Too busy to be healthy?
Let’s be realistic
Being moderate and successful is better than aiming for perfection and feeling inadequate.
The industry of well-being can make people feel they’re failing. Social media showing seemingly perfect lives of beautifully styled food and fitness all instil a feeling of inferiority.
Maybe we struggle to maintain healthy habits because of being too ‘all or nothing’ about lifestyle changes. Like New Year’s resolutions: the idea is that this year you’ll change, you’ll be healthy, you’ll get fit, you’ll work harder. This sets us up to fail! Much of our daily behaviour comes from habit, and those habits relate to external cues - routine elements of our day. It’d be a rare person that could, by choice, overhaul their daily routine overnight.
How are habits formed?
Basically by repetition and in response to a certain cue. For example, you don’t have to be reminded to clean your teeth anymore (I assume!!) - since childhood you’ve learnt a routine. After getting out of bed, I automatically clean my teeth, no decision making required. Or think about your commute to work - perhaps you stop at a certain coffee shop on your way each day. When you first started work there, you’d think about whether you want coffee, or which shop to go to. After a couple of weeks it becomes a habit. Not only do you have the external cue of walking past your usual coffee shop, there’s a resulting reward reaction in the brain from a treat you enjoy.
Bad habits are easy to form
A lot of actions that aren’t so healthy become habit really easily because they involve a pleasurable dopamine response in the brain. Getting home from work and drinking a glass of wine gives the immediate sensation of pleasure and reward - and it’s easily routine because you have the cue of arriving home at a regular time. Same with eating sweet things after dinner.
Practice one new habit at a time
We can turn more complex (and initially less-rewarding) actions into habits by fitting it to the existing routine. Instead of vaguely aiming to go for a run twice a week, starting with an action that fits your routine and avoids barriers to action makes you more likely to succeed. Since April I’ve managed to exercise at least twice a week by fitting it to my existing routine and removing barriers. It’s a booked class at a set time, on my way to work, there are showers and my gym clothes and bag are prepared the night before. The more times I do it, the easier it gets! (Don’t get me wrong - it’s still bleugh when the alarm goes off early, but the feeling of reward has started to outweigh that temporary pain).
Celebrate your successes
I feel a sense of achievement about exercising regularly now (it’s a big change!!). I don’t want to feel bad for not additionally making a kale smoothie and baking my own sourdough to take for breakfast. No one successfully implements a full lifestyle overhaul in one go, especially with a busy schedule like you all have.
Simplicity for busy people
This is why I aim for simplicity with City Survivor. Busy people are especially likely to benefit from supplements - less home-cooking, nutrient-depleting levels of stress, and low energy - but it needs to be easy. So many times I’ve bought nutrition powders with the intention of having a daily super smoothie to top up my veg intake - but I’ve never succeeded in making it a daily habit. Capsules on the other hand….keep them on the side in the kitchen so they’re to hand when eating at home and pop some in your handbag in case of eating out. Daily breakfast is a reliable cue to take Pollution Protection, and taking Vital Minerals Magnesium at the same time as washing for bed works as a cue too. That’s one I never forget because it helps me sleep well!
If you manage to routinely eat good food and take your supplements, you’re doing better than most people already. Remember when you see people Instagramming beautiful home-baking every day that it’s their job. You’re trying to fit healthy stuff around your job/family/social life and every healthy choice is an achievement.
Thanks for reading and please do weigh in with your thoughts or achievements (or struggles!) below.