With work, play, and other priorities dominating our daily lives, sometimes we forget that our bodies require a bit of upkeep, too. However, we only have one body, so forgetting to take care of it isn’t ideal. Setting appropriate goals to keep it in the best shape possible should be on everyone’s list.
To bring your body to its healthiest state, you will need to adopt a combination of many healthy habits, such as proper diet, consistent exercise, and good sleep habits. Some diets might help you lose a few pounds for a while, but they won’t make you healthier, and you’ll often gain the weight right back when you stop following it. If you want to stay truly healthy, you’ll have to create new, good habits and keep them long-term.
There are many different areas of health for one human body, and we touch on as many as possible below. In this article, we aim to introduce you to some useful health goals for you to set, and we also hope to explain why these goals are important.
Health Goals: Healthy Eating
Eating habits are something that people tend to give a lot of attention to when they want to lose weight and look better. However, just because you’re losing weight doesn’t mean that you’re healthy. The average person’s diet should consist of as many nutrients as possible to keep their body functioning, and any leftover nutrients should be supplemented through vitamins or other means.
If you’re looking to get a healthier body, whether you’re doing it for longevity or good looks, there are a few things to watch out for. Firstly, stay away from fad diets! While drinking only juice for a week might make you lose some weight, it will be hard on your body in the long run, and the results are unlikely to be permanent.
Instead of dieting, look into portion control. In America especially, we eat much more than our bodies require daily to function, and we don’t exercise enough to burn away the excess. Portion control might test the limits of your self-control, but it’s an extremely effective way to trick yourself into losing weight while still eating your favorite foods.
The portion size that’s right for you depends on your age, size, activity level, and gender. “Calorie calculators” are available on the web, or you can ask the opinion of your doctor or a nutritionist. Two thousand calories is the average that’s listed on the nutritional labels for most foods in the US, but your needs may be higher or lower.
If your goal is to lose weight, in addition to regular exercise, try any of the following:
- Eat on smaller plates. This tricks your eyes into thinking you’re eating more food than you actually are.
- Reduce your caloric intake.
- Don’t eat when you feel full.
- If you must snack throughout the day, try healthier snacks, such as vegetables or nuts instead of candy.
Weight loss can be complicated in practice, but it’s really not in theory. If you’re taking in fewer calories than your body needs to function, you will lose weight. That’s all there is to it.
Once you’ve lost the weight you want or need, you can’t just go back to binge eating whatever you want. When we’re young, we can often get away with eating larger portions and more junk than we really should since our bodies are growing and burning calories quickly. However, as we age, we eventually need to abandon these bad eating habits in favor of more responsible ones.
Many people are unable or unwilling to abandon these habits, especially with the plethora of food choices available to us every day. As such, everyone should have a goal to develop healthier eating habits befitting of their age, size, and activity level.
As a general rule, if you’re not keen on counting calories or choosing healthier foods, practice portion control instead. Don’t eat when you’re not hungry, and eat just enough to satisfy yourself when you are. Many commercial diets make a mint on selling portion-controlled meals to clients that are no different than your regular meals. They’re just smaller!
If you’ve been overeating or eating unhealthy foods for most of your life, it will be hard to break old habits. We recommend taking it a little bit at a time. For example, try setting a new goal like those below each week or every two weeks, and only after you’ve gotten the previous goal down.
- Eat only one plate of food at mealtimes, no matter what, and reduce the size of your plate
- Eat only one “unhealthy” or junk food snack per day, and make healthier choices for your other snacks
- Don’t overeat at holidays or celebrations
- Take half of your meal home at restaurants to eat later
- Switch out ingredients for healthier ones, such as white bread for whole wheat or sugar for a healthy sugar substitute
Of course, proper nutrition is vital to the body, as well. The average adult on a 2,000-calorie diet should set goals to incorporate the following maximums into their daily eating habits whenever possible.
