How to establish positive habits like exercise, good nutrition and sleep. Top tips from an experienced physiotherapist
You are not alone
Ever tried to make positive lifestyle choices like doing more exercise, eating more healthily, or getting to bed earlier but not quite managed to achieve what you set out to do? You are not alone, most of us find making positive lifestyle changes really challenging, irrespective of how much we want to make the changes.
For twenty years as a physiotherapist, I have helped hundreds of people create positive lifestyle habits. I do this by giving them the skills and knowledge to make these changes. It is an absolute privilege to be part of their transition from a place of pain, frustration, fatigue, weakness, anxiety, and/or depression to a place of health, vitality, contentment, and fulfillment.
In this article, I will share my top tips on how to make positive lifestyle choices, whether you are recovering from persistent pain, training for a marathon, or just want to live a longer and more fulfilling life.
Why are positive lifestyle habits so important?
We are constantly searching for the magic pill that prolongs life, enables recovery, and reduces pain, injury, disease, and illness. However, we already have the answer to these things. Time and time again research shows that the following things are the holy grail of health:
- Movement and exercise: the more you do the better but start low and build in small increments
- Sleep: routine is key, no screens for two hours before bed, no caffeine or alcohol for a few hours before bed
- Nutrition: lots of veggies, good fats, protein, complex carbohydrates
I explore sleep, nutrition, and other recovery factors in this video. https://www.octopusclinic.com/video-what-can-you-do-to-help-your-body-recover/
- Start with small things for example doing one exercise a day, adding one veggie to your meals each day, or reading one paragraph of a book before bed. Make it so small that it is impossible not to complete it even on the lowest of days. Picture yourself on your most unmotivated day – what would you do still be able to on this day?
- Give yourself the flexibility to do more but the permission to go back to the base level whenever you want to but make sure you do something.
- Write down how your goals fit with your values and your purpose. If you are not sure what your key values are I would recommend Brene Brown’s work on this. For example, if your top two values are love and family make direct links as to why making your lifestyle changes reflects these values.
- Make it pleasurable or fun. If you are trying to reduce an unhealthy habit, work out why you do it and replace it with something that gives you similar pleasure.
- Create links with pleasurable activities and your positive lifestyle activity. For example, only ever listen to your favorite funny podcast when you go for a run, only watch your favorite TV drama when you eat something healthy.
- Be accountable to others. Get a friend or colleague involved so you can compare notes and be accountable to each other.
- Tag new habits onto established ones. For example, pick up your book as soon as you have finished cleaning your teeth at night, go for a run as soon as you have got back from work, eat something healthy with your morning coffee.
- Write down your plans – what time will you do it, where will you do it.
- Visualize your plans – how will you feel before you do it, how will you feel after doing it?
- Create prompts – leave your trainers out where you will not be able to ignore them, get a regular veggie delivery.
- Create a chart and tick every time you make a positive lifestyle choice.
- Celebrate every small achievement – cheer yourself out loud, tell people about it, tell yourself you are great, just like you would a friend or loved one.
- Remove temptations – don’t keep unhealthy food in the cupboard, get someone to hide the remote control if you want to watch less TV.
- Look after your mental health – meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques surround yourself with people who make you feel good, do things that make you laugh.
Reading on the topic
- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
- Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg
- Mini Habits by Stephen Guise
- Join us on social media to watch videos like this one on how to prevent injuries, this one on the best exercises for runners and this one on all the things you can do to help your body recover.
- Ask us any injury or training questions at our weekly Physio Live Q&A sessions on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. If you can’t make it you can send questions in advance and watch the playback. To join our weekly Q&A sessions on Facebook just find the page ‘Octopus Clinic’ and click on the follow button.
- Check out our library of free exercises, stretches, and foam rolling videos on this website
- Book an appointment with our experts. Thanks to modern technology, irrespective of where you are in the world you can still benefit from our expertise and book a video consultation. You can read some of the hundreds of passionate five-star reviews about how effective our video consultations are and what they involve. They are covered by most medical insurance like Bupa or AxaPPP or you can make the most of our highly discounted treatment packages.
Get in touch
To book a video consultation or face-to-face appointment in London please email email@example.com call 02075838288 or book online here.