Author: VJ Hamilton, Functional Nutritionist, Autoimmune Disease Expert
If you suffer from chronic health symptoms, you may have read much complex information and advice about getting healthy. It’s overwhelming, isn’t it? You may have no idea where to start and whether what you do will make a difference. It’s true, chronic inflammatory conditions such as autoimmune diseases are complicated, and there is no known cure. Yet, you can improve your health today, no matter your status or diagnosis. And you can do it by forming simple daily healthy habits that you can start straight away! Here I will share some advice on creating and maintaining daily routines to begin your path to better health.
Know your why and visualise it
Knowing why you would like to get healthier is the first step to motivating yourself to form healthy habits. Often my clients will come to me and say that they would like to lose weight, have less discomfort, help with their diagnosis or have more energy which are all great reasons to want to get healthy, but these are not enough to encourage you when you are faced with temptation. Think about why you are doing it. Perhaps you would like to be able to walk down the aisle on your wedding day. Or maybe you would like more energy to be able to go on that hiking adventure you have always wanted to go on. Or even just you would like to be able to spend more quality time with your family and friends and be happier doing it. Understand your why and visualise it.
You don’t have to transform your habits overnight, and it is often better to start small and then move onto changes like your diet and exercise. Starting small may mean that you start doing more for others, keep a gratitude journal and spend more time with people you love and enjoy being around. Once you feel better about yourself, it is easier to give yourself the love you need to make those necessary changes to your diet and lifestyle.
Understand your current habits
It’s easier to deny some of the unhealthy habits that you may have formed, but it helps to become aware of these and what triggers them.
For example, you may be eating unhealthy food in your car driving home from work every day as a treat, or you may reach for the chocolate after a stressful event. Whatever the harmful habit, once you know what triggers you to do this, you can catch it in the moment and form a new healthy habit in place of the unhealthy one. In the above example, instead of treating yourself to a snack, why not put one of your favourite comedy podcasts on instead and enjoying laughing out loud rather than eating without thoughts.
Planning prevents poor decisions
When forming new habits, make sure that you have planned out some small goals with easy actions to stick to no matter the circumstance. If you have started a healthy eating plan, stocking up on crisps and sweets in your pantry will only lead to the temptation that is hard to avoid. And if you are shopping for others, then put unhealthy snacks at the back of your cupboard, or even better, your garage so that you have time to reflect on your actions before you take that (unhealthy) bite! Let your loved ones know what you are planning to do and why you are doing it. It helps when someone has your back and helps you stay committed to your goals even when times get tough!
Track your progress
Tracking your feelings and symptoms is one of the most powerful tools you can use to stick with your newly formed healthy habits. Not only does it allow you to celebrate wins, but it also gives you a place to channel any negative thoughts to help you make sense of why you do the things you do. You can use pen and paper, notes on your phone, emails and apps to track your progress and express your thoughts. Use whichever option is the simplest for you. Even if you fall off the wagon momentarily, make a note of this and how you are feeling. Once you get back on, you can reflect on what went wrong and learn from it for next time.
Don’t consume yourself
Forming healthy habits is not about obsessively tracking every aspect of your life and putting undue pressure on yourself. It’s about making simple positive changes that you enjoy to put you on track to better health. The minute you see this as a chore or demand, the less helpful it will be for you and your health. When you start to have more energy and feel yourself again, sticking to healthy habits and knowing their value will become easier to stick to, to the point that this will become your lifestyle rather than a commitment.