12 HEALTHY HABITS FOR HAPPINESS
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In order to have an exceptional life, you need to FEEL good in both mind AND body, and there are steps you can take THIS WEEK to create a higher sense of mental and physical well-being. This includes getting adequate rest, hydration, and physical movement. I grew up in a family where most women did not take care of their health, due to the stresses of raising children alone. As a girl, I was an astute observer of the outcomes from adults’ decisions, and drew some pretty sound conclusions early on. I figured out quite early that bad relationships brought a woman a lot of stress, which usually led to emotional eating and lethargy/lack of physical movement, which meant there was always a low grade misery humming throughout our everyday lives. It made me very health conscious as a teenager, and I started to change my lifestyle habits in my late teen years. I have further cultivated these healthy habits throughout the years.
The more you take care of yourself TODAY, the more your body and mind will take care of you TOMORROW. I am a living witness to this, as I did not have children until my 30s and still had two very healthy, enjoyable pregnancies and have returned to my pre-baby weight within 18 months of being pregnant and/or nursing for 6.5 years straight. My healthy habits that I began as a teen and stuck to (with some tweaking as I learned more, of course) have allowed me to run and keep up with two very wild little ones and feel good while doing it.
You can do this also, by cultivating and/or expanding healthy habits a little at a time, step by step, until you create an entirely new lifestyle that lends to your good health and happiness. These habits can also help you as you navigate the physical changes that we all experience as we get older.
I want to share some ideas with you that could inspire you to make changes that maybe you’ve been thinking about, but haven’t been exactly sure when or how to start. Here are 12 healthy habits to think about to expand your health and happiness:
1. Get enough sleep every night. A great day begins the night before. This is one that I have to hold myself accountable to EVERY NIGHT, especially since I have little ones, and the only time I have quiet time is after everyone goes to bed. It’s tempting to stay up late and enjoy the silence, which is called Revenge Bedtime Procrastination, and a LOT of people do this. If you’ve never heard of it, Revenge Bedtime Procrastination refers to a phenomenon in which people put off going to bed to engage in activities that they don’t have time for during the day (see: Suni E. What is “revenge bedtime procrastination?” Sleep Foundation). It feels good in the moment (trust me, I understand!), but the negative effects just aren’t worth it. Taking those big hits to a good night sleep can lead to increased anxiety, depression, lower immunity, weight gain, and even high blood pressure. I had to really get disciplined around this, especially since I also do coaching sessions and was teaching a lot of my classes in the evenings. If you have especially long days due to work or family obligations, do give yourself a little time for solitude, but establish a hard stop for yourself before you even start and HONOR IT. If you make a deal with yourself to go to bed by 11 every night, do your very best to keep that deal with yourself. For me that means no phone or internet use after 10 pm and I put the phone away from my bed. Here are some other helpful things that help me get a good night's sleep:
a. Opal app (iPhone/Android): Most of us unconsciously pick up our phones and start scrolling and have no idea we’re even doing it! (The attention engineers that designed the software on our phones truly are geniuses.) Knowing this, I use an app called Opal, which allows you to set limits on your internet and app use on your phone. For example, if you have a paper or report to write and you know that you will probably find yourself scrolling on social media, you can set the app to block all social media for a certain length of time. If you know that you’ll refresh your email like a digital junkie, you can block that too! You can set the app to allow you to take a break and get your fix, or you can set the app to “Deep Focus” which means you cannot request to take a break.
b. Freedom app (desktop): Freedom does the same as Opal, but with a little more precision. Freedom allows you to block any particular websites that you want to limit your usage of. When I’m working on one of my books or creating an outline for one of my classes, there are a few blogs that my curious mind likes to wander to over and over, so I block them when I know I have things to do and they will distract me. Note: Freedom does not offer a “take a break” option like Opal does.)
c. Magnesium is your friend!!! Magnesium truly is a miracle mineral. It supports muscle and nerve function and energy production. I’ve been using Natural Vitality Calm* for close to 10 years now, and it’s been a huge help in helping me relax before bed. Warning: start with VERY small doses of this and READ THE INSTRUCTIONS! Magnesium pulls water into the gut (it’s a key ingredient in many laxatives) and promotes digestion which is great, but only in moderation.
2. Wake up early and enjoy some quiet time to yourself. You will be pleasantly surprised when you do this one. Start the day with your OWN thoughts, not social media, text messages or your television. If you followed #1, this will be a smoother transition, since your phone won’t be near your bed. There are wonderful mental and emotional benefits to be had when you intentionally sit with your own thoughts and your own agenda first thing in the morning before any external stimuli can influence you. I take the time to say “thank you” when I wake up, visualize my day going smoothly, and literally MAKING myself smile. It sounds corny, but it does work, and I usually feel cheerful in the morning, which impacts the rest of my household and the rest of my day. I challenge you to try for one week and see what happens. You don’t need to do anything drastic, just give YOURSELF the first 10-15 minutes of your day.
