8 Simple Habits For Optimal Health

These tips are sustainable and will help you stay on track with your goals!

By: Dominique Michelle Astorino

Looking to set new goals and improve your physical and mental health? Good news, you don’t have to uproot your entire lifestyle in order to see improvements! Despite what you see on social media or hear promoted amongst diet culture, drastic fads and quick-fix solutions are not the answer. The truth is, long-lasting habits occur with small, sustainable changes — and these changes take time! They might seem insignificant in the moment, but trust us — they matter. In fact, your daily habits are one of the strongest predictors of your overall health (both physical, and mental)!

Think about it this way. While a 5-minute daily meditation may not seem like much, if performed every day, that’s more than 30 minutes of meditation per week. If you repeat this every day for a month, that’s more than 2 hours logged! The same goes for extra miles walked, additional hours slept, healthy swaps added… you get the picture. The point is, the small things matter, big time.

“Little things have big results,” says clinical psychologist Kevin Gilliland, PsyD. “Whether it’s working on your sleep, spending less time on social media, or being more physically active, there are a lot of things within arm’s reach — our arms — that can have huge benefits to our psychological and physical health. That’s so encouraging!” 

The Top 7 Sustainable Healthy Habits To Add To Your Wellness Routine

With all that in mind, what are some small things we can do (we’re talking simple, free, effective things you can do right now!) that’ll have a positive impact on your physical and mental well-being? 

#1 Be Proactive About Your Medical Health

No matter how old you are, or what conditions you might have, the healthcare world is daunting. Doctor visits, medical bills, lab tests, insurance paperwork… It can feel overwhelming. To regain some sense of agency over your health, get in the habit of scheduling routine visits at the beginning of each month to ensure you cover all your healthcare needs. Whether it’s your annual physical, a check-in with a psychologist, or a dental cleaning, plan it all out. 

Getting it all on the books will help you feel a sense of accomplishment, and then your visits will be set; out of sight, out of mind. And if you’re someone who likes to plan in advance, you can book appointments 3-4 months in advance. Maybe you even plan your calendar through the rest of the year!

And the good news is that if money or time is a barrier, you have options. Whether via facetime, zoom, or a medical app, so many services are going virtual. In fact, within the past year, more than 50% of consumers used virtual care. And not only is this a more affordable option, but based on the 94% satisfaction rate, it’s proving to be an effective clinical service option!

#2 Optimize Your Bedtime and Wake-Up Time

Quality sleep is a powerful ally for mental and physical health. It can help increase energy, improve productivity, boost mood, reduce the risk of chronic disease… the list goes on.

Try on a little sleep assessment to gauge where you’re at. Do you feel rested when you wake? Do you experience energy crashes during the day? Do you struggle falling or staying asleep? These are all factors to consider. And if you have a smartphone or sleep tracker, this could provide you with valuable info!

If you find yourself checking all of the above boxes, perhaps it’s time to revisit your sleep schedule and fine-tune. “Sleep is power!” says Dr. Gilliland. “It’s good medicine for your mind and body.” 

So how do you change your sleep habits? If you’re feeling especially ambitious, this could mean you set your alarm for an hour earlier than your usual wakeup time… but for the rest of us who aren’t superhumans and can’t overcome the urge to hit snooze, it might take smaller steps. Because remember: we want these habits to stick!

Try something accessible first: scale back your bedtime — 15 min each week — for a month. Eventually, this will add up to a whole hour of more sleep. From there, you might feel energized enough to start getting up 15 minutes earlier each morning. Try this fine-tuning approach to your sleep schedule, and build from there. For more sleep hacks, try these tips!

Here are some other easy-to-implement sleep tips to consider:

  • Reduce exposure to screens (phones, tablets, computers, and TVs) at least an hour before bedtime
  • Establish a nightly pre-sleep routine to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down
  • This might include activities like reading a book, taking a warm Epsom salt bath, or practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation or breathwork
  • Wear a sleep mask to completely block out light
  • Relax your mind and body with a FitOn meditation or sleep yoga nidra

#3 Increase Your Hydration

Hydration has been a top trending topic this year, with functional drinks, electrolyte beverages, and mocktails tipping the popularity charts. However, despite the surge in consumer interest, most Americans (an estimated 75%) are dehydrated. And considering the grave impact hydration has on our health (think: sleep, mental health, mental clarity, physical vitality, organ function, energy levels, and more), making hydration a top priority is a simple yet vital habit! 

That said, if you struggle, don’t get down on yourself. Instead, start small! Try habit tracking your hydration (in a journal, in an app, on a whiteboard, etc), and/or setting a daily hydration goal. Or try carrying a cute sustainable bottle with you throughout the day for a physical reminder! The mindfulness around consuming more water should help redirect your focus to sculpt this new hydrated habit.

#4 Adopt a Mindfulness Practice

Whether it’s getting started with meditation, making time for prayer, learning a little bit about astrology and doing a daily check-in with your horoscope, carrying a crystal, or using tarot or affirmation cards, finding a mindfulness practice is a simple practice that can do wonders for your health. Sure, if you’re new to mindfulness, it might seem uncomfortable to start. But, trust the process! Or at the very least, trust the research!

Co-founder of Smudge Wellness, Luigi Aldon, suggests the latter. “Try wearing your crystals, or taking them with you on the go (in the car, your gym bag, purse, etc). If you’re like me, you believe crystals emanate frequencies that can amplify your own unique energy — so this one is a no-brainer,” he says. “But for my skeptics out there, wearing crystals can serve as a practical and magical reminder of the energy you want to put out every day.”

