What does healthy feel like?


There are a lot of really great reasons to improve your health this year. 

And the best reason? Healthy feels good. 

There’s a ton of research out there that shows us the science, the benefits of healthy, balanced living. 

But for a lot of us, knowing that we can reduce our risk of future issues doesn’t really cut it as a today, in-this-moment motivating factor. It’s just too abstract or too far away for our brains to really connect to.

So, the greatest reason to improve your health this year is that it simply feels better. It feels better than not healthy. It feels better than not doing anything. (And yes, it will make a big difference to your future self, but right now, who cares about future self?) 

It may sound like I’m talking about instant gratification, which may not be accurate and if I were talking about that, I could be accused of misleading or misrepresenting the truth. Feeling good may not be as instant as other, less healthy activities or stimuli, but, honestly, it’s not so far down the road that you don’t feel results and rewards pretty quickly. 

Here’s what healthy feels like to me; here’s how I have felt (in not very much time) as a result of healthy changes I made last year:

• I have energy

• I have more space for joy

• I’m pretty happy and upbeat feeling

• I feel tight and fit

• I can do things I love

• I feel confident, happy, empowered, growing

• I have this sense of well-being

• I feel mentally focused and clear

• I feel connection to others

Those things feel good. Those are seriously really great feelings. 

When we talk healthy, we’re talking about eating better, moving more, and paying attention to your heart/soul/mind. It doesn’t take massive or makeover-style changes to experience the benefits. Feeling better can actually be pretty easy to achieve. 

Here is an idea for getting started: 

First, give yourself a chance to experience what healthy actually feels like for you. Put it to the test.

Pick one or two small changes you’d like to make, and which you believe may help you get closer to how you want to feel. (It also really helps if you have pretty strong confidence in being able to start and maintain them for a while. If you rate your confidence level of being able to make the change as lower than a 7 on a scale of 1-10, maybe see if there is something you have more confidence in.)  

Here are some great ideas for meaningful, “small” changes with regards to food, activity and soul health: Volunteer in the community, keep a gratitude journal, practice mindfulness, get outside, learn stress management skills, walk — build up to 10,000 steps/day (join the virtual community walking group,) sign up for a fitness class or an event, do strength or balance training, eat breakfast every day, steer clear of sugary drinks (like soda), eat three servings of veggies daily, cook at home, use a smaller plate, choose whole grains.

Then, start tracking on a daily basis the change (or changes) you wanted to make. (There is a great paper tracker available at heathyevanston.com.) 

And here’s a very important piece: pause and notice how it feels during and after the activity on a daily basis, a weekly basis, and even a monthly or longer-term basis. Helping your brain notice these results helps you keep on keeping on. And good feelings and energy lead to more positive changes and more positive activity, and then a positive cycle develops, more resilience is developed, and coping strategies naturally settle in. Success breeds success.

We’re all inspired to action by different things, but there aren’t very many of us who aren’t motivated by simply feeling good. Making healthy changes, even if they seem small, will feel good. Small steps can make a big difference.

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