Researchers are increasingly recognizing the importance of a good night’s sleep in helping us achieve our overall fitness and wellness goals. Watch out for these 5 things that can keep you from getting a restful night of sleep.
Exposure to bright light during the hours before bedtime can disrupt your sleep. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, bright light in the late evenings influences your internal clock, which can make it more difficult for you to fall asleep. Whether it’s a brightly lit room, a computer screen, or the television, these things can affect your sleep quality long after you turn them off. Create a nightly ritual that gets you away from bright lights and promotes relaxation to prepare you for a good night’s rest.
Stress and Anxiety
Stress or anxiety that results from daily concerns can have a big impact on your sleep patterns. When your mind races with worries, it is difficult to fall asleep and you experience sleep that is less deep. Find ways to relieve stress and anxiety to prepare for bedtime. Exercise regularly, jot down your thoughts in a journal, and meditate.
Medications and Supplements
If you take medications or supplements, you might be consuming substances that disrupt your sleep without knowing it. Some supplements contain the stimulants ginseng and guarana, which have an effect that is similar to caffeine. Some headache and cold medications also contain caffeine and other stimulants. Medications like steroids and beta-blockers can also keep you awake at night. Check ingredient labels closely and talk with your doctor if you suspect that a prescription medication is disrupting your sleep.
Overdoing It On Water
Staying hydrated is important, but too much water before bedtime can mean numerous bathroom breaks throughout the night. Drink your water earlier in the day, and limit your intake of high-water foods (like fruits) a few hours before bedtime.
Late Night Alcohol
You may feel like a glass of wine or beer makes you feel drowsy, helping you sleep better. It’s true that alcoholic drinks may make you drowsy enough to fall asleep quickly, but once your blood alcohol level drops 2 to 3 hours later, you are likely to wake up. This prevents you from falling into the deep sleep that helps you wake up feeling rested.
Motivation can fluctuate as you work towards your goals. Each day, you are changing. As a result, the same things that motivated you in the beginning may no longer spark your interest. If you find that your excitement for exercise and healthy eating is dwindling, it’s time to find a new source for motivation.
Pick an Unfamiliar Goal
Losing weight, toning up, and gaining muscle are familiar goals for most people. Unfortunately, they are rarely enough to keep you going, even after seeing progress. A goal that forces you to step out of your comfort zone is what you need to truly get excited about healthy activities. Sign up for a special cooking class or technique like making sushi, Thai cooking, gluten-free baking, or vegetarian cooking. Pick an exercise that you've always wanted to to try, and set a goal that finally makes you take the first step. Conquer a hike on a well-known trail, or add swimming and biking to your routine and sign up for a triathlon.
Seek Out Group Support
Everyone needs support to stick with healthy habits. You don’t have to exercise with someone everyday, but checking in with others and discussing your progress keeps you motivated and on track. Sharing tips and tricks with others and gathering new ideas keeps things interesting. Find groups that meet regularly to hike, play a sport, or join a health and fitness book club. Sharing your success helps you refocus on what is important so that you can maintain your progress.
Plan a Healthy Month on the Calendar
Brainstorm some healthy activities that you enjoy. Create a calendar, and assign one of these activities to each day. They might include things like do yoga for 30 minutes in the morning, relax and read a book for 15 minutes, stretch at the office, or cook a new vegetable. These mini-goals will keep you looking forward to something new each day. Ask friends to join you, and consider adding a healthy reward for accomplishing everything at the end of each week or the month.
Book a Self-care Day
Plan a day from start to finish that includes all of the healthy activities you love. Put it on your calendar, and reserve this time for yourself to reflect on your progress and your goals. A healthy day might include taking an early morning nature walk followed by a visit to your favorite coffee shop for reading. Next, make a healthy lunch at home and then schedule a massage, or do something that makes you laugh, like seeing the latest comedy. End the day with a healthy dinner and a calming meditation or yoga practice. A day spent taking care of yourself can refresh your outlook and renew your motivation.
Make a Change
Think of one change you can make that would switch up your normal routine. Maybe you swap evening workouts for morning workouts, add a group exercise class to your program, or eat fish at least three nights a week. These minor changes can get you out of a rut and renew your excitement about a healthy lifestyle.
Cleanse and Purge
This kind of cleansing and purging has nothing to do with your eating plan. It’s about simplifying your life so that you can focus on the things that improve your health. Donate old clothes that no longer fit, and get rid of old tennis shoes that are worn out. Clutter can cause stress, which influences emotional eating. Clean your office, rearrange your workout room, and get organized. A fresh environment can lift your mood and renew your motivation.
Boredom is often the one simple reason many people turn to excess snacking. Without something to occupy your time, it is easy to fool yourself into thinking you are truly hungry. Even if you choose nutritious snacks, eating when you aren’t hungry and eating too much are not healthy practices. Go from bored to productive and save on calories with these ideas.
Make a Plan
Grab your notepad or your smartphone, and get busy making lists and planning. Make your grocery list for the week, map out your workouts for the next month, check off what you’ve accomplished today, and update your food diary and exercise log. Not only will these activities keep you away from the snack bag, they will promote organization, which is a big part of a healthy lifestyle.
You don’t need a special spot or an instructor to meditate. You can sit quietly, breathe deeply, and close your eyes at any point throughout the day. Whether it is 5 or 30 minutes, this quiet time will calm you and help you regain the focus you need to make healthy decisions.
