1. Write down what you eat (and how it makes you feel)
Just like we track time for client projects to keep a record of how long common tasks take, we should be documenting what we eat to learn what our bodies are doing. Now, this doesn’t have to mean logging calories, tracking macros, or anything else that has to do with numbers (unless that makes you happy). Simply write down all the foods you eat for a couple weeks, and also (more importantly) write down some notes about how your body and mind feel. Do you notice any patterns? Do you notice anything lacking? Any habits?
2. Eat the rainbow
And no, I don’t mean Skittles! We should all be getting a wide variety of foods in our diet, so try to fill your plate with as many different colored foods as possible. This technique can accommodate a wide variety of tastes and dietary styles. It also lends itself well to experimentation – look for new foods, spices, or flavor combinations!
Because even some “healthy” foods affect people differently (people have varying sensitivities to grains, dairy, nuts, nightshades, sugar, salt, FODMAPs, etc) combining this with tip #1 of writing everything down will help you see how different foods affect your body and mind.
3. Carry healthy snacks
Keeping familiar, healthy snacks with you is especially useful when you’re traveling or in unfamiliar situation where you aren’t sure what food will be available. This way you won’t feel pressured to skip meals or feel obligated to make a less than ideal choice about what you’re eating.
Of course, healthy snacks are still food, so be mindful of how much you’re eating, but listen to your body so you nourish it when it’s hungry.
4. Make time for movement you enjoy
What kind of movement gets you excited, relaxes you, or makes you feel good? Walking? Running? Lifting? Dancing? Cycling? Gardening? Yoga? HIIT? Do you like to workout with videos or at the gym? Do you prefer to exercise alone or with a group?
Whatever you choose, it’s important to do some form of movement with intention every day. Just make sure to be mindful of your form, and listen to yourself if you need to slow down or do something different – we don’t want you to get hurt!
5. Take advantage of micro-moments
We don’t always have an hour to dedicate to a full workout, but there are plenty of small moments during the day where we can choose intentional movement. Maybe that’s walking around in between tasks or during a conference call, or taking five minute breaks to do some stretching/sit-ups/pushups. There are plenty of ways to exercise no matter where you are. Personally, I like to fill my downtime with extra walking while at airports, downtown, when thinking, or on audio calls.
6. Check in with your posture, tension, and breathing
Look carefully at your desk/work setup, and check everything for good ergonomics – how are your shoulders, neck, wrists, body, eyes doing? If we have to spend the majority of our time at a desk, our furniture shouldn’t be hurting us.
It’s also useful to learn stretching and relaxation techniques to counter the hunched posture and tension we carry in those muscles. Deep breathing exercises, stretches, and self-massage can be very useful to release stiffness in the forehead, jaw, shoulders, etc.
7. Get comfortable being uncomfortable
Though the overall attitude towrd physical and mental health in the tech and creative industries is starting to shift, we are still going against the grain. As entrepreneurs, we are familiar with saying no to clients or requests that are not a good fit in order to keep our business on our chosen path. Similarly, we have to become confident in saying no to activities/foods/etc that are not a good fit for our health and fitness goals.
It’s perfectly ok to decline or ask for modifications to something: substituting food with healthier options, or leaving out ingredients, or asking for an alternate menu, or not having an alcoholic drink at happy hour, or going to bed early, or requesting time to take standing breaks at a long meeting.
8. Practice gratitude
Gratitude and mindfulness are great ways to combat anxiety and help your mental health. I’ve gotten in the habit of sharing three things I am grateful for every morning. Any time you can get in the habit of checking back in with where you are now, it can help to center your mind in the present moment.
9. Embrace your choices
Every moment is a choice, which means nothing should be moralized as “good” or “bad.” We should all have the flexibility for celebration, joy, indulgence, and fun as part of a healthy lifestyle. The difference in my opinion between healthy and unhealthy behavior is not what any particular food is, for example, but whether it is mindless consumption or an intentional choice. If you purposely choose something, fully enjoy it without the shame! Guilt isn’t helpful and only makes anxiety and stress worse.
10. Wellness is not a specific number
I know that as a Type A tech geek, I’m all about statistics, gamification, logging, and tracking. My life is surrounded with numbers, and the numbers are very interesting data. How many of us have a Fitbit or Apple Watch? How many of us log our bike rides, our calories, our steps? These numbers can help us learn a lot about ourselves, and accomplish some specific athletic goals.
But your health and well-being cannot be boiled down to a number. Not body weight, inches, pounds lifted, miles run, circles closed, steps taken, medals won, stars achieved, or any other way we try to quantify our success. Health and athletic achievement, health and BMI, health and weight, they are not the same.
Wellness is holistic, and it includes the state of our mind as well as our body. And wellness looks different to every person – after all, my goals are not your goals, and we shouldn’t try to compare each other.
Bonus tip: SLEEP MORE
I totally get it. I suck at this. But if you have the opportunity, take it when you can. Lack of sleep should always be the temporary exception (the final sprint towards a deadline, a last-minute task, a single night out with friends) rather than the rule.