New Year’s resolutions: remember those?
Every January, you resolve to be fitter, more present, better. But perhaps life has gotten in the way. More pressures at work, not enough time to go to the gym, and ongoing demands from family and friends can stress us out. You feel it and so do we.
That’s why we invited Angela Leigh, a wellness coach and Aaptiv’s senior director of fitness and talent, to our office recently to help us stay focused and keep our momentum going.
Leading mobile fitness app Aaptiv is a part of Haven Life Plus, a suite of no-cost or discounted services available to eligible Haven Term policyholders . Angela wowed us with her nutrition tips during Haven Life Wellness Day last year, and we brought her back for guidance on how to make this year even better.
“Whatever our decisions are, it’s not necessarily the end goal that we’re really chasing. It’s the process itself,” Angela says. “What if it was about simply showing up and loving the process and the experience, and knowing that [the process] will always trump the outcome?”
Angela offered us more than encouraging words. She gave us a framework for how to evaluate our health holistically.
She sees health as five spokes in a wheel, a holistic model for a balanced life. “If one spoke is off, you can tell which ones are going well and the others that aren’t. It’s finding this balance where they all start to kind of connect to each other.”
Here are Angela’s five spokes on holistic health wheel, and her tips for how to optimize each one so you can find your balance and go as fast you want:
The first spoke in the wheel is movement. Do you move your body day in and day out? If so, how much? And do you have specific goals and systems that hold you accountable?
Movement comes down to simple choices, Angela says. “What you do every day is quite literally a reflection of your priorities, and you just have to take a look at that,” she says.
In practice, that means taking the stairs over the elevator. It’s getting up from your office chair regularly. It’s committing to an exercise routine that you can sustain throughout the year. It’s asking your friend or partner to work out with you or check in with you about your exercise goals, and setting goals that are appropriate for all ages and skill levels.
It’s using the little chunks of time you have throughout the day to, well, move.
Angela advises us to take a more thoughtful approach to food by trying to understand what happens to our bodies when we’re hungry.
“You’ve probably heard eat small meals, six times a day, eat every hour, eat X amount of protein, blah, blah, blah. That’s what it sounds like to me, blah, blah, blah,” she says. “At the end of the day, [you should] eat when you’re hungry,” she says.
Intermittent fasting—basically, not eating during certain hours of the day—is one tool she uses to understand her reactions to food and reassess her relationship with it.
“I personally don’t subscribe to a yes-no policy in terms of food because I think that alone starts to create some really uncomfortable experiences in our brain,” Angela says. “The idea of moderation is really smart. To me, the word is just balance, to be able to balance your nutrition in your life.”
“As humans, we’re created to quite literally find our food and go to sleep,” Angela says.
That’s why it is essential to prioritize rest and regeneration when trying to improve your overall wellness. If you’re struggling to do that, one big roadblock might be stress. “Stress leads to lack of sleep, and lack of sleep brings all the things that are really difficult to come back from health-wise,” she says.
Determine what triggers your stress, and develop strategies for how to avoid those triggers and manage the stress. “If you’re able to identify who and what stresses you out, you will be in a much better place with your health moving forward,” she says.
As with movement, focus on using your time more efficiently to develop and maintain meaningful relationships. For example, Angela says that on her way to Haven Life’s office, she could have called a friend. Instead, like many of us, she scrolled through social media, instead of relying on her IRL social networks. “I could have connected to the relationship part of the wheel and I didn’t,” she says.
She suggests keeping a log of your time for a week and seeing how much time you devote to relationships—and to the other four spokes of the wellness wheel—to get a sense of where you can improve.
“Playfulness is a spoke on the wheel that a lot of people might not talk about in the health world,” Angela says, but it’s vital to do the things that make your life enjoyable. To put it another way: If you feel like you’re living to work, instead of working to live, you may need to take more time for play.
Angela advises asking yourself “what can you do, maybe not every day, but multiple times a week, that brings you joy, that gives you that really jovial, exuberant excitement and makes you feel alive.”
Putting it all together
Angela’s insights into the five spokes of the health wheel gave us a structure to evaluate our own habits to make our lives less hard. But it left many of us asking: How do we get all five spokes working together?
“I love this question,” she replied.
“You don’t all the time, and that’s just knowing that it’s not always going to be ideal. As this process comes together, it’s just finding an even blend and knowing a little give and a little go, a little give, a little go. I’m going to give a little bit when it comes to this, I’m going to go hard when it comes to this, but I’m going to have a really great healthy mindset about it all.”
About Tom Anderson
Tom Anderson is an award-winning financial journalist whose work has appeared in CNBC.com, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Money, Monocle and Wired. He was a 2008-09 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economics and Business Journalism at Columbia University.
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