Habits of a healthy lifetime
WORDS: Karla Gilbert PHOTOGRAPHY Supplied
AS we swap layers of warmth for lighter, skin-revealing attire, we are confronted with the prospect of what our past six to 12 months of personal habits have created.
Whether it is a grim reminder of lacklustre wellbeing habits we sustained during COVID lockdowns or a celebration of our efforts during the winter months one thing is for sure – it is something we cannot escape.
I’m sure you’ve heard the quote: “We are a product of our thoughts and habits?” This rings true and sets the tone for anything we try to achieve in life.
Habits are not something that happens overnight. Good or bad – they develop over time through small chips to our armour that turn to rust (if they have a negative influence) or layers of polish that form a robust shine (if they are positive). Every change in our actions has a trigger or catalyst that must begin from a thought.
Understanding where our triggers or habits develop can be an integral key to overcoming them and, more importantly, what we can learn from them. Foundational habits are the key to returning if we have veered off course, which we all do (heck, we are all human!). But these foundational habits need to be put into motion, consistently and consequently with foreseeable results, before we can reap the benefits.
Retiring to bed at a reasonable hour each night, ensuring you have a loose meal plan for the week ahead (and have bought said groceries to make meals), engaging in some form of enjoyable movement, consistently giving time to yourself to plan goals, stocktaking thoughts and redirecting goals are all examples of what may constitute your foundational habits. Alongside these needs to be an understanding of what triggers send you down the rabbit hole of stress and/or self-sabotage behaviours so you can catch yourself before the hole is too deep.
Anchors that keep you grounded or can be thrown for stability can be used at times of reset. Returning from holidays, time away from your usual routine caused by things such as lockdowns or a slip into old, unhelpful patterns can be common disturbances.
Here are some ideas you can explore to help build your own cornerstone foundations.
- Cook and eat healthy meals at home the majority of the week
- In particular, what meals am I going to make? What ingredients do I need to buy? What do I need to do on certain days to be prepared or find inspirational recipes? Make things easy and simple to reduce resistance.
- Make exercise a priority
- What time of day can you create space for exercise? Do you need some form of accountability through a group class or meeting a friend? What obstacles have stood in your way in the past and how can you overcome these to make showing up for yourself a lot simpler? Understand that movement is not only great for the physical body but also mental fitness and self-connection.
- What books or podcasts can I read or listen to that help me to stay in touch with my goals?
- What mindful practices can I engage in to help bring me back to me and stay on top of building stress and anxiety?
- This could be breathing exercises, meditation or yoga. Even hanging out the washing, if done mindfully, can be a form of meditation.
- Reconnect with friends and family.
- Having someone to talk to who understands you at times of overwhelm or distress and can offer support, guidance and advice is important. Even if they just listen, it helps you move your thoughts around and gain perspective on issues you feel troubled by.
Foundational habits bring a return of balance to the body, so you feel you are on the right page of where you need to be. They bring a sense of safety and righteousness so we can continue on our path to healthier habits.
Karla Gilbert OAM is a former professional athlete who helps individuals and corporations as a nutrition and health coach. Visit www.karlagilbert.com.au for more information on her health coaching, her eBook, Naked Habits, and healthy recipes.