How to Make Health a Priority

For the first month so far into this new year, I’ve been focusing on intentions rather than goals or resolutions. I don’t have solid goals in minds of what I’d like to accomplish or experience this year, not yet at least. Though lately, I’ve been focusing on ways to improve my health. Usually, it’s in relation to good sleep at night as well as a good flow of energy throughout the day.

There’s many ways to improve health. Sometimes, it’s not even that noticeable, until you stop putting effort into those small healthy habits. I think because I have not been directing my energy into achieving creative goals and such, I’ve been focusing on, “Is this beneficial for my health? If so, is it for the long-term or for the short-term? Which gain do I prefer?”

Sometimes, emotional needs come up. That’s important to address as well, not just brute-forcing through life. (I don’t believe that self-disciplining yourself through everything is the healthiest strategy, anyway.) Here are some ways that I’ve been making health a priority in my life:

1. Your why
Without a strong why, there is no reason to invest in your health. That’s why so many people end up consuming junk, sitting on the couch or lying in bed all day, depriving themselves of sleep, getting into or staying in abusive relationships, and so on. In a weird way though, you may actually care about your health, but be focused on just a single aspect rather than the full picture.

For example, lots of people get into unsatisfactory relationships because they “can’t handle” being alone. In a weird way, they’re trying to maintain a baseline for emotional wellbeing in the short-term. But if they were to evaluate the long-term pros and cons, then they’d realize it’s probably a good idea to end the relationship, maybe even take a break from dating altogether.

My intention to have amazing health isn’t about chasing the next high and getting by with quick relief. It’s about reaping the long-term benefits. What I do today could be helpful (or detrimental) in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 30, 50 years. What would my future self appreciate, given what I did today? What will my Saturday self be grateful for based on what I did on Monday? Those are the kinds of gains I calibrate for.

Sometimes, it is a balancing act. I might have to fulfill something in a short-term and find a better solution for the long-term. For example, if I had a particularly restless night, I might succumb to a nap before tackling an important task or an appointment later in the day. But in the long-term, it’d be best to resolve my overall sleep issues once and for all, meaning avoiding naps and sleeping only at nighttime. (Or, maybe biphasic sleep suits me better, who knows?)

My why consists of:
– Wanting to have good flowing energy throughout the day, to engage in the activities that are most important to me
– Wanting to feel physically strong and flexible
– Having the energy to invest in relationships and good social connections
– Emotional stability
– Self-reliance and independence, not having to burden others
– Having more clarity
– Having the energy to help others
– Being available to do certain activities or events that happen earlier in the day
– Not feeling groggy and crappy all the time
– Feeling good in my physical body

I could go more into detail. For example, with wanting to have a good flow or energy and physical strength/flexibility, I think of dance, yoga, and rock climbing. I’d want to feel good doing those kinds of activities. For having more clarity, I’m mostly thinking mental, knowing what ideas I’d like to pursue and having the energy to execute those ideas.

Sometimes, I catch myself trying to fulfill an emotional need in the short-term. Maybe in the moment, it is fine. But if I wanted to solve the issue permanently, I’d have to dig deeper and address the core issues.

When I stay up later than I intend, I ask myself, “What is my intention right now?” Sometimes, it’s just that I’m distracted, and so I finally put my phone away, throw on my sleeping mask, and fall asleep. Sometimes, I notice my mind racing, or the desire to connect with people. I may decide to read a book and meditate to ease anxiety, before attempting to fall asleep again. Or, I may keep a mental note and then schedule time to socialize with others the next day or throughout the week.

Your why may evolve over time. Mine didn’t happen overnight. And, my priorities in health itself have changed over time. At one point, I was more focused on mental health than any other area. Another time, I was focusing on more of the physical. It’s a balancing act. All aspects of health are important, though there may be one or two that you’re particularly interested in.

I think your why is even more important than other forms of accountability. When you understand your values and your priorities and how amazing health can help you to feel more aligned with those, then you naturally start to make the appropriate changes. It’s like a person who recognizes their self-worth enough to enforce their boundaries.

