Most of us feel, in the backs of our minds, that we ought to adopt certain healthy habits. We may even stress out about it, worrying that we don’t have time to fit in habits which would really improve our lives.
It’s impossible to do everything, so we need to prioritise the habits which will bring the greatest value to our lives. I’m going to share with you the nine habits which I think have the most value for me personally. You may disagree!
Early to bed, early to rise
Far too many people don’t get enough sleep. Waking up for work at 7 a.m. is always a chore if you didn’t get to sleep till midnight! But I believe morning people are mostly made, not born. And a sensible bedtime – ideally before 11 p.m. – is the best starting point.
I’m self-employed, so I can go to bed and get up whenever I like. But I still choose to go to bed around 10:30 p.m. and get up at 6:30 a.m. Why? Because I get so much more done that way.
I’ve always found that I work best early in the morning. By getting up early, I can finish my freelance work before lunch and get on with personal projects or just chill out in the afternoons. It makes the day feel so much longer.
Granted, you may have the same number of hours if you both get up and go to bed later, but in my experience it’s hard to stay motivated to work past dinner time. Far better to get it all over with early.
Incidentally, I went through a phase quite recently of sleeping in far too late. To break out of it, I used the good old trick of moving my alarm back a little at a time until I reached my desired getting up time. I started out at 8:30, so I’m now getting up two whole hours earlier! And it doesn’t feel the least bit painful – in fact, I often naturally wake up before my alarm.
Eat to thrive
This sounds almost too obvious, but I couldn’t leave it out. What you put in your body is so important, so nourish it with plenty of unprocessed plant foods – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Watch this talk (long, but worth it) for more information on why you should eat this way.
Again, obvious but important – especially first thing in the morning, when you’re bound to be dehydrated. I like to start my day with a big mug of tea. Always try to stick to natural unsweetened drinks like water, tea and coffee. Even diet cola has a number of undesirable ingredients.
I get bored of drinking water, so to make sure I stay hydrated I drink plenty of tea, mostly green and herbal. I do like black tea, but it stains my teeth so I tried to limit it! I also drink a barley-based coffee substitute and unsweetened cocoa.
Get out into nature
Getting outside is hugely underrated in our modern world. Gyms mean we don’t even need to go outside to exercise. We might as well be in captivity, shuttled around from home to work and back again.
But nature is so incredibly important for our mental health. There’s a reason why relaxation tracks often include the sound of rain, running water or birdsong. Really, can you think of anything more calming than sitting on a riverbank or walking through sun-dappled woodland? For me, it’s the ultimate reset when I’m feeling rubbish.
Sadly, not all of us have the luxury of being able to get out into nature every day. But even going to a park or just generally being outside is better than staying indoors all day. I make sure I get out every day, whatever the weather. Going out for a daily walk means that you get some exercise in too. Or you could go running or cycling, or do some gardening – so many options!
Those who know me are probably sick of hearing me talk about yoga! But I talk about it because it really does have incredible benefits and I’ve seen first-hand the difference it can make. I did a yoga post recently, so I won’t ramble on about it too much here.
Yoga’s sister practice, meditation, is probably the thing on this list that I most struggle to incorporate into my daily routine. I go through phases of practicing every day, and then I’ll slip and not practice for months. I really do want to improve in this area.
Meditation is so amazing for your mental health, promoting kindness and compassion. I have found it especially useful for working through difficult problems – once I clear my mind, the answer often just comes to me. It’s also a very effective de-stressing technique. You can set a timer or do it to music.
I recently downloaded a guided meditation app, which I’m really excited about. I’m hoping it will help me get into the groove again.
I believe it’s really important that we keep learning all our lives. Learning helps us to become more open-minded, as well as expanding our skillsets and potentially changing the course of our lives altogether. I wouldn’t be writing this right now if I hadn’t learnt about veganism!
Watching documentaries and TED talks is another way to learn. And also, see if there are any talks and lectures on in your area. They’re often free. I went to a couple of fascinating free climate change talks a while back, and there was free tea too!
With the entire internet at our disposal, there’s no excuse not to keep learning. I recently downloaded the free language learning app Duolingo to help me brush up on my Spanish before I go away. It’s so much fun and I love it.
As children, we constantly express our creativity. But as we get older, it begins to feel silly and childish to be messing around with poster paints or playing imaginary games.
But should it be that way? Have you ever played with a child and been struck by how much fun it is to just let go and express your creativity? This is why adult colouring books have taken off; they allow us to express that side of us in a way that’s both fun and relaxing.
Einstein said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun”. Intelligence without creativity is pretty useless, in my opinion!
Writing helps me to be creative, as does cooking. But I still think I need more creativity in my life. I love to paint and play music, but I’ve got out of the habit. This is another area where I’d like to improve.
How could you express your creativity? Don’t tell me you don’t have any – everyone does!
Loneliness is epidemic in the modern world. Many of us move away from our families as soon as we can afford to, often leaving us isolated. And children nowadays are less likely to take care of elderly parents, leaving them all alone if and when their spouse dies.
Human interaction is so important, even for introverts like myself. Many times I’ve felt upset and despairing about life, only for those feelings to disappear when I spend some time with a loved one. It’s really important to have people to turn to who will unconditionally love and support you through rough times. So next time you feel grumpy, make sure you’re not just lonely.
Physical contact is important too. I love cuddles, but unfortunately I’m really picky about who I allow into my personal space!
I can’t do all of this every single day!
Relax – neither can most of us. For me, this is an ideal, something to aim towards. I’m currently living a somewhat nomadic lifestyle, which makes it hard to maintain a routine. Certain habits tend to slip when I move around. Right now, I’m at my parents’ place and the abundance of yummy vegan cakes makes it difficult to be as healthy as I’d like to be! And sometimes the pull of YouTube is too strong and my yoga or meditation gets left behind. The important thing is to keep trying, and not beat yourself up when you slip.
So that’s it. Can you think of any more?