How to be Your Best Every Day: Foundational Habits for a Healthier Life
Foundational habits, skills, whatever ya wanna call ’em improve the core of our wellbeing, mind, body, and soul. They help keep us from getting too physically drained, mentally frazzled, and emotionally wiped-out. They are our “big bills” or the habits that give the biggest return on investment, our most important priorities.
If you’re the kind of person who keeps a change jar and you put bills in it first (yeah I know, why on earth would I put bills in my change jar…bare with me) even when it seems full you can still add change, shake a little and the coins will drop in and fill all the spaces around the bills. But, if you fill that jar with coins first there ain’t no way you’re squeezing in any bills once it’s full.
The same goes for trying to maintain your new goal of hitting the gym three days a week when you haven’t mastered getting quality sleep every night. You have to walk before you crawl. Don’t put the cart before the horse. Don’t drop in the coins before the bills. Get paid before you give the dance.
If you focus on these foundational habits, you’ll feel as amped up as the first time you sold a VIP room. You’ll be glowing, invigorated, and ready to tackle the next champagne pappi that comes along and all those goals you set for yourself.
What are “Big Bill” Foundational Habits?
1. Getting enough good quality sleep.
I don’t mean getting a consistent 5 hours of sleep, even if you think you get by just fine on 5 hours your body is most likely suffering. Most adults need between 6-9 hours of sleep to function their best, and most adults don’t engage in physically taxing work. Sleep deprivation impacts your ability to make decisions and slows your metabolism. Not to mention it increases your food cravings, especially for “junk” food.
And to be clear, just because something is vegan or gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
2. Drinking enough water.
You are quite literally made of mostly water, so drinking enough water every day is vital for basic life functions. Water is involved in brain function, regulating body temperature and flushing out toxins, like those four vodka sodas you had last night. Dehydration can lead to moodiness, fatigue, and lack of motivation.
Now imagine getting only 5 hours of sleep and being dehydrated. You’d feel like the forgotten, dried out, lime wedge in the back of your fridge. Simply put, the more water you drink, the better you will feel. Not to mention water is the true secret behind glowing skin and bonus it’s free!
3. Moving, ef ficiently & ef fectively.
By design, our bodies were made to move, the ability to twerk is just a bonus. While doing go-go sets, humping stages, and spinning around poles are 100% movement it’s also important to get in movement outside of werk. Regular exercise or movement boosts your mood, reduces stress, sharpens your focus, and improves sleep. This doesn’t mean you have to rush into lifting weights multiple days a week, though it’s a great place to get to. Simply getting in regular daily walks for as few as 10 minutes at a time can have a huge impact. The overall goal: move more, and sit less.
4. Eat nourishing food to meet your body’s needs.
Food is the fuel for our bodies and what we eat determines how well our bodies can create the energy it needs. Good nutrition controls our energy balance so it’s important to eat food loaded with nutrients. When you care about what you’re eating, and make choices based on meeting your body’s needs, you almost inevitably eat better. High nutrient foods include brightly colored vegetables and fruits, whole grains, beans, meats, and eggs. Good nutrition is like wearing your favorite outfit at work, it helps you look, feel and perform your best.
To work on improving your foundational habits, create rituals around the new behaviors.
* Set an alarm on your phone an hour before your ideal bedtime to cue yourself to begin winding down.
* Fill a pitcher with the exact amount of water to drink for the day.
* Go for a 10-minute walk every day after lunch.
* Have a brightly colored vegetable at every meal.
Are you focusing too much on the “coins”?
Coins tend to be the things we think are the keys to seeing results when we set out to lose weight, eat healthier, or “get in shape”, but in reality, they are tiny “distractions” from the big bills that make you think you’re working. Really, they’re preventing you from making sustainable changes.
They’re usually things like:
* doing lots of cardio each week
* eating less sugar
* having fewer drinks a night – or giving up drinking altogether
* taking nutritional supplements
* going keto or ditching carbs
Sure eating less sugar is a shift towards healthier eating, but how long can you sustain it if you haven’t mastered filling your diet with nutrient-dense foods? How long can you keep up getting in lots of cardio when you’re sleep-deprived?
The problem with focusing on these smaller skills first is that they put us in a scarcity mindset. We become so focused on what we can’t have we end up craving those things 10 times more. When we ultimately crack and devour an entire bag of Haribo peach o’s, a large pizza, and an entire bottle of wine, we end up with feelings of guilt and shame. We declare ourselves a failure, throw in the towel, and say we’ll try again next week.
While it might seem backward because it goes against all magazine headlines and dressing room talk, building a solid foundation first will have the biggest impact on your health. When you’ve mastered the “big bill” fundamental habits of a healthy lifestyle: Sleep, Water, Movement & Nourishing Food, getting more exercise, reducing your sugar intake, or drinking less is easier to manage.
Which of the four foundational habits are you currently struggling with the most? This is your starting place.