The Lifestyle Factors You Need to Prioritize in 2024
For a lot of people out there, January is a time of new beginnings. I personally, never understood it myself, but when you’ve been in the health & fitness industry for as long as I have, you undoubtedly get used to the New Years Resolution brigade coming out in full force at the beginning of January. People from all walks of life with the best of intentions to make new lifestyle changes in their attempts to become a better version of themselves.
No doubt the most common of these changes is to ‘lose weight’ or ‘get in shape’ in one way or another. This typically manifests itself in the form of a new exercise regiment and/or a new diet and is evident in the rush of people we see in fitness facilities those first few weeks of January. Unfortunately, we also know that this drastically drops off as the year goes on.
This article is not about diet and exercise. Let’s be blunt – we all know we should be exercising, and we all know we should be eating a robust, healthful whole food diet. I am not going to waste your time by telling you to do that. Instead, this article is going to focus on other lifestyle factors you can focus on to not only enhance your health and wellbeing, but also lend itself to letting those diet and exercise efforts stick around for the long haul.
Sleep is the ultimate human superpower. Unfortunately today, sleep is one of the first things we skip out on as life starts to happen. This problem has only been worsened with the prevalence of screens in our everyday life. The stimulation of TV, phones, laptops, and tablets as we stream, play games, etc., suppresses our body’s circadian rhythms that preps our system for sleep.
Sleep is the time in which our body ‘resets’ itself. It purges itself of all the damage and stress it accumulated over the course of the day – physically, mentally, and emotionally. We are subject to tremendous stress in our lives today and when we cut our rest short, we dwarf our body’s ability to handle and detox the effects of that stress. Slowly over time these by products will accumulate and there will be a gradual deterioration of health as a result.
To help focus and prioritize your sleep this year, I want you to implement the 3-2-1 Rule.
3 Hours Before Bed: No Work
2 Hours Before Bed: No Food or Water
1 Hour Before Bed: No Screens
This might sound insane but trust me – if you implement it and let it take root, you will never go back. The positive impact this simple routine can have on your sleep, energy, mood and wellbeing is a GAMECHANGER.
Just to clarify, ‘before bed’ means before you climb into bed. It doesn’t necessarily mean shutting your eyes. You should be climbing into bed at least 30 minutes before you want to actually be sleeping. This allows for time to read, relax, settle in, talk to your spouse (or extracurricular activity ;) ), and actually fall asleep.
NEAT stands for Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. It is essentially a fancy way of saying you need to be active outside of the gym. As I said before, we all know we should be exercising at least 3-5 hours per week, 45-60 minutes per day. However, there are 24 hours in a day – 168 hours in a week. If you exercised an hour per day, Monday through Friday, that is only 3% of your entire week that you were active. If you are a couch potato the other 97% of your week, it is going to be difficult for you to realize your healthiest body.
My favorite way to increase NEAT is by walking. Without a doubt, walking is one of the most underrated and important things we as humans can do for our overall health and fitness. In order to utilize it to its fullest power, we must stop looking at it as a form of exercise. Walking isn’t exercise – it is called being human. Humans are meant to walk – a lot. A healthy human being is capable of walking extremely long distances. If it is difficult for you, then you have strayed down a worrisome path and you need to turn around ASAP.
Go for a walk every morning. Park in the back of parking lots. Take the stairs whenever possible. Go for short walks after you eat. These seem like little insignificant things – but that is when they are looked at in isolation. Add up those short walks at the end of the week, the month, the year! It accumulates to make a huge difference and your body will thrive because of it.
I know that meditation has been jammed our throats for what seems like forever. It seems like every successful person and every self-help routine/program out there speaks of meditation like it’s the end-all be-all. I have tried many times to no avail. However, there is something to be said for being able to be still and be with yourself.
My issue with traditional meditation is just that – I tried to make it look like meditation. I would sit down on the floor with my legs crossed and my eyes closed. But unless you’re training to become a monk, I don’t think your meditation has to look like that.
A big shift I made that helped was instead of looking at it as meditation – just look at it as YOU time. Time with just yourself. Without the distractions of TV, cell phones, social media, etc. Be alone with your thoughts and provide an environment for self-reflection.
This could also look like journaling if you choose to go that route as some people find tremendous benefit in writing. Some of the most successful and impactful men in our nation’s history kept journals. For me, sometimes this time is spent reading and reflecting on the Bible. Reading and learning scripture allow me to reflect on myself and my life in ways that I wouldn’t be able to otherwise and allows me to grow spiritually at the same time.
At the end of the day, you just need to find a way that works for you. It’s a time for you to get to know yourself and grow with yourself. Learn from yourself and listen to yourself. You may be shocked at how much you learn about yourself when you spend intentional time with no distractions. This new knowledge of yourself becomes invaluable when moving forward with the rest of your day and allows you to be in a better position to succeed in any endeavor you choose to pursue.
2024 is ours! Let's get it...