In one of the most influential books ever written, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
, author Stephen Covey explains, “Our character is a composite of our habits.”
So, too, is the case when it comes to your health. It isn’t the occasional slip up here or there that defines overall health, but the day-to-day rituals, practices, and behaviors that mold how your body looks, feels and performs.
Check out my version of Stephen’s 7 Habits - what I call the 7 Habits of Health - and see how many are operating at full capacity in your life.
1. The Habit of Rest
Remember in Kindergarten, when you used to lounge on your mat every afternoon in a cool, quiet room? Wasn’t that great? Although rest and relaxation are traditionally last on the fitness priority list, both are critical to genuine health and wellbeing. If you can’t sit still, feel guilty when you take a break, or if sleeping is more like a wrestling match than a snooze fest, chances are your health is suffering as a result. PRACTICE fine-tuning your napping skills, watch a funny movie, or do something that makes you feel pampered. 15 minutes of “me” time per day can make a world of difference in the way you look, act and feel.
2. The Habit of Passion
If all the things you do to improve your health are cloaked in sacrifice, deprivation and pain, your results will be fleeting at best. The key to lasting health and fitness is to become excited about the changes you are making to your diet and exercise program. PRACTICE choosing activities that are fun and different, but that get your heart pumping - a new nature trail, the latest yoga DVD, or one of those cool Salsa classes. Rather than resisting foods you love, seek out or create alternative recipes. You may even end up loving the substitute better than the real McCoy.
3. The Habit of Body Awareness
Much of modern fitness protocol demands that you ignore the body rather than listen to it. You’re told to push past your limits, ignore hunger when you’re starving, and overlook disinterest when your routine becomes overwhelming. PRACTICE listening to your body and stop when it says “stop.” The truth is, quick progress is made not when the body is pushed to the limit, but rather when it is nudged just slightly past its current ability. Learn to trust your gut instincts and rediscover that intuition is and always will be one of the best guidance systems around.
4. The Habit of Happiness
Whoever said, “Laughter is the best medicine,” wasn’t kidding. Despite what most people think, happiness IS a choice, and while good health won’t always make you happy, happiness will always improve your health. PRACTICE enhancing your happiness level with these two habits: 1. Stop complaining (much easier said than done) and, 2. Find something to smile about. Re-direct your focus on all the things that are RIGHT about you, the world, your job, your home, your life. Make a list and refer to it whenever things get out of balance.
5. The Habit of Flexibility
In his book, Grow Younger, Live Longer
, Deepak Chopra explains that among dozens of centurions (people who have lived at least 100 years) who were asked to name the single characteristic most important to a long, healthy life, flexibility or the “ability to let go” topped the list. PRACTICE flexibility of mind by attempting to suspend your judgment of people, circumstances and events – practice being okay with whatever is happening around you. Start every morning by physically stretching your arms to the sky, then bend and touch your toes. This is a great reminder that flexibility is a work in progress, whether it’s your muscles, your mind, or your relationships.
6. The Habit of Nutrition
Your Mom was right, you are what you eat. So, have a close look at where and how food reaches your plate. The number of steps between harvest and table can spell the difference between real food and what Michael Pollen, author of the book In Defense of Food
, calls, “food-like substances.” The fewer the steps, the more nutritionally dense your food will be. PRACTICE eating like a European by going to market once a day and choosing only the freshest, most wholesome foods you can find. Consume at least 2 non-processed meals every day, and don’t forget the most important nutrient of all – good old H2O.
7. The Habit of Movement
Your body was built to move, it was built to WORK and TRAVEL and PULL and PUSH. Every day, see if you can participate in each of these activities. PRACTICE: If you can walk, you can TRAVEL. If you are sweating, you are WORKING. If you do a little resistance training, you will PULL and PUSH. That just about covers it.
Here’s to your healthy habits and a long, happy life!
Dianne Orwig is a success coach, motivational speaker, fitness trainer, and founder of LivingFit Online™, a fitness program that has helped thousands of men and women completely transform their bodies and live healthier, happier lives though her less-is-better approach. For more information, please visit www.lovelivingfit.com.