Summer has always been the best time to make major changes to your health, but how often do you really follow through with those little improvements after Labor Day? Whether you’ve started going for runs every morning, eating healthier at home, or drinking less alcohol, you’ve likely seen some pretty nice changes in yourself by the end of the summer.
These are especially true for college students who go back home for a few months. It’s much easier to take care of yourself without the temptations of the Chick Fil A on campus, or skipping workouts because you have early classes or stayed out too late the night before (until you’re so out of shape that you stop working out at all). By the end of the summer, you feel lighter, happier, and healthier — wouldn’t it be nice to keep those positive benefits going throughout the colder months of the year?
But inevitably, you fall right back into old habits once you return to school. Slowly but surely you go back to feeling tired, unhealthy, and maybe even unhappy. While it’s hard to give up those bad habits, and you may fall back into that routine, there are certain changes you can make to help yourself stay happy and healthy. Breaking habits or completely cutting certain things from your diet can be difficult during a stressful semester, but creating new, good habits doesn’t have to be an impossible challenge.
In fact, just making a few good changes can create a domino effect, causing you to make better choices in all areas of your life. Exercising regularly will lead you to drink more water, sleep better, choose healthier foods so you don’t negate your workout or slow yourself down during your next one, and maybe even avoid drinking because of the extra, empty calories it carries.
Here are a few easy ways to keep yourself healthier this fall:
1. Drink Water
This is always the number-one recommendation for weight loss and health improvement — and that’s because it’s true. It’s easy to remember to drink water when you’ve been sweating outside all day in the summer. Water hydrates your body in ways that soda, iced tea, and iced coffee can’t, but why don’t we remember that in the winter?
When you aren’t constantly sweating and you are under more stress, you may not reach for water if you can instead have coffee or sugary drinks. Long days and added stress from classes, jobs, and other obligations can trick you into thinking that caffeinated drinks are the best way to keep you moving — but try to remember how much better you feel after a glass or water in comparison to a soda. If you start to make a mental note of how each drink makes you feel, it will be easier to say no to your third cup of coffee, and yes to water.
2. Eat Out Less
One of the biggest things I struggled with in college was eating out too often. Whether I was too tired to cook, too lazy to go to the store, or eating out was an excuse to see my friends, I was spending entirely too much money on food. And the only thing worse than how expensive it is to eat out is the lack of healthy choices available.
If you find yourself eating out too often, make an effort to learn to cook simple recipes that you actually enjoy eating and are not too time-consuming to fit into your schedule. Cooking your own meals can save thousands of calories per week, and keep your body in much better shape. Even if you don’t have time to work out, your diet will help keep you healthier.
3. Simple, At-Home Workouts
If you tend to be the type of person who only finds the time and motivation to work out during the summer, or absolutely hates going to the gym, you don’t have to skip exercising altogether. There are hundreds of videos and workout plans available online that require less than 30 minutes and can be done in your apartment or dorm room.
Incorporating a little yoga, planks, stretches, or ab workouts into your daily routine will make a big difference in your appearance and overall health. Choosing to get a few minutes of exercise in between studying and classes, after work, or even before you get ready in the morning is enough. Plus, if you walk to class or work and always choose to take the stairs over the elevator, you can guarantee that you are moving a little bit a day.
None of these options are as effective as running regularly or spending hours at the gym, but they are much better than skipping workouts all together!
Some Thoughts On Mindfulness & Purpose
The best way to keep yourself active, healthy, and happy all year is to pay attention to the way you feel when you are actively taking care of your health. When you know what a difference trading soda for water makes, or walking to class instead of driving, you will actively begin to make better choices to improve your health. If you concentrate on the feedback that your body gives you, whether that be through your energy level, appearance, or mood, you will learn how to keep yourself feeling your best.
These tips may all seem counter to our natural tendencies in fall and winter, but sometimes it helps to be reminded of them and put them in perspective. When you decide to eat healthier, work out more, or drink more water because you have a specific goal in mind, like losing weight, you might be more likely to fall back to old unhealthy habits when you don’t see quick results. It’s important to have a purpose behind making these changes that goes beyond wanting to drop a size or look better. If you are working towards getting healthier because it will make you feel happier and more confident, that is much more effective than competing against yourself.
(Plus, all of these small changes can even save you money in the long run — when you eat out less, spend less money on coffee, and don’t need to buy new clothes.)
Morgan is a freelance writer and photographer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image via Unsplash