A checklist of 20 crucial healthy habits
This is part of the “Wellness Wheel Habits Checklist” series where I look at habits associated with the 6 areas of life (Occupational, Physical, Emotional, Social, Financial and Spiritual).
A lot of the health habits on this list are pretty obvious, but how many of them do you do consistently?
(By the way, I’ve intentionally left eating breakfast and drinking water, off the list because I’m really not sure they should be recommended).
1. An instant feel-good move
It’s hard to go for a walk and not feel better. Feel sad? Go for a walk. Feel tired? Go for a walk. Have writer’s block? Go for a walk. Missed out on the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series? Go for a walk.
Starting with even 10 minutes is good enough.
2. Don’t get the “wrong advices” (sic)
Maintaining muscle mass is an important aspect of ongoing health. Try and develop a weights habit. Bonus points for developing a weights habit without being condescending to people who don’t have a weights habit.
3. Get an energy boost
Napping is an easy way to recharge during the day (and if you want to party late into the night). If you find that you feel groggy after napping, it probably means you’re napping for too long. Stick to under 20 minutes.
4. Win-win while eating
When you slow down your eating, not only do you eat less, but you actually feel more satisfied.
5. You rang?
If you want to avoid moving like Lurch from the Addams family by the time you’re 50, keep flexible by doing some simple stretches or yoga.
6. If you do nothing else, do this
The number one thing you can do to improve your health on this list is this one. Quit or better yet, never start smoking.
7. Does the bar open for breakfast?
If other people keep telling you that you drink too much, you feel guilty about your drinking and want to cut back or you need a shot of whisky to get going in the morning, you may have a drinking problem and should seek help.
8. I’m healthy because I wear a FitBit
There are plenty of apps and devices (including your phone) that count how many steps you take each day. This will help you to be more active. The only danger is that I’ve seen some really unhealthy people think as long as they walk 10,000 steps, they are healthy.
9. Dental Upkeep
Brush, and then floss your teeth twice a day. And current advice is not to brush your teeth immediately after eating because you’ll be scraping off enamel. Plus don’t use mouthwash immediately after brushing your teeth.
10. If this ever turns out to be bad for you, then the end is nigh
Are eggs good for you? It seems to vary week-to-week. What about bread? Or milk? Or fruit? Every week you might get told that a different food is good or bad for you. But there’s one thing that is always recommended: eat vegetables. If you have to, make a smoothie out of them.
11. Be an upstanding citizen
If you look around, you’ll see that most people have terrible posture. Make an effort to stand and sit up straight and walk tall.
12. Once you pop, you just can’t stop
Processed food is engineered to be tasty. For example, Pringles and Doritos have ‘vanishing caloric density’ which means that as you bite into a chip, it dissolves and you never feel quite satisfied, no matter how much you eat. I could inhale one bag of Doritos without even realizing what had happened, which is why it’s a good idea to minimize processed food and replace it with real food.
13. Stop tempting yourself
If your desk looks like the buffet table at an airport VIP lounge, then it’s time to remove the needless temptation from your environment.
14. Do less, get more done
Each of us has a certain amount of sleep we need for optimum functioning. It’s not impressive to get by with too little sleep. It’s stupid. Get more sleep and you’ll find your waking hours are more efficient and effective.
15. Yes, you can eat less
Most of us tend to want to “get our money’s worth” with food portions. We think that the more we eat, the more value we’re getting. But this isn’t the case. And over time portion sizes can increase without you realizing it. Start cutting back your portion sizes slowly and notice if it makes any difference to your levels of satisfaction.
16. The downsides of a comfy chair
It’s becoming evident that a healthy activity level is not just about how much exercise you do, but also how little time you spend sitting down. Sit less. Get up and walk around regularly.
17. To weigh or not to weigh
Although there is a lot of advice to the contrary, if you want to lose weight (or stop weight from increasing), weighing yourself every day is a good way to keep your awareness around food decisions you make.
18. One thing your parents were wrong about
Most of us were taught by our parents to finish everything on our plates. But this is a bad habit. Only eat as much as you need, don’t automatically clear your plate and if you don’t like throwing away food, then serve yourself less.
19. Don’t use food for the wrong reasons
Food is for nourishment and it’s enjoyable. But don’t use food for other functions like as a reward, for relieving boredom, practical jokes, a bargaining tool in negotiations or coping with stress.
20. Aim for 80%
In Okinawa, whose inhabitants have one of the highest life expectancies in the world, their approach to eating is captured by the expression Hara hachi bun me which means “eat until you’re 80% full”.
So how many of these habits do you have?
If your health deteriorates, then every other area in your life will fall apart, so it’s good to do what you can to maximize your physical wellbeing.
Look at the habits you don’t have, and if you think it’s useful, the pick one to try and introduce into your life. Then once you’ve got that new habit under your belt, introduce a new one.
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