Begin your journey to optimal wellness by setting smart health goals and tracking your progress.
Optimal health is a dynamic balance of physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual health, according to HHS.gov. People can achieve this state by promoting healthy behaviors and remaining free of disease. With an average life expectancy of 78.54 years, according to the CDC, Americans have many senior years to reap the benefits of earlier, healthy activities.
Here’s how you can develop a lifestyle that encourages optimal health by learning to be aware, stay motivated, and build positive health practices and skills.
Set Smart Goals
Setting smart wellness goals is the foundation of any achievement, and good health is no exception. Top-level athletes, successful business people, and achievers in all fields set goals. The practice of goal-setting provides long-term vision and short-term motivation, focuses on your acquisition of knowledge and helps you organize your time and resources effectively. Set health goals such as:
Develop a Morning Routine
The way you start your day counts. If you wake up late, rush to get ready to work and skip proper exercise and nutrition, you could feel rattled all day. Set your alarm to wake up 15 minutes earlier, and see if that works for you. If not, set it for five minutes earlier each day until you have enough of a window in which to do everything at a relaxed pace.
- Open your curtains, make your bed, and do a quick whip-around to tidy up. It will make you feel like you have accomplished something and give you pleasure when you get home and the place is inviting.
- Do a mini-workout or take a 10-minute walk in the sunshine and fresh air. This will wake you up and get the blood flowing.
- Take a relaxing shower, which will help you face the day feeling renewed and refreshed.
- Eat or drink a healthy breakfast or smoothie to get the energy and nutrition you need.
- Review your to-do list and plan your day, so it’s fresh in your mind and you can avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Spending more time in the mornings helps you practice healthy activities and puts you in a better frame of mind to pay attention to work and the people you care about. A routine enables you to ease into the day and start off on the right foot. Remember, it can take up to 60 days to develop a new habit, so stick it out even if you don’t see immediate results.
Develop an Evening Routine
Just as a morning routine can set you up for a good day, so an evening routine can ensure a good night’s rest. Set a time to stop working. Cook and eat your dinner and begin your evening routine after that. Reading, yoga, or doing something constructive like cleaning or organizing helps you wind down, which is vital for enabling your brain to relax and manage your mental health. Any activities that create peace and serenity are good as you prepare for bed.
Set a Daily Exercise Goal
Inactivity is a risk for everyone, especially now that so many people are working from home. Plan your daily exercise for specific times and set alerts for yourself. It’s easy to get so engrossed in your work that you don’t realize the time has passed you by. If you can’t work out every day, choose a couple of times each day to take a walk and activate your heart rate. A regular walking regimen will lower your stress levels and increase the peace in your mind.
Other daily actions you can take are to get 15 minutes of fresh air, spend 10 minutes stretching, or take a short daily nap. Research by the Sleep Foundation shows that naps of 10 to 20 minutes are ideal, because they provide recovery benefits without leaving you feeling sleepy afterward.
Invest in Your Health
There are numerous good reasons to invest money in your health. After all, we invest in almost every other aspect of our lives. Money spent on improving your wellbeing will never be money wasted. Find a sport you enjoy and outfit yourself adequately to participate fully. You don’t need to be wealthy to swim regularly, join a community athletics team, or take up jogging.
Play Tennis and Golf
It costs slightly more to play tennis or golf, but you’re even more likely to become passionate about the sport you choose. According to the National Golf Foundation, one in every three Americans over the age of 6 years plays golf. This statistic makes it one of the most widely played sports there is, and that’s because of its appeal to every age group, level of fitness, and other demographics.
Even if your mobility is severely restricted, you can usually do some sports and fitness activities. If you have any form of disability, obesity, chronic respiratory problems, or a conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, or other illness, you might think your medical problems prevent you from exercising effectively, if at all.
Many older people or those with less physical strength take up activities such as kayaking, bowls, aqua-aerobics. Cardiovascular exercises such as walking, running, cycling, and dancing raise your heart rate and increase endurance. Often, people with mobility issues find being in water helps them to exercise because it supports their body and lowers the chance of muscle or joint discomfort. Even if you’re confined to a chair or a wheelchair, however, it’s still possible to do cardiovascular exercise.
Strength Training & Flexibility
Strength training exercises use weights or other types of resistance to build muscle and bone mass, which helps improve your balance and prevent falls. Anyone with limited mobility in the legs can focus their training on upper body strength, while those with shoulder injuries can pinpoint training the legs and core.
