The journey to health and wellness involves creating healthy habits; those thoughts and behaviours that are repeated so often they become an automatic in your day.
Over my 20 years of finding my best health (which will always be a work in progress as it’s a journey), I have developed certain habits that nourish mind, body and soul. Maybe you already have daily habits that you don’t even realize, such as a morning stretch, goal setting, practicing gratitude, drinking a green smoothie, taking vitamins or giving your kids lots of kisses. Each habit is not necessarily more important than the next, yet, it’s the sum of these that will lead to the happiest and healthiest version of you.
You may not even realize the healthy and wonderful habits you have formed over the years. But if there are areas of your life you want to improve, well there is no better time than the present to set the stage for creating a new healthy habit.
Remember we are trying to create a healthy lifestyle that will only get better. If you overwhelm yourself or change to many things at once you diminish the likelihood of long-term success.
There are five different facets of life that I focus my daily well-being around: morning, food, fitness, spiritual (mindfulness), and sleep routine. I would also add relationships, whether it’s family, friendships or your spouse. There are days or even weeks for that matter where I have to give more of myself to one area, over another, so when seeking out this little thing called balance, be sure to give yourself space and permission to ebb and flow through these various areas. Remember it’s a journey and you set the balance for your own story in life.
I have found that healthy habits and routines are best started in the morning. And although I have become an early-riser over the years (for me, it is the best part of the day to really be alone to think). I always start my day with lemon water (while the coffee is brewing), pray, and do a little work before my kids wake up. I usually exercise three mornings per week at 6 a.m.
Three years ago, I made a commitment to mindfully express gratitude each morning. Every morning without fail (even if I’m exhausted), I feel so grateful for my health, for without I wouldn’t be able to enjoy any of the other gifts in life. When we are on our journey to improve our health or enhance certain aspects of our lives, we tend to focus on what isn’t right, or why we aren’t feeling good. This can leave us a little down, so just recognizing that things aren’t exactly how or where we would want them to be can work wonders.
It might sound like this morning routine is extensive, but outside of the exercise, it usually last no more than 30 minutes and I am on to the next task or work. When my kids wake up at 7 a.m., I am ready to give my energy over to them to help start their day on a healthy and positive track.
Without a doubt, the morning is the best time of the day to fuel your body with living food to create healthy and nourished energy. Your wellness journey should include making breakfast as wholesome and as real as you can. I still remember the smoothie I made 20 years ago – milk, bananas, strawberries, and flavoured yogurt. It was a great place for me to start and so much better than packaged cereal I had grown accustomed to starting my day with. But choosing the right food is truly a journey, and I’ve built upon each step and found ways to include more nutrition and power in my day.
Adding more “green” in the morning was one of my goals, and I am proud of my morning green smoothie that I always feel lucky to make in my Vitamix (truly one of my favourite kitchen appliances). Celery, spinach, kale, cucumber, pear, apple, and ginger are one of my favourite blends.
If I have exercised I make sure to include 20-grams of plant-protein from Vegi-Day which is my favourite protein powder. The addition of protein powder into my diet many years ago was transformational for my health. Protein in the morning boosts energy and metabolism (which helps build a lean body). Not to mention protein supports adrenal glands, our body’s stress gland, which in most women is overworked and exhausted. Lend a little support to those adrenals, and nourish them with protein each morning.
Some of my other favourite protein foods include:
Good fats are also essential to my diet. Our body can’t make them from the food we eat. Because our standard diet is so void of good fats, we need to make a conscious effort to include them into each meal and snack. I know myself, after following a low-fat diet for many years, I had starved my body of this very important nutrient. Incorporating more omega-3s into my diet, helped me regain healthy skin, hair, nails, hormone balance and energy. Not to mention, I am 20 pounds lighter in my 40s than I was in my 20s. Fat does not make you fat.
Choose from the following good fats:
Additionally, I would recommend supplementing with 1500 mg of EPA and DHA each day. These are two most important omega-3s for health.
As you think about your breakfast and what you eat first thing in the morning, ask yourself: “what’s one healthy food habit you want to create?”
Our bodies are born to move. We are not meant to sit at a desk, staring at a computer all day, drive an hour a day to and from work, and then sit on the couch all evening. However, this has become a normal part of most people’s lives out of necessity, and well that’s just the way it needs to be. So we need to get a little creative when it comes to fitness. Remember don’t feel you need to engage in vigorous physical activity. Small amounts of movement add up to big results.
Walking, taking the stairs, parking at the back of the lot instead of front and stretching your body morning and night go a long way to your overall physical health. If you have a desk job, make an effort to stand and stretch every hour.
But I will tell you that once you make fitness a priority, you will feel so much better in all areas of your life (sleep, energy, and mindset). Exercise releases endorphins, those feel-good hormones that make you feel happy. I suggest asking a friend or neighbour to meet you for a walk a few nights a week at home and then once on the weekend when I attend Barre Fitness. I love the group classes, the energy, positive women and time for myself which leaves me feeling happy.
My faith has been my anchor in my life. I feel incredibly grateful to my parents for raising me in a prayerful home. I pray and give thanks through the good and the bad, and without I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
Within the context of my faith and prayer life, my ability to be mindful of people, places, situations, stress, and my body has greatly improved. When you learn to focus on things happening in the present moment; the smells and thoughts going through your mind, and you can acknowledge them without any judgement, it is then that you can turn inwards. This has been shown to relieve pain, illness, and stress. Overall, mindfulness and prayer promote a decrease in stress and with that, an enhanced enjoyment in life.
Here are some of the principles that guide my heart (and have been harness through mindful prayer):
Take time in your day to build prayer and mindfulness, and write down what makes you tick. What principles in life guide your soul? What do you believe in? When you take the time to check in with yourself, you will be able to build these principles into daily habits.
As much as I talk about an early-morning routine, sleep is actually crucial to health. When you are sleeping your body is replenishing itself. Yet research shows that 60% of women have a difficult time sleeping at night (I’m so exhausted that my head hits the pillow and I am out, or as my husband says, the tv is watching you honey). Ha. But, I am still in the stage where my kids frequently wake at night with a bad dream, or a need, or just out of habit and wanting to sleep with me. I feel I don’t get the rest I’m really needing but my body has adapted (as most moms do). And because I really take as good of care of my body during the day, I have been able to keep going and still be healthy.
I fully believe in a healthy bed-time routine including no electronics past 9 p.m., an epsom salt bath, and a cup of tea or turmeric latté are beautiful and healing parts of my evening routine. I also lay in bed with each of my kids to chat about the day, read and pray. It feels good and makes us all happy.
What do you do to care for yourself at bedtime? This is a really important question to ask if you are having a hard time sleeping.
No matter what area of your life you are working at, always remember to enjoy the journey and practice getting better each day with what means the most to you.