- 5 cups of vegetables
- 2 cups of fruits
- 6 ounces of grains
- 5 ounces of protein
- 3 cups of dairy
- 27 grams of oils
- 8 ounces of seafood (per week)
- 26 ounces of meat, poultry, and eggs (per week)
- 5 ounces of nuts, seeds, and soy products (per week)
If you don’t meet those guidelines consistently, consider supplementing your diet with things like smoothies, shakes, or multivitamins. Make sure to drink plenty of water every day, too!
Many working Americans don’t respect proper sleeping hours as much as they should. They’re as important, however, as anything else we look at in this article for your health.
In fact, getting too little sleep has very strong links to obesity. It can also affect your presence of mind and productivity at work, your risk for developing certain diseases, and your ability to interact positively with others. While diet and exercise are often touted as the most critical facets of getting healthy, proper sleep is essential, too.
The average adult should aim for about eight hours of sleep per night, though a little wiggle room in either direction is acceptable. Surprisingly, though, oversleeping has the same adverse health effects as getting too little sleep. Everyone has different sleep needs, though, that are unique to the individual, and these often depend on activity level, age, stress, and a variety of other factors.
Additionally, adults should have the goal of going to sleep at the same time every night, if possible. This creates a routine for your body and mind to follow, making it easier to fall asleep and get a sound, restful sleep.
If you’re in a jam or can’t sleep at all one night, there is a solution: take a nap! Naps are proven to increase your mental clarity at work, wake you up when you’re feeling tired, increase creativity, and even help you remember things. However, the duration of the nap does play a role, and a nap during the day isn’t necessarily a healthy replacement for good, consistent sleep schedule.
Reference our list below for the different benefits provided by different levels of naps.
- 10-20 minutes: boosts your energy and alertness while avoiding grogginess (as you edge towards 30 minutes, grogginess becomes a risk factor)
- 60 minutes: helps you remember facts and faces, at the cost of some grogginess
- 90 minutes: better creativity and memory with minimal grogginess
Albert Einstein himself reportedly slept for 10 hours every night, plus daytime naps on top of that. Regardless of whether his habits were healthy or not, it just goes to show that different people have vastly different needs for sleep. Every adult should have the goal of isolating their best sleep patterns and putting them into effect whenever possible!
As we work our 9-to-5s at our desks every day, we often lose out on valuable exercise we should be getting. More often than not, this exercise is left for us to take care of on our own at home. If you have an active job, such as something involving heavy lifting or lots of movement, consider yourself lucky! Your exercise needs may already be met for the day when you come home from work.
However, if you’re among the near 80% of Americans who don’t get the exercise they need, it’s not hard to get yourself moving in the right direction. Something as small as investing in a standing desk at work can get you closer to the fitness goals you’ve set for yourself.
Super-active lifestyles are not for everyone, but we should all be aiming to get a little closer to what we need every day. A quick jog before work, for example, or climbing the stairs instead of taking the elevator, can improve the following things through the remainder of your day:
- More energy
- Reduced stress
- Better decision-making
- A clearer mind
The US government recommends that the average adult in the US gets 2.5 hours of moderate activity in addition to 15 minutes of intense exercise per week, along with muscle-strengthening activities twice per week. This can be easily met by taking a 20-30 minute walk every day coupled with some more intense running and weight-lifting.
Getting proper exercise has many well-documented benefits, including the following:
- Releases endorphins in the brain, which makes you feel happier
- Burns calories and helps you lose weight
- Helps build muscle and bone density
- Reduces fatigue and improves energy
- Reduces your risk of certain diseases
- Improves your memory and overall brain health
- Enhances the quality of your sleep
Any adult that wants to receive the above benefits should set goals to meet their body’s own exercise needs. Since there are so many different exercise routines and strategies available, it’s possible for just about anyone to do it if they get a bit creative.
However, be aware that over-exercising can be as detrimental to your body as oversleeping can be. The human body needs time to recover between long or intense bouts of activity. If you attempt to keep going when your body needs recovery time, you can end up doing permanent damage.