Flexibility exercises such as stretching and yoga help to increase your range of motion, prevent injury, and reduce pain and stiffness. Even if you have reduced mobility in any of your limbs, you can still benefit from exercises to prevent or minimize further muscle atrophy.
Put Your Mind to It
Achieving physical wellness without sound mental health is only half of the battle, so it’s equally important to set goals and focus on your mind. Some ways to promote mental health include:
Research shows reasonable evidence that meditation improves mental health. Some forms of meditation include physical exercise, while others, such as yoga, can almost be considered a sports activity. Types of meditation include:
- Concentration meditation, which teaches you how to focus your mind and is a foundation for other forms of meditation.
- Heart-centered meditation, which involves quieting the mind and increasing awareness of the heart, an energy center in the middle of the chest.
- Mindfulness meditation directs you to focus objectively on your negative thoughts. If you address them as they move through the mind, you can reach a state of calm.
- Tai chi and qigong are forms of moving meditation that combine physical exercise with breathing and focus.
- Transcendental meditation. This is a well-known technique in which you repeat a mantra—a word, phrase, or sound—to quiet your thoughts and achieve greater awareness.
- Walking meditation, which turns your focus to both your body and mind as you breathe in time with your footsteps.
A 2014 review of scientific literature by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health found that mindfulness meditation programs improved anxiety, depression, pain, stress/distress, and mental health-related quality of life.
Journaling helps you gain control over mental health issues and improve your mood by prioritizing problems, fears, and concerns. When you track symptoms on a day-to-day basis, you recognize triggers and devise ways to manage them. It also provides an opportunity for identifying negative thoughts and delivering positive self-talk that can empower you to suppress them.
Get started with journaling by following these tips from Rochester University Medical Center:
- Trying to write something every day. Schedule a few minutes every day to write. This will help you to write in your journal regularly.
- Make it easy for yourself. Keep a pen and paper handy at all times, so when you want to write down your thoughts, you can. You can also keep a journal or just make notes on your smartphone.
- Write or draw whatever feels right. Your journal doesn’t need to follow any particular structure. It’s your own private place to discuss and create whatever you want to express your feelings. Let the words and ideas flow freely. Don’t worry about spelling mistakes or what other people might think. Nobody else needs to see it.
- Use your journal as you see fit. You don’t have to share your journal with anyone. If you want to share some of your thoughts with trusted friends and loved ones, you could show them parts of your journal.
Keeping a journal helps you create order when your world feels like it’s in chaos. You get to know yourself by revealing your most private fears, thoughts, and feelings. Look at your writing time as personal relaxation time. It’s a time when you can de-stress and wind down.
Choose a location for your writing time that’s relaxing and soothing. Look forward to your journaling time, and know you’re doing something worthwhile for your mind and body.
Spend Moments of Silence
We have noise surrounding us for almost every instant of our waking lives, and moments of silence are rare and valuable. When our brains actively process the noise, they don’t get the chance to turn off and relax. Moments of silence are like meditation for the brain, and research shows that just two minutes of silence a day can be more relaxing and helpful for some people than listening to relaxing music. Another study found that increasing periods of silence helps the brain generate new brain cells that positively support mental health.
- Begin your silence with preparation. Determine where your quiet spot will be, and turn off all distractions like cellphones and telephones. Safe earplugs and noise cancellation headphones may be helpful for finding silence.
- Set a silence target, starting with short sprints of two to three minutes, and build up from there.
- Be still and silent. Get into a comfortable position with your eyes open, gazing down at the floor, and allow your mind to do as it pleases. Set no rule other than being still and silent for the targeted silence session.
- Ignore the impulse for stimuli. Commit to your silence target without checking texts, e-mail, or reading. Just be still and silent with your thoughts. Keep it simple and allow no distractions.
- Stop and re-enter your world. Once your time is up, get on with your day.
As you go about getting back into your stride, you’ll find the pressure has lifted. You might notice you have remembered a name you were looking for, found a solution to a particular problem, or even just feel more relaxed after your silence session. This can help your critical conscious brain see the benefits.
The more you practice, the more you’ll notice how silence can help you gain new perspectives that were not possible with all the stimuli and noise around you.
Optimal Wellness Takes Practice
Achieving optimal health means setting goals, turning the quest for balance and good health into actionable steps. By following through and applying self-discipline, you can make your health goals habitual, which will bring you peace, good health, and mental stability. Above all, it will equip you to address problems that arise in either your body or mind.