Healthy living doesn’t have to be complicated. Simplify your approach to health by building a strong foundation you can actually maintain. Here’s how.
It’s unfortunate but true: when we overcomplicate the good things we end up simply not doing them.
That happened to me recently with healthy living. I knew I wanted to prioritize my family’s health more and make some improvements, but I stalled out with too many irons in the fire. I realised that I need to get back to the basics first; make sure my foundation is solid and simple before building on it.
So what’s my foundation for healthy living? For us, and probably for many, our healthy living trifecta is proper sleep, food, and movement. Just three things.
Those might seem like ultra-obvious, no-brainer choices, and yet those are the things that we humans tend to let slide again and again and again. In times of life when we’re busy and stressed we need these things most, yet we get them less. We deeply short change ourselves, because if we neglect sleep and diet and movement now we’re setting ourselves up for trouble down the road.
There are plenty of interesting ways to boost your health, but make sure the core of your approach is radically simple. Sleep, eat, move.
Try making those three pillars a lifestyle, and then try the new health trends and remedies as your schedule and budget allow. And if all of the extra things you’re doing become overwhelming? Cut back to your foundation and focus on proper sleeping, eating, and moving. Going through a difficult life season? Declutter everything and once again focus on sleep, food, and movement.
You get the idea(: Make it simple and you’ll make it so.
How to Simplify Healthy Living (or Any Area of Life!)
One of the key things that has helped me simplify different areas of my life is determining a “base level”–or foundation–for each. I figure out what’s most important to me in that area of life, and what I can feasibly maintain.
Here are the 4 steps to simplifying health:
- Brainstorm and plan what you want your healthy living foundation to look like.
- Put in work and energy to get to that point.
- Build on the foundation and add to it as needed.
- Maintain the base level by keeping an intentional schedule and ordering your priorities.
This step-by-step approach actually works for any area of your life that you’re trying to overhaul. You can use it when simplifying your stuff, decorating and beautifying your home, or running an online business.
When you apply this process to health and wellness, it helps you order and then maintain your priorities. (And apparently I’m not the only one who advocates a simple approach to healthy living!)
Alright, ready to build your healthy living foundation? Here’s the simplifying process applied to the three keys of healthy living.
3 Cornerstones of Healthy Living
Plenty of restful, consistent sleep is vital to every role you play in life. Set some sleep “must haves” for yourself and your family. These sleep essentials will be your default mode, and you’ll work hard to maintain them even when you’re not on a normal schedule (like when you’re traveling). For example, you might decide that the adults in your family will aim for 8 hours of sleep per night, kids 9-10. You might also establish daily nap or quiet times for everyone in the family.
Once you set your sleep goals, make the necessary changes to your lifestyle to help you reach them. Set up regular morning and evening routines that will train your body to wind down for the day or get energized in the morning. Give yourself weekday–and weekend–bedtimes, setting a reminder alarm if necessary. It also helps to be more intentional with the way you spend your evenings, rather than letting the night slip by with mindless T.V. watching.
Sidenote: Are you having trouble sleeping because you have a sleepless baby? I recommend picking up a copy of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. It was a game changer for us as new parents!
After you have sleep norms established, you can look for ways to make the quality of your sleep even better. If you have trouble getting to sleep at night, try one of these ways to induce sleep naturally. You want to have plenty of hours in bed, but you also want those hours to be restorative. Keep your phone away from your bed, keep the room dark, and stick to regular wake up and bedtimes to train your body.
Here are some ways to get better quality sleep:
- buy a better mattress
- put up room-darkening blinds and curtains
- change your bedding type with the seasons so you can better regulate your temperature
- diffuse lavender and other essentials oils in your room before bed
- reduce your caffeine intake during the day
Finally, after you’ve gotten to a good level with your sleeping habits, you’ll need to occasionally check in to make sure you’re still protecting this priority. Reevaluate your family’s schedule from time to time and make adjustments to allow for adequate sleep and rest periods.
2. Food and Drink
Appreciating good food and drink is a key to an abundant life, and consuming it also supports our bodies in every way.
Yet healthy eating habits are one of the hardest areas to maintain, in my opinion. It takes more conscious effort. Sleep often just happens because I simply can’t keep my eyes focused on the page anymore. But making healthy food and drink choices is a test that happens multiple times a day. Add to that, our weeks are full of opportunities to slide off our good eating habits whenever we’re away from home.
Just like you did with sleep, set some goals for your family’s eating habits, but be aware that it will likely take you longer to reach your new normal. Determine a personal healthy eating manifesto (here’s mine from way back when). It should take into account your food allergies, specific health issues, or any dietary things you’ve been learning about lately and want to implement.
Figure out what ingredients you want to avoid, and take a baby steps approach toward implementing a better diet. Let me warn you, though: in the midst of your enthusiasm to renovate your diet, beware of cluttering up your food philosophy. What do I mean by that? Take a tip from French women and keep your diet simple.
Since it is hard to maintain good eating habits, here are my suggestions for staying the course:
- Do some form of regular meal planning, even if it’s a super-easy version like this
- Make use of freezer meals to help you avoid the drive through
- Take supplements to support your health (if you feel icky, you’re more likely to turn to junk food as a fix and this locks you in a vicious cycle)
- Keep healthy snack foods on hand so you only have good options!
The third pillar of healthy living is movement, which should often happen outside. Notice, I didn’t say exercise. When we think of “exercise” most of us think of working out, but I think it’s better to invite a broader understanding of this aspect of health. Movement isn’t just about following a specific workout routine or doing a repetitive activity. Movement encompasses the walks you take with your family, working in the garden, swimming in summer, choosing the stairs instead of the elevator.
Think about how you can be more active with your family, and make sure your lifestyle allows plenty of room for movement. And, because being outdoors offers a myriad of health benefits in itself, try to let most of your movement be outside in the open air. You’ll find that being active outside verses in is akin to the difference between reading a good book and watching TV. In both cases, the former is more soul nourishing and life giving.
(By the way, being outdoors is a Charlotte Mason principle that I believe is also key to intentional parenting!)
You can maintain healthy movement by tailoring it to the seasons. Match your walks to the time of day when the temperature is best. Take warming hikes in the cold months, and find places to swim in the summer. Do in-home workouts on rainy days, or push back the furniture in your living room so your children can run around.
Exercise won’t feel like work or another “to do” once it becomes a seamless part of your lifestyle.
The next time life gets overwhelming and you can’t keep up with it all, return to these three pillars and focus on getting them solid again!