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In one of the best books ever written, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen Covey explains, “Our character is a composite of our habits.”
So, too, is the case when it comes to your health. It isn’t the occasional slip ups here and there that define overall health, but the day-to-day rituals, practices, and behaviors that mold how your body looks, feels and performs.
Check out my version of Stephen’s 7 Habits - what I call the 7 Habits of Health - and see if all 7 are operating at full capacity in your current lifestyle. Use the following list to checkmark any areas that might need a little more focus and attention. You body and your life will thank you – that’s a promise.
#1 – The Habit of Rest
Remember in Kindergarten, when we used to spend a few minutes every afternoon on our mats in a dark, cool, quiet room? Wasn’t that great? Although rest and relaxation are typically last on the list of things people associate with fitness and health, they are actually some of the most important. If you have a hard time sitting still, feel guilty when you take a break, can’t remember the last time your mind wasn’t racing 100 miles an hours, or sleeping is more like a wrestling match rather than a snooze fest, chances are your health is suffering because of it. PRACTICE discovering the art of napping, work on a crossword puzzle, watch a funny movie, or do something that makes you feel pampered. Just 10 minutes of “me” time a day can make all the difference in the world, and the more time you can block out, the more your life and your health will benefit.
#2 - The Habit of Passion
If everything you do in an effort to improve your health is based on sacrifice, deprivation and pain, any results you achieve will be fleeting at best. The key to lasting health and fitness is to become passionate and excited about the changes you are making, whether it’s your diet or your exercise program. PRACTICE choosing activities that you look forward to. Block out a specific time each day to try something different that will get your heart pumping. Find a new nature trail, try out a new yoga DVD, or take a dance lesson. Instead of resisting foods you love, try finding or creating an alternative recipe. Who knows, you might end up loving the alternative even more than the original!
3 - The Habit of Body Awareness
Much of mainstream fitness protocol demands that you ignore the body rather than listen to it. We’re told to push the body way past its limits with too much exercise, pretend we’re not hungry when we are starving, and overlook fatigue or disinterest when our routine becomes overwhelming. PRACTICE listening to your body when it wants to stop. Keep in mind that quick progress is made when the body is pushed ever so slightly past its current ability, not way, way past it. Most of all, listen to your GUT – both internally and intuitively. One of the best guidance systems in the world, one that can tell you which decisions are best both physically and spiritually, is that good old “gut” instinct. Trust it.
4 - The Habit of Happiness
Whomever it was that said laughter is the best medicine was not kidding. Regardless of what the majority of people believe, happiness IS a choice, and while good health won’t always make you happy, happiness will always improve your health. PRACTICE two things that can immediately enhance your level of happiness, regardless of what is happening around you: #1 - Stop complaining (ah, yes… I know… easier said than done) and, #2 – Find something to smile about, or better yet, fine something to laugh about. Point your focus, if only for a moment, on all the things that are RIGHT, right now, about you, the world, your job, your home, your life. Make a written list of these things and go back to it again and again if necessary. Make the conscious choice to concentrate the majority of your time and energy on what is RIGHT, not what is wrong.
5 – The Habit of Flexibility
In his book, Grow Younger, Live Longer, Deepak Chopra explains that among dozens of centurions (people who have lived at least 100 years) who were asked to name the single characteristic most important to a long life, nearly all pointed toward flexibility, or more accurately, the ability to let go as the key to health and longevity. Says Chopra, "As the ancient Vedic aphorism goes, 'infinite flexibility and creativity are the secrets of immortality.'" PRACTICE stretching both your body and your mind on a regular basis. Try for one day to completely suspend your judgment and be okay with whatever happens. Begin every morning by bending to see if you can touch your toes – a great reminder that flexibility is a work in progress, whether it’s your muscles, your mind, or your relationships.
6 - The Habit of Nutrition
Your Mom was right, you are what you eat. So, have a close look at where and how the majority of your food reaches your plate. Counting the steps between harvest and the finished product can help you identify the difference between real food and what Michael Pollen, author of the book In Defense Of Food, calls, “food-like substances.” Typically, the less steps, the fresher and more nutritionally dense your foods will be. PRACTICE eating like a European for one week. Decide what you would like to eat each day, then go to market and buy only those foods for the day. Choose them in their freshest, most whole form. Try, every day, to consume at least one or two non-processed meals and don’t forget the most important nutrient of all – water – 60 to 90 ounces per day!
7 - The Habit of Movement
Your body was built to move, it was built to WORK and TRAVEL and PULL and PUSH. Every day, see if you can participate in each of these activities. PRACTICE: If you can walk, you can TRAVEL. If you are sweating, you are WORKING. If you do a little resistance training, you will PULL and PUSH. That about covers it.
Here’s to your healthy habits and a long life!
About the Author:
Dianne Orwig is a success coach, motivational speaker, fitness trainer, and founder of LivingFit Online™, a fitness program that has helped thousands of men and women completely transform their bodies and live healthier, happier lives though her less-is-better approach.
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