For all that it has taken away and destroyed, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented us with an opportunity to reflect. And not just about the world we live in and all that still desperately needs fixing, but about our own lives, and all that still desperately needs fixing. That’s why in this four-part series, I’m going to be giving you tips and tricks to becoming the very best version of yourself. In part one, we took a look at how to develop a more active social life. Now in part two, it’s all about how to channel your inner beast mode, and become healthier than a kale-spinach salad mix. This is how to become the healthiest you that you’ve ever been.
When it comes to becoming the healthiest possible version of yourself, working on your physical health and developing an exercise regimen is always a good start. While other lifestyle changes like eating right and stepping up your fashion game may be more palatable, there’s no denying that hard work pays off when it comes to focusing on your physical health. Exercise is associated with a countless amount of benefits that you likely already know, which you’ve probably been told throughout your life. So really, what are you waiting for? Some people shy away from hard work. If you want to become the best you possible, to the extent that you’re ready this article, chances are you’re not that person. Maybe you don’t have a friend to go with? Two things. First, read our article on developing a social life, and I guarantee that will change. Second, going to the gym or being physically active by…say joining or sports team or club…will inherently give you friends to go with. So the only other excuse that you could possibly have at this point is that you don’t have the time. When it comes to prioritizing your physical health, you need to make time for it. Let’s face it. You probably make time for the things in your life that are important to you. So, if you’re not a physically active person, you need to focus on making exercise a priority for you…something that your body simply doesn’t want to go a day without. The best way to do that? Exercise. Cigarette smokers don’t get addicted to smoking without ever having smoked a cigarette. It’s the same with exercise. If you can get your body to not just want, but crave these healthy health habits like exercising and eating right, you need to train your body to get to that point.
When it comes to being physically active, there is also a sport or activity for literally everyone. Maybe you don’t want to run around a field and get tackled by middle aged men, but maybe you have really good aim and could take up archery or golf. Maybe sitting on a mat and meditating, doing yoga or challenging yourself one step further with some pilates is more your speed. Maybe you really like to drive and could take up go-karting or a motorsport. Maybe you love to be out the wilderness and could try your hand at orienteering or even the lesser known rogaining. And if you’d rather work out in the comfort of your own home, Peloton is putting out some great resources right now, and there are a countless number of phenomenal personalities on YouTube that can easily whip you into shape with no equipment required. My favourites include Tiff x Dan, Heather Robertson and Pamela Reif. But I definitely encourage you to search for the kind of workout you want (i.e. kickboxing, five minute abs, indoor cycling, etc.,) and go from there. Anything is possible, so investigate the options that are out there, particularly within your own environments and your own city. Looking at local recreation and community centers to see what they offer is always a good start. If you’re in high school and university, your job in finding a good fit is all the easier. Chances are, there’s a club or team for that…maybe even both. Then there’s local gyms, martial arts studios, yoga studios, and likely plenty of trails and walking spots in your hometown to check out.
The opportunities here are endless. So once you’ve found your activity, make it a priority in your life by setting yourself a routine and staying consistent. You can grab a friend to hold you accountable in doing it, but be careful in skipping days when your friend inevitably can’t do it with you. And obviously, life gets busy. Chances are, there might be a day where you’re working late and then unable to wake up at 5:30am to hit the gym. That’s fine. See if you can fit some other form of exercise in throughout the day.
Beyond exercise, also consider investing in (or even making your own) standing desk. Sitting (especially for prolonged periods of time) has a host of negative side effects you might not realize. While finding a way to constantly move while you’re doing work (i.e. walking, swaying, cycling, etc.) is better than standing, it still beats sitting in the game of rock, paper, scissors nobody is playing. You can also take regular breaks (e.g. every 30 minutes) to move around if there’s no way around it for you, and take the stairs rather than the elevator wherever you go.
