If you’re like most people, you try to be healthy. And, if you’re like most of those people, then you’re probably not always pleased with your efforts or their results. Most of us realize that we don’t eat as well as we should or exercise for as long as we intend to. Statistics show that most people in America are not in the great shape that they probably wish that they were: A good third of American adults are obese and the vast majority of us (71.6 percent) are at least overweight.
And then there are the other problems: Our poor mental health and widespread opioid addiction, for instance. Where are all of these problems coming from? Here’s one answer worth considering: habits! Experts agree that our habits are incredibly powerful, and that we may not even realize how often we’re letting our behavioral patterns “decide” things for us. That’s why you should take time to examine, identify, and eliminate or replace your unhealthy habits. Here are a few things to consider.
Your eating habits
Do you eat healthy?
A good 75% of Americans say that they do most of the time. Unfortunately, most of these people are wrong. We have plenty of statistics on American diets and American body weights showing that most of us in the Land of the Free are a little too free with what we put in our bodies.
Fixing your eating habits can be tricky. It starts with replacing what you eat, rather than when or how much: Try to eat fewer processed foods and more “whole,” or unprocessed, foods. That means meat and (especially) vegetables. Eat those, and you’ll get fewer calories and more nutrients.
It’s important to remember that we don’t always eat because we’re hungry. We may also eat because we’re sad, lonely, or even just bored. To address your eating habits in a meaningful way, consider creating a food diary. See when you’re eating and why — and consider “reprogramming” habits. If you always get a snack from the office vending machine when you drop by your friend’s desk early in the day, can you start rewarding yourself with coffee instead?
Your exercise habits
Go on a crash diet full of calorie deprivation, and you may lose weight. Experts say you’ll gain it back soon, though. You’ve made big changes in the short-term, but your habits and lifestyle are unchanged.
If you commit to jogging every morning, using a standing desk at work, and lifting weights at night, you’ll burn out fast (and may hurt yourself). If you make small changes, set meaningful goals, and build better habits, you’ll get long-term changes that give you long-term results.
Aim to exercise every day, or at least five days a week. It will elevate your mood and spare you the problems that come with lack of exercise. To build a habit, you should develop a routine. Try to jog at the same time every day, go to the gym on the same days every week, and so on. Even though exercise plans can become habits if you’re consistent, you’ll find that waking up early to jog goes from being miserable to being second nature if you just keep doing it day after day after day.
When “habit” isn’t the whole story
Someone who uses drugs a lot may be said to have a drug habit, like someone who drinks a bit more than they ought could be described as having a drinking habit. These terms aren’t always sufficient, explain the experts who run several respected Toronto rehabs. While a drug or alcohol addiction can sometimes feel or look like a “habit,” there is much more going on with these issues than with your morning coffee or your afternoon hours as a couch potato. Addictions aren’t just poor decisions that have become behavior patterns — addictions are diseases.
If you’re drinking every weekend and sober all week, you may be able to reprogram your habits and lead a healthier life. If you’re drinking excessively every day, though, then you have a real problem that you should confront realistically. Seek help from a mental health professional who specializes in addiction. Reach out to a hotline for immediate care, or even check yourself into rehab. Join a 12-step program or see a counselor. Do whatever works best for you, personally. You deserve a brighter future that is free of substance abuse.
To read more on topics like this, check out the health category.