Everyone wants to be healthy and there are a wide variety of practices that one can undertake to contribute to good health. Many people, after feeling their health take a downward slide over a period of weeks, months, even years, say to themselves, “I’m going to make some big changes and get healthy again!” But all too often, they try to do too many things or tackle such huge goals that the lifestyle is too difficult to maintain.
I wouldn’t say that I do everything possible to be as healthy as I can be, but I do have consistent routines that make it easy to maintain a consistent state of health that I’m happy with. I believe that if you really want to be healthy and stay healthy, you have to adopt day-to-day practices that aren’t overwhelming, ones that you can easily commit to maintaining. Then you can keep adding more as you successfully adopt them into your routine.
Here are 8 day-to-day habits I’ve have built into my regular mental and physical health routine:
1. Meditation. I start off most days by getting out of bed and doing 20 minutes of meditation. I find that the very start of my day is the best time for this as it centres me so that I’m more focused, am able to work more efficiently and face my day with less stress.
2. Stretching. After meditation, I follow up with 20 minutes of yoga. Stretching helps work out any kinks you may have picked up while sleeping, in addition to helping restore your body from workouts or even the stress on the body from sitting at a desk for long hours. It doesn’t have to be yoga, but I like the combination of balance training and gentle strength training that yoga provides alongside the stretching.
3. Journalling/Goal-Setting. Once I finish yoga, I do some journalling and goal setting before I start my day of work. ‘Stream of consciousness’ journalling (i.e. writing your free flowing thoughts) is a good way to work out things that may be percolating at the back (or front) of your mind. If they are positive or productive thoughts, writing them out in free-flow format helps you develop the ideas so you can act on them. Negative thoughts, on the other hand, can distract you from your daily tasks or cause you stress. By writing them out, it helps you figure out what you can do to address these issues. At the end of my free-flow writing, I like to write down 6 goals that I want to accomplish for the day, which I tick off as I complete them.
4. Drinking Lots of Water.
Throughout the day, I always have a bottle of water on the go. Having it with you is really the only way to ensure you’re getting the water you need. Very few people actually drink the amount of water they should be drinking for optimal health. When you aren’t properly hydrated it affects your ability to concentrate, can cause headaches, and increases your chances of injury during exercise. Here’s a blog post I wrote previously about the effects of dehydration.
5. Eating Balanced Meals.
I wouldn’t say that I’m 100% consistent, but I try to eat meals that are balanced according to The Zone Diet as prescribed in Dr. Barry Sears’ book. This means eating meals that have the right balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats for my body type. All too often, we over-fuel our body with starchy or sugary carbs, and without the right balance of protein and healthy fats, in a short time we feel hungry again. Eating the right balance helps you to be your best both mentally and physically. More about the Zone Diet.
6. Going for walks. Midway through my day some time after lunch, I usually take a 15-20 minute walk to get the blood flowing and work out the kinks that develop from sitting at my desk. I like to take my walk in a natural setting. There is a path in the woods that goes up a gentle hill that I like to take. The combination of fresh air, gentle exercise and connecting nature is great for cleansing the mind. When I come back to my desk, I feel refreshed and renewed.
7. Getting a Weekly Dose of Exercise.
While you may think that teaching at my dojo as often as I do would surely be enough to constitute exercise, but I don’t usually get my heart rate going enough when I’m just teaching. Yoga and walking doesn’t do it enough for me either. As an adult, I am supposed to get a minimum of 2.5 hours of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity. I usually get this in my extra-curricular training (Filipino martial arts classes 1.5-3 hours a week, Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu class 2 hours a week, and when I train at my dojo instead of teaching whenever I can fit it in). Here are tips on being active from Health Canada.
8. Living in the Present Moment.
To truly appreciate life, it’s important to take stock of where you are, how you’re feeling and what you’re doing in the present moment. Life, after all, is lived in the present. When we obsess about things that have affected us in the past or get completely pre-occupied with the future, the present moment passes us by without a chance to appreciate it. Meditation is a good start to this practice, but present moment awareness can be applied at any time. When you’re eating, focus on the taste and texture of our food, appreciating the experience. When you walk outside, smell the air, feel the sun warm your skin, etc. And whatever you’re doing, feel what’s going on in your body and mind. Listen to and feel your breath. Do you have any tension? Focus on it and try to release the tension. What emotions and thoughts are you feeling? Note them but don’t become absorbed in them. Accept them for what they are and focus on how your thoughts and emotions are affecting your state of being. This is perhaps a difficult concept to explain in this short blog post, but check out the book, Present Moment Awareness: A Simple, Step-By-Step Guide to Living in the Now
for a more detailed explanation. This way of living helps reduce a wide variety of mental and bodily stress.
Bear in mind that it takes at least 30 days to develop a new habit to the point that it becomes so routine that you no longer have to think about it and plan it to make sure you do it. It’s well worth your while to incorporate healthy day-to-day habits, but you need to focus on it and commit to doing it at least for the first little while. Once it becomes ingrained, it will contribute to your health simply as a matter of course.