FOOD & NUTRITION
As I said in the intro of this article, you probably don’t need me to tell you how important food and nutrition is to your overall health and wellbeing. To steal a line from every TV mom ever, you need to eat your vegetables. And to steal a line from every bottled water campaign, nothing hydrates better than water. So you should be drinking 8-10 cups a day…or way more than that because that seems awfully low. Whole grains, fruits, and protein rich foods like nuts, seeds, beans, eggs, poultry and fish are other essentials. But again, this is all stuff you’ve heard before. So let’s talk about some advanced tips to take your food and nutrition game to the next level.
First, you’re going to want to spice up your life by incorporating variety into your diet. If you just eat the same foods for every meal of every day, you’re going to be missing out on some vital vitamins and minerals. Simultaneously, you could be overloading yourself on a select few vitamins and minerals, to a near toxic level. I like to rotate through various foods and meals that I enjoy, but I usually don’t make the same thing for lunch or dinner more than once a week. It’s also just more fun that way! Then when selecting foods, look for organics, raw and natural foods and ingredients, rather than packaged foods loaded with sugar and trans fat. Skip the fast food, minimize your alcohol and drug consumption, and prioritize healthy eating.
Another thing that you can do is get your blood work done and identify missing vitamins and minerals. Chances are, there’s something you’re missing in your diet. And if you’re low on even one thing, it can affect your mood, energy, and overall wellbeing more than you might realize. Being low in iron for example (found in red meat and green leafy vegetables), can leave you tired and even short of breath. Being low in calcium over time can eventually lead to osteoporosis – which is associated with bone loss, diminished bone density, and an increased risk of fractures. That’s one more reason why you need to eat a variety of foods – so that you can tick as many boxes as you can. The key takeaway? Get your blood work done and find out what your body needs more of, then identify what foods you can add to your diet to compensate for that loss. The results could be immediate.
So what about eating unhealthy foods? When it comes to unhealthy eating, just about anything can be okay in moderation. But you’d be surprised how easy it is to cut down on things like sugar and trans fat. A lot of people say that unsweetened applesauce tastes way better than sweetened applesauce, and that’s likely to do with the lack of artificial sugar added into the mix. Restaurant-goers often want lean cut meats, because they are less fatty…cough…taste better. And guess what, they’re healthier too. Especially if you can go extra lean. You might also learn that 1% milk tastes the exact same as 2% milk, but doesn’t have any trans fat. It’s that easy to make a change. Look for low-sugar and low-fat options in any non produce food that you buy, and even consider changing brands from your usual crowd to seek out those healthier options.
Then the less and less sugar, trans fat, etc., you eat, the less and less your body will crave it, and actually, the more your body will reject it. Obviously it’s unrealistic to cut sugar entirely out of your diet (although some people do). But it’s super easy to be careful of your sugar intake, look for low sugar options and switch brands when necessary. When baking your own desserts, you’d be surprised about how many recipes taste exactly the same even if you cut the amount of sugar in half. But beyond things like sugar and trans fat, you don’t want to be driving yourself crazy in scrutinizing over your daily food intake. Calorie counting may only lead to an eating disorder, and you ultimately want to have a healthy relationship with food. Besides, if you never eat unhealthy foods, you’re going to be a nightmare to hang out with in social situations. There is a serious stigma that still exists around healthy eating…even though we all know it’s the way to go. So be careful, but don’t drive yourself crazy in thinking you need to eat healthy 100% of the time.
Finally, if you don’t love food already, you need to develop a love for food. Consider buying cook books that have an emphasis toward healthy eating, like cookbooks for athletes, vegetarians or vegans. Then get in the kitchen and start cooking! Even if cooking isn’t your forte, you might realize how fun it can be to make your own pizza dough from scratch, or how simple it is to make your own soup. Invite a friend to cook with you, and experiment until you find your new-found healthy faves. If that sounds challenging for you, consider seeing a dietician or even a psychotherapist to help you develop a healthier relationship with food. It’s worth reiterating that I often feel my worst when I’m at my hungriest. Not just in terms of energy and mood, but often even in terms of cold-like symptoms such as headaches or loss of appetite (strange isn’t it). So if there’s one thing to remember from this section, it’s that making a conscious effort to eat healthy won’t just be life changing for the future, but also for the short term in helping you get through the day to day struggles of life.
