Be Balanced! Smart habits to get off the fast lane and improve your health this summer

Summer is a wonderful time to bring balance and perspective to life – especially if you’ve been using all your emotional and physical reserves to push through a busy spring of balancing career with graduations, concerts, weddings and other commitments.

Today, there are many medical studies that show our biography becomes our biology. In other words, how we think and live directly affects our physical self, emotional well-being, relationships and overall success at work. When we’re out of balance, our resilience can be lowered right down to the cellular level – aging us and reducing our general immunity.

This summer, put yourself at the top of your to-do list. With a few new habits, you’ll have the power to get off the fast lane, make a difference in your work life and have more energy to enjoy the summer. As they say, “In habit lies destiny!” Here are some suggestions to consider:

Create calm. Summer can be the perfect time to reclaim your calm. Research shows that when people enjoy the simple practice of getting out of the noise, to focus and be still, they experience very practical, physiological effects – such as lowered blood pressure, calmed brain waves, a boosted immune system, and enhanced clarity and creativity. There are many ways to create calm in your life:

Schedule regular time for reading, reflection and prayer first thing in the morning or every evening before going to bed. Schedule an occasional massage. Spend time out in nature. Make sure to connect each day on a meaningful level with someone you love.

To be successful, however, you’ll need a solid strategy and a strong commitment to creating calm. Consider scheduling “Be Still Time” into your calendar to get this habit started. By setting aside regular time for calm – just like your morning coffee or tea – it will become second nature.

Rethink your digital life. Have you ever asked yourself: Why don’t I have time to think? Our computers, smart phones, iPads and other digital devices are miraculous at connecting us to the world, but research is showing these conveniences come at a great cost – to depth of communication, creative problem solving, and overall peace of mind.

Author William Powers, in Hamlet’s Blackberry, provides a compelling argument for consciously taking some time off from our devices. To escape the chaos of digital life, he suggests scheduling time DAILY to be “disconnected from devices”. For example:

Turn off your cell phone at 8 p.m., take a walk in nature without your phone, stay out of your home office after 7 p.m, or have a disconnected party where all devices are confiscated at the door!

Make lean-body food choices. The summer is a perfect time to create new lean-body food habits. Make sure to get rid of any junk food around the house and avoid food traps at the office – such as vending machines, donut trays, power lunches and candy jars. If all you have around are healthy foods, then you’re forced to make smart choices. Stock your kitchen and office with lean-body meals and snacks, such as:

Cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, yogurt, nuts, eggs, nut butters, salsa, avocados, whole grain wraps and breads, fruits, veggies, beans, white meats and fish, protein shakes, and even a little dark chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth with an antioxidant-rich treat.

It’s also critical to drink plenty of water during the day. Finally, limit caffeine. Consuming too much caffeine can overtax your adrenal glands and leach the delicate balance of vitamins, minerals and electrolytes out of your body, contributing to your body’s stress load. Make healthy eating a habit, so that by the time fall rolls around and the holidays begin, you’ve already got a strategy to stay lean and healthy!

Get moving. Exercise heightens your sense of well-being, improves your mood, reduces stress and allows you to sleep better. The summer is the perfect time to build in a daily exercise program and other physical activities that continue burning more calories during the day. Remember to put your exercise routine in your calendar and show up like you’re going to an important meeting! In addition to a regular workout routine, here are some examples how to keep moving during the day:

Park at the far end of the mall lot. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Schedule a walk during lunch, or start a walking group in your office. Use a fitness ball as a chair to keep your core muscles engaged all day. Practice isometric movements while you’re talking on the phone or reading emails. And, consider interval training or plyometric exercises, like the P90(X) program, to ratchet up your cardio intensity with intermittent bursts to help you burn more calories in a short period of time and boost your metabolism longer after your workout.

Plan your dream career, promotion or community legacy. If work is leaving you overwhelmed and uninspired, it might be time to make a career change or plan a new purpose-filled direction. More and more people are moving away from conventional careers to pursuits they find more personally rewarding or in alignment with their values, from starting a new business, to writing a book or creating a non-profit.

This summer, take some time to find out how you were uniquely purposed. By increasing our self awareness, we make better decisions about work, our charitable pursuits and overall life direction. Self knowledge also brings insights that benefit your significant relationships as well. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Take a career assessment, such as the Strong Interest Inventory. Complete a StrengthsFinder. Join a LifeKeys class at a local church. Read a book on success principles. Create a vision and a life plan to achieve personal and professional dreams. Use a journal to record your insights. Finally, connect with a mentor or a coach to help you create a plan and keep you accountable.

By re-establishing a relationship with yourself, you’ll come to see the unique blend of your gifts, strengths, personality style, values, leadership abilities, goals, spiritual gifts, and life purpose. With this kind of clarity, you’ll have the right information to make the best decisions about your career – and your life!

Laugh more. Laughter has been proven to release a variety of immune-enhancing chemicals. Look for ways to be more creative and fun during the day. For example:

Take time for spontaneous activities. Lighten up and avoid undue seriousness. Practice an attitude of gratitude. Choose a humorous phrase or one-liner from your favorite comedy that helps keep things in perspective. Watch a funny movie before bed. Read the comics before work. Tell a joke. If you’ve had a bad day, once you get home make some nasty grimaces in your bathroom mirror, then take a shower to wash off all your seriousness.

Achieving a healthy work/life balance takes some analyzing, planning and contemplation. But change starts only when you take that first step. Even a small step is important, because small changes, practiced consistently, transform great ideas into dramatic results. So put yourself at the top of your to-do list this summer and create some success habits that can help you lead a more fulfilling life while accomplishing your goals more effectively.

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