Modern living tends to trap us in an endless cycle of activity that gets us nowhere. For instance, holding down a good job often means moving to a big city. But the cost of living there is higher. We end up spending even more time and multitasking to stay on top of things.
This effect is increasingly detrimental to our overall quality of life. You might be earning a lot on paper, but when do you actually find time to enjoy living? Maybe you plan on traveling when you retire, or patiently saving up for a luxury piece from Kravit Jewelers. But what if you’re not healthy enough to make it there?
Beating the negative circle
Taking care of your health is vital to reaping the fruits of your labors. But too often, people defer health concerns for the future. They prioritize other activities, many of which can negatively impact the mind and body. It further cuts down on your ability to make the most out of life.
It seems hard to break this pattern because we don’t know exactly where to begin. There are multiple negative factors at work, and each one feeds into the other.
Do you seek out a reduction in your workload? Even if your employer is accommodating, it will get harder to pay the bills, let alone have disposable income to enjoy. Housing costs account for a third or more of the average budget, but are you willing to move to a less expensive location? That might put you further away from the markets selling healthy produce.
The solution is not to dig away at root causes, because lifestyles are too complicated for that. Instead, you have to start taking the right fundamental, positive steps towards change.
Exercise and cooking towards health
This ties into the concept of the ‘keystone habit’. Organizations and people exhibit large-scale behaviors that are tied to a series of smaller routines.
When we say that someone has an unhealthy lifestyle, we base that on many common symptoms. These can include obesity, overwork, excessive drinking or smoking, or hanging out with people who exert a negative influence.
A keystone habit is a small, controllable unit of your behavior that can exert a domino effect in other areas of your life. Your health is largely dependent on physical fitness and proper nutrition. Thus, exercise and cooking have the potential to lay the foundation for change in your lifestyle.
One workout, or one home-cooked meal, won’t change your life. But if you ingrain those routines into each day, you can change in many ways. Sure, you might lose weight gradually. But more importantly, you can get more restful sleep and feel more energized.
Your body will learn to feel the difference between eating the right stuff and consuming junk or abusing substances and stimulants. And you can gradually begin to disengage from the wrong crowd.
Lowering the barriers to change
There are many things that prevent people from taking even these basic steps towards a healthier lifestyle. This ties back into the circle of negative factors.
People will say that they don’t have enough time to prepare their own meals. Or that they don’t have the confidence to cook food that tastes good. After all, it’s one thing to stomach your own bad cooking, and another when you have to force-feed that to your kids.
It’s the same with exercise. If your job consumes half your day, you’re bound to feel exhausted, not just physically but mentally as well. You might feel more inclined to spend your time on leisure activities, or simply get some rest before facing another day’s grind.
However, within reason, you can compromise and make it a little easier to achieve change. Partial adjustments are better than none at all.
If you don’t know even one simple, healthy recipe, choose from a list. Practice it on a weekend to build your confidence. Then plan your shopping so that those ingredients are at hand. You can also make things easier by tending some easy-to-grow herbs and vegetables in your garden.
Likewise, maybe you can’t commit to the WHO-recommended level of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. But you can probably do five minutes each day, and add more whenever you feel up to it (and time permits).
By lowering the difficulty level, you aren’t giving up on your goal of a healthy lifestyle. You’re simply making it easier to introduce new keystone habits into your life. And once those become entrenched, you can slowly revise your goals to cook more than one healthy meal each week, or exercise half an hour each day. It opens that crucial crack in the negative circle to ultimately break free and enjoy a good quality of life.