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Building healthy habits part 2

This healthy habits post is by our Mountain Guide and expert heath and fitness coach, James Eagle.

Creating the new…

We’ve learned how to break our old habits. Now, here are six new healthy habits to add to your routine. 

In part 1, we talked about what causes bad habits and how we can replace them. Part 2, which you’re reading now, explains how to implement new habits and suggests six potentially life-changing healthy habits for you to try.

Leverage motivation

Staying super diligent and focused for the first four weeks of any training and nutrition plan is incredibly important for creating the healthy habits necessary for success. It may feel challenging at first, but those first four weeks are the most important, so stay strong!  

You’ve got to say “NO” to cheat meals, skipping activities, missing meals and not getting enough sleep. While it may feel like your goal is far off right now, the beginning is the most crucial time for your long-term success. 

As you know, willpower is finite, but at the beginning of a health and wellness transformation or the quest for optimal health, motivation is at its highest. Understanding this allows you to leverage your peak motivation to create impactful habits. 

Use that motivation to make a few small sacrifices from the start and your journey will become much less stressful as those habits soon start to form. 

I have coached a lot of people and nothing helps a client more in the long run than a well-established set of impactful habits. 

Here I’m sharing six impactful healthy habits that can make a significant difference to your life – if they’re executed correctly!

Six impactful daily habits

#1 Create a regular sleep cycle

Going to bed and waking up at similar times (within 30 minutes) every day, including weekends, is probably the best thing you can do for both your sleep health and your general health. 

This simple sleep habit trumps all sleep supplements or weird pre-bedtime routines. 

Every organ, organ system and cell in your body runs off a circadian rhythm. 

If you have a regular sleep and wake cycle, you will put your physiology in a strong position to succeed. 

#2 Schedule your activity

Like most things, if it isn’t in the diary, it won’t get done. Instead of trying to find time to get active, you have to MAKE time to move. Movement has to become a part of your life if you want to optimise your health. 

Science has proven the health benefits of exercise, including resistance training. Resistance training has a positive effect on everything from brain health to general movement. You don’t need to be a gym member to do resistance training. Get yourself a resistance band and try some exercises at home. In its simplest form, resistance is found by moving your body against gravity, so try a push-up or a plank. 

Decide on a time to move and do not negotiate. Protect that time in your diary. 

Without a schedule for when you can get active each day it becomes very easy for other things to takeover. Before you know it, the time is gone, you’ve missed another training session, and you’re another step away from your goals. 

#3 Drink 500ml of water when you wake up

We often don’t think of water as a nutrient. Yet its importance in maintaining life is perhaps second only to oxygen.

Water has numerous benefits and getting 500ml inside you first thing in the morning has been shown to help regulate hunger and cravings at your next meal. 

When we wake after what should be 7-9 hours of sleep, we’re slightly dehydrated, so it’s a perfect time to rehydrate ready for the day.  

As you age, your thirst mechanisms also start to decrease, so drinking 500ml of water first thing will help prevent dehydration throughout your day. 

#4 Watch the sunrise

This is a perfect way to build on your first impactful habit. 

Sunlight is by far the most impactful signal for our biology. It improves insulin sensitivity, decreases inflammation and sets our circadian rhythms, impacting every cell in our body. 

Getting out in the morning while the sun is at a low solar angle has the most significant effects for setting our circadian rhythms. Once the sun gets higher in the sky, the results won’t be anywhere near as substantial.

Also, looking at sunlight through a window can dampen the effects by up to 50 times. Put simply, get outside!

#5 Breathe consciously, slowly and deeply through your nose

How we breathe has been warped by our unhealthy diets, a lack of vigorous exercise, elevated stress levels, sedentary lifestyles, polluted cities and overheated homes.

Oxygen is the most essential element our bodies use. Yet many of us aren’t delivering it to the body as well as we could. 

When was the last time you thought about your breath?

Breathing is one of the fastest ways to change your state and your physiology.  

Having a simple breathing practice can profoundly affect your health and it is not as overwhelming as it sounds. One of the simplest ways to begin a breathing practice is to start being aware of your breath. Here’s a checklist for optimal breathing: 

  • Breathe in through your nose 
  • Your lower ribs should expand before your upper chest when breathing in.
  • Breathe out through your nose 

And here’s a simple yet effective breathing exercise.

Try box breathing

Box breathing is a technique used when taking slow, deep breaths. It can heighten performance and concentration while also being a powerful stress reliever.

Each step signifies a side of the box, hence the name.

Before you get started, make sure that you’re seated upright in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor. Try to be in a stress-free, quiet environment where you can focus on your breathing.

Keeping your hands relaxed in your lap with your palms facing up, focus on your posture. Make sure you’re sitting up straight as this will help you take deep breaths.

Step 1: Slowly inhale

Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose to the count of four. In this step, count to four very slowly in your head.

Step 2: Hold your breath

Hold your breath for another slow count of four.

Step 3: Exhale

Exhale through your mouth for the same slow count of four, expelling the air from your lungs.

Step 4: Hold your breath

Hold your breath for another slow count of four.

Repeat 10 times as a beginner.

#6 Eat slowly and chew more

We need to chew our food and not just because it’s easier to swallow! Chewing increases the surface area of our food, allowing enzymes and immune cells to cover more of our food and begin the breakdown and destruction of any harmful bacteria.

If you don’t chew your food as well as you should, you’ll cause more work for your stomach and the rest of your digestive system. You’re also less likely to get as much digestion and absorption of the goodness in your food, which could mean you run low on essential nutrients. 

Always give yourself enough time to consume your meal. There isn’t a magical number here, but I suggest 20-40 chews per mouth full.

You can read more here.

Bonus tip: Be aware of your environment 

Creating an environment that’s conducive to achieving your goals is hugely important. Environmental triggers will have a massive impact on your mental state, which can mean you default to bad habits. 

Think about this: In your environment, what will support, and what will hinder, your goals?

For example:

  • Poor food choices in the kitchen cupboard
  • Clutter around your flat 
  • Negative people impacting your mood

Having an environment that supports your goals is hugely beneficial. Take away the temptation and you’re much more likely to succeed! 

Here we go!

Our current habits, good or bad, have got us to where we are right now and we can thank them for that. If we want to level up our health and wellbeing, the only way to do this is by trading up and adopting some new habits.

This can be done by acknowledging your bad habits and interrupting them with your new and improved healthy habits. 

Be patient and remember, repetition is the mother of all learning. It won’t happen overnight, but it 100% WILL happen.

The person you want to be is only a few habits away. 

We’ll see you on the mountain!

PS. Looking to learn more about how we work with corporates, charities, gyms, PTs and wellness partners to help get everyone moving and building healthy habits that last? Check out our website or reach out to Adam, our Head of Engagement. He loves a chat!

James Eagle, Mountain Guide<br>
James Eagle, Mountain Guide

Since qualifying as a personal trainer in 2011, James has completed 8 leading industry qualifications in training and nutrition. He has qualified as a functional medicine practitioner and is a pro at helping his clients reach their fitness goals and achieve optimal health and wellbeing.