What can you accomplish with 7 days of healthy habits? A lot more than you might expect.
Changing your life doesn’t have to be a huge “project” that takes you years. It’s all about consistency. Forming new habits, one at a time, and sticking to it.Changing your life doesn’t have to be a huge “project” that takes you years. It’s all about consistency. #newhabits Click To Tweet
Your goals can be small, manageable, and easy to achieve. Accomplishing small goals gives you the encouragement and motivation you need to keep going and even take on bigger challenges.
Bad habits aren’t formed overnight and good habits won’t be either. You can start. You can make gradual progress. Over time, you will change your life.
The Science of Habits
A plastic surgeon named Dr. Maxwell Maltz became interested in the phenomenon surrounding how human beings form behaviors.
After years of studying his patients, his associates, and himself, he developed theories about habit-forming. He explained, “It requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.”
This is only meant to be a guideline.
Some habits may take 21 days to form, while others – depending on the severity or how ingrained the habit is – can take more. That’s gotten lost in the age of self-help. A habit is a habit if you no longer have to think about it. It becomes automated in your mind, second nature.
Taking on 7 days of healthy habits is a starting place. It’s going to be up to you to make these behaviors “stick” in your daily life, to a point where you don’t think about them, they just are.Taking on 7 days of healthy habits is a starting place. Some habits take 21+ days to become a routine. #newhabitsClick To Tweet
Statistically, extreme methods may work in the short term but rarely in the long term. There are exceptions (naturally) but people in general respond to a steadier approach that’s sustainable.
This includes specialty eating that requires a lot of preparation or money, fad pills or cleanses that promise incredible (but illogical) results, and exercise routines that take hours of your day.
Most people cannot maintain extreme techniques of dieting or exercise. You should find a middle ground that works for you, in your real life, that you can sustain day after day, year after year. One healthy habit at a time is the key.
Here are 7 days of healthy habits for you to gradually work into your daily routine. Some of these will be easier, some will take concentration, but all of them can become a stable part of your life within the next couple of months.
Whatever you need to do to help yourself remember – set an alarm on your phone, add reminders to your calendar, or put a sticky note on your fridge – do what works!
Don’t get discouraged! If you try to set each of these habits in the same week but get overwhelmed…start again and keep it simple. Take one practice at a time, make it a strong habit, then move on to the next one.
You’re not competing with anyone. This is for you, for your health, for your life.
Day #1: Let’s talk about sleep.
Your body and mind need sleep desperately to function properly but people who don’t get enough also tend to put on extra pounds and raise their risk of serious conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and mood disorders (to name a few).
How much do you sleep every night? How would you rate your quality of sleep? Are there things you can do to improve your sleeping environment?
All of us run ourselves ragged and then keep our brains fired up with social media, streaming services, and random white noise that makes it difficult for our brains to “cycle down” for sleep.
Improving your sleep literally affects you mentally, emotionally, and physically. It’s one of the simplest and cheapest ways to create major change yet experts estimate that 70% of American adults get less than 6.5 hours per night and are classified as sleep-deprived.
You need 8 hours (and women are thought to need 9 nightly). Being “too busy” to get the sleep you need is counter-productive to every other area of your life. It’s a basic human requirement so it gets top priority on our 7 days of healthy habits list. Bump it by half an hour each night until you get to the golden 8 you need!Being “too busy” to get the sleep you need is counter-productive to every other area of your life. #7dayshealthyhabitClick To Tweet
Day #2: Drink the water…even if you hate it.
Studies show that most Americans get their massive sugar consumption through the beverages they drink. Before you proudly inform those around you that you choose “diet” versions of the sugary stuff, you should know that diet drinks have been linked to a much higher risk of diabetes (and therefore heart disease by association).
Water isn’t glamorous but your cells need it to function.
You can make it fancy with lemon or lime juice, a couple of slices of fresh fruit, or even some essential oils (always use glass containers if you add essential oils and make sure they’re safe for consumption). Infused water is refreshing and offers even more benefits than plain water.
Don’t add sugar, don’t add drink mixes, and don’t be fooled by low-calorie drops that make pretty colors and add flavor…they’re chemical concoctions that negate your water benefits.
If you don’t drink water now, start slow. A good rule of thumb is 64 ounces per day and it’s a great goal to strive for if you’re not drinking water at all. Include 16 ounces daily for a few days, then add another 16 ounces, and so on. Try replacing sodas and high-sugar coffees with lightly sweetened green tea (add an herbal tea bag for added interest).
