You’ve probably heard it all at this point: eat your veggies, take vitamin supplements, take on a home exercise routine, meditate, limit alcohol and so on. There are many ways to formulate your approach to taking care of your mental and physical health in the face of a public health crisis and beyond. It has become more relevant now than ever - for the sake of the public, your immediate environment and yourself as a shining health enthusiast!
As the restrictions on public gatherings are being eased in many countries, there is a new need to equip yourself not only with the facts and knowledge about your immune system, but also the mindset of being your own personal nutritionist, coach and therapist. We’re here to make the task less daunting and more approachable for our community. Here’s our top 5 simple tips on having a smart outlook on realising a smarter, healthier, happier you!
Health Hack #1: Develop SMART goals
The SMART system for goal or objective setting, has been a widely used system in the business world to ensure that your actions are in line with your objectives, and that they are realistic. SMART declares that goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
In practice, let’s say that you wish to feel healthy. If we apply the SMART model to this abstract statement, it would be transformed into something like this: “On a scale of 1 to 10, I feel as if my health is at 4 right now. In a year, I would like to feel as if it has gone up to 8 out of 10. To do this, I will eat healthier, exercise more and constantly track my progress to ensure that I am on track.”
An additional tip while following the SMART model, would be to divide your goals into smaller pieces and timelines to help you with your motivation. If your goal is too far into the future, your neurological dopamine-based reward system may not activate on a constant basis to keep you happy and satisfied with your daily progression, in some cases hindering the formation of your habits. Life is a marathon - take it one step at a time and enjoy the journey!
Hack #2: Benchmark your performance
In order to keep track of your progress, it is helpful to be able to compare your present state to yesterday and tomorrow. In order to do that, you need to establish a method of benchmarking your maximum effort when it comes to any habit that you care to improve on - whether it is mental, physical or mindfulness related. Once you measure your maximum effort, you can pay attention to the average amount of effort that you invest as time passes. Let’s see how benchmarking your performance looks like in practice and how it helps!
Let’s say your goal is to sit down and read a book for 3 hours per day. This goal is following tip #1 - it is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Benchmarking the potential of your effort when it comes to repeatedly achieving this goal would mean to reach the 3 hours of reading time, and then proceeding to read for as long as possible. Let’s say you’ve managed to read a book for 6 hours - that’s twice of what you originally planned! This achievement will have a positive effect on your habit forming process, in that when you go back to reading for 3 hours daily, the task will seem much less daunting when compared to the first attempt to do so. This is because your cortisol or stress hormone levels are at the highest when you push yourself to the limits in order to fulfill a task for the first time. As time goes on, your body produces less cortisol and more dopamine - contributing not only to the habit formation and memory processes related to your book reading, but also to your overall happiness and satisfaction in the process itself. Benchmarking just accelerates this process - it shocks your system, gets it ready for further stress by increasing your stress threshold, and then is instantly relieved the next day, when you’re no longer benchmarking your effort towards a task.
Needless to say, benchmarking your performance also allows you to look for ways to address your gaps and approach your objectives in unique ways. For example, you may notice that reading is an activity that you genuinely do not enjoy, and listening to an audio book version of the same reading content would be a much more enjoyable and productive pursuit - listen to your body and it will let you know!