Creating a healthy lifestyle and taking care of ourselves is more than just about what we eat. It’s the every day, often small, choices we make which add up to create a larger impact. One that either helps to create a life that serves us well, and keeps our mind and body healthy. Or one that has the opposite effect. It’s up to us. But feeling good is always an option.
Today I’m sharing some of the habits and routines I try and follow to create a healthy way of life. Everything from my diet and “cleansing” to my exercise and mindfulness practices.
These habits are just what works for me. But finding a health and wellness routine that works for you may look very different. My biggest advice is to listen to your body. It usually gives us clues as to what we need. When I’m not taking care of myself, my back hurts more than normal, I may feel anxious, lethargic, or impatient. All clues that something isn’t working. Most of the time, when I just slow down and listen, my body clues me in to what I need.
Hopefully some of these habits I’m sharing inspire you to find a routine that leaves you feeling your best, inside and out.
Making mindful food choices
While I’m a firm believer against “dieting”, I’m also a believer in being mindful of our food choices. And often, when I find that I’m truly being mindful, it means removing few things from my diet that aren’t serving me well.
To help me, I follow the CLEAN program (which is a nutritional cleanse) twice a year (once in January, and then again usually in August or September). I first tried it seven years ago. And while I don’t necessarily follow it to tee, when I follow the basic principles, I am always feeling my best. JonPaul and I are currently in the middle of the program again now, and are both already feeling great.
The CLEAN program has a few core principles.
1. Eliminate inflammatory foods – alcohol, sugar, dairy, gluten, caffeine, soy and other inflammatory foods
2. Add in an abundance of nutrient-dense, clean, whole foods – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, legumes, nuts, seeds, spices, etc.
3. Allow your body time to “rest” by having a 12 hour window of “fasting”
All done with the idea of giving your body a chance to “rest” and heal, and using foods that support that. Essentially “cleansing” in a healthy, mindful, and gentle way.
The program is not for everyone. But for me, it changed the way I look at food, how I eat, and how I feel. I will also add in that although this is only something I follow a month or two out of the year, a lot of the foods that I “eliminate” I don’t necessarily add back into my diet. For example, through this experience I’ve found that dairy and animal protein don’t serve me well, so I only eat them on occasion. I’ve been a committed vegetarian now for a few years and I love the way I feel. On the CLEAN program now, I’m currently following a vegan diet, and may consider incorporating more of a vegan lifestyle in the future. But for now, I’m just exploring how that diet feels.
The important thing is taking a step back and looking at how you feel when you eat certain foods in comparison to others, and then adjusting accordingly, and that will look different for all of us.
Sleeping like a baby (or how I wish my baby’s would sleep)
I always joke with JonPaul that the moment I crawl into bed, is my favorite time of the day. It sounds terrible. I really do love my life (and being awake for it ;), but I just REALLY love sleep. And I prioritize it. We are a household that is up early, every day (and has been for a decade), so going to bed early and getting at least eight hours of sleep is so important for me to be able feel my best. So I try, as best as I can, to preserve my sleep rhythm. Which means a combination of a few things; less Bravo on my sofa and more books in bed, less coffee and more tea throughout the day, and limiting my phone use at night.
Creating an evening routine that helps promote a healthy sleep rhythm is crucial for me to feel my best. No one needs cranky kids, and a cranky mom in the house 😉
Moving every day
After food and sleep, movement is the most important thing for me to feel my best. I need to move every day. It can be something as little as a quick yoga flow at home with my kids, or a long walk to the beach. But either way, I need to move.
I know I’ve said this a lot, but this is another area where listening to our bodies makes such a difference. Years ago (and I mean pre kids), I was a big runner. A long distance runner. It was addicting. I could run for miles every day and still want to go further. But it took a toll on my body. My legs and knees were not meant to run like that.
Now my “workout” routines look very different. Yoga is my primary form of movement, and everything else is just a supplement. I’ve been practicing yoga for over 10 years, and I truly believe it’s the reason I feel as “good” as I do today. Since I was a young woman I’ve had severe back issues, which only worsened with each pregnancy. Yoga is the only reason I can pick my kids up out of a bathtub, carry in loads of groceries, or pull my little ones out of their car seats. And that, for anyone who’s ever suffered from chronic pain can understand, has been such a gift. It has healed so many of my injuries and keeps my limber and strong.
