How to Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle? Challenges and Solutions

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle in a fast-paced society like that of today is a challenge. Growing markets, emerging trends, and technologies, a surplus of fast-food joints, and a lack of time all contribute to a society where knowledge does little to affect people’s actions and choices about health and fitness. We all see hundreds and hundreds of articles, videos, infomercials, and public service messages about maintaining a healthy lifestyle to know better. Yet about two-thirds of the US population is above the normal Body-mass Index (BMI) range. Therefore, it is our understanding that lack of motivation is a bigger contributor to an unhealthy lifestyle than ignorance. Moreover, when we talk about maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we do not mean the necessary struggles that come along with it, such as managing time, keeping yourself motivated, avoiding slack and negatively influential social factors, etc. Do not get my point? Let’s do an exercise. Following is a list of healthy lifestyle habits (dos and don’ts) and I am willing to bet that every reader of this article knows at least four out of five of these dos and don’ts. Let’s start.

  • Choosing Macronutrients: Increasing the portion of proteins and decreasing complex carbohydrates and fats.
  •  Avoiding Processed Foods: Eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Organic, unprocessed foods are healthier than processed foods.
  •  At least 30-40 min of activity daily: Activity improves metabolism, burns calories, and improves cardiovascular health.
  •  Avoiding Alcohol, smoking, and drugs: Alcohol affects the liver, is high in calorie count, and blocks the absorption of healthy nutrients. Smoking is a leading cause of Lung cancer, and cardiovascular disease including stroke and Myocardia Infarction, and causes gangrene and poor wound healing due to vasculitis. Other banned drugs and controlled substances have a direct effect on the nervous system and tend to be highly addictive.
  •  Promote Safer Sex: Safe sex using preventive measures and protection can determine the quality of your sexual health. Sex health plays a vital role in the overall health of an individual.
  •  Promote Preventive care: “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.” Using pre-exposure prophylaxis, avoiding contaminants and sources of microbes, and using preventive devices can help us check the disease process in its tracks.
  •  Take medication seriously: Do not over- or under-dose. Use antibiotics, steroids, and controlled substances with caution. Consult your physician before starting or changing your medication.
  •  Drink Safe Water: Drinking water to keep yourself hydrated is important. Make sure that the water you are drinking is from a safe, uncontaminated source and has been treated for microbes and chemicals.
  •  Promote Mental Health: Promote your mental health and that of others by maintaining safe work and home environments. Do not hesitate to seek professional help if in doubt about your mental health or that of others.
  •  Maintain good hygiene: Wash your hands properly. Take baths regularly and maintain oral hygiene. Visit a dentist frequently. Keep note of your skin conditions and seek medical help if needed.
  •  Stay out of Accidents: Observe traffic laws and be mindful of your surroundings to avoid accidental injury.
  •  Cut down screen time: It is the 21st century Afterall. Screen time comes with its benefits and flaws. Increased screen times possess a risk of sight and behavioral problems.

Now that we have gone through the list, ready to take the next step. Because as already discussed, lack of knowledge is not the reason in today’s world for bad health outcomes. The above-mentioned list is no different than those mentioned on hundreds of other blogs and websites. We know to eat well but do not. We know better to exercise, but we cannot find the time or the energy to do it. We are mindful of the necessity to prevent diseases, avoid accidents, and promote safe sex and mental health, but we cannot seem to take our eyes off our screens while walking on the side of the road.

I started my health and fitness journey six months ago. Before that, I had six consistently unmotivated years of bad health and lifestyle choices. These were the six initial years of my professional life. Every time I joined a gym plan, or started a diet, I had trouble maintaining it. I would find myself back on junk foods and crazy twelve to fourteen hours work schedule and poor sleep quality. Last year, I would find it difficult to climb two flights of stairs in one go. But these past six months proved to be the first consistent period for my fitness journey. Sounding too much like an advertisement? That is just because I wanted to let you know that I am coming from experience. I assure you there is no demand for a signup or a subscription coming.

Coming back to the topic, what defines our lifestyle choices? What makes or breaks our habits? What should we consider an ideal solution be? But before answering any of these questions, we have to consider the need for a healthy lifestyle.

Latest physical health statistics in the United States

As discussed earlier, today’s world is a fast-paced one. In this fast-paced world, our habits and lifestyle choices have led us to have progressively worsening physical health.

Forming healthy habits and maintaining them

The reason that most of us cannot form or maintain healthy habits is not a flaw in character or genetics. Most of us seem to fall into bad habits easily. This is due to a process called positive reinforcement. In simpler forms, positive reinforcement is a phenomenon where any action leads to an immediate good feeling and triggers the “reward centers” of our brain. Most bad habits like watching movies, drinking, smoking, and eating junk food give an immediate positive reinforcement in the shape of happy hormones like dopamine and serotonin or artificial substances like nicotine and ethanol. That is why these habits are addictive and we cannot seem to shake them off. Getting a surge of unearned dopamine or serotonin is the reason for the other contributing factor to an unhealthy lifestyle as it leads to a formation of a vicious cycle, where we seek more and more habits with immediate positive reinforcement, which lead to further craving.

All habits are not the same. Though any behavior can indeed be turned into a habit, most bad habits are formed easily due to their immediate positive reinforcement effect. While we search to find positive reinforcements in good habits, it is essential to neutralize this effect in bad habits. One way to do that is to be conscious of this phenomenon. Once we actively start being in a mental state of awareness towards the effect of positive reinforcement, we can break the link between action and resulting reward. For example, smoking a cigarette results in an immediate buildup of nicotine in the blood. To counteract this effect, people quitting smoking are offered nicotine sources other than smoking such as nicotine gums and patches. The end goal is to break the connection between a bad habit and the reward. Similarly, people eating junk food and gaining weight are encouraged to engage in cardiovascular exercise to counteract the cravings for exogenous glucose by releasing glucose in the blood through gluconeogenesis.

Lastly, replacing a bad habit with a good one is a crucial step in the process of forming a healthy lifestyle. Once we convince ourselves to get rid of the “cheap dopamine” that we get from bad habits, we can begin building healthier habits and get the resulting “good feel” by earning happy hormones. Exercise, hard work that ends in achieving goals, peaceful sleep, and encouragement of our peers all help us in earning these happy hormones.

Moreover, we need to build more and more healthy habits to form a lifestyle that resists bad habits in the first place. According to Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit, most people do not form good habits because they do not understand the structure of a habit. The structure of a habit includes our brain getting rewarded for that habit. Therefore, in certain instances, we have to actively reward ourselves for a good activity to form it into a habit. And studies have shown that humans are capable of tricking their brains into forming habits that do not lead to immediate rewards but build up certain positive factors in the mind and body to benefit them in the long run. Therefore, if we are keen on forming healthier activities into good habits, we have to incentivize ourselves for those actions, like eating a small portion of a snack after an intense workout.

Once our brain learns to delink the positive reinforcement effect from a bad habit and associate it with a good one, we can turn our actions into habits and habits into a lifestyle. Though it is a conscious activity, over time, it becomes passive like learning how to drive. They say, “It takes 21 days to form a habit, 91 days to form a lifestyle.” Forming good habits takes conscious effort and time, but eventually, they develop into a lifestyle that helps us for our whole life.

Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comment below. Visit our category: Health & Fitness, to read similar articles.

Dr. Muhammad Hussain
Dr. Muhammad Hussain

MD, Entrepeneur & Administrator. Six years of experience, working in the field of clinical care, medical administration, and healthcare business.

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