Apr. 16. 2018
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

If the last few years in wellness could be described in one word, it’s “mindfulness.”

From having a moment of clarity every time you have a sweet craving to chewing your food to improve digestion, being mindful of the way you see and experience things can help you succeed in leading a healthy lifestyle. A recent study from the journal Preventive Medicine Reports shows that mindfulness training can help promote healthy habits. (1)

The beautiful thing we always talk about, is not everyone is the same, and we all have different motivations and incentives that drive us. Let’s explore mindfulness practices you can integrate into your daily routine to help you make positive habits into permanent parts of your life. But first, here’s what you need to do to help you identify your goals and why you want to achieve them.

7 Mindfulness Shifts You Can Make Today

1. Define what is your “why”.

Whether your goal is to lose weight, cut back on sugar, become more active or run a marathon, ask yourself what is the reason behind your motivation. In developmental psychology, intrinsic motivation refers to behavior driven by internal rewards, while extrinsic motivation is driven by external rewards, like fame, praise and money. (2) You need both types of motivation to stay committed to your goals and build confidence in your abilities. Let’s say one healthy habit you want to adopt is to follow a cleaner diet. What’s going to motivate you intrinsically is having more energy, feeling good and seeing improvements in your overall health. On the other hand, receiving compliments from family and friends or buying yourself a new wardrobe or kitchen tool are extrinsic motivators.

2. Write it down in a journal.

Yes, we’re talking about journalling, again! A little self-reflection is key to checking in with your feelings, and circling back to understanding your “why.” Journaling is a great way to practice self-reflection and assess all the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators that have drawn you towards your goal in the first place. You don’t have to have a type A personality to appreciate the power of journaling. Writing down everything from your to-do lists to your thoughts and feelings can help you gain a new perspective that inspires growth. According to the American Psychological Association, journaling can reduce stress, help with finding focus and find meaning. (3)

It’s worth noting, though, that journaling needs to have focused thought in order to have meaning and positive benefits. To do this, Hanley recommends using prompts. Hanley says, “Ask yourself: What am I proud of myself for doing today? What has gone right? How did I move the needle?” You should also write down your concerns, frustrations, fears, and complaints, but use the practice of jotting them down as a cleanse. “The simple act of reading them and asking yourself, ‘Is this really true?’ can help you clear the decks and see things with fresh eyes,” Hanley says. Then, it’s important to ask yourself, “What is one thing that will help me keep going and work towards my goal?” They key is to set an intention.

3. Have a backup plan.

What’s your game plan for curbing that sweet tooth? Or, making it to the gym at least three days a week? What steps are you taking to unplug and practice self-care more often? It’s been said over and over again, but having a plan helps you make a positive habit more permanent. If you want to avoid eating too much candy, then make it a point to prepare your own healthy alternative when a craving hits. For example, if you’re hankering for some chocolate, enjoy one of these guilt-free Caramel Candy Cookie Bars instead. Unlike highly processed candy bars with refined sugars, these bars pack health-boosting cocoa powder, coconut oil, fiber-rich flours and natural sweetener.

If your goal is to become a meal prep pro, then dedicate one day a week to shopping and cooking healthy meals at home so they’re ready to go. Follow these batch cooking tips and get the Guide to Master Meal Planning.

4. Embrace failures and let go of guilt.

I know the whole “think positive” thing is cliché but it works for a reason — you only are as positive as your thoughts. You need positive thoughts to push positive behavior and habits, and that’s why it’s so important to turn failures into learning experiences in the end. How can you see a situation differently? Assess what brought you to this conclusion and what situations drove you to a negative thought pattern. Then, acknowledge these thoughts and treat yourself with kindness.

“My guidance is to always look for the loving reason. Life will keep sending us the same situations until we learn the lesson embedded in them. Looking for the loving reason also helps build our trust muscles, and helps you feel more supported by the circumstances as opposed to being a victim in it,” Hanley says.

It’s easy to beat yourself up, but try to focus on what you have accomplished and what has worked for you. For example, if you slipped up on enjoying healthier snacks and binged on potato chips, turn it into a positive thought about progress. Instead, focus on the fact that you’ve been choosing healthier snacks all week, and tomorrow, you’re going to hop right back into your nutritious eating plan.