About a year ago I also started incorporating resistance training into my routine, which has really helped shape my body. The older I’ve become (turning 40 next month!), I’ve noticed that my muscle tone isn’t the same as it used to be. My hope is that resistance training will help keep my muscles toned and my bone density high.
Regardless though of what I’m doing, I am always gentle on my body. If something doesn’t feel good, I don’t do it! First and foremost. Our bodies aren’t designed to “hurt”. Exercise should be something that makes us feel GOOD!
When I’m “cleansing” I try and be extra responsive with how my body is feeing day to day. So that means staying flexible with my workout routines, and not getting so hung on “what I did”, but more that I moved my body – and that’s all that really matters.
Being conscious of caffeine
This goes much further than eliminating caffeine when I’m on the CLEAN program. When I’m not “cleansing” I do add coffee into my routine, but I have to be very careful because I have a true love affair with coffee. I love coffee, but caffeine does not love me. It’s like that bad boyfriend you dated when you were young. You knew it was all wrong but you just couldn’t help yourself because he’s was so cute. That’s coffee for me, and it’s a slippery slope, so I have to be really mindful of how much coffee I drink.
Caffeine makes me feel great at first, but I always have a crash in the afternoon. It messes with my natural sleep rhythm and it’s not great on my digestive system. All the reasons I really try and limit my coffee consumption.
I try to usually only start my mornings with warm lemon water. I shared a post about all the benefits of starting your morning with lemon water here. But to sum it up, it essentially wakes up your digestive system. It’s a great way to wake up your whole system, aid in digestion, and boost your immune system.
I don’t necessarily feel that coffee is “bad”, but I personally have to be mindful of my intake and I definitely notice a difference when I swap out that cup of joe for my morning lemons.
Incorporating a mindfulness practice
This is something that is always changing for me, but something that gives me so much in return. I have a meditation practice that ebbs and flows. There are months when I’m really committed to my 10 minutes first thing in the morning, and then there will be a few months when I don’t meditate at all, and I can definitely tell the difference. I’m still working on finding a way to make the long term commitment to the practice, but I’m being gentle on myself as I strive for that goal. Knowing that it will happen, on it’s own time.
In the meantime, on the days I’m not as committed to my meditation practice, I work on incorporating even a few moments of mindfulness before I get out of bed. As soon as my alarm goes off (or the kids wake me ;), I take a few moments while still lying in bed to set an intention for my day. Somedays it’s something I’m working towards ( like more patience with the kids), and other days it’s something I want to let got of (maybe frustration or anger from an argument the night before). Taking one or two minutes, before rolling out of bed (and before reaching for my phone to check my e-mail) is a simple way to help me set the tone for my day.
Dry brushing is something that I added into my routine a few years back and I love it. Let me rephrase that, I LOVE the epsom salt bath that comes after dry brushing.
Dry brushing is a simple habit, that has so many benefits. It not only helps exfoliate your skin, creating smoother, softer skin, but it has a larger health benefit of stimulating your lymphatic system. A wonderful detox for your whole body.
It only takes a few minutes and doesn’t require any fancy tools. Here’s a great resource to learn more about how to drybrush. I purchased my “dry brush” from Whole Foods, but you can find them all over. I found a few online here that look great too!
I usually dry brush before my shower (or epsom salt bath!), and then follow with my favorite body oil. I truly believe that the combination of the dry brushing with the nourishing oil is what has kept my skin feeling so great all these years.
Water, water, and more water
Drinking enough water to truly stay hydrated is critical in order to feel our best. For me, that means a lot more than the recommended 8 glasses a day. The standard advice given on the amount of water need is 8×8 (8, 8oz glasses a day). But that is not necessarily true for everyone. Some need more and some need less, depending on our bodies and our external environment.
My rule of thumb is that if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. I try drinking enough water that I never feel thirsty, and that my urine is clear. I almost always have a large (16oz) glass of (room-temperature) water with me. And I’m constantly refilling it.
Drinking plenty of water is the easiest, and one of the most beneficial things we can do for our health. If you only add one thing into your routine, maybe try challenging yourself to drink one extra glass of water each day. I promise you’ll feel different.