We at Hyfe, Inc., are a company devoted to working on tools to better understand the importance of cough. It is Hyfe’s intention in the future to seek regulatory approval for medical products that analyze cough in order that they may be used to diagnose, monitor, and facilitate better treatment of respiratory illnesses.
Everyone has been here before: starting a new diet then getting off-track a few days later, or signing up for a gym membership but never showing up. Motivation to get healthy is definitely difficult to muster, and you are not alone. Having a chronic disease like cough can be an added challenge to getting healthy. But no need to worry: here are some simple but effective ways how to stay motivated to be healthy by not only building healthy habits but maintaining them.
It has been said that a healthy body leads to a healthy mind. The converse is also true. The mind and body are linked, and often influence each other.
Have you ever noticed that when you are in a funk, your body feels heavy, sluggish, and tired? In the same way, when you are tired or sleep-deprived, you tend to be irritable, have more negative thoughts, and become easily distracted. When you are in this state, it is definitely harder to gather the motivation to eat healthy and work out.
However, it is important to zoom out and see the bigger picture.
Consider the long-term effects of your current habits. Sure, you can burn off the burger you just had for lunch. But what if you get stuck in that habit of not only eating junk food, but also putting off exercise? Do you see yourself eating processed foods, sugary drinks, and alcohol forever? What would that mean for your future health?
Putting things into perspective now will really get you thinking about your habits. Are your habits contributing to the achievement of your health goals? If your answer is no, then it is important to learn why your habits matter in the long run.
Starting a new healthy habit can be challenging. What makes it difficult?
Old habits tend to be “hardwired” in your brain.
On one hand, this is what makes habits so efficient because it reduces the effort and brain power needed to perform a task. But on the other hand, because it is automatic, you need to exert a conscious and consistent effort to change the behavior. This is basically what makes any kind of change difficult, but the great news is that the human brain can change and adapt if we choose to.
Here lies the importance of making conscious decisions. Instead of automatically scanning the menu for what you would normally eat, try to be more conscious and choose a healthier alternative. When you find yourself repeating the same mental script on whether or not you feel like going to the gym today, why not stay present and choose to make the decision to go?
These are just some of the ways you can “trick” your brain into starting a new habit. However, you need to be mindful and consistently choose healthiness.
This cannot be stressed enough. You will realize, once you zoom out and assess the bigger picture, that your success is hinged on the healthy habits that you do every day. Consistently showing up to work out and choosing healthy food options will not only reach your health goals sooner, but it will also build your confidence and self-esteem.
This is not to say that you should totally deprive yourself. We all need that occasional slice of pizza or glass of wine. But, a good rule of thumb is to have everything in moderation.
By choosing to exercise, preparing your own healthy meals, and setting aside time for relaxation, leisure, and socialization, you can be assured of personal success. These small habits will all add up over time.
Here is a step-by-step process on how to craft your personal health plan:
Choose the health goal that you truly want, not what you feel like doing in the moment.
Do you have big dreams that pair with your goal? Do you want to climb Mt. Everest? Be able to chase after your grandchildren? These are just some of the questions you can ask yourself that will not only direct your efforts but also give you a motivation boost.
Select a choice that feels like a sure bet. Yes, you want to lose weight, eat healthy, and exercise more often, but trying to achieve all three at once can be overwhelming. Break down your goals into smaller and more easily digestible parts. It is likely that fulfilling this first goal will make it easier to fulfil your second and third.
Make a verbal or written promise to yourself or another person. Holding yourself accountable can be a solid source of motivation for the days when you might have none. Be specific about your goal and how you plan to achieve it. For example, try “I am committing to my health by taking a 10-minute walk twice a week”.
Make habits easier to build by making your environment conducive to success. Keep unhealthy food at the back of the pantry, or remove it altogether. Sleep in your workout clothes so you wake up ready to hit the gym. Keep your water bottle beside you throughout the day to stay hydrated.
A movie night, luxurious bath, or a nice drive out of town can be some of the ways you can reward yourself after hitting your health goals for the week. Try to avoid food rewards, as they might be counterproductive.
Feel free to tailor this plan to your specific needs. No one-size-fits-all in health, so it is best to plan with your own needs in mind. If you need help, you can consult your doctor or nutritionist/dietitian
Armed with this more realistic mindset, here are just some of the healthy habits you can adopt:
Building healthy habits takes time. It is definitely alright to enjoy a treat every now and then. Be patient with yourself as you slowly get rid of the unhealthy food and habits that are holding back your health. It is comforting to know that anytime you get off track, you can also start again.
Mikaela is a dentistry clinician at the University of the Philippines.