You can ask yourself, what aspects of health are important to you? How would that translate to the way that you live life? What are some possibilities for you that would open up if you were to prioritize your health? What are small changes that you could look forward to?

2. Saying no
When you start prioritizing your health, you may have to say no to other people’s requests. Maybe you decide that you’re not gonna go out or stay up late socializing when you’re focusing on getting down a good nighttime routine to fall asleep earlier. Or, you decide to say no to eating out because you’re trying to cook healthier meals at home. Whatever it is, you have to be in the right mindset. If you go in thinking, “This new change may upset people or put me in awkward social situations”, then you’re gonna end up compromising, and maybe even returning to old habits.

Think of if one of your friends or family members was making a similar change. Let’s say that they want to spend more time being physically active or going to therapy and such. Would it upset you if they prioritize those other activities over spending time with you? Maybe if you hang out with them, it’d be something like playing a sport rather than drinking or watching a movie. If you prefer drinking and watching movies, would the change upset you? Do you think that’s being a good support? If you could understand when other people are making changes to improve their health, why isn’t it applicable the other way around? Remember, your needs are important. And if you’re not gonna be able to look out for yourself, who is?

There’s a difference between taking care of yourself and exploiting others for your own gain or benefit. It’s okay to say no, when you have your own priorities. It’s your life.

Also, be careful of when you’re using other people as an excuse to not follow through with what you want. If you reason in your head that you “can’t” say no, maybe actually, your why is not that important to you. You may have to go back and re-examine your priorities.

3. Environment is key
If you put yourself in a good environment (or create a good environment), then you will set yourself up for success. Sometimes, it involves creating a system. Sometimes, it involves having the right visual cues. If you set up your environment properly, then you will prime your brain towards those intentions.

If you want to eat healthy at home, it may involve discarding a bunch of junk or having a nice clean space (inside the fridge or on the counters). If you want to work out more at home, it may involve clearing out a space and having your workout equipment ready right there, maybe even having your clothes picked out the night before.

Set up your environment in a way that inspires and influences the wanted behavior. Reduce the amount of resistance as much as possible from your environment. If your house is a huge mess and you’re already not motivated to move/work out, then you may feel even less motivated to care.

A vision board is also a great way to prime your environment for your intentions. I haven’t completed my vision board for this year yet. Last year, I had one posted on my office wall, easily visible. I remember glancing at it a few times, noticing how close I was to achieving certain experiences. A lot of interesting intentions, subconsciously even, came to fruition. This year, I’m going to throw in health intentions such as how I’d want to feel in my body, what I’d like to do physically, and good mental wellbeing.

It’s also about setting aside space for what we’d like to experience. Typically when searching for a new home, we think about rooms such as bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen area, etc. But remember, you can break down those rooms even further. What kind of appliances are in the kitchen that would promote or deter from healthy eating? What if I stuck an air fryer there? What if I took out the microwave? What am I really using my bedroom for that may be disruptive to my sleep? You probably wouldn’t read a book while you’re at an amusement park, right? I mean, you could. But, that’s not what the place is set up for. So, examine your surroundings when thinking about your intentions as well.

4. Satisfaction
For myself, I enjoy going for walks with nice sunlight. Conveniently enough, my phone shows the temperature on the main screen. So typically when I open it and see that it’s around 40º F, I will look into it and plan a walk for that day. That helps me with my intention of becoming more physically active and healthy in general.

If it’s a frigid day, raining, and windy, I’m not going to walk that day. I’m not going to force myself to have a miserable experience. The whole reason I want to experience amazing health is so that I enjoy life, not deprive myself. (That is the “abundant” mindset, if you will.)

If it is not an ideal day to go for a walk, I’ll looking into something else like stretching, yoga, maybe a dance workout. If the gym is open and it’s safe to go (lol, pandemic times), then I’ll see if there’s a class that captures my interest.

