We often hear people commenting on how they want to “live better” or “live their best life.” But what does this actually mean — and how do you even do that? The answers can be as varied as each individual person. For some, it might entail striving for a work-life balance. Others might be focused on improving their eating habits and physical activity.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Natanya Wachtel, a behavioral psychologist and entrepreneur, as well as the founder of a new consumer wellness brand launching later this year called Live Better, Live Longer. As she explains, living better is about much more than just physical health (though that is certainly important, too). It requires focusing on meaningful self-care that addresses all facets of well-being.
The True Meaning of Living Better
“Truly living better requires taking an honest look at all aspects that influence your well-being,” Wachtel explains. “Our physical, mental and emotional health are all closely intertwined. There’s a reason why physical exercise and gut health are linked with improved mood and a reduced risk of depression. And as we actively seek to elevate one part of our well-being, other areas can and should improve as well. Ideally, we approach this as a process where each area gets the level of attention it deserves to support your optimal wellness.”
This focus is especially important today, when the prevalence of obesity in the United States has reached a record 41.9%, while at the same time, 19.1% of American adults experience some form of anxiety disorder each year. Depression and suicide rates are climbing for each and every age group as well.
Studies have linked mental health problems with an increased likelihood of developing a preventable physical health problem as well. Because of this, health-conscious efforts to live better are ultimately focused on all areas of general well-being and self-care.
Tip #1: Check in with Yourself, Authentically
To ensure that the process of living better can really happen for you, Wachtel suggests starting with an honest, personal assessment of your current well-being. “Take a moment to ask yourself how you feel, and what factors are contributing to both your positive and negative emotions and physical state. Try to ‘step back’ and observe your life as someone on the outside might, to consider where you stand in regards to all aspects of your health,” she says.
“Quiet your inner voice that might declare your personality as ‘fixed’ in place. Your ability to change is not fixed if you commit to try. Start small with the basic building blocks of health, like getting enough sleep. Positive self-talk is a great to support yourself in this effort as well. Identifying the areas where you feel like you aren’t supporting the needs for your best self will help you set meaningful goals to guide your efforts. By adjusting your goals to your individual needs, you’ll be able to achieve a much greater impact than simply following trends.”
If you aren’t sure where to begin, look to support and special interest groups online or meet with your physician. Your physician’s perspective can help you identify physical health issues to begin to address, slowly. Similarly, free online health assessments for things like stress, sleep, and nutrition can help you identify negative thinking habits that are harming your overall health and wellness.
Tip #2: Create Small, Lasting Changes
Once you’ve identified your new wellness goals, it is important to have the right mindset for how you will reach them. Dr. Wachtel is quick to note that healthily reaching your goal of living better would be nearly impossible with a “one and done” mindset.
“Your overall wellness requires being honest with yourself about what you can change, and then approaching these changes slowly and consistently,” she says.
“True self-care requires developing positive, lasting habits that will become an engrained part of who you are and what you do. They can even help you recreate the ‘story’ of who you are. For example, this could involve eating healthier foods more often and changing how you see food as a fuel for your body. Other simple steps could include writing down a positive affirmation each day, reading positive affirmations in apps or inspirational books, or setting aside time to take a few deep breaths and reflect on what you CAN do for yourself today — not what you can’t. What matters most is the consistency that allows this new mindset to become a natural part of your daily life.”
Implementing these lifestyle changes will undoubtedly require changes to your existing routine and schedule. But Dr. Wachtel says that everyday people can and do embrace this aspect of their personal growth — and so can you. By rethinking your priorities and limiting your negative beliefs, you can actually begin to achieve the things that matter most to your well-being and feel good about the path you are following to address them.
Tip #3: Don’t Try to Change on Your Own
Healthy growth — whether via physical activity or indulging in “me time” to relax on your own — doesn’t always come easy for us. It can often get discouraging, especially when you are under a great deal of pressure or stress. For example, studies have found that as many as 64% of people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by the end of January. Most of the time, this is because they resolve to make major changes abruptly, and on their own.
Even with strong motivation to live better, challenges and road blocks are inevitable. Because of this, Dr. Wachtel recommends building a strong support network that will keep you on track with your self-care and wellness goals.
“Having a friend, family member or coworker who will hold you accountable can make all the difference in helping you keep your commitment to change and staying focused on what you want to achieve,” she says.
“That reminder could be as simple as a text or social media message checking in on your progress. Or it could mean that your accountability partner is participating alongside you in your wellness activities. The support could even be from people you don’t know, or an app. What matters most is that the commitment and support is there to help you recognize your value so you keep going — especially when you hit a snag or bump along the way.”
Having individuals who support your wellness goals and hold you accountable will help you take ownership of your personal transformation, and encourage you to keep making steady progress.
Living Your Best Life
By making small steps toward self-care a priority, you can improve your physical, mental and emotional well-being with changes that will last a lifetime. As Dr. Wachtel’s insights reveal, living better is ultimately a process that requires consistent attention. She concludes with this simple idea: “Just by simply telling yourself that achieving lasting, healthy change is possible, you can experience the transformative effects toward becoming your best self.”