photo of potato chips close up

It may be hard to think about exercise and other healthy habits when you have rheumatoid arthritis, but healthy lifestyle changes can make a world of difference. Research shows your quality of life is better when you limit alcohol, stop smoking, eat good-for-you foods, and get moving.

That can be easier said than done, but it’s not impossible. Whatever the goal is, you’ll need a plan to change your ways. First, set a start date. Then follow these tips:

Figure out your trigger(s). Maybe your goal is to stop eating so much junk food. When do you do it? While watching your favorite show? When you’re feeling sad, anxious, or some other emotion? Sometimes, knowing what sets you off is half the battle.

Come up with a list of things you can do instead. You don’t have to stop watching your favorite show. But instead of reaching for a bag of chips or cookies, eat an apple. Or watch while you’re on the treadmill or elliptical. That way, you’re entertained and exercising. If certain emotions trigger junk food binges, a therapist can help you work through that.

Be patient. Overhauling a bad habit takes time. Don’t beat yourself up over a setback. Dust yourself off and start over the next day. Keep at it -- over time you’ll see a difference.

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Harvard Health: “Trade bad habits for good ones.”
National Institutes of Health: “Creating healthy habits.”