We all know that to be healthy, we should eat right, exercise, get plenty of rest, and drink lots of water. Total health, though, isn’t only about being physically healthy. When thinking about your well-being, you should consider your overall health, including your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
There are many unexpected habits you can develop to create positive changes in your overall health. Here are six overlooked habits every woman should develop for her health.
Do you regularly dedicate time in your day to being grateful? Research has consistently demonstrated gratitude can have a profound and lasting impact on our health. Regular gratitude practices have been scientifically proven to help you sleep better, reduce stress hormones, lower blood pressure, improve self-esteem and even lower the risk of depression.
A gratitude practice doesn’t have to be extremely involved or take a lot of time. Try starting your day by thinking of five things you’re grateful for every morning. Or you can make a nightly gratitude list before going to bed each night. Adding gratitude to your life is a small change that can have a large impact on your well-being.Research demonstrates that gratitude can have a profound and lasting impact on our health. Click To Tweet
Most of us know what the number on the bathroom scale reads without even checking, but how well do you know the other numbers related to your health? Can you spout off your blood pressure, cholesterol or blood glucose numbers from memory? Many of us can’t, so instead we trust our medical professionals to track the information for us.
Educating yourself about your personal health information is extraordinarily important. It can help you to understand what’s normal for you, and it will give you the confidence to push your doctor to look deeper at something when you know something isn’t right.
Tracking your medical information can seem daunting, but you can use a simple online program such as My Medical to track all your records in one place. You can also access the records from anywhere, which can come in extremely handy in an emergency.
Most people recognize doing volunteer work has positive effects on your mental and emotional well-being. But did you know it can be good for your physical health too? A study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found a link between people who volunteer regularly and lowered blood pressure.
In addition to the health benefits, volunteering is a great way to meet people with similar interests and to share your expertise with people who need it. You can find volunteer opportunities in your area at VolunteerMatch.org.
As a woman, taking care of yourself is something that gets pushed to the bottom of the list of things to do. Self-care is critically important to our well-being though. As women, we often feel as though we have to give to others first and put ourselves last. But if you’ve completely worn yourself down and left no time for rejuvenation, you have nothing left to share with others anyway. By taking the time to care for yourself first, you’ll find you have even more energy and time to share with others.
Self-care rituals don’t have to be time-consuming either. By taking time throughout the day to check-in and care for yourself, you’ll be less likely to find yourself completely drained. If you’re not sure where to start with self-care, check out this list of 45 simple self-care practices to get started.
It might be easier to say yes when someone makes a request of you, but it’s not easier on your health. According to the Mayo Clinic, while it might initially feel more stressful to say no to a request, it can relieve stress in the long run. Simply because a request is a worthy one doesn’t mean you have to be the person to do it.
Consider new commitments carefully before agreeing. If you don’t feel like enthusiastically saying yes, then you’re probably better off saying no. It will give someone else the opportunity to participate and reduce the stress you feel from overcommitting yourself.
While excessive drinking can have serious health repercussions, research has consistently demonstrated drinking wine in moderation (one glass per day for women) can have positive effects in a variety of health-related areas. Moderate wine consumption, specifically red wine, has been shown to improve memory function, prevent blood clots, reduce inflammation, promote weight loss, reduce the risk of cancer, improve bone mass and reduce blood sugar problems, among many others.
You should still pay attention to the activities traditionally associated with good health, such as eating right and exercising. As you can see from this list, though, there are also a lot of nontraditional ways to improve your health and overall well-being.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock, provided by LaToya
Action: Subscribe to our blog. Read the posts with a glass of wine. Do it for your health.
Bio: LaToya has been involved in the fitness and health world for more than 25 years. An author and researcher, she has written extensively on topics ranging from alternative medicines to cutting-edge fitness programs. She now writes for eHealth Informer. LaToya has a passion for self-improvement and wants to make sure you have the tools and confidence you need to reach your goals, no matter your age or ability.
Need more support to embed healthy habits? These posts may help:
You go to bed promising yourself that Tomorrow, yes Tomorrow, you will start that exercise program you’ve been putting off. You wake up in the morning with good intentions. Yes, the day looms ahead with lots of opportunities to work in a workout. Then that day gets busier and busier as it progresses, though you reassure yourself that you still have time. Habits and routines take over — routines that don’t include getting to your club. You mean to exercise, but when evening rolls around, you are too tired/ busy/ overloaded to move. Where did the day go? Forget hitting the mat, gym, or trails. What takes a hit instead is your psyche as negative self-talk wheedles its way into your thoughts. But you halt the self-recrimination by making a promise to yourself: Tomorrow, yes Tomorrow, you will start that exercise routine. Rinse and repeat.
Set yourself up for success by taking small steps. If heading to the gym for an hour is daunting, set your mind to popping in for just 10 or 15 minutes. Give yourself permission to attend a 30, not 60 minute class. Or grab a mat and do just 5 exercises and head back out the door – exercise done for day one. Allow yourself to get on cardio equipment for just 10 minutes, or until you sweat, or for just two rounds of commercials as you watch the built-in tv. The point is to aim for a 2 or 3 on the commitment scale, instead of a 9 or 10. If you hit that 2 or anything higher, you have notched a positive result. If you think you have to go full out or forget it, then anything less than a 9 or 10 equates mentally with failure. Who likes that? Not I, said the little red hen. The famous Fun and Fit advice? What is the LEAST you are willing to do at your YMCA? Aim low and get ‘er done. (Click this link THEN COME BACK TO READ THE REST OF THIS POST for more about how and why to establish the least possible: How to Start an Exercise Program? Do the Least Possible)
Not creative; not new; not patented, copyrighted, nor trademarked by us. But effective. Whatever calendar system you use — online, an app, paper and pen, a wall calendar you got free from that new business down the street — schedule gym time. In ink. With a nice check-off box next to it. It’s a visual promise to yourself you are less likely to break. Oh, and don’t go all crazy and overschedule yourself. See Tip One.