There’s no point in forcing yourself to do more physical activity or to engage in healthy eating if you can’t even enjoy it. Find the healthy foods that you already enjoy. Find the sport or activity that you could do all day if you had the energy.

5. Simplicity
Don’t make things more complicated than they have to be. If you’re stuck on which gym to go, just go to the closest one and sign up for a free trial. And if you don’t enjoy it, you can try another gym. If you are looking into home equipment, start with some basics. Don’t obsess about machines when you haven’t even been active.

Same with sneakers or workout clothes. Use what you already have. Yoga doesn’t even require shoes. You could just have a mat. Or, even just do pushups and planks from home. Or, go for a walk in the park. It’s free!

Don’t feel like you need to follow some strict meal plan or workout routine. You can try, but if it has failed you in the past, make it simple. You can start from wherever you’re at. Maybe even start with a single minute, or simple ankle exercises at your desk.

At the beginning of this year, I had decluttered and reorganized my bedroom. There were a lot of random items that I had to let go of and get rid of. I still have a few items that I’d like to get rid of, but I actually managed to completely transform the space. Initially, it started with, “I wish I could actually know where everything is on my dresser.” And then, it became, “Wow, I now have a small space to set up for filming videos, AND read/meditate. Nice!” The intention wasn’t “have the perfect space/bedroom by the end of the month”, but it kind of naturally happened once I started thinking about what I’d like to experience. I wanted to be able to easily locate items and feel relaxed/refreshed. I started small, initially just getting rid of bags or setting up donation piles. And eventually, I built up enough momentum to clear out the space. I grew up as someone quite disorganized and messy too, and that room had been chaotic for a couple of years. So trust me, if I could manage to do this, so could you. Start small and simple.

6. Scheduling time
You could either set up a routine time such as daily or weekly. Or, you could just schedule in time as things come up. For example, I will schedule workout classes into my calendar when I see interesting ones pop up. Or, I will check the weather around noon time to see if I would be up for a walk before dinner.

Meditation, I typically set aside time for in the evenings before bedtime. I also schedule journaling and brain dumping for earlier in my days.

It doesn’t have to be a strict schedule, just something that you set aside time for. If you aren’t willing to set aside time for your priorities, then they’re not going to happen.

For the last quarter of 2021, I did something similar, but for socializing. I set a target of having 2 hangouts with new or different folks each month. Though it was more of a structured quarterly goal, I think it was also helpful and not too intimidating. It felt like something I could easily do, just check in with a few folks and see if they were up for hanging out. Since socializing more frequently was a priority, I made time for it.

Same for health. Set aside time to buy groceries or to think of the meals you’d like to have. Set aside time to schedule routine appointments with doctors.

7. Make it social
Part of the fun is to create experiences that you can share with others. It could be in the form of sharing stories, or engaging in those experiences with others.

There are plenty of ways to do this. You could hire an instructor, engage in an activity with friends/family, or share with others online. Even for solo experiences, I share stories through my blog, YouTube, social media, forums, or friends/family. I guess some people would view this as accountability, but I think more about connection and giving more purpose/meaning to what I’m already doing.

If you for whatever reason find this intimidating, you could ignore this and do it in private. Or, maybe think about the types of people you would be comfortable doing this around. I’ve tried a personal trainer a couple of times, and I didn’t enjoy it at all. But, I don’t mind going to certain workout classes or something not so competitive or outcome-focused. It might involve a bit of trial and error.

These are a few ways I’ve been leaning into prioritizing and intending amazing health. Soon, I will be heading out for a walk, as the weather seems to be nicer today. I’m also going to be doing a bit of journaling (delayed it a bit today!) as well as cooking dinner with the family later.

If any of this sounds foreign to you, trust me, it’s not completely out of your reach. Like I said, I’m not about self-discipline. I’m about doing the things that matter to me with the least resistance as possible. Call me lazy, if you will. 😉 So if you’re skeptical, just give it a try at the very least, and let me know if you hit an obstacle. If it seems too overwhelming, just start with the very first way, figuring out your why.

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