How to Start a Healthy Lifestyle

Vegetables and chopping board on a chrome counter
Fruit and vegetables on the kitchen counter. (Image: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Lightwavemedia/Getty Images)

Establishing a healthy lifestyle is a common goal, but it's not always clear where to begin. The first step is to believe you can make any change you want. Then start making small adjustments in diet, outlook and exercise, and you're on the way to a healthy lifestyle.

Aim for Good Nutrition, One Step at a Time

Good nutrition can form the base of a healthy lifestyle. It's not always easy to change dietary habits, but starting slow and setting small, attainable goals can help make the transition less overwhelming. Start stocking your fridge with healthy choices, one at a time if you need to. Over time, eating healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, lean meats and whole grains will become second nature. As you stock your fridge with these foods, slowly remove junk foods like candy, soda and cookies.

Examine Habits and Set Goals

Along with dietary habits, examine your other lifestyle choices. If you smoke, use drugs or overindulge in alcohol, cut back or quit. Join a support group if you need to, or visit your doctor about tools that can help you quit. Make short-term goals, like "I am going to go 10 minutes longer between each cigarette." With each goal attained, be proud of yourself. You may even want to reward yourself with a new outfit, massage or other healthy indulgence.

Address Stress

Sometimes stress and unhealthy habits go hand in hand, and stress can take its toll. The American Institute of Stress lists dozens of stress symptoms, including sleep problems, headaches and depression. Everyone has some stress, but if it's taking over your life, consider visiting a counselor who can help you cope with issues. Explore stress-relieving techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, guided imagery, self-hypnosis or keeping a journal to release your stressful thoughts.

Get Hooked on Exercise

Start incorporating exercise into your routine, and aim for at least 30 minutes a day. Exercise not only burns calories and fat while building muscle and bone strength, it releases "feel good" chemicals in your brain, making you want more. Exercise can reduce stress, boost your energy level, strengthen your immune system and slash the risk of many diseases including heart disease, stroke and several chronic illnesses. Start by walking just 10 minutes a day and continue to increase the duration and intensity of your exercise sessions.

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