Other Health Strategies
Healthy eating, enough sleep, and consistent exercise usually make up what people consider to be the “holy trinity” of good health. However, the above only minimally addresses the mental and emotional aspects of keeping a healthy body.
Keeping up good mental health is equally as important as physical health, for example. If someone feels no motivation to eat right or exercise, how are they going to receive any benefit from our guide?
The sections below offer strategies to address other, less-common aspects of health that you might not give much thought to at first. It’s good to set goals to hit some of these, too, especially if you find yourself lacking in a particular area.
Maintaining your health at work often requires a bit of creativity. We work in many different environments; some are dangerous, some are active, and some are sedentary. All careers require slightly different efforts on our parts to keep ourselves in prime health.
If you work a desk job and you’re reading this article, you’re not alone. Those of us who work from our desks every day often suffer a lack of exercise compared to other professions. We also tend to snack on convenient, unhealthy things throughout the day, further exacerbating the issue.
However, no matter how unhealthy your working environment, there is always a creative solution out there to try. Standing desks, for example, were created with the intent to combat the lethargy that people can experience from sitting at a desk for long periods of time. While standing desks have their own challenges, convertible desks that can change configurations between sitting and standing offer a great medium.
No matter what your job involves, we recommend always getting creative with your lunch! Packing and bringing your own lunch is worth it, even with the extra effort required in the morning to set it up. Doing so has several advantages, including but not limited to:
- Knowing the exact ingredients and nutrients in your home-made lunch
- Knowing your precise caloric intake
- Saving you money over fast food or pre-prepared meals
- Healthier, more creative choices
- Better portioning options
Bringing your own snacks, like baby carrots or celery with peanut butter, is a great option, too. Additionally, resist the urge to visit vending machines unless you’re otherwise out of luck. Vending machines are expensive and are full of unhealthy choices like sodas, salty snacks, and candy, which will often leave you feeling worse after you consume them.
Believe it or not, having fun is a big part or maintaining your body’s health. Over-stressed bodies face many more emotional and physical issues than a happy, stress-free body does. Having fun consistently also affects the “holy trinity,” too.
Of course, it’s important to find the correct balance between having fun and working towards what you want and need. When you can combine the two, that’s great, but the workplace is often not the place for most types of fun. Consider some of the following benefits that having fun provides:
- Improves your relationships
- Improves your concentration and memory
- Reduces stress
- Balances your body
- Makes you feel youthful
- Boosts your energy
- Helps you sleep better
Just because you’re no longer a kid doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be having fun. According to your body, you should, no matter how old you are! However, it’s not always that easy. Many of us feel guilty when we have fun as adults, especially if we feel like there are better things we should be doing. It’s important to balance fun with these important things, or you run the risk of burning out.
However, there are times when too much adult fun comes into play. Burning off steam and reducing stress is the goal here, but not to the point that the fun activity gets in the way of your normal functions. Watch out for the following types of fun, which can potentially become excessive, lead to dangerous habits, or get you in trouble:
- Excessive drinking
- Addictive or illegal substances
- Shopping for gratification
- Binge eating
- Video games
- Red light districts and related activities
In the end, as long as you maintain a healthy medium between work and fun, it can offer a plethora of benefits to you. It should be the goal of any adult to practice balance with all things. Just as overindulgence can be detrimental, so can be healthy eating taken to extremes, too much intense exercise, and oversleeping.
Humans have evolved to be very social beings. The social need within each person can vary greatly, but science has shown that social isolation is extremely detrimental to the human mind and body. As such, no matter how much you might hate social situations, they are necessary to a degree for your own happiness and sanity. Face-to-face contact is particularly potent for satisfying our social needs.
Furthermore, relationships are the way that we learn many behaviors as human beings. Just as having positive role models for friends can influence children to behave well, growing up with negative role models results in lessened future prospects. We learn negative behaviors like swearing, treatment of various emotions, alcohol consumption, and more from those around us.