5. Deepen your relationships to get support.

The motivation to stay healthy has to come from within, but we’d be lying if we said it doesn’t also feel good to get compliments and supportive advice from family and friends. By surrounding yourself with positive people who want the best for you, you can better reach your goals and make good habits stick. Need a workout buddy? Join a running club or make it a point to introduce yourself to someone new at your next fitness class. Enlist the help of your partner or family to help you prepare healthy meals.

A recent study shows that sharing your weight loss goals on social media with others who are also on the same journey will help you stick with them. (4) Sharing your story can give your confidence a boost while keeping your goals and habits in check. With that said, it’s also important to remove ego-triggering people and places in your life that don’t serve you and your goals. Just let them go! Be intentional about who and what you want in your life and why they’re there.

6. Improve your space.

In feng shui, your home is a reflection of what’s going on in your life. So if your home is chaotic and filled with clutter, chances are your life is a bit chaotic, too. Good energy, also known as “chi,” in your home promotes stable relationships, wealth, good health and a better sense of well-being. “It’s super important to have a space in your home that is tranquil, restorative and inspiring. It can be a corner in your bedroom, the bathtub, or even the kitchen window above your sink. The bottom line is it’s an area you can clear out and sit or meditate and feel good,” Hanley says. As Hanley puts it, water can’t flow into an empty cup, so clearing your home is a representation of being an empty cup.

In order to invite good chi into your home, you should work to make your space purposeful and assign meaning to everything from the uplifting photos and paintings on the wall to the cooking tools in your kitchen drawers and pantry. Fill your home with things that will help you succeed at sticking to healthy habits. For example, stock up your pantry with spices and herbs, whole grains, nuts and seeds, protein powder, canned beans and tomatoes and healthy snacks. This signals to the universe that you want to follow a clean eating plan.

7. Practice gratitude.

Sometimes, it’s easy to get wrapped up about what you don’t have or haven’t achieved then it is to be thankful for the progress you’ve made and what you’ve benefited from making healthy changes. Instead, the next time you go for a run or do a workout, thank your body for not giving up. Stuck to your goal of preparing healthy meals all week? Thank your body for the gift of health. Remember to thank your partner, family, and friends, too. According to a report from the National Communication Association, showing gratitude has long-term benefits for your health and well-being. (5) Studies have shown that expressing gratitude can also increase hope and optimism, as well as contribute to reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.

Kate Hanley, a personal development coach and author of How to Be a Better Person, says, “Tap into how you want to feel once you’ve reached your goal. If it’s weight loss, think about going to the beach and how exciting it is to try on a new bathing suit that makes you feel good.” Hanley says sometimes our nervous system doesn’t know when something is real or imagined, so use that trick to help you envision what it would be like to reach your goal before you even achieve it.


  1. Salmoirago-Blotcher, E., Druker, S., Frisard, C., Dunsiger, SI., Crawford, S., Meleo-Meyer, F., Block, B., Pbert, L. (January 2018) Integrating mindfulness training in school health education to promote healthy behaviors in adolescents: Feasibility and preliminary effects on exercise and dietary habits
  2. Oudeyer, P.Y., Kaplan, F. (November 2007) What Is Intrinsic Motivation? A Typology of Computational Approaches
  3. Murray, Bridget (June 2002) Writing to Heal
  4. Bradford, T. W., Grier, S.A., Henderson, G.R. (November 2017) Weight Loss Through Virtual Support Communities: A Role for Identity-based Motivation in Public Commitment
  5. Yoshimura, S.M., Berzins, K. (April 2017) Grateful experiences and expressions: The Role of Gratitude Expressions in the Link Between Gratitude Experiences and Well-being

Additional Reading:

  1. Ways to Make Goals and Intentions Stick
  2. Goal Setting 101
  3. How Gratitude Journaling Can Boost Your Health

Let’s Hear It

As you begin to adopt healthy habits in your life, be sure to tag Nutrition Stripped on Instagram. I want to hear from you — share your journey and progress with the NS community, using #nutritionstripped! What is your “why”? How does journaling help you assess your goals? In what ways do you practice gratitude every day? I can’t wait to hear the strategies and tips you use to help you tap into your different motivation factors. Do you thrive off of fear or inspiration? Are you truly doing it for yourself or others?