Whatever system annoys, reminds, or motivates you best, employ it. Set notifications on your smart phone. Post sticky notes on the wheel of your car. Leave reminders where you’ll see or hear them. Have a family member call you. Nag, nag, nag.
Get your gear into gear. If your gym bag is packed and set where you have to trip over it to get out the door, you are more likely to make it to the club. Or keep an outfit in the car. Perhaps lay out your workout clothes so you are ready to put them on first thing in the morning. Personally I find a new outfit really motivating. Nothing like wanting to break in a new top to get me to group fitness class!
We break promises to ourselves all the time. Those are usually called New Year’s Resolutions. All year. But will you break a promise to a friend? Even if your friend is not going to meet you at the club, she has now heard your promise and can help hold you accountable. Call, email, text – whatever it takes, commit to another person.
Positive reinforcement is a powerful force all right, so harness that. Made it to the gym for half a class? Buy yourself that new pair of leggings. Worked out three days in a week? Bust out the bottle of bubbly you’ve been saving for a special occasion. Whatever makes you happy, use that as a reward. Acknowledge your successes. For example, if you enjoy reading blogs in the morning, tell yourself that you will read just one (ours!) before exercising, but will relish and revel in reading 3 more as soon as you get back from the Y.
Read our other posts on the subject to clarify the values, motives, and internal rewards that drive you to exercise.
Nothing like a Master’s Degree in Counseling for Alexandra to share great suggestions on forming good habits! Establishing a successful routine is under your control when you are armed with good info. And these links will take you to good info. The tips above will take you to the gym! More literally, you and your car will take you there. Vroom, vroom. Off you go!
PS Since we’re talking about setting your calendar, mark yours now for June 3-4. Attend our free webinar series, TransformAging. To get details and transform to a more active you, subscribe now if you are not a current subscriber.
By Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly: “Change is not simple; it is scary.” Anschutz Medical Center faculty member and licensed psychologist, Denise McGuire, PhD laid this on us at the recent FitSocial conference. Her presentation on making lifestyle changes covered the phases we pass through to meet our new goals.
According to Dr. McGuire, one of the mistakes we make is thinking we can change something once, then be done. For example, long term diets don’t work for 95% of people who try them. Yet it is a myth that people don’t or can’t really change. They can–YOU can!–if you know what stage of change you are in and adjust accordingly. Willpower alone is not sufficient. Willingness, not willpower is key. To change, you need to be willing to go outside your comfort zone. And that can be scary!
Alexandra: We aren’t fans of attributing lack of success to willpower, which has a sense of fighting against yourself and leads to self-recrimination. It has a negative feel to it. It’s far more empowering to either be willing or unwilling to do a behavior that leads to change. In other words, you didn’t LOSE a battle so much as you CHOSE something else instead. So Power Up! (lovers of video games will recognize this phrase as a way to instantly gain benefits and abilities).
Kymberly: Unfortunately, fewer than 20% of people in problem populations are ready for change. (What do you define as a “problem” population? The obese? Smokers? Sedentary individuals? Dr. McGuire implied all of the former, but did not really cover this so you can decide whether you consider yourself in a problem population). Are you in that 20% elite ready to improve your life?
People in this initial stage are resistant to change; they deny they have a problem believing they need to change those around them. Precontemplators can be demoralized and feel their situation is hopeless; they are defensive and rarely take responsibility for their behaviors.
This stage is a relatively safe place to be as there is no risk of failure. It’s a comfort zone though not a healthy one!
Progress! People in this phase accept that they, not others are the ones needing to make a change. However they are still not ready to take action.
If you are in this phase, you plan to take action within the month. You are aware of your problem, have increasing confidence in your ability to tackle it; have gathered the necessary information and want to take action, but are not quite ready. Almost though!
While you might consider this the easy phase, Dr. McGuire revealed that the Action stage requires the greatest amount of commitment, support, and energy. To succeed you must engage in self-talk to bolster your resolve; you need to be clear about your motivation; and you will do well to write down your reasons for change and read your notes daily.
Keep in mind that the Action stage does NOT mean you are continually moving forward; you will go back sometimes, then forward. But you WILL get to your goal. Think of it as walking against waves: slow going with resistance, yet you eventually DO get to smoother waters (aka it becomes a habit). Be prepared — people in the Action phase usually need 4-5 attempts before progressing to the fifth and final stage.
This phase lasts anywhere from 6 months to life, and is where new habits are formed. To stop yourself from moving back to an earlier stage consider these 5 tips from Dr. McGuire:
Alexandra: The Maintenance Phase is also an important stage to work on the words you use to describe yourself and your actions. For example, “relapse” has a more negative feel to it than “setback.” Which word sounds more successful to you? Another way to frame your behavior in this stage is to focus on the work you’ve done and the progress you’ve made.
While you’re at it, throw away the word “failure.” That’s a word to apply to hard drives and car brakes, not humans. People do not go in a straight line: Success ——> Failure; people go in labyrinths, circles and winding paths. As Gandalf wrote in his letter to the Hobbits, “Not all those who wander are lost.” Then his pen ran out of ink just as he was going to write, “And not all those who wander off the path are doomed.”
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5 Stages of Change Pie Chart http://www.readytoexercise.com/stages.html