day bad for our waistline since we’re not burning any calories, but it’s also not good for our overall health. Studies have shown that sedentary time was associated with a 112% increase in type 2 diabetes, 147% increase in cardiovascular issues and a 49% increase in the overall risk of mortality. Are you moving yet??
Moving burns calories, but it also delivers a hit of feel good endorphins, which will help with your mood, and your brainpower. And if you’re in your head all the time like me, exercise can allow you to drop into your body, be present, and stop ruminating.
Staying active might just improve your sleep as well. The Medical Director of Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep said, “We have solid evidence that exercise does, in fact, help you fall asleep more quickly and improves sleep quality.” Just make sure not to exercise too close to bedtime or you’ll be too revved up from your workout to fall asleep.
Speaking of sleep. Do it. You must get good sleep in order to move. And to get good sleep, you need to move. I’m going to go deep into the how-tos for healthy sleep soon, so more to come.
How to Increase Movement
Set a timer to move a few minutes every hour
Take the stairs instead of the elevator
Stand instead of sit for phone calls
Park in a parking spot further away
Have a spontaneous dance party in the bathroom stall for a quick pick-me-up
Get in nature for a hike
Put your hands in the dirt and garden
Look on Groupon for discount yoga and fitness classes
Walk with a friend or start a walking group for moms, busy execs, or women who like getting up early
Try Class Pass to sample a variety of different exercise classes
Go for a barefoot sunset beach walk
Volunteer at an animal shelter to walk dogs
For more privacy and schedule flexibility, try online yoga
Now that you’re getting great energy from moving your body and feeding it the right ingredients, let’s take a look at what’s going on in that head of yours.
I always say that you can eat all the kale in the world, but if you’re constantly talking down to yourself, you’re never going to feel very good. Your thoughts feed your body just like your food does. So you want to ensure that you’re feeding yourself nourishing, uplifting messages.
Your mind controls your thoughts and life. And the brain doesn’t know fact from fiction. If you keep telling yourself that you’re not smart, your mind and body will react by thinking it shouldn’t participate in things for smart people. Perhaps you’ll stop offering suggestions at work since you don’t think you’re smart enough.
You know what else plays into a healthy (or unhealthy) mindset? Stress and constant worry. How you deal with these factors can have a huge impact on your overall health and wellbeing.
I can attest to the damage constant stress and anxiety did on me. My body was in a constant state of fight or flight with my wired life so my adrenals released lots of stress hormones to prepare me to run from a tiger. Except there was no tiger, unless you count never-ending deadlines and an overbooked schedule a real tiger-like threat. So my adrenals ran out of juice and that in turn affected many other systems in my body, and not in a good way.
This doesn’t mean you have to hole up and become a monk with no distractions. You could, however, go monk-like every Sunday morning with a little meditation, journaling, and quiet time to unplug. A few minutes to breathe deeply every day can have profound healthy benefits. If meditation isn’t your thing, have a look at my 6 ways to meditate that don’t include sitting cross-legged on the floor for inspiration on how to get quiet and center.
How to Develop a Positive Mindset
Speak to yourself like you would speak to a cherished friend
Develop and practice positive affirmations
Volunteer and help others less fortunate
Go electronics free for a period of time daily or weekly
Get your feet in nature
Find quiet time
Think positive thoughts – fake it if you have to. Your mind won’t know the difference!
Manage your stress
Practice self care
Book a massage
Write in a journal
Just say no when you’re overbooked
Create – cook, garden, sing, dance, draw, write, listen to music – lose yourself
Plan a night of fun
Connect with others (see below)
Eat well and exercise (see above)
So far the focus for balanced healthy living has primarily been on just you, but it definitely doesn’t stop there. Your relationship to yourself is extremely important, but equally important is having a strong connection to other people.
Studies have shown that, “prolonged loneliness can be as harmful to your health as smoking or obesity.”
In neuroscientist John Cacioppo’s book, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, he states, “When we are lonely we not only react more intensely to the negatives; we also experience less of a soothing uplift from the positives.”
Being connected to a community can provide a huge boost to your health. Having a person or group of people that understand you, support you, and elevate you is critical for your emotional wellbeing.
