At Walnut Health, we are really big on non-rules. In short, we know that you have your own lives, with your own ongoing challenges and daily “to dos”. It can feel really hard to incorporate things like healthy habits and pleasure into your life, when you have so many other priorities. But you can.
You can fit daily health and pleasure into your other priorities in small and large ways.
Health and pleasure come in many forms, and they are personal: There is no right or wrong way to experience them and make them your own.
And, as integrative health coaches, we know that it’s important to share our personal stories with you--and practice what we preach!
Sharing stories matters, and we are all works in progress.
“The revision process is a great metaphor for how to approach life and love and work. We’re all rough drafts. If you’re living right you’re constantly striving to make the next version of yourself one notch better. Real success is rooted in learning how to turn mistakes into successes; losses into gains; failures into things of value that propel you forward rather than hold you back.”
~ Cheryl Strayed
The key to sustainable health is finding something that works for you, benefits you, and reflects your big-picture values.
This includes exercise, nutrition, sleep, relationships, self-care, work, and, well, you get the picture.
Here are 16 ways (eight each) that we incorporate sustainable pleasure into our daily lives. Notice that, although we have definite overlap, we approach things like fitness and nutrition in slightly different ways--because that’s what works for us!
Melissa is an integrative health coach and the founder of Walnut Health in Manhattan. She holds an MBA in Healthcare.
- I always start and end with a warm beverage and some reading! I try to keep as much consistency in my schedule as possible: Predictability helps to reduce my stress and allows me to plan ahead better. Obviously, I can’t do exactly the same thing every day, but I prioritize the routines I have when I wake up and go to bed. AM: Coffee and the newspaper. PM: Tea and a book.
- Feeling physically strong helps me to feel confident and competent in all areas of life, and exercise helps reduce my anxiety and ward off depression. I go to the gym pretty religiously almost every morning, including weekends. I focus mostly on weightlifting because it allows me to tap into my own sense of primal power. It also helps to connect with my body and be more in tune with what it needs in terms of sleep, food, sex, etc.
- I use “healthy-ish” substitutions: Instead of eating cookie (my weakness!), I’ll eat a cookie-dough Quest bar. It’s not a “perfect” food, and there’s nothing wrong with eating a cookie per se, but the substitution gives me the pleasure of a sweet-tasting treat without the crash of the real thing!
- Speaking of food…I’m a hungry chick, and I like to eat for volume, so I choose foods that are nutrient-dense. I eat A LOT of vegetables, and I’ve learned how to season things with spices, mustards, and vinegar that add flavor without making them heavy.
- When I start to get scared or insecure, I flip the switch, and I try to approach things with a sense of humor and adventure. Learning to laugh at my own “imperfections” and embracing my weaknesses as part of the whole package of “me” has helped me be less critical of myself. Laughing helps me get out of my own way and get more pleasure out of life!
- I treat affection as both a need and a gift: I seek it out, and I give it freely as a way of nurturing relationships. And, when there’s no one around to hug or touch--including my partner, my son, and even my dog and cat--I’m totally okay with giving it to myself, e.g., in the form of a warm bath, a little massage, or something more sensual.
- I rarely watch TV or read “women’s” magazines to avoid advertising and marketing designed to make me feel bad about myself or manipulate me into buying products. I don’t make time for things or people that bring me down!
- As much as I don’t like to be made to feel like I NEED to look a certain way, I enjoy doing my make-up and hair most mornings. I do this more for me than anyone else--it makes me feel mentally “together” and even more energized when I don’t see the signs of fatigue/aging as much when I look in the mirror.
Jamie is an integrative health coach for Walnut Health and PROnatal Fitness in Manhattan. She holds an MA in Expressive Arts Therapy.
- I plan for pleasure, especially my morning routine. Morning is my favorite time of day, and I love to start my day in a relaxed fashion. I try to get in bed early enough to get my eight hours (that’s my sweet spot!) of sleep, and so I can start the next day early enough for my morning routine: Warm lemon water, a cup of black coffee or yerba mate tea, and an energizing breakfast that I love (chia pudding, almonds, and fruit), along with some writing or reading.
- Exercise endorphins fuel my body and my mind. I schedule my workouts like appointments and move in some way every day—even if that means running my errands via brisk walking on a jam-packed day—because it helps me feel better not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. I lift weights, because I love to connect to my body and feel strong, and I recently added one weekly rowing class and one weekly yoga class to my routine, because they provide a beneficial variety. I also listen to my body when injured or fighting illness and adjust accordingly.
- When it comes to food, I nix the guilt and follow the 80/20 guideline by using my values + the big picture as “home base”. For example, I focus on food that satisfies my body and my tastebuds. I enjoy a glass (or two…) of red wine and dark chocolate most evenings, after a day filled with my favorite veggies, proteins, and other nutrient-dense foods.
- Speaking of food…I dig connection. When eating with others, I focus on the joy of connecting versus the intricacies of the food served. I make healthy choices, but I allow myself to enjoy food that I might not normally cook for myself—because it’s really not a big deal, and, at the end of the day, eating it won’t kill me! Life is short.
- When little nuisances bring me down, I let myself feel my feels, I reframe the “bigger picture”, and I try to laugh at myself. In fact, laughter is, by far, my favorite “ab workout”! Finally, I try to always appreciate the smallest of the small.
- As a “people collector”, I surround myself with people who lift me upand remind me of what really matters in life. It might sound corny, yes: Love and connection heal. Also, as a “touch-oriented person”, I’m really big on things like hugs.
- When I miss the arts, I try to bring more into every day—even if in very small ways. As a life-long passion, creative arts (writing, visual art, music, acting) serve as positive expressive and coping outlets for me. When I lose touch with what’s in my blood, I feel incomplete!
- I use essential oils, like lavender and citrus, to relax, energize, and help me enjoy small sensual pleasures throughout the day.
You have the power to feel pleasure on a daily basis, to make it a VIP value in your life, right along with healthy habits that actually feel good.
Our 6-week online course is all about helping you identify the root causes of your feelings and learn healthy coping strategies. It offers tools for increasing conscious awareness of the ways in which you seek pleasure, helps you increase connection to your body and needs, and supports the development of a new relationship with your body--one that preserves pleasure while building a sustainable approach to eating, exercising, and even intimate relationships.
Healthy habits that actually feel good
To preview the curriculum for our 6-week online course, take this Course Tour.