Part of being balanced in a healthy lifestyle means to me to have routine habits in my day to day life that support my health and wellbeing in the short- as well as in the long-term. This sounds simple, but can be actually be quite tricky because those habits that support your health today may not necessarily be supporting you in the same way tomorrow. It requires you being aware of those healthy habits that support your overall health and wellbeing, it requires connecting with yourself regularly to check in with yourself and assess whether you are still supported by those healthy habits and it requires a certain degree of flexibility and letting go of perfectionism to maintain a fluidity in your healthy habits that comes with a balanced lifestyle.
After all, healthy habits are not something you want to get stressed about or get overwhelmed by and, in a way, they are a form of self-care, if done with the right mindset.
Since my days have gotten so much more intense and busy again with my full time job on the side, what has really helped make a difference for me is the tracking of my healthy habits. I have first come across this idea on Laura’s blog over at Wholeheartedly Healthy who has integrated it into a bullet journal. Having used the system for over six months now, though, I have refined the process for myself in such a way that I find it easy to use, gives me a quick overview where I am at, so that I can tweak my routine if needed and it tells me straight away if I am becoming unbalanced quickly. As part of my healthy habit tracking, I check in with myself on a monthly, weekly and daily basis.
At the end of each month, I sit down with my journal and decide on i) what went well that month and what not; and ii) what I would like to focus on during the next month. Some of the things that I track are simply to be aware of what is going on, for other things I work on actively integrating them more in my life. I try to be quite specific on what I want to achieve, so that I can hold myself accountable at the end of each month. For instance, here is a selection of things I tracked in January:
- Movement for heart health (3x 30 min per week of moderate exercise at elevated heart rates);
- Yoga (3x per week including at least one Ashtanga yoga class attendance);
- Meditation (5x per week);
- Protein with every meal to help with blood sugar stabilisation and so avoid cravings;
- Vegetables: 8x portions per day;
- Water intake (minimum 1.5 L daily);
- Outside time (1x per week a long walk in the forest or similar);
- Have a mindful break some time in the day.
I also recently tracked the number of coffees I was having, my energy levels in the day and my quality of sleep at night on a scale of 1-10 as well as the moon phases and my period.
Some things I just track because I know they make a huge difference in how I think about myself and my body. They are not healthy habits per se, but more like indicators of how well my healthy habits are helping with achieving my mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Like sleep or my energy levels. When I see that either my sleep or energy scores or both are consistently know, I know that I have neglected some healthy habits or have gone about them the wrong way and with the wrong mindset. Like staying up late at night or stressing myself about doing it all, just so that I can make a tick in all my boxes at the end of the day. I will get back to this in a later blog post! 😉
I track coffee because I would like to keep an eye on a habit which I am not ready to quite kick yet, but where I want to make sure that I do not over-indulge. After all, it’s about balance.
Weekly Check In
Each week, I am checking in with my monthly healthy habit intentions and see how I am doing. It then allows me to plan for the week ahead. For instance, if I want to make sure that I will be attending a yoga class, I will sign up for it and schedule it in my diary. If I notice that I am not reaching my goal of having sufficient vegetables in my day, I consider why this is the case and adjust accordingly. In my case, not getting sufficient vegetables into my diet is often because I do not have sufficient time in the week to prepare so many vegetables. As a result, I have started to have a pre-preparing and pre-cooking session on Sunday afternoons to save myself some time in the week. Essentially, I find myself a strategy to help me work towards my healthy habit goals when I see things become out of balance.
For my daily check in, I just take 5-10 minutes at the end of my day to reflect on the healthy habits of the day. The daily check in is part of my evening rituale in which I also do my gratitude exercises and meditate (when I am in the headspace for meditation). All I am doing is going over my habit tracking list and cross off what has worked today and to keep score of other things. It’s a simple sheet that provides me with an overview and which I have created in my journal based on Laura’s bullet journal tracking exercise. It helps me to consider what I need to focus on the next day, but also helps me at the end of the month to see what worked or not.
Why it works for me and a few caveats
Healthy habit tracking can be incredibly useful as it helps to focus you on continuously working towards your health and wellbeing goals, making sure you take baby steps on a daily or weekly basis and showing you how far you have come on days when you feel like giving up. It also provides you with an objective way of assessing where you are at and how far you have come. Often we want to achieve too much at once losing our enthusiasm when things do not work out the way we wanted them to be. Healthy habit tracking encourages you to be consistent, focusses you on a few essentials and so guarantees you success in the long-term!
Of course, just because I track my healthy habits does not mean I always get it right and one of the things I have been working on continously is making sure I don’t stay habitually late in the office, just because there is always more work to do.
I appreciate that you may read above and get completely overwhelmed.
Quite frankly, I did not start out with this and got it all immediately. It’s a process which I refined through trial and error over months and years to make sure it works for me. Yet there are still times I get it wrong and that’s ok. It’s part of the journey.
If all else fails, I go back to basics. The two or three essentials in my daily and weekly routine that are non-negotiables and bring me back on track!