Healthy lifestyle. It’s another one of those amorphous phrases we splatter around the news and common discourse that, over time, can over saturate us and become utterly meaningless. Yet, when you’re diagnosed with a serious health condition, including heart disease and diabetes, or one of their precursors (such as high cholesterol, hypertension, or prediabetes), it’s among the first prescriptions rolled off the tongue.

But what exactly is it? According to University of Melbourne researchers, healthy lifestyle boils down to this: A can-do attitude. If your outlook is healthy, your lifestyle will likely follow.

New Research

Researchers who analyzed data on diet, exercise, and personality type from 7,000 adults (from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey), found that those who believed their own actions could change their life successfully modified the foods they ate, began exercising more, curbed heavy drinking and curtailed smoking, while those relying on luck and/or fate were unsuccessful.

What It Means

“Information alone is insufficient to change people’s eating habits,” said researcher Deborah Cobb-Clark, professor and director of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, in a statement. “Understanding the psychological underpinning of a person’s eating patterns and exercise habits is central to understanding obesity.”

The study shows a direct link between personality and lifestyle type, said researchers. Interestingly, it also showed that when choosing to lead a healthy lifestyle, men and women are reaching for different objectives. Men tend to seek positive physical results in exchange for making healthy decisions, while women seek the everyday pleasures of knowing they’re living a healthy life.

Take-Home

If you’ve been struggling to make positive changes in your day-to-day living, work with your doctor to outline specific steps you can take to enhance your diet and exercise habits. Write these steps down and schedule in time for them on your calendar. Set your phone to ping you with reminders (to hit the gym or stock up on produce at the market). Above all, find ways to keep your outlook healthy. Believing in yourself may be more than half the battle.