"Health and wellness" is something we all want at some level. But when push comes to shove, it's easy to prioritize everything else over it-work, social time, "down time" in front of the TV or browsing the Internet. The intention is good, but something gets in the way of acting on it.
Of course, in order to actually reap the benefits of our intended health, we need to turn those intentions into actions.
Here's how to prioritize wellness in your daily life:
1. Start with little bits. Yes, you can meditate for two minutes in the morning. It is doable to walk around the block during your lunch hour. Yeah, you are able to fit in five minutes of strength training before dinner. The little bits add up, and that's what's most important and most sustainable.
2. Actually identify your wellness goals and priorities. It's hard to actively work toward something nebulous, or make a priority of something undefined. Set your goal: Seven salads a week; 10,000 steps a day. And then tell a friend, or write your goal on a sticky note and keep it on your desk or your TV (somewhere you'll see it and be reminded of the tangible goal you're working toward). The key is to make your goals/priorities become real, rather than theoretical.
3. Track what you're doing and acknowledge your results. Whether it's a chart on the wall or a Google spreadsheet, the act of tracking your wellness goals and efforts and seeing the work pay off does improve your chances of being successful. Humans are drawn to actions that earn recognition -- even if it's just a star sticker on your chart or the satisfaction of checking off that you've met your weekly goal.
With a tracking system you'll also be able to see what the results are, and affirm the benefit of your efforts (or discover what's not working for you).
4. Build wellness activities into your life and routine. Put a sticky note on the bathroom mirror so that before you can grab the toothpaste you'll be reminded to floss first. Hide the not-so-healthy snacks behind the pre-sliced veggies in the fridge, so before you can grab [favorite junk food] you see the prepared veggies and are reminded to choose them. Set the alarm on your phone as a reminder to take mini-breaks and stretch it out while you're working at your desk. Use little tricks like these to make it easy for yourself to naturally include wellness efforts in your daily life-even when you're not necessarily thinking about them.
5. Schedule it. Scheduling your lunchtime walk, evening workout, or healthy lunch prep for the week helps reserve the time so you can turn your intention into action. If you know that a block of time is set aside for wellness, you won't be as inclined to fill it with something else.
6. Wellness Day. Pick a day. Sunday Funday à la wellness warrior? Treat yourself to healthy meals and activities. Plan a hike, take the time to have a healthy breakfast, sign up for that new Zumba class you've been meaning to try out.
Or maybe take the day to plan ahead and sort out your wellness barriers. Sometimes it's hard to make changes because they require preparation that we're not accounting for. If you're trying to go Paleo, spend an afternoon looking up recipes online, making a menu and grocery list, and getting the ingredients. Want to start a yoga routine but feel like you don't know enough to jump in? Invite a yoga guru friend to teach you some of the basics so you have a starting point.
7. Surround yourself with wellness. Most people are interested in "being healthy" (however they may define it), so bringing that to the forefront with friends and family could reveal some common ground. A work meeting may turn into a "walk and talk." Or maybe a friend invites you to try a new fitness class with her. Surrounding yourself with people and environments that are health-promoting is important for making wellness an accessible part of your life.
8. Understand your inspiration. Most importantly, in order to truly prioritize wellness, you must see the value in it. Make this inspiration visible for yourself-find an image or a quote that resonates with your reasons for wanting to achieve your wellness goals and make it your desktop background or hang it on your fridge. It'll remind you of why you value wellness, what you want out of it, and what you're willing to do for it.
A version of this post originally appeared on The Tina Times.