Have you ever shared an idea with a friend and he or she immediately squashed it, calling it stupid? That probably made you feel bad and less likely to move forward with your idea, right?
Sometimes friends fall into different buckets. I have my health and wellness friends who I can geek out on the latest research I read on the benefits of hugging trees (seriously, look it up), but I wouldn’t necessarily share this info with my colleagues from corporate America (though they could definitely benefit!). It’s good to have a tribe for all the things that fuel you.
Also important is your connection with your faith, a higher power, or something you believe in that’s larger than yourself. Having a bigger belief system can help put things in perspective, especially when you’re moving through troubled times. That community can also prove to be very supportive since you likely share some similar core values.
How to Develop Connection
Offer your talents or help to a friend, group, or person in need
Call someone to let them know you were thinking of them (yes call, not text)
Initiate a get together with a friend you haven’t seen in a while
Drop a meal to someone in need
Listen to loved ones and follow-up on the things they tell you up
Tell someone how much they mean to you – in person, by phone, or in a letter
Plan a romantic, fun date night
Give flowers to someone special for no reason
Make and mail a personal card to someone who could use some cheer
Talk to a stranger in line, in an exercise class, or in a shop
Take a class to meet others who share a passion of yours
Compliment a teacher on their work
Thank your mail carrier, garbage man, or other service provider
Join a Meetup group to foster a hobby with like-minded people
Take a role in a non-profit, neighborhood, government, or school group
Join a community garden
Sit in on a faith based service
Volunteer for a cause you support
5. Passion and Purpose
The last building block to happy healthy living is purpose. Finding and living your purpose can be the icing on the cake of your balanced healthy life.
You can be eating well, exercising, thinking good thoughts, connected to those around you, but you can still hate your job and feel like you’re moving through life without purpose. If you’re not feeling fulfilled, it’s going to affect your happiness and wellbeing.
So what do you do if you feel like you’ve lost (or maybe never had) any passion or purpose in your life? Start by answering some of the questions below, and then see what stands out.
When you find one or two recurring themes, think about how you can begin taking steps to move them forward. Explore your passion topics through lectures, classes, reading, events, and groups. Once you learn more and start surrounding yourself with like-minded people, you may discover more fulfillment in your life, which could lead to more ways to get involved.
Questions to Ask to Find Your Passion and Purpose
If you had 6 months left to live, what would you do?
If you were to leave this earth tomorrow, what would you regret?
If money were no object, you would….
What do you get lost in and forget the time?
What accomplishments are you the most proud of?
What did you want to be as a kid?
What did you enjoy studying in school?
What did you used to dream about doing or becoming?
What is your treat to do after you’ve finished work and obligations?
What is your favorite weekend activity?
What do you like reading about?
What kind of movies do you like watching?
What comes easily to you? What are you good at?
What makes you different than anyone else?
What are some of your unique gifts and talents?
What relaxes you?
What interest do you hope or wish a significant other would share with you?
Staying Healthy and Balanced
These five essentials for balanced healthy living – exercise, movement, mindset, connection, and purpose all need to be continuously cultivated and looked in on. You don’t have one healthy meal and then say, we’ll I’m done and healthy for life now. You have to work at it all the time.
When I’m feeling a little “off,” I have a look at the list to see what healthy living area may need more attention. I may be working really hard, socializing, and exercising, but I may not have made the time for a balanced meal. Or I might be connecting and contributing and neglecting my own self care. I use this checklist to keep the balance in my life.
You may find some things to add to this list or some wording to change to make it work for you. Ultimately you know what your mind and body need. Now you just need to remember to make time to do it so you can lead a balanced healthy life.
If you’re struggling with one or more of these essential elements for healthy living, you may want to seek professional help to get things in balance.
As a Certified Transformational Health Coach, I help people get to the root of their imbalances so they can lead happy, joyful lives. It may not need to include quitting your job and moving to Paris like I did, but then again, maybe it should!
Having a personal coach can help you with a game plan to move forward. It can be helpful to have someone to hold you accountable for the change you’d like to see in your life.
If you’d like more information, reach out to schedule a free 20-minute exploratory call with me to discuss the details. I’m here to help. Read more.