Hitting a milestone of 50 years or older can spark renewed attention to personal health goals, along with the recognition that there’s much more to a healthy lifestyle than diet and exercise. What is (or is not) consumed, along with activity (or lack thereof) and how we practice a peaceful existence form the connections to our goal of achieving a healthy lifestyle balance.
Healthy lifestyle goals
The process of achieving and sustaining a healthy lifestyle is not a momentary goal but a continuous state of mind that we must practice. Normal weight and a strong body and mind help us to enjoy all that life has to offer. But where does one start? Think of it this way: Never start a diet to lose weight; start a nutrition, exercise, and mindfulness plan to gain a healthy lifestyle.
Healthy lifestyle actions
Research has shown that although nurses have knowledge regarding healthy lifestyle, knowledge doesn’t always translate into self-care. As a first step, set your healthy lifestyle goal(s) and consider these actions to include in your healthy lifestyle plan:
• Join Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ (HNHN) Grand Challenge of 3.6 million RNs leading the nation’s journey to better health (www.healthy nursehealthynation.org, see The Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation Grand Challenge).
• Set five goals adapted from the Nurses Living Fit™ research study:
Goal 1: Get 15,000 steps daily. Invest in a device that monitors your steps. Test yourself and see if this equation works for you: More steps = more activity; more activity = more energy!
Goal 2: Practice yoga weekly. If new to yoga, find a local yoga studio to learn the basics before joining yoga classes that don’t focus on variances in yoga practices for beginners.
Practice mindful food and drink consumption. Consume foods that are healthy and natural. Avoid foods that are processed, and high in salt, fat or sugar. Practice mindfulness of portion sizes; portion distortion = body distortion; big portions = big bodies. (See the portion distortion page on the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website.)
Goal 4: Drink water. Be mindful when you’re thirsty—your body is asking for water, not soda or juice. Don’t mistake thirst for hunger.
Goal 5: Be in bed at least 8 hours before you have to get up. Sleep matters. If you can’t sleep, meditate. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re hungry when you’re really just tired.
• Study meditation, relaxation, and stress management techniques. When you’re not sure where to begin, simply observe and catalog your life stressors. Instead of reacting to stressors, observe their frequency and effect on your body and mood. Trends may emerge over time and stress-related triggers may become more predictable. For those you can identify, evaluate how to best mitigate the stressors before they occur again.
• Evaluate workplace stress. Talk to a trusted mentor, review the literature, and study how to best manage stressors while practicing patience, civility, and compassion. Talk with your nursing leaders, human resource professionals, and fellow nurses about how to implement best practices for a healthy work environment in your setting. The literature is rich in improvement opportunities for stress management, healthy workplace foods/nutrition programs, exercise options, healthy lifestyle coaching, and health related events for both employees and the community.
Nurses working together for positive change can lead the way, one nurse at a time, for healthy nurses and a healthy nation! Ideally, you, your nursing career, the profession, and your patients will benefit when you meet healthy lifestyle goals.
Karen Gabel Speroni is an independent nursing research scientist consultant and a consultant and educator for ANA Nursing Knowledge Center.
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Speroni KG, Earley C, Seibert D, et al. (2012). Effect of Nurses Living Fit™ Exercise and nutrition intervention on body mass index in nurses. J Nurs Adm. 2012;42(4):231-8.