Stephen Covey told us in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, that to develop a habit (both the good and the bad), you need 21 days. Health habits are the same. You know that good health is not the result of one meal or one workout, but rather the course of many healthy choices over time. Here are a few good habits to get you started (or keep you motivated!):
The easiest thing in the world to do to be healthy, but the hardest thing to actually do, is to get enough sleep. For most of us, sleeping in later or getting naps during the day aren't much of a viable option. That leaves one factor we can control, and that's going to bed earlier.
So, how can you achieve this nearly impossible goal? There has to be at least one little activity you can cut from your evening in order to turn in earlier. Before doing that activity (watching a TV show, playing a computer game, etc.), ask yourself if it's worth skipping the activity to feel better the next day. You know it is.
And make your bed worth sleeping in, so it's not as much of a chore to get into bed. Lying down at night should be the most pleasant part of your day.
Time in the sun is a double edged sword. On the one hand, all those ultra-violet rays bring you wrinkled, spotty skin, dehydration, and a run at cancer. But on the other hand sunlight is our best source of vitamin D and has been widely accepted to boost your mood. So the solution? Make sure you find some time in your day in the sunlight, but make sure you aren't out too long or without sunscreen.
Study after study has shown that prayer has led to a healthy life in people who use it. Scientists can tell you how your heat rate evens out while you pray, but those of us who are filled with the Holy Spirit know that it's more than just a bodily benefit. Prayer changes things. If you get into a regular habit of conversing with your Father in Heaven, you better your chances of remembering to do it regularly.
4. Positive Attitude
There's a lot to be said for self-fulfilling prophesy. How great would it be if you really could do everything you put your mind to? Is there any reason not to try? Which of your self-directed thoughts would you rather dwell on- "It's Monday. I can't believe I have the rest of this whole week to get through," or "It's Monday. I wonder what this week will bring?" You will find you have more energy if it isn't being drained by negativity.
5. Good Music
I don't know the research, but I bet you can all vouch for how music can enhance your mood. Whether you sing along in the car or use it to speed up the tempo of your workout, using music you like certainly seems to adjust your brain chemistry. Invest in it and use it regularly.
If you do the same thing in the same order, it will be one less thing to think about. Then your brain is free to think about the other stuff, while you let auto-pilot do the everyday stuff. (Remember - this is a brain tip, not a body tip. Refer to my previous post about exercise to see how routine in a workout plan is NOT the best idea.)
7. Not Forming Bad Habits
Habits are formed when you do the same thing on a regular basis as part of a routine. There are good habits (exercising) and there are bad habits (smoking). Some bad things, like smoking, drugs, and excessive alcohol, you need to completely stay away from due to their addictive nature. But other bad things can happen on occasion, as long as you don't engage regularly.
For example, the other day I really wanted a donut. Really, really wanted one. There is nothing redeeming about a donut. But I allowed myself to have one (½ of one, really. Saved the other half for the next craving.) If I had the same desire the next day, I would have to fight against it, because the more often you indulge, the harder it becomes to break the habit. After 3 days, you might as well forget it.
8. Better Habits
Just as I mentioned above, you can make a good habit as much as you can make a bad one. It just might not be as easy, because if it was something you really didn't mind doing, you would probably already be doing it. But if you are purposeful about putting it in your daily routine, it will become easier not to forget to do it every day.
One good habit I made for myself was drinking more water. I keep an 8-oz cup by the sink in the bathroom so that I can down 2 cupsful before I brush my teeth in the morning. Then I am off to a good start.
It's true. Visual clutter causes stress. Now, someone a little more laid back might be able deal with this stress better than someone like me, but anyone who has to stare at a mess for too long will be bothered by it. And seriously, how great does it feel when you finish cleaning something up?
I believe firmly that if your body is not manufacturing something that it should be to function the way it should, then you should supplement that element. If your brain chemicals are insufficient, causing a mental deficiency, give your brain that supplement! If your body is not getting what it needs, likewise, give your body what it needs! So, if your body needs insulin, give it insulin! If your body needs vitamin D, get vitamin D! Let your body function as it's intended to.
Never stop learning. New research is always being published. Once upon a time, people stopped eating eggs due to fear of high cholesterol. Since then, it has been shown that for many people, the need for protein and other benefits in eggs should outweigh the fear of cholesterol. The bottom line is that you know your body and what it needs. Always be looking to see what science has found for you.
This post concludes my series on healthy living. Even at the ripe old age of 41 (at which many of you may laugh), I feel I might be at the healthiest I have ever been. That doesn't mean I don't have some areas that need work, but it is nice to run the bases without fear of cardiac arrest. I hope I may have sparked in you some motivation to also better yourself. And if you are looking to improve your mind with some light reading, well, I might be able to help you with that too. (See here for information on my YA fantasy series.)
Because I love even numbers and lists!