By the same token, your spiritual wellness practice could be setting an intention, even a fitness mantra — any mind-body practice that keeps you grounded and mindful. “Adopt a weekly intention setting practice,” suggests Aldon. “Whether you pull cards from your favorite tarot or intention deck, or just choose a word to guide you, setting intentions can reframe your outlook in life and give you some direction. I like to post my card or intention word on my bathroom mirror.”

The takeaways? Mindfulness, and a bigger sense of purpose. These two things have the capacity to boost your mental and physical health.

RELATED: Your One-Week Mindfulness Plan That Will Completely Change How You Handle Stress

#5 Set Simple Tech Boundaries

Try to incorporate technology boundaries into your routine. It’s not always easy, we get it – but, many of us have our energy sapped by phones, emails, and social media without even knowing it! Blue light emission can disturb sleep, work-related emails can trigger stress, overuse of social media can negatively affect self-esteem and body image, prolonged screen use can cause eye strain, poor posture, and headaches… and so on and so forth.

The point is, it’s important to be mindful of how technology impacts your health and well-being and establish healthy boundaries. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Set up the do not disturb feature on your phone for specific hours of the day
  • Give yourself one whole day (even one hour!!) per week away from your phone
  • Avoid checking (and answering) your emails after business hours
  • Charge your devices outside of the bedroom
  • Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary (and thus, a tech-free zone!)

Choose something simple and attainable that you can get started with, and see where the habit takes you. 

RELATED: How to Set Boundaries & Why You Should

#6 Do One Thing For Your Mental Health

Another one that sounds daunting but can be broken down into simpler steps. First, as we did with sleep, we need to take inventory. How are you feeling? How’s your mental health on a scale of 1-10? Which areas of your life might need more nurturing, and do you have adequate support? 

If you feel like you’re lacking support: find a therapist — one in your insurance network or a licensed counselor or psychologist near you. Schedule a consultation. If you aren’t ready for in-person one-on-one sessions, try downloading a therapy app or seeing if there are group counseling opportunities available to you. Test the waters, and see what’s out there — you deserve to have mental health support. 

Some other simple things you can do right now?

  • Take a 5-minute work break to clear your head.
  • Compliment yourself! And regularly show yourself self compassion. What’s one great thing you did today? Acknowledge your wins.
  • Take a deep breath. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, slow down and check-in with yourself.
  • Feeling overwhelmed? Give yourself 5 minutes to meditate
  • Phone a friend (or loved one) if you need support. Having a network or community is important! You’re not in this alone.

RELATED: 10-Minute Hacks to Reset Your Nervous System

#7 Think About Your Diet as a Lifestyle

Getting started with healthy eating isn’t about starting a new diet or counting every calorie or macro. It could be as simple as adding in a glass of water every morning or swapping your afternoon soda for an herbal tea! In fact, it’s better to start with something much smaller.

By doing so, you’ll be less likely to get discouraged and give up altogether. Think of it as a lifestyle, rather than a diet! If you’re struggling with this concept, come back to your “why”. A great model to consider is the Mediterranean lifestyle. Notice we said lifestyle, not diet! While the Mediterranean diet is a huge component of this approach, it is essential to remember that it’s not just about what you eat; it’s about how you live. The Mediterranean lifestyle offers a compelling blueprint for this mindset. 

Here are some takeaways to consider:

  • Emphasize whole foods that are fresh and minimally processed
  • Balance your plate with a variety of macronutrients such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats
  • Adopt a mindful approach to eating, tuning into your hunger and fullness cues
  • Be present when you eat and share your meal with the company of others

When first starting out, start by simply observing your eating habits. Once you’re ready to take the next step, start small with micro goals! Using the mindset above, make a sustainable and attainable goal. Maybe it’s eating one green vegetable per day, using cinnamon in your coffee rather than sugar, or putting your phone away while eating. Once you’ve nailed one thing, continue building! 

If you’re feeling more advanced and adventurous, try this hot tip from registered dietitian Lisa Mastela, RD, founder of Bumpin’ Blends: “Eat the rainbow,” she says. “Eat a variety of veggies and fruits daily; aim for five different colors of plant-based foods each day, and don’t eat the same ones every day — variety is crucial”

#8 Try “Exercise Snacking”

Exercise snacking — a little bit of movement in bursts throughout the day, whenever you have a few minutes. This concept is amazing for busy schedules. You can set an alarm to get up and move every hour or even use the FitOn app to set workout reminders. You can choose a couple of ten-minute workouts to squeeze in throughout the day! 

You could also set a goal of moving for just five minutes each day. Truly, a little “snack” of exercise. Whether it’s a five-minute stretch sesh or maybe five minutes of glute moves, you’ll be setting yourself up for success by getting consistent movement in each day — this could build into bigger exercise habits!

And speaking of these simple seamless movements, functional fitness is trending this year! Similar to exercise snacks, it’s all about finding ways to incorporate more movements that support your everyday routine. This could be incorporating more lunge variations into your workout so you’re able to perform walking lunges while carrying in the grocery bags, or simply working on your pushup form so it’s easier to push the stroller or a heavy door. 

RELATED: I Replaced My 1 Hour Workouts For Exercise Snacking For a Week & Here’s What Happened

Keep it Small, Simple, & Sustainable

Whichever you pick, “Just do something small today, and then worry about something else tomorrow,” says Dr. Gilliland. “What we find is that this good momentum, these good habits… it all starts to spill into other things. If we start to walk a little bit, we tend to think about eating a little bit healthier, and so on.” One good action begets another, and a snowball effect ensues. What one simple habit will you try?