8 simple lifestyle habits for a more balanced life
Having a more balanced life is something many people are looking for these days. Achieving it, though, is not easy as, for most of us, this means changing our lifestyle habits.
Stress and anxiety, long working hours, burnout, insomnia, extra pounds, eating disorders are only some of the realities of our modern life. In order to manage and change this reality into a new, more balanced one, sometimes all we need is awareness and a little help.
As an advocate of the importance of a healthy balanced life, I’m gonna share with you 8 simple lifestyle habits that can help you achieve more balance. Some of them have to do with your diet, and some with the way your spending your time. These are not the only ones that contribute to achieving better health and balance but are some of the most important.
So here they are.
#1. Breath intentionally
There’s no news to you in the fact that breath is essential for your life. What might be news to you, though, is the fact that your everyday breath is shallow most of the time and that you’re holding your breath quite a lot during the course of one day.
“Not breathing properly contributes to stress-related diseases and disturbs the body’s balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitric oxide, which keep the immune system strong, fight infection, and mediate inflammation,” says Dr. Susan Pollak, author of the book Self-Compassion for Parents and the co-founder of the Center for Mindfulness and Compassion at Harvard Medical School.
This is such an easy habit to change. All you need to do is bring your attention to your breath from time to time and intentionally breathe in for a slow count of 4, breathing out the same.
For a starter, you can do this while laying in your bed in the morning and in the evening. Incorporate intentional breathing into your everyday activities. Breath like that when listening for somebody speak during a meeting, while reading, driving, walking, eating. Even now.
There’s no better moment to start breathing intentionally than now.
#2. Add snackable workouts to your routine
The concept of snackable workouts is very simple. It means throwing several bouts of very short exercises in your day. Like 10 push-ups before breakfast. 10 squats after your first online meeting. 10 lounges before lunch, and so on.
Here is the thing: these very small workouts increase your heart rate and get your blood flowing. They also increase your energy expenditure, which means you consume more calories.
If you exercise regularly, these snackable workouts are a very good addition to your routine.
If you don’t exercise at all, they are a great way to get your body moving. You might find out that these small workouts might make you wanna exercise even more, as you get to experience the feel-good effects of dopamine and serotonin in your body.
One of my clients, who hasn’t been exercising in a long time, started out a challenge for himself: he wanted to get to 10.000 push-ups by doing 100 push-ups a day. He started slowly, with 40 push-ups a day, in sets of 10 spread throughout his day. Every day he added a new set of 10 until he got to 100 push-ups per day. While doing that, he started adding in 10 squats now and then after his push-ups. Gradually, as he started to see the benefits, he added some small dumbells to his squats. From there, he started exercising his arms, shoulders, and back with the dumbbells, also in small sets. After less than 2 weeks, he realized he was much taller. 🙂
#3. Get enough sleep
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a good night’s sleep. I wrote about it in an article in which I also gave 5 strategies for better sleep.
As Matthew Walker says in his book Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams: “sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health every day – Mother Nature’s best effort yet at contra-death”.
If you’re having difficulties falling asleep, I created a meditation and breathing exercise to help you with that. You can access it here just by plugging in your name and email address.
#4. Spend quality time with friends and family
Humans have always been social creatures. From the basic cell of the society, marriage, to the more complex organizations, we developed and thrived in communities that shared the same values.
“People are nourished by other people,” said Dr. Stewart Wolf, who conducted a long term study on the Italian community of Roseto, a small village in Pennsylvania, United States.
In his book “The Power of Clan”, co-authored with John G. Bruhn, which is a report on Wolf and Bruhn’s 50 years study on the Roseto community, the authors wrote:
“What has been learned seems to confirm an old but often forgotten conviction that mutual respect and cooperation contribute to the health and welfare of a community and its inhabitants, and that self-indulgence and lack of concern for others exert opposite influences.”
So tonight, instead of spending virtual time with your social media friends, who might not even be there when you’re in need of a real friend, with your work reports or your devices, try giving a little more attention to your spouse, your kids or your parents. Call an old friend and reminisce on old memories. Play board games that bring you together. Even watch a movie all cuddled together sharing the same bowl of non-GMO organic popcorn.
#5. Reach out for help. You are not alone
Even though this could easily fall under the previous point, I wanted to emphasize it as a stand-alone one.
We were raised in a very competitive society. Many of us were brought up playing individual sports, doing our homework alone. We developed a strong sense of independence and competitivity at a very early age.
As beneficial as this is in some aspects of life, hustling alone is way less effective than reaching out to your community or a specialist when the going gets rough.
#6. Take grains out of your diet
As the old Latin saying “mens sana in corpore sano” goes: a healthy mind needs to live in a healthy body.
Grains are merely a cheap source of calories that are easily converted into glucose. They have minimal nutritional value and stimulate excess insulin production. And what’s worse, they contain anti-nutrients that compromise digestive and immune function, promote systemic inflammation, and inhibit the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Grains have formed the foundation of the human diet since the advent of civilization because they are easy to harvest and store.
Today, they are processed into all manner of high-profit packaged, baked, and frozen goods. Highly refined “white” grains and sugar are universally agreed to be unhealthful. But also whole grains promote excess insulin production and have minimal nutritional value in comparison to primal foods. Whole grains also contain higher levels of anti-nutrients than refined grains do, making them potentially more problematic to those who are sensitive.
Grains include wheat, corn, rice, pasta, cereals, cooking grains (barley, millet, rye, oats, etc.), and all derivatives, such as bread, pasta, crackers, snack foods, cookies, cakes, candies, and assorted other types of processed, packaged, frozen, and fresh-baked goods.
Replace them with highly nutritious whole vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds and with good quality sources of protein and fat.
#7. Ditch vegetable oil
In her book Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food Dr. Kate Shanahan states about vegetable oils: “canola oil, together with other refined, bleached and deodorized (RBD) oils […] are largely responsible for the majority of fatal heart attacks and disabling strokes, as well as a raft of other familial diseases.”
Don’t let yourself fooled by the ‘organic’ or ‘expeller-pressed’ words on the labels. Even these oils contain “mutated, oxidized, heat-damaged versions of once healthy fats”, Dr. Shanahan continues.
All these oils, especially when heated, (fried chicken wings, french fries…) generate a “full-blown storm of oxidative reactions”.
Make sure to read the labels when grocery shopping. These oils are present in a mind-blowing variety of products. Bread, ice cream, sausages, mayos, salad dressings, all these good foods, once nourishing are now a huge threat to your health and life balance.
Replacing them with cold-pressed olive oil, avocado oil or coconut oil will make a huge difference for your health and quality of life.
#8. Drink more water
This is one of the most important contributing factors to a healthy balanced life, yet one of the least overlooked.
Despite all the knowledge and awareness around its importance, drinking water is still something that you might need to work a bit harder on if you want a healthy balanced life.
Water is vital for the essential functions in your body and dehydration effects are nasty. Dry skin, headaches, impaired cognitive function and mental performance, kidney stones, constipation, hyper perspiration, heat strokes, these are all conditions that can be linked to insufficient water intake.
One of my favorite quotes on the importance of water in our life belongs to Jacques Yves Cousteau who said:
“We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.”
Jacques Yves Cousteau
Is there any other lifestyle habit that helped you live a healthier more balanced life I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll update the post with the best ideas (and a link crediting you).