Mind-Body Health

The Key to Keeping an Active and Healthy Lifestyle with a Busy Schedule

black woman crossing the street
A woman on a crosswalk during winter in San Francisco, California.

Let’s face it, although many of us strive to be the healthiest, best version of ourselves, sometimes our hectic lives can make us feel like this is not within our reach. Many of us succumb to the demands that our everyday lives bring and leave our health and well-being to the last second. However, our health should be molded into a part of our lifestyle.

Whether you are swamped with work, overwhelmed in school, or exhausted from the challenges of parenting, there are ways to incorporate an active and healthy lifestyle into your daily routine. Here are a few tips to help push you in the right direction.

How to Build Habits

“A slight change in your daily habits can guide your life to a very different destination,” James Clear says in his book Atomic Habits. Essentially, changing your habits is the solution to becoming the person you desire to be, but as we all know, this is easier said than done. If everyone were an expert on how to break bad habits and build new ones, we would all be smooth sailing through life. Initially, building new habits is going to take a great deal of energy and you may not succeed at first. Although, once you have mastered the art of habit making and breaking, you’ll be surprised by what you can achieve.

To get started on building a new habit refer to the cue-action-reward system. The cue is what triggers your brain to begin performing a new behavior. The action is when you follow through with the behavior and the reward is the feeling you get from performing the action. When forming new habits, an action needs to be repeated numerous times, so that your brain can reap the rewards.

For example, a cue is your body aching from sitting for a long period of time, the action is stretching, and the reward is your body feeling better. At first you will have to make it a point to stretch when your body is aching, but as you continue to repeat the habit, your brain will automatically know to stretch when your body hurts.

Set Intentions

According to Dr. Sheila Patel, Chopra’s Chief Medical Officer, we can help form these habits by setting intentions. Write down your intentions right before you go to bed and read them first thing in the morning every day. These can be any habits you want to build like standing up from your computer every hour to stretch or adding vegetables to each meal you have. It’s important to start off small and to continue setting your intentions even if you miss a day.

“This is what starts the shift towards behavior change,” Patel says. You will start off at 10 percent, but in no time, you’ll look back and realize you’re at fifty percent. The actual change that you are making is not the hard part, but the act of putting it into motion and sticking to it is what you must concentrate on.

Ayurvedic Practices for Daily Life

Now, let’s take a look at what kinds of habits you can incorporate into your daily life.

Focus on Your Digestion

“In Ayurveda, the first consideration is how strong your digestion is,” Patel says. Much of this depends on your dosha because every mind-body type is different. First, make sure that you are eating at regular times every day to keep your Agni, or digestive fire, strong to be able to turn your food into energy and extract the nutrients from it.

“Changing my biggest meal to lunch really shifted my weight, my digestion, and just how I feel throughout the day,” Patel says. In Ayurveda, it is encouraged to have a light breakfast, a large lunch when your Agni is the strongest, and a light dinner. Many times, we see people overeating or undereating, which results in either taking up too much energy to digest your food making you more tired, or not eating enough calories to create energy. A consistent eating schedule will keep you energized throughout the day.

“Most people have the time to eat lunch, but many end up making themselves work through their lunch hour,” Patel says. Make it a priority to give yourself allotted time throughout the day to eat.

Fuel Your Body

After a long, busy day, most people don’t want to come home and spend hours making a fresh, home-cooked meal. Patel recommends taking what you already eat and finding simple ways to make it six tastes, so you’re able to break down the food, absorb the nutrients, and eliminate properly. This doesn’t take additional time and makes the meal healthier and taste better.

For example, if you are eating a chicken sandwich for lunch with bread, chicken, and a slice of cheese, there is so much you can add to it to make it healthier and six tastes. “I invite them to put something green on it,” Patel says. “All you have to do is grab some spinach leaves, mustard, or sprinkle some black pepper on it.” Adding plant-based foods and especially vegetables are going to add fiber to your diet, which helps with the digestive process and keeps a steady energy.

Try Additive Exercise

Some people are able to carve out time in their day to get their recommended 30 minutes of exercise in, but for those with packed schedules sometimes it just feels like there is never enough time. “I tell people to try and do a few minutes of just something that gets your heart rate going in the morning and then make up for those 30 minutes throughout the day,” Patel says.

For example, you can take a 10-minute walk three times throughout the day or walk around for a few minutes every hour if you’re sitting at a desk all day. It’s especially beneficial to take short walks after meals. “This significantly reduces your risks of cardiovascular disease and all the things that sitting all day increases risks for,” Patel says. Weaving physical activity throughout the day will put less stress on you than taking out a large chunk of your day to exercise.

Another tip is to do vigorous exercise first thing in the morning, which will maintain your metabolism throughout the day. This can be anything that gets your heart rate going from flow yoga to running to jumping jacks. It only has to be for at least five minutes and will make you feel energized and ready to start your day.

Practice Self-Compassion

When we’re trying to build new habits and take control of our lives, it’s easy to be hard on ourselves. Many people get discouraged if they fail and decide to give it all up completely. Chances are you are going to fail, but failure will only make you more resilient and successful in the long run. “It’s important to give yourself a break and have some self-compassion because it is hard to change habits,” Patel says. “It just takes time and some weeks are going to be better than others.”

Also, if you are this busy and you feel like you do not have time to take care of your health consider asking yourself the question: Do I really need to be this busy or am I creating some of this work for myself? There may be things in your life that you can cut out to give yourself the necessary time to put your mental and physical health first.


Dive into the powerful practices of Ayurveda on your well-being journey and help others unlock the secret to greater health in the Chopra Health Program.