At this point, you’re probably starting to see how all of these things fit together as one big puzzle piece. For example, allowing exercise and nutrition to become a priority in your life often leads to positive mental health outcomes like boosted mood, energy levels and that feel good factor. But it’s also important to actively focus on your mental health and seek help when needed.
Many people say they don’t have time for a therapist or a life coach, but as we’ve said before, people make time for the things they care about. And so if you actually care about enhancing your mental health on the quest to becoming the best you – consider finding a psychologist or a therapist (maybe even a psychotherapist) that can help to transform your life. If you don’t think you have the time to add one more thing to your ‘in-person’ routine, why not try therapy in the comfort of your own home? There are plenty of awesome online resources like BetterHelp.com that can match you up with a therapist perfect for you in minutes. And this is not an ad.
Another great way to prioritize your mental health is to practice the art of reflection. Keeping a reflection journal is one way that you can do this, but another way is simply to reflect on your world during one of your ordinary, daily activities. I like to reflect on all that’s going well and all that I need to improve on my early morning runs. I’ve had friends tell me they do the same when going for walks, when showering, while doing a puzzle or crossword, while cleaning or doing the laundry, or even for five minutes while they’re laying in bed, either before they start their day or before they fall asleep. You might even find that writing down your thoughts, writing poetry, or doing a task that you enjoy (e.g. playing guitar, painting, etc.,) can be another therapeutic way of coping with stress, alleviating unwanted feelings or getting suppressed feelings up to the surface.
It doesn’t necessarily matter when or where you reflect, but it’s a useful and important practice that can help you be more mindful of your every day actions. And beyond that, when done right, it can help you focus not only on what went wrong and what can improve, but also all that is going well. So take some time out of your day to be alone, reflect, and focus on you, free of distractions.
FASHION & GROOMING
Unless you’ve been living in a clothes-less time loop (and even then), you’ve probably heard the phrase “dress to impress.” But what often goes underreported, is that you should dress to impress yourself, more than anyone else. You might be thinking – ‘I don’t care how I dress. I just want to be comfortable.’ But, little do you know, Julia Michaels, is that you can be completely comfortable and stylish at the same time. Dressing to impress yourself is a great way to boost your self-belief and confidence. You’ll start to feel more and more confident in your own skin – as though you can accomplish anything. And not only will you feel confident all on your own, but you’ll likely turn heads and get external validation from others telling you exactly how good you look, or even just the lingering, whispering eye and nod of self-respect (you know the one), which can be an equally nice feeling. You don’t need to rely on the compliments or lingering eyes of others to feel good about yourself, but chances are people will take notice, and that will feel good.
It’s the same thing with a fresh new cut, or flattering change of hairstyle. Think of how badass you’ll feel after walking out of that hair salon, looking fly as all hell. When you start to look cool, you’ll start to feel cool, and that can do wonders for your well-being. Our physical appearance and the way we look is an underrated aspect of our physical and mental health. What’s more – it’s actually one of the easier things to maintain. Smelling nice, dressing nice and looking nice isn’t all that difficult when it comes down to it. You just have to find what you like in each of those areas by going out and exploring different scents, products, clothes and styles. Sure, it might be one of the more expensive of the life transformations discussed in this series, but once you get good at it, it’s really easy to maintain that for the rest of your life.
If I haven’t done enough to convince you, consider the countless amount of studies that suggest you have a mere seven seconds to make a first impression on someone. Don’t you want to at least look nice for those seven seconds rather than a bag of trash in your clothes-less time loop? I know I do. So dress to impress not just others, but also yourself.
Even regardless of the other core principles to becoming the best you, if you can focus on your health and fitness in all of these different areas, you will be on a great path toward feeling your most confident self, and living your best life. If you have any questions or want to learn more about becoming the best you, feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
So there it is! Improving your health on the path to becoming the best you. Be sure to check out more in this series, and follow on social media via the links below. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
You might also enjoy…
- Part 1 – Improving your social life
- Part 2 – Improving your health
- Part 3 – Improving your work life
- Improving your KSA’s (becoming the best you)