While a lot of exploration of these behaviors is normal growing up, it’s equally essential to voluntarily surround oneself with good influences as a person matures and defines their identity. Friends who care about pursuing their own positive goals and dreams, for example, will impact those they spend time with, inspiring them to do the same.
In the same measure, those who don’t have dreams or don’t believe they have a future will pass their own destructive tendencies on to those they spend time around. If you want the best shot at reaching the goals you’ve been setting, it may be smart to evaluate who you should be spending time with or set goals to find a newer, more health-promoting group of friends.
If you decide that those you spend time with are not helping you achieve your goals, it may be time to move on to different friends and groups. This may be painful, but remember that like minds will attract each other. If you’re determined to reach your dreams and work on putting that into reality, you will attract or inspire those who want to do the same.
If you find yourself feeling down or discouraged, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. There are people out there who have been through the same difficulties you have, or people close to you will step up and help you out. Asking for help may feel weak, but it’s not! Everyone needs it from time to time, and as long as you don’t rely on the support of others all the time, it’s not shameful or bad. As usual, balance is key.
Mental and Emotional Health
Mental and emotional health make up your mindset. If you don’t have a healthy, improvement-focused mindset, you’re not going to get much of anywhere while working to improve yourself. However, sometimes creating a healthy mind isn’t as straightforward as working towards a healthy body. The issues ailing an unhealthy mind can be challenging to diagnose.
In most cases, unless a person needs extra medical help, there are common strategies that work well to maintain good mental and emotional health. Working on physical fitness is an excellent first step that provides two-fold benefits: with a better body image, you’ll feel better about yourself, and healthy habits generally improve your mental state, as well.
However, we have a few more tips to include here that can help if you need a bit of extra assistance. For example, don’t be too hard on yourself. Striving for perfection is admirable, but devastating yourself when you fail is not healthy. Failure is inevitable and should be embraced as a chance to become better, not treated as an inadequacy of the person who’s failed.
In the same measure, remember not to overindulge, either; it’s not advisable to explain all of one’s failures away as inevitable. If you use this approach, you’ll be devoid of passion and the pursuit of excellence. Having desires, goals, and dreams in life is a keystone of mental health. That’s what this article is all about!
Let’s imagine that there are six keystones to maintaining good mental health. Those keystones are the following:
- Relationships and social connections
- Consistent activity and exercise
- Stress management
- Healthy diet
- Good sleep habits
- Dreams, goals, and purpose
We’ve covered all but one of the above in this article already, if we consider our section on “Having Fun” to be the same as stress management. The standout here is finding meaning and purpose. This might seem like a random addition to your health goals, but as usual, it’s all about balance.
Take a second and think about what you’d like your life to look like in a number of years. That number can be anything, be it 20, 10, 50, or 60. Just pick a time when you think you’ll have the majority of what you want in life. Do you want to have a mate and several children in the next ten years? Maybe you’d like to be retired in thirty years, sitting on your porch without a care?
Now, take that vision or dream and break it down into what you need to do to make it a reality. If you want to have a mate and several kids within ten years’ time, but you’re currently single, you may want to get back into the dating scene or enroll in a matchmaking service online. If you’d like to be retired at sixty, your retirement funds need to be on track for that.
This is where your goal-setting comes in. Just as you should be setting fitness, eating, and sleeping goals, you should be setting goals that get you closer to your dreams of the future. In fact, these two should align whenever possible!
In this section, we’d like to give a special mention to medications that might impact your mental and emotional health. For those who deal with mental disorders on a daily basis, especially, seeking medical help may be very important.
Many of our societies don’t understand the extent of real, diagnosed mental disorders. For years, the prevailing opinion is that sufferers should just “buck up” and “snap out of it,” but this isn’t possible for everyone. Moreover, the prevalence of the “self-diagnosed” in our current age takes credence from those who need real help.
If you feel like something extra might be preventing you from reaching for your dreams and goals, consider sitting down with a mental health professional to see what your options are. Many people who go this route are able to find medications or therapeutic options that allow them to function normally, or much closer to normal than they previously were.