3. Make it your business to get outside as soon as you can first thing in the morning for a few minutes. Studies show that light first thing in the morning is the most beneficial, helps your body make Vitamin D, which is necessary for strong bones, mineral absorption, and a boosted immune system. That early morning light also will help you sleep better that evening, since that exposure sets a good circadian rhythm for you.
4. Hydration, hydration, hydration! A lot of us are walking around here dealing with little ailments due to hydration and we don’t even know it. We get so busy that we forget to hydrate, which has a domino effect on our mind, mood, and mobility. One of the books that changed my life was “You’re Not Sick, You’re Thirsty”. It talks about how a lot of the aches and pains that we deal with are actually localized dehydration in the body. I was a pretty decent water drinker when I picked up the book, but by the time I finished, I was ON IT, and have stayed drinking my 64 oz. of water a day for YEARS. You need water to flush toxins out of the body, keep your appetite in check, keep your digestive system in shape, and keep your skin gleaming (smile!), among other things. If you have a day here and there that you just can’t drink enough water, take a little shortcut and grab yourself a packet of Liquid IV to get that extra hydration.
5. Eat breakfast! I fuss at soooo many of my clients when I ask them are they eating breakfast and they say, “No, not really.” (I fuss lovingly, though.) Breakfast sets up the rest of the day to be a productive day. If you skip breakfast, you start the day with an empty tank, since you’ve gone 8+ hours without sleeping. You can’t pour from an empty cup, right? Eating breakfast will also improve your mood and concentration, as well as improve your metabolism. Make sure you include lots of protein in the morning, as it will provide the fuel you need to jumpstart the day. I like to have boiled eggs, fruit, and a slice of wheat toast, or Greek yogurt, fresh berries, honey, and walnuts. These are my go-to breakfasts, since they’re tasty and can be made quickly (especially if you keep boiled eggs at the ready like we do).
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: “But, Nikki, I don’t have TIME to eat breakfast in the morning!” Fair enough, I’ve got an alternative for you: a breakfast shake! The mornings that I need to get out of the door fast to get to my Pilates class and get the kids to their tennis lesson, I’m most likely to have a breakfast shake instead of eating a full breakfast (the kids will have cereal and fruit). I either do a breakfast shake with banana, coffee, peanut butter, and Garden of Life Organic Shake and Meal Replacement chocolate powder. It’s a vegan protein powder that has 20 grams of protein, sprouts, green, and probiotics. It’s reeeeally yummy, filling, and gives me great energy. The chocolate powder is great for the banana, peanut butter, and coffee shake. You can also get the vanilla version, which I use for my strawberry, banana, and Greek yogurt breakfast shake. So there, now you have an alternative when you’re on the move. No excuses! 😊
6. Move your body for at least 30 minutes each day. This doesn’t have to be as complicated as you might think! Physical movement can be you taking a 15 minute walk in the morning and 1 minute walk in the evening. You can also take three 10 minute movement breaks and do some exercises. On the days that I don’t go to the health club, I have a few timers scheduled on my phone to make me get up and go walk or run around with the kids to burn some calories as well as any pent-up frustrations. If you feel really resistant to exercising because you physically don’t feel like it, consider that there are also wonderful emotional and cognitive benefits to exercise, such as improving your ability to switch tasks quickly and be more productive, as well as reduce feelings of depression.
7. Take breaks during the day to mentally reset. One thing I’ve realized once I kicked my phone addiction is that we have more time than we think we do throughout the day, we just allow little interruptions to eat away at the minutes, and then we look up and realize the day has slipped away. Setting reminders on your phone to take a break every 90 minutes just to stand up, stretch, and take some deep breaths can give you a mental reset and allow you to get back on track if you’re off target for the day. I use these little breaks as an opportunity to look at my “to-do” list for that day and see if I’m on track or totally off, and if it just so happens that I’m off, I can refocus. No need to make a big production of it, either. 2 to 5 minutes is all you need.
8. Cold pressed juices are your friends! Try to have 3 a week first thing in the morning. Now, I’ll be honest: this one takes a bit of a commitment to do, but it CAN be done. You can either purchase these or make your own at home. When I started incorporating cold pressed juice into my weekly regimen, I would purchase a case from my local juicing shop and drink them over the next few days. I noticed an improvement in my skin, my digestion, and my energy. Cold pressed juices are very fresh and need to be consumed within a few days in order to get the full benefits avoid being exposed to unnecessary bacteria due to it sitting in your fridge too long (the juice that you buy from the store is pasteurized at very high temperatures, which allows it to stay fresh longer, but in that pasteurization process a lot of the nutrients get burned up, too). Be sure to drink any juices you purchase within 2-3 days. When you’re ready to take the leap, you can do what we did and purchase your juicer and start making your own fresh juices! It takes us about 90 minutes once a week to juice and seal the jars and we have our juices with breakfast or as a standalone if we’re doing a cleanse. It’s well worth the investment if you want to commit. Here’s the one we use and we’re very pleased with it. We usually juice kale, apple, carrot, oranges, turmeric and beets. You can find a few of our juicing recipes in my Healthy Habits for Happiness Workbook.
