Health and wellbeing

5 short term tasks to boost your long term health habits

Just like financial goals, improving and maintaining your health and wellbeing is long-term and relies on small, consistent habits. Never-the-less, when I started my journey towards financial independence, there were a couple of things that could be achieved early on that kick-started my progress (see my post on 10 things that I did in this first year).

Similarly, when I wanted to improve my health and wellbeing last year, there were some immediate actions I could take to help my progress and keep me ticking along with my habits.

If you are using 2022 to focus on your health, here a couple of ideas for short term tasks that can make those long term habits a bit easier.

1. Try a new kind of exercise

My physical exercise routine consists of running, because I find it meditative and it gets results quickly, yoga classes, and a very small amount of free weights. It took a lot of experimentation to figure out what worked for me though, and this has changed over the years.

If you are struggling with the motivation to exercise, try changing it up a bit to get some variety and maybe find something that suits you better. Change the activity – try out the weird curved treadmill in the corner of the gym, take a dance class or find a new route for your walk. You might also see if the context needs changing – swap a ‘lone’ gym session for a group class, or maybe try a team sport.

2. Find the optimum time of day for exercise

After my usual daily routine was disrupted, first by Covid lockdowns then by a change of office location, I had to reassess the best time to fit in my exercise (see my post on principles for developing a daily routine). If you’ve been persisting with a time slot that keeps getting disrupted with other priorities, or you consistently feel too tired for it, try changing up your routine to see if it becomes easier.

3. Make sure you have the right kit

I wouldn’t advocate going out and purchasing specialist equipment or expensive clothes, but it is worth checking that your work-out gear is not a barrier to establishing your habit. Good quality running shoes are absolutely essential to preventing damage, as is a well fitting sports bra, but t-shirts, shorts and yoga pants don’t need to be designer. Last year I intentionally went out and got two new sets of work-out gear so that I could remove the friction of needing to remember to put a regular wash on, and digging around for clean clothes.

4. Make a diet plan and ‘master’ shopping list

Take the time to plan out what an ideal diet plan for the week would look like, and write a shopping list to go with it. Even if you don’t follow it every week, you will have a baseline plan that you can easily return to if you feel like you need a refresh. You just need to implement it!

My diet plan is not too specific – I just outline meals like ‘fish and veg’ and then buy whatever looks good at the market.

5. Make a list of micro-habits

Exercise and diet are the big ticket items that contribute to health and wellbeing, but there are a host of other little things that can improve the way you feel. Experiment with micro-habits to see which ones deliver additional benefit, both for physical and mental wellbeing. I’ve found drinking extra water, using my sit-stand desk, reducing alcohol and nigh-time flossing make an impact. Other habits might be meditation, journaling, walks outside, taking long baths, drinking herbal tea… the list goes on and on.

Don’t try to tackle all of them at once, to avoid overwhelm and lifestyle changes that would be too radical. Introduce them one at a time to see if there is something that delivers more bang for buck than others, and give you a sense of a achievement if they turn out to be fairly easy to maintain.

What step-changes have you found to make the biggest differences to your health habits?

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