Whether you are sitting or standing, a quick stretch will help you feel rejuvenated and get your mind off of snacking. Simple side bends, touching your toes, and flexing your feet can elongate and energize the muscles. Hold each stretch for 20 seconds and breathe deeply.
Read Five Pages
We all have a book we’d like to finish, but have little time to sit down and read. Keep your book or tablet nearby for when boredom strikes. Even if you can only get through a few pages, your mind will move away from snacking and you will be that much closer to your reading goal.
Assess Your Progress
Evaluating your progress is an essential part of reaching your health goals, but time can fly by quickly making it easy to skip this step. When you feel boredom coming on, use this time to record your measurements and evaluate your workouts or eating plan. You can even drop down and do a set of push-ups or crunches to assess how much you’ve improved. Not only will your boredom disappear, but seeing your progress will help keep you on track with healthy eating.
Adopting a healthier lifestyle isn't always the result of big accomplishments and major changes. Often it’s the small, permanent adjustments you make that will have the most impact on your health.
Take at least one 5-minute brain break daily.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, taking a short 5-minute break throughout your workday can increase concentration and alertness, reduce stress, and is linked to a lower body mass index (BMI). Stand up and stretch. Perform some deep breathing exercises, or go for a short walk around the building.
Choose one daily habit that you can make healthier.
You likely have something you do every day as part of your normal routine. Maybe you stop by the coffee shop every morning before work, or perhaps you must sit down and watch your favorite television show every night. Take a look at your habits and identify what you could do to make them healthier. Maybe you can order your favorite coffee with less syrup or reduce the amount of cream you add to each cup. Do some crunches or push-ups during the commercial breaks while watching TV. Soon your days will be filled with healthier habits that can help you reach your fitness goals.
Do at least one physical activity each week that isn't part of your workout.
Increasing activity throughout your day is as important as your regular workouts. Research shows that sitting for long periods of time, even if you exercise, is linked to an early death from causes like heart disease and cancers. Identify ways to add more movement outside of your regular workouts. Start by adding one new thing each week. Bike or walk to work or to complete nearby errands. Meet friends for a hike on the weekend. Take a break during the work day to walk up and down a few flights of stairs at the office.
Make one new healthy recipe each week.
It is easy to get into a rut, eating the same healthy foods day in and day out. This sets you up for disinterest in your food and cravings for less healthy options. By regularly introducing a new food or recipe into your meal plan, you can keep things exciting. You’ll discover new ways to prepare healthy foods. Find some recipes you would like to try and make at least one new one each week.
Record your accomplishments every month.
As you strive to reach larger goals, you might not fully recognize the small changes that took place to get you there. Devote a notepad or journal to your accomplishments. At the end of each month, or throughout the month, write down everything you accomplished. Include everything from eating an extra serving of vegetables to doing a full set of lunges without a break. When you start to feel discouraged, look back at these lists. They are proof of how far you've come and serve as motivation to stick with it.
Set a new fitness goal every 3 to 6 months.
Don’t lose sight of your goals. They are important for keeping you motivated and improving your fitness. Pick a new goal every 3 to 6 months to keep your workouts interesting. Sign up for a triathlon, learn how to kayak, or learn a martial art. Use your goals to step out of your exercise comfort zone and try something new. By regularly incorporating new goals, you will adjust your workouts to achieve them, preventing exercise boredom.
A negative attitude can ruin your motivation and make you unpleasant to be with. Develop a positive attitude and you quickly become a happier, more motivating person. The next time you are tempted to make a negative comment about nutritious eating and exercise, remember these four things to improve your outlook and your health.
Stop Labeling Things as Good or Bad
It’s easy to look at things as either good or bad, but labeling every choice you make in this way sets you up for a poor self-image. It starts with labeling foods as good or bad, then that same attitude extends to how you view yourself. You were good yesterday and bad today. Then, instead of getting the full enjoyment out of having an occasional dessert, you consider yourself bad for having a treat. Make a conscious effort to stop using the labels, good and bad. Replace “I was good yesterday” with “I felt great yesterday.” Instead of saying, “I’m going to be bad and order cake,” say, “I’m going to enjoy a piece of cake.”
Limit the Use of the Word Healthy
The word healthy helps to define a food or activity that is good for you, but it can easily be overused. By saying you are going to be healthy today, you are indicating that this isn’t a normal practice. Once you stop labeling a salad as a healthy lunch and simply consider it lunch, being healthy becomes your normal way of living. You don’t have to call it healthy, it is part of who you are, the choices you make, and how you choose to live.
Drop the Judgements
You are more than what you choose to eat and how you choose to exercise. Eating nutritious foods and being active are important components of a healthy lifestyle, but you are not a bad person if you choose to skip a workout. Stop judging yourself based on these criteria. Embrace that you need a day off from the gym, stay mindful, and enjoy it. The more you judge yourself, the worse you will feel about yourself. This only leads to a poor attitude that can get in the way of reaching your fitness goals. Work around the limitations you have, and find ways to include healthy habits. When you fall short, don’t beat yourself up about it. Recommit and make tomorrow better.
Use, I Get To
When you say, “I have to,” you put the task into the same category as a chore. It signals to you that it’s not necessarily something you enjoy. By simply using the phrase “I get to,” you completely change your outlook on the activity. “I get to” reflects a privilege and something that you look forward to. Try it for a day, and see how this phrase can improve your outlook.