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IT ALL STARTS WITH A HABIT Posted 10th January 2019 at 15:07

Most of us want to live a healthy, or at least a healthier lifestyle. Our first instinct is to set a goal or objective like ‘I want to lose 10kg in 6 months, or ‘I want rock hard abs by summer’, but research and studies have actually shown that setting a goal might actually stop us from achieving what we set out to get. What we should be focusing on is forming new habits. The good news? The smaller the habit, the more likely you are to adopt it, and you’d be surprised what knock on effect just one small change can have. Something as simple as exercising for 15 minutes a day can eventually transform not only our bodies, but the way we eat, our concentration, sleeping patterns, happiness and much more. Here are some tips on how and what to start with…

Yep, you guessed it, exercise regularly

It’s something we all know but so many of us claim we ‘don’t have time’ for, but exercise is the best way to keep our bodies and minds in check. Start with 20-30 minutes a day and build from there. Once you’ve established a daily routine and as your fitness increases, you’ll be able to achieve more intense workouts in the same space of time and you’ll find it easier to find more time if you want to extend into longer workouts.

The morning works best as stuff tends to crop up later in the day – a cheeky pint with mates, dinner plans with the misses or the dreaded work deadline – the key to forming a lasting habit is consistency, it needs to be achievable on a daily basis. Apart from snoozing, what else is going to get in the way of a morning exercise routine?

Just make sure you give your body time to rest and recover, give yourself a couple of ‘rest’ days each week. Rather than do nothing though, do some yoga or stretching at the usual time – this way you don’t break the habit!

Stay Hydrated

This is a really important one, but it’s also something that should come naturally if/when you start exercising every day. Hydration is key to keep both our bodies and minds functioning properly. Our hydration level affect everything, from our skin, hair and eye health to our concentration, appetite and even our immune system. Our bodies need to be hydrated all the time to help us function, this aids in our physical performance and concentration, affects our eating habits and is key for your body to fight illness. It’s recommended to have at least 8 glasses (1.9lt) of water a day,. If you find this a challenge, try buying a reusable bottle or flask with a straw in the lid – it makes the whole process of drinking effortless and you’ll end up hitting your target before you know it. Alfa loves the Hydroflask’s minimalist and colourful range of flasks, which also don’t contain any nasty chemicals that you find in plastic water bottles. (https://www.hydroflask.com). Water too boring for your tastebuds? Try adding lemon or cucumber. If that’s still not enough, try a sugar free, natural fruit cordial or squash. Our recommendation for this is Elderbrook cordial, check them out at www.elderbrookdrinks.co.uk

Eat well

Your body will naturally start craving healthier food if you’re exercising daily and drinking enough water. We don’t need to tell you what ‘clean eating’ means, you’re probably all familiar with the Body Coach (AKA Joe Wickes) and Deliciously Ella, and it’s clear to see the change eating healthily can have on your body, your mind, and in fighting illness. Medical research is pointing towards a healthy digestive system as the first port of call for preventing chronic illness and disease later in life. Start simple – make sure you’re getting enough fibre from as many different sources you can (even more essential if you follow a low-carb diet), don’t cut major food groups out unless you have a valid medical reason to do so – a varied diet is key to a healthy gut microbiome – and stick to non-processed foods and fresh or frozen veggies. Fruit is essential but in moderation as it can contain a lot of sugar. A good mantra, is ‘everything in moderation’ – generally if you’re eating too much of anything, whether it’s lean protein or ice cream, it’s going to have an unbalancing effect on your hormones and bodies. If you’re finding hard, try using an app like MyFitnessPal, it’s easy to log your daily intake and it gives you a breakdown of nutrition so you can see what you’re missing or having too much of.

Form a good bedtime routine

Late nights and too little sleep can have a negative effect on the body and the mind. Sleep provides our body with the much needed opportunity to restore, repair damage, moderate hormone levels and grow, among many other things. According to experts, a good night’s sleep can range from anywhere between 4 and 10 hours depending on the individual, and boosts memory capacity, concentration, and mood.

Chronic sleep deprivation can affect how the body processes and stores carbohydrates, which, in turn can cause weight gain and hormone imbalance that affects our appetite.

The key to establishing this habit is to set a time you want to be in bed, and give yourself a minimum of 30 mins to get yourself read with small rituals, cleansing your face, a shower, brushing your teeth, reading. If you’re still having trouble actually falling asleep, avoid screens in the 3-4 hours before bed, or at least set them to ‘night’ mode and try a relaxation or meditation app like Relax.

Nurture relationships

Relationships are a two way thing, and if it’s a good one, you generally get as much out of them as you put in. Spending time with people you care about and who care about you is an essential human need, but our increasingly hectic lives and FOMO can lead to us leaving it to the last minute to make plans. You need to make time to nurture important relationships, so try setting up a weekly meet, be it date night, a pub quiz with friends or family dinner.

Having a positive attitude

Sounds cheesy? Fine, it’s a total cliché, but it’s important we don’t always see the negative things about life, even if you are faced with challenges, which we all are. It’s really all about perception. So your boss is breaking your balls? See it as an opportunity to prove your worth and working on your communication skills. The key is to try and see things objectively a take each hard opportunities as a chance for emotional growth. After all, those who never face a challenge will have no idea how to deal with things when the going gets tough. If you don’t know where to start, try meditating. It’s a good way to start changing your perception and increasing your focus and emotional resilience. Alfa loves the Headspace app which breaks it down into 10 minute sessions a day.