Time to Turn off Cruise Control: 5 Hacks to Help You Lead a Happier and Healthier Life
We’ve talked about it a lot, but 2020 was rough on the mental health and wellbeing of many folks across America. A recent poll highlighted that people in the U.S. are more unhappy than they’ve been in nearly fifty years! The pandemic played a role. Overnight it stripped our lives of the comforts of routine and forced us to create new habits.
The truth is, our lifestyles aren’t built around mental wellbeing — we’re overworked, overstressed, and exhausted. We don’t exercise enough, and many of us have a pretty unbalanced diet.
Now, this sounds pretty doom and gloom. It’s not. But, if the last year has taught us anything, it’s that NOW is the time to turn off that cruise control. It’s easy to fall into the trap of a daily pattern of same old, same old. I’ve said it before, but humans are notoriously habitual, often going through life on cruise control, ignoring the impact of daily activities on their overall health both physically and mentally. To win at life, you need to take accountability and be aware of what’s going on around you. This includes what’s going on with you both inside and out — mentally and physically. It’s never too late to make small adjustments that create healthy habits and can, ultimately, be life-changing. Trust me, I know.
Last month marked Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to come on here and tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. I was recently published on UpJourney, where I shared a few lifestyle changes that you can implement to help live a happier and healthier life. You can see these below:
Know When To Disconnect
Most people have a profoundly intimate relationship with their cell phones. When we wake up, the first thing we reach for isn’t a strong mug of Folgers. It’s our iPhones. And they follow us to bed, placed within arm’s reach on the bedside table.
That might be part and parcel of modern life, but it’s hardly conducive to a good night’s sleep. Part of the problem is that our phones (and, for that matter, anything with a screen) emit vast quantities of blue light, which, studies have shown, suppresses the production of sleep-friendly hormones.
The best way to prevent this is to limit your screen use in the evening hours. iOS makes this easy. In the Health app, you can set a wind-down time. This tool determines what notifications you’ll see and adds shortcuts to the lock screen that’ll take you to your favorite podcast, audiobook, or Spotify playlist.
Alternatively, Verb can send automated reminders that it’s time to start your pre-sleep routine. Put down your phone, curl up with a good book, and make yourself a warm milky drink.
Get some ZZZs. Practice good sleep hygiene
You can boil down the term “sleep hygiene” to one word: routine. By taking deliberate steps, you can increase the likelihood that you fall asleep sooner and your sleep is of high quality.
So, what are these steps? They start with you. Limit your nighttime consumption of alcohol and caffeine, and ensure you don’t eat too late — mainly if the food is especially greasy.
And then we get to your environment. Get into the habit of dimming your lights, ensuring your bed is always made with clean sheets, and, as previously mentioned, ensuring you take the time to wind down.
When turned into regular healthy habits, these small steps will go a long way to ensure every night is a restful one.
Consistency is key. It’s called a circadian rhythm for a reason. Our body knows when it’s time to sleep based on the habits we keep. When we deviate from our routines, that rhythm gets disrupted. One of the easiest things you can do to improve your sleep quality is to be consistent. Make it part of your schedule.
Take a Breath. Manage your Stress and Increase your Productivity
Work shouldn’t be stressful, but it is. You start the day with a to-do list longer than your arm. It only gets bigger as the day goes on. You’re constantly prioritizing and reprioritizing tasks. New emails trickle into your inbox throughout the day, making “Inbox Zero” feel like an unreachable goal. This drumbeat has a profound physiological impact. You become overwhelmed, with your brain trapped in fight-or-flight mode. Breathing exercises are a simple and effective way to break out.
Start by finding somewhere quiet. If you work from home, step away from your desk. If you’ve returned to the office, step outside for a moment.
Found your spot? Good. Sit down and take a deep breath, absorbing as much air as you can into your lungs until you can feel it in the pit of your belly. Hold it, and then gently exhale.
Repeat for as long as you feel is necessary — but ideally a few minutes.
For this to be most effective, make sure you incorporate breathing exercises into your daily routine. The more often you do it, the better it’ll work. Many of our coaches at Verb can help here, and our AI-powered platform can send regular prompts throughout the workday.
Take Back Control of Your Time
Even the most well-oiled machine needs some maintenance every now and again, and humans are no exception. If you don’t take regular breaks throughout the day, you’ll burn out. It’s as simple as that.
There are ways to incorporate these breaks into your daily routine. One popular approach is the Pomodoro Method. This strategy uses a timer to split your day into periods of uninterrupted work, with regular rest breaks scattered throughout.
Alternatively, Verb can help give you that scaffolding, ensuring you find the time to eat lunch and take regular movement breaks. You’ll be more productive and, most importantly, happier.
Segmenting your time into “office hours” where you’re reachable and hours where your focus is on work may prove difficult at first. Your colleagues may complain when their Slack messages are unreturned but set a precedent that others can follow. Be the example.
Over time, you’ll start to realize that most of those random workplace conversations you had in the past didn’t accomplish much. You’ll gain a sense of perspective and become able to distinguish between what’s urgent and what isn’t. And, most importantly, you’ll re-learn what it’s like to be able to focus on a single task without the fear of interruption.
Nutrition and Exercise. Food is Fuel.
Food is fuel. When you eat balanced meals at regular intervals, it’s like you’re filling up your car with premium gasoline. You know — the kind that costs an extra ten cents at the pump and makes your engine purr like a leopard.
If you skip breakfast and load up on fast food for lunch, the opposite is true. It’s almost like you’re filling your tank with gasoline laced with sugar, gravel, and random cents scooped up from the sidewalk.
Getting into the habit of eating well is one of the hardest things anyone can do. As a nation, we are — quite literally — addicted to sugar. And we instinctively crave things we associate with pleasure, like a massive pizza with all the toppings and stuffed crusts!
As you start to make the transition, your homemade quinoa salad won’t feel all that satisfying. This is where Verb’s emphasis on accountability comes in handy, allowing you to track your successes, with periodic messages ensuring you stick to your goals.
Small Changes for Big Goals
Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. That “high” you get when hitting your personal best isn’t a placebo — your body produces a flood of endorphins, helping raise your mood.
One Harvard study shows how taking a 15-minute run each day can reduce the risk of major depression by 26 percent. But getting into the habit isn’t easy. Few things are less attractive than waking up on a cold winter morning at 6 AM for a gym session or taking a jog when it’s raining outside. Verb can help here, allowing you to establish attainable fitness goals, and ensuring you hit them through regular reminders and messages of encouragement.
Mental wellness doesn’t come easy, especially in a society that feels opposed to it. From our addiction to technology to our always-on workdays, achieving the fundamentals of a healthy lifestyle has never been so hard.
The only answer is to take deliberate steps. It starts with exercise and nutrition as the saying goes: healthy body, healthy mind.
Once you’ve got the basics down, start structuring your work and leisure time to limit stress and ensure you get the right amount of rest. You won’t feel good if you’re constantly tired and on edge.
Change doesn’t come easy, and there’s no harm in getting help. Verb, with its accountability tools and coaches, can help.