One of the biggest barriers and challenges to living a healthy life in modern society is the lack of time. In our increasingly busy lives, the demand of balancing social, academic, and professional obligations takes away from the time invested in ourselves. Although there have been many improvements in addressing issues in work-life balance and managing stress, there still needs to be a big shift in the way we all live our lives to improve our health. I have learned on my journey through medical school and my ever-changing schedule, 16-hour study sessions, night shifts, and endless commuting that the foundation of living a healthy and balanced life is prioritizing your time and creating non-negotiable habits that shape the framework of your days.
For as long as I can remember, I have made my health one of my top priorities. It became part of my everyday life, part of every decision I made, and something that is non-negotiable, regardless of my schedule and lack of time. I have learned that instead of creating excuses for myself, I starting to think that “Something is always better than nothing,” and I have followed this motto throughout my career in life and in medicine. Through all the chaos, the stress, and lack of time, I have been able to maintain a daily exercise regimen and eat in a way that both nourishes and satisfies me. I have included a list of hacks that I use on a daily basis in order to structure and prioritize my health and wellness. Here are some tips that you can use to make your health non-negotiable:
1. Change one thing a day until it becomes a habit. Once it does, choose a new thing.
One of the most difficult things about developing a healthy lifestyle is that often times, people try to change too many things at once. While the ideology of changing everything at once seems like the quickest pathway to health, it is often extremely overwhelming and unsustainable. Something I recommend to my peers and patients is to choose one thing about your day that you can commit to change. For example, if you want to develop healthier eating habits, perhaps commit to eating at least one salad a day. Perhaps you want to reduce the amount of sugar you are eating; I would recommend swapping out sugary snacks with fruit or simply switching from processed grains to whole grains. Once these things become habits, choose a new thing, and you are on your way to a healthier life.
2. Make active decisions and own your choices.
I mean this literally and figuratively. We make over 200 decisions a day on average, some of which have become such habits that we don’t even think about them. In order to maintain and establish a healthy lifestyle, really think about your choices and try to think of the healthiest option. For example, if you habitually order a large coffee with caramel and whipped cream every morning, the next time you order, ask yourself, is this the healthiest option? How can I modify this to make this drink healthier? When faced with the dilemma of choosing what to eat at the snack machine, really analyze your options and ask yourself what the healthiest option is. When faced with the option of taking the stairs, always take them. Although this seems like such a trivial decision, think about how these “better decisions” will accumulate to ultimately affect your life as a whole.