Prioritizing Your Wellness Time
We all think we could have healthier habits if we just had more wellness time. We’d cook from scratch, exercise daily, meditate, and make all kinds of other healthy lifestyle options. Sound familiar? In reality, we all struggle to create an ideal work life balance and no one has the time they wish they had for all these healthy habits. But there are ways we can incorporate time for wellness into our daily lives, and get ahead of the time-consuming tasks that cause us stress. Here’s my healthy habits round up to help “sneak wellness” into a busy schedule.
- Don’t try to do too much at once. You’ll only get discouraged and set yourself up for failure. The best changes are the ones that gradually take hold and become habits that stick with us for a lifetime. By starting with small, measureable goals, you’ll be far more likely to stick with the program over the long haul. This is an important step in the tips to come, because you shouldn’t feel like you have to try them all at once. Start with one simple thing and master it before you take on another to increase your chances of success.
- Take 15 minutes for yourself every day. This is a good example of my first tip. You may not be able to fit in a 90-minute yoga class on a hectic workday, but you can set a daily goal to give yourself just 15 minutes to do something healthy and restorative. If you can get up just 15 minutes earlier in the morning, you may find you have time for a few minutes of meditation or a healthier breakfast before dashing out the door. Not a morning person? No problem! Set aside 15 minutes at the end of the day for reflection, rest, or decompression. You can take a walk, cook a healthy dinner you enjoy, or read for pleasure. Those 15 minutes have the potential to change the tone for your whole day, and overall will brighten your whole week.
- Shop with your goals in mind. It’s a lot easier to have willpower in the supermarket than when you’re hungry at home and tempted to indulge in something you probably will regret. Before you add an item to your shopping cart, ask yourself, “Will this further my goals of living a healthier lifestyle?” By stocking up on healthy options and keeping the junk food at bay, you’ll be far more likely to make better choices at meal and snack times. It is also wise to invest in items that further your personal goals. If you want to run a marathon someday, you’re going to need some quality running shoes, and those aren’t cheap. There is a time to save and a time to spend, and helps to think of each purchase as a contribution to the lifestyle you want to lead. If the purchase doesn’t line up with who you want to be, set it back on the shelf and walk away.
- Schedule wellness into your day. Prioritize wellness by scheduling it ahead of time, just as you would an appointment or social engagement. If you keep a calendar, write in the activity you plan to do. You might want to block an hour out on Saturday morning to take a walk, or to do a short yoga routine when you get home from work, for example. You’ll be far more likely to practice healthy activities if they are written down in your schedule.
- Step outside. This is a great way to spend your 15 minutes of you time or part of a lunch break – outdoors. Sitting on the back patio or walking in the park are proven ways to relax your mind and decompress from a busy lifestyle. Sunshine and fresh air are free, easy ways to start feeling better right away. In the winter this can be a little more challenging, or during a rainy season. During those times, it’s important to take advantage of a break in the clouds or a rise in the temperature.
- Put your goals in writing. Just the act of writing down our goals formalizes them and starts to turn them into action. You can also see what you have accomplished (and cross it off – which is so gratifying!). Your “to do list” can be something as simple as going to bed by a certain hour or making a salad for lunch. Goal setting is a great habit to get into, and the best types of goals have a clear deadline and concrete definition of success. If your goal is to “lose weight”, you are left with an ambiguous statement that creates no sense of urgency or measurability. If you say, however, that you want to “lose 10 lbs by Christmas”, then you’ve clearly defined what success looks like and you are able to measure your progress along the way, making you more aware of your daily choices that affect that goal.
- Use scheduling technology. There are countless apps and fitness trackers out there that can motivate you to make healthier choices, and they don’t have to be complicated or expensive to be effective. One easy trick is the set your phone’s alarm to remind you to stand up and walk around every half an hour or so when you’re working. Another would be to use your phone’s calendar to block out times for exercise or relaxation. You can also track your progress and give yourself some encouragement on those goals, using the calendar feature, by marking the deadline and setting reminders for yourself on a weekly or daily basis that you are working toward that goal, how much time is left, and congratulating yourself on your progress.
- Decide what you want for your future now. You can make as many positive habits in your life as you want, but until you’ve clarified the overall end goal you won’t truly have a direction. Take some time (in increments or all at once) and outline your long-term priorities – places you want to travel, future personal accomplishments, family goals, etc. Then outline a plan for how to achieve them. If you want to buy a house someday, for instance, turn “someday” into an actual month or year, and create a plan to set money aside for a down payment. If you want to attain a personal achievement, such as writing a book, running a marathon or learning a new language, outline the steps necessary to accomplish it and then implement them. Take a class, run a little farther every day. Incorporate your goals into your daily activities and you will find that you are, on the whole, much happier because you are actively working toward those things you really want. This is a time saver because you won’t waste time going after things that aren’t relevant to your dreams.
- Build healthy habits that save time. Habits that save time are the best kind, because many are preventative measures that help to avoid longer, larger tasks later. If you put your dishes in the dishwasher after each meal instead of piling them up in the sink, you save yourself the chore later of loading the dishwasher, plus the sink is clear! If you sort the mail as you bring it in and deal with it on the spot, you don’t have a growing stack of mail staring at you from the counter for a month. When you consistently feel stressed about the same thing over and over, ask yourself what habit you could form to minimize that stress, and then implement it.
- Break habits that waste time. There are some tasks we do on a daily basis that are just flat out time-wasters. If you’re trying to find more room in your schedule, look to the little things. I’ll bet there are a couple small things you do every day that if you stopped doing, you wouldn’t miss. Most of us have the habit of checking our phone, our Facebook, our email several times in a day. If you cut each of those down to twice or even once a day, you would probably save enough time to cook a healthy meal or enjoy a cup of tea in peace. One way to help break this habit is to turn off phone and desktop notifications for apps that aren’t important, and move them off your home screen and bookmarks bar (if you’re feeling really brave, uninstall the apps altogether, even just for a few days, and see how you fare without them). The worst time-wasting apps are the ones that show a little number of how many updates you have – take those off the front page of your phone so that you won’t be tempted to open them as often.
- Put in a full night’s sleep. This may seem counter-intuitive if you feel you never had enough time, but the fact is that when you are well-rested, you are more productive and healthier. Most people know what time they have to get up, but don’t pay much attention to the time they go to bed. Though it might be a throwback to your childhood, try reinstituting an official “bed –time” for yourself that is 8 ½ hours before it’s time to wake up. The extra half hour is for you to have time to fall asleep. When you sleep a full 8 hours you’ll wake up feeling rejuvenated, refreshed and ready to start a new day.
- Just say no. Say no to the things for which you don’t have time. Say no to the things that counteract your wellness goals. Say no to whatever is not in alignment with your lifestyle, and you will find yourself with a lot more time and a lot less to worry about. You’ll also be furthered in your goals simply by not doing the things that don’t assist them. Having the attitude of a non-finisher in some situations can be helpful as well. Watching a movie that you don’t like? Stop watching it, walk away, do something more enjoyable or productive. It’s ok to not finish those things that simply are a waste of time.
- Reward yourself for good choices. People respond strongly to positive reinforcement, even when it comes from within. When we do something well, we are motivated to repeat it if we are rewarded for our efforts, and you can be both the presenter and recipient of that reward. The reward should not outweigh or counteract the task completed. For example, treating yourself to a pint of ice cream when you’re trying to cut out sugar may not be the best idea. Instead, think of a small token of appreciation you can grant yourself if you succeed, like a trip to the salon, indulging in a favorite drink or activity, or a night out at your favorite restaurant.