Day #3: Don’t add salt to your foods.
This is a difficult one for many people. In a fast-paced world where we struggle to get a good meal on our plates at least once per day, the added sodium content can be forgotten in your desire to lower sugar.
Too much salt causes you to retain water, makes your skin appear dry, and causes unnatural puffiness in your face, hands, and feet. Sugar is a bad one – without a doubt – but you want to watch how much salt you’re eating as well.
It’s packed in fast foods, frozen entrees, and microwavable meals (soups, side dishes, etc.) as a preservative and if you commonly eat these types of foods, you’re getting far more salt than your body needs. Once food is plated, more salt is typically sprinkled over it.
Outside of a dash included in a recipe, avoid adding salt to food. You can replace the “heartiness” of it with garlic powder, onion powder, or even cumin. If you can’t eliminate added salt immediately, give yourself a daily limit. Measure out ½ a teaspoon of salt to use for the entire day and gradually reduce it over time.
Day #4: You really need fiber.
Lots of foods contain this essential nutrient. Avocados, raspberries, lentils and beans, almonds, chia seeds, and dark chocolate are packed with fiber. Homemade (not microwave) popcorn with a bit of real melted butter is a great high-fiber snack.
You can get the fiber you need in a morning smoothie, in your meal preparations, or as snacks on the go. You need it to lower cholesterol, regulate insulin response, help you feel fuller, and flush toxins.
During your 7 days of healthy habits, if you really don’t think you can get the amount of fiber you need, look for a supplement. Better a chewable or a mix than none at all but food-based fiber is always best utilized by your system.
Day #5: Focus on the big picture.
It can be easy to fall into negative habits such as obsessing over calories with every bite, removing all of one food group (such as carbs or fats), or weighing yourself all the time.
Research shows that too much attention to little details like these actually work against your progress. By being too strict with yourself, it’s easy to get discouraged and give up.
Think bigger. Plan your meals in advance or keep healthy foods you enjoy on hand. Avoid eating out too much (the average portions are excessive and they tend to be higher in salt) but don’t beat yourself up when you do. The key to developing good habits is consistency and giving yourself a little bit of wiggle room in moderation.
The moment you tell yourself you “can’t” have something…that’s when you want it.
Day #6: Move your body.
Every time someone talks about getting healthy, the big elephant in the middle of the room is exercise. Yes, it’s good for you. Yes, your body needs it. No, you don’t have to go overboard.
Sedentary lifestyles are becoming an epidemic due to the sorts of jobs a majority of the country performs every day. During your 7 days of healthy habits, do one movement for ten minutes daily. It can be low-impact (like tai chi) or no-impact (like stretching), but get moving.
As you get used to moving regularly, you might want to do something more such as walking, cycling, or swimming. The most important thing is beginning.
Don’t overdo it. Don’t push yourself to the point of pain. Start slowly, build up your endurance, and add a bit more when you’ve successfully made daily movement a habit.Don’t overdo it. Don’t push yourself to the point of pain. Start slowly, build up your endurance. #healthynewhabitsClick To Tweet
Day #7: Don’t forget to breathe.
Every single day, you need to set aside time to relax your mind, focus your thoughts, and do some deep breathing. It’s excellent for your mental and emotional health, brain cognition, and your immune system. Deep breathing (and movement) gets your lymph system pumping.
Whether you have 3 minutes, 5 minutes, or half an hour, you’re going to feel a huge difference when you take time to breathe and clear your mind. Much like sleep, this is one of the cheapest and easiest activities you can do during your 7 days of healthy habits.
Don’t Stop After a Week
When you give your mind and body the attention, nutrition, and rest they deserve, it changes your entire outlook on life. You have more energy, you think clearly, and you start wanting more of those feelings.
Remember, one thing at a time until your mind forms it into a habit. Until it becomes a repetitive part of your daily routine that you don’t have to think about.
When you’ve mastered your first set of habits, don’t stop. Give yourself a new set of goals and repeat…again and again.Remember, one thing at a time until your mind forms it into a habit. You've got this. #7daysofhealthyhabitsClick To Tweet
Mulroy, Z. (2017). What you need to do to look better and feel healthier in just ONE week. mirror.
Clear, J. (2017). How Long It Really Takes To Form A Habit, According To Science. The Huffington Post.
Kris Gunnars, B. (2017). 22 High-Fiber Foods You Should Eat. Authority Nutrition.