Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.Full Bio
Learn about our editorial policies
We've all been there. You keep wondering how in the world you are going to stay motivated and keep up with your good health habits—you know, the ones you've worked so hard to learn and follow as much as possible. Routines can get boring or get sidetracked by a zillion things, like injury, illness, busy-ness—just everyday life.
Whether it is exercising, eating right or managing your stress, the reality is that no one is perfect. But you don't need to be perfect. You just need to do the best you can—and if you fall down on the job, know that you can get back on track.
Pick your health habit. Read through the tips. If you pick one or two to try, there you have it—better health made easy.
And, consider this for some motivation: New research from York University finds that eating plenty of fruits and veggies, along with regular exercise, leads to better cognitive functioning and may even delay the onset of dementia.
- Be active throughout the day.
- Take or create opportunities to get some physical activity. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Place a portable pedaling device under your desk. Take a few minutes out of your lunch hour to walk.
- Work out to music. Studies have shown that music can be extremely motivating to help people push harder to get through intense exercise. (For me, it makes a huge difference. And so do these cordless headphones by Kinivo. They sound great and eliminate worry about getting all wound up with a cord.)
- Get up from your desk once an hour and move around. Too much sitting has been linked with an increased risk of things like obesity and metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions that includes high blood sugar, excess abdominal fat, abnormal cholesterol levels and increased blood pressure).
- If you can't carve out time for a 45-minute gym session, do a 15-minute strength workout or a quick yoga session at home.
- Make sure to include a variety of foods from each major food group, like veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean protein, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes and healthy fats.
- Don't be so strict with yourself that you deny all treats, because that will only lead to bingeing on that "forbidden" thing. Instead, indulge with the "three-bite rule." I'm not sure who came up with this brilliant idea, but it's one that really works. Think about it: That first bite is the most exciting. The second? That's pretty delish, too. After that, it takes a steep dive. You're eating, but not really getting much pleasure from it, because you've already experienced the taste and texture. By then, your mouth is bathed in it and it all tastes pretty much the same. So, stop after three bites.
- Don't beat yourself up. If you have a day—or two, or three—of "bad" eating, all is not lost. You can pick yourself up and return to your healthy eating. To ease back into it, consider small rewards, and always have a plan in place. For example, "If I control my eating all week, I'll treat myself to a pedicure," can be a big motivator. And have a plan when you travel: "If I'm traveling by plane, I'll bring my own healthy snacks and say no to the flight attendant when he or she brings around that basket of goodies." With holiday parties on the horizon, it always helps to eat a little before you leave the house, so you don't arrive starving, awash in temptation. (Drinking a glass of water before each meal will also help you avoid temptation.)
- Shut off electronics. All that online buzz is constant "chatter," and what's online these days is bound to stress you out, big-time. Shutting it all down—even for a short while, if you just can't stand the withdrawal—is a great way to keep the stress away. You'll quickly realize what a time-suck it all can be. And you know what? It'll still be there tomorrow.
- Stay organized. You may not be the organized type (I can relate), but it's amazing how much calmer things like to-do lists and organizing the endless trail of paperwork that litters your desk can make you feel.
- Don't forget to breathe. You need to breathe to live, so how could you possibly forget? Well, you don't exactly forget, but what you might forget to do is focus on your breathing. When you're stressed, your breathing can become short and fast and even cause muscles to tense up. Research shows that focused, deep-breathing exercises can immediately change your blood pressure, lower the body's production of harmful stress hormones and help you calm down.