9. Do a supplements and minerals audit. What additional help does your body need? It’s easy to think that if you just pop a multivitamin, then you should be good to go, right? Well, not exactly. There are elements that your body needs that you most likely can’t get from a one-stop-shop multivitamin, but you have to do an audit of yourself to discern what else you may need. Do you feel irritable and queasy? Some magnesium and a good probiotic may do the trick. Do you have brain fog and can’t seem to focus? Maybe some lion’s mane will give you the clarity you need. Do you feel that you need an infusion of vitamins and minerals, but don’t want to get an IV because needles make you squeamish? Get yourself a banana bag that you can mix in a cup of juice or water and take right at home.
10. Evening Ritual: Journal with a pen and don’t use social media as your diary. One of the reasons we overshare on social media is because we are unconsciously using it as our personal diaries. There is great power in taking a pen to paper and just sorting your thoughts out. Research shows that it’s best to actually physically write out the words, as it allows you to sort and process your thoughts in a different way. Don’t overthink this! You can write anything you want. It's YOUR journal. Sometimes I just do stream of consciousness journaling, where the words don’t necessarily make sense but help me figure out what’s going on with me. You can also journal your dreams or just bullet points on how you felt that day and how you’re feeling in the moment.
11. Have the conversations you need to have. The hard ones. Our culture has deceived us into believing that we can throw anything away the minute challenges occur, or when we become dissatisfied with it any way, and this is especially the case with people. We have these pseudo-deep relationships that we subconsciously know are not genuine and can be dissolved at any time. That creates a sense of instability inside of us that will NOT go away, until we go deeper within ourselves and truly go deeper in relationship with others. This includes having difficult conversations with the people in our lives in order to preserve the relationship and strengthen the bonds between us. This applies to all relationships, be it with our parents, siblings, friends, or partners. In the moment, the conversation will be unpleasant, even sometimes explosive, but when you have those conversations from love, you will be pleasantly surprised at the fruit it bears for you over a lifetime. It will start you on a new journey of healing and self-confidence. Go ahead and write that letter. Apologize. Tell that person you still love them. Strengthen the bonds with your loved ones and hold on to each other.
12. Stay away from any place that you do not feel wanted or loved. I mean this for the digital world as well as real life. It can be very tempting to go down the rabbit hole of “doomscrolling” and “hate watching,” but honestly, think about what that level of vitriol and negativity is doing to your psyche. It’s even being called a public health crisis, with a very strong argument backing it. When we continuously expose ourselves to people and conversations that make us feel less than, ignored, dishonored, or mocked, we take a spiritual and psychological hit that puts us in a bad space for the day, the week, or longer, depending on how frequently we ingest the poison. This can be a tough one for those of us that believe in being the mediator in situations, keeping the family or friend group together, etc. This is where discernment is key. If you’ve made earnest attempts at a healthy, adult relationship and there has been no reciprocity, REMOVE YOURSELF AND YOUR ENERGY from that person or group. I’ve had to make this decision multiple times in my life, and although I felt like the “bad guy” in the moment, I know I did the right thing for myself (and my family). This is a tough one and it may take a few tries, but you can do it, and you will feel healthier and happier for it.
Well, that’s it! I hope this was helpful and that a few of these habits will stand out to you and you’ll try to incorporate them into your life with good results. If you want a workbook to map out what changes you want to make and HOW to implement them, grab my workbook “Healthy Habits for Happiness” and use it to jumpstart your new or improved health journey.
Take care of yourself. You got this!
*Everything I have listed in this article I actually use and have used for years. Only the Amazon links are affiliate links and I get a small percentage for any recommendations at absolutely no cost to you.
Hi there! I'm Nikki (aka Lady CRO), the creator and director of the Exceptional Woman School, where we work on cultivating the exceptional mindset that allows you to have TRUE confidence and the courage to create and sustain a great life.
The CRO stands for "Cultivating Relationships and Opportunities". I believe the cultivation of yourself, your relationship with others, and your life skills are what give you the ability to create a successful career, a happy and productive marriage, and joyful motherhood, if you so choose. That's what I focus on here.
I hope you enjoy the conversation, and that I'll see you in a class very soon!
©2017-2022. Lady C.R.O. and the Exceptional Woman School.