Ask anyone if they want to have good health and the answer will be a resounding “yes.” But ask them if they have healthy habits to help them achieve this goal and the answer may not be as sure or as loud.
As with other things in life, many want the end goal without really putting in the work: People want caring relationships but spend more time glued to their phones than interacting with their loved ones; they want to be wealthy without making sacrifices and diligently saving away and investing; and they want the six-pack abs without putting much thought into what they eat and how much they work out.
If you want to live to a ripe old age and enjoy a good quality of life, it’s time to start developing healthy habits.
By being healthy, you’ll be better equipped to dive into life’s big adventures—you can get up close and personal with nature, for example, if you have the stamina to go on long hikes. You’ll be able to save money; think of all the medications and hospital bills that come from illnesses borne from unhealthy habits. You’ll be able to watch your kids as well as you kids’ kids grow up. And you may also be happier over all, as physical health may have an effect on your mental and emotional wellbeing. In short, good health allows you to live life to the fullest.
As they say, a goal without a plan is just a dream. So start incorporating these basic healthy habits to help you realize your goal.
1. Practice good hygiene. The easiest way to catch and spread sickness is through your hands. Imagine a sick co-worker coughing or sneezing into his hand then using the same hand to turn a doorknob or press an elevator button. That’s a surefire way to spread germs! Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly throughout the day to keep the ickies from spreading.
You should also be practicing good hygiene in the kitchen when you prep your food. Be mindful of cross-contamination and make sure you use different chopping boards and cutlery for raw and cooked meat. Again, handwashing is crucial when it comes to food prep.
2. Eat a balanced diet. Most people know what they’re supposed to be eating but few people actually put it into practice. Eat a diet rich in whole foods—that means vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, and lean meats.
Avoid processed food and drinks that are loaded with sodium and sugar. If you feel you’re having a hard time meeting your recommended daily values of vitamins and minerals, then consider adding supplements to your daily routine.
3. Exercise. Physical activity doesn’t just help you build muscles for aesthetic purposes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) encourages regular physical activity beginning in childhood to “improve cardiorespiratory fitness, build strong bones and muscles, control weight, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.” They go on to state that physical activity reduces the risk of developing heart disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and obesity.
4. Get enough rest. Getting your requisite eight hours does more than just keep crankiness and lethargy at bay.
According to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), sleep helps with healthy brain function—affecting learning, decision making, and problem solving, among others—and emotional wellbeing (keeping mood swings and sadness at bay). They go on to say that “ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increase risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.” It also increases the risk of obesity.
Having trouble sleeping? The U.S. National Sleep Foundation encourages you to put your gadgets away at least half an hour before bedtime. (The earlier the better.) The NHLBI recommends having a regular bedtime and wake-up time, a regular bedtime routine to signal to your body that it’s time for bed, and spending some time outdoors every day.
5. Minimize stress. While stress is a natural response—the body’s fight-or-flight mechanism when faced with potentially dangerous situations—chronic stress can wreak havoc on your health.
Anxiety, depression, headaches, sleep problems, digestive problems, heart problems, and weight gain are just some of the ways stress can negatively impact your health. You can try to minimize stress by learning relaxation techniques such as meditation, taking time for self-care, and nurturing relationships with loved ones.
6. Practice sustainable living. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites the World Health Organization in its website, which in turn states that “13 million deaths annually and nearly a quarter of all disease worldwide—including 33 percent of illnesses in children under age five-are due to environmental causes that could be avoided or prevented.” Thus, healthy living isn’t just about making choices that affect you directly but that may have a ripple effect.
The choices you make may have an effect on climate, which can worsen health issues like pulmonary disease and heart disease. The CDC suggests some healthy habits so you can do your part to keep the world healthy right along with you:
Make sustainable food choices (those that don’t harm the environment and the workers that produce them); walk, bike, or take other alternative means of transportation; choose cruelty-free, earth-friendly products with minimal packaging; and recycle electronics.