Back in 2012, a CDC study found that the average American adult spends just 17 minutes on exercise every day. For reference, that’s about half of the bare minimum that health organizations recommend. While rather sad, statistics like this are not really surprising. The unfortunate fact is that most of us just can’t afford to spend hours every week taking care of our bodies.
Fortunately, there are ways around these time constraints. The best healthy habits are those that you can easily incorporate into your daily life, without going out of your way. This article is going to go over a few of those habits and look at ways to add them to any routine.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. If that sounds like a lot more than you get, you’re not alone. In fact, most of us are lucky to get six hours of sleep a night. That means that we’re all mildly sleep deprived on a daily basis, which has tons of negative health effects.
That’s why, when it comes to sleep, the best healthy habits are to either get more or sleep smarter. If you can’t get the extra hours of shut-eye, make the most of those that you can get. Try exercising a few hours before bed, and make sure to avoid eating or drinking right before bed.
By doing so you’ll ensure a more restful slumber with fewer interruptions. This in turn will lead to feeling more rested in the morning, despite the fact that you’re technically sleep-deprived. That being said, nothing replaces an actual full night of sleep. If you find it that difficult to budget more sleep into your day, it might be time to learn more about work-life balance.
Sound surprising? For years, conventional wisdom has had it that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The thinking went that a big breakfast would kickstart your metabolism, helping you process food throughout the day. Because you got a jump-start on calories, the theory goes, you wouldn’t feel as hungry during the day.
However, recent research has shown that basically all of that is bunk science. As it turns out, your metabolism doesn’t actually change that much based on what you eat. While appetite can be affected by big meals, our natural tendency is to eat when we’re given food. Thus, a big breakfast won’t necessarily keep you from snacking.
All of which means that, far from being the most important meal of the day, breakfast is actually one of the most skippable. If you find yourself consistently going over on calories, it might be time to skimp on breakfast. Instead of eating meat and starches, try a lighter meal of fruit or nuts for energy. Not only will you save on the calorie count, but you’ll also feel less lethargic during the day.
Anxiety is a day to day reality for many, but it’s also a health issue. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to reduce anxiety during the workday.
A number of recent studies have found that practicing mindfulness meditation throughout the day can combat the effects of workplace anxiety. Meditating in groups increased these effects, although they were noticeable even for solo practitioners.
When you hear “meditation,” most people assume that mindfulness means a large investment of time. In reality, the opposite is true. Even taking five minutes at the end of your lunch break to meditate can have a huge effect on your daily mindset.
Meanwhile, another study found that mindfulness meditation is among the best healthy habits for insuring a deeper, more relaxing sleep. Best of all, the average meditation time on both studies ended up being less than fifteen minutes per day. I use apps like Calm and Headspace to get my daily allotment of mindfulness even when I’m on the go.
Recent research has suggested that achieving your physical activity goals might be as easy as downloading an app. As humans, we’re incredibly good at tricking ourselves into thinking that we’ve exercised more than we actually did. By tracking your physical activity digitally, you’ll keep yourself honest and avoid overestimating your actual exercise.
Fortunately, smart phones have made getting access to a pedometer easier than ever before. The quality of the app you choose doesn’t actually matter that much. All you need is something that will accurately track the amount of activity that you’re actually doing and compare it against your goal.
If you experience frequent headaches or problems sleeping, too much artificial light might be the cause. That’s because light (especially blue light) from artificial sources tricks our brains into thinking that it’s earlier in the day than it is. This is especially true if you work in an office with fluorescent lights, which have been linked to all kinds of health issues.
While you probably can’t control the lights at your office, you can at home. Try to keep the lights in your house dim in the evening. Better yet, avoid watching too much television or looking at a computer right before bed.
Instead, try reading right before you go to sleep—the light from a desk lamp is much less disruptive to your sleep cycle than that from a screen.
For a lot of people, it’s simply not realistic to get a full compliment of nutrition every day. Your body needs a lot of nutrients, and many modern diets (especially low-calorie diets) have trouble covering all the bases. This is especially true if you work indoors, as your body is designed to absorb vitamin D from the sun throughout the day.
Fortunately, its easy to rely on nutrient supplements instead. In addition to the regular compliment of multivitamins, make sure that you target the specific needs that you’re not getting from your diet. For example, many vegetarians and vegans supplement their diets with algae-based omega-3 supplements, in order to replace nutrients usually found in meat and fish.
On the flip side, just make sure you don’t overdo it. Taking too many vitamins can be just as bad for you as not getting enough. This is particularly common with vitamins that we naturally get a lot of, such as vitamin C. While the effects aren’t utterly disastrous—for C, it’s mostly just abdominal pain and frequent urination—its still best to consult your doctor before taking supplements of any kind.
In addition to providing companionship, studies have shown that keeping a pet can be good for your health. In particular, research has consistently shown that adopting a pet can improve your cardiovascular health.
There are two reasons for this—on the obvious level, having a pet necessitates physical interaction. This is particularly true of active dogs, such as collies or beagles. In addition to being one of the best healthy habits to get into, walking a dog is fun and a great way to experience more of your local community.
Beyond that, the comfort that pets provide significantly lowers stress. As stress is one of the biggest contributors to negative cardiovascular health and weight gain, any type of pet can improve your health.
These positive effects are particularly pronounced in children, who experience boosts in their daily activity and immune system after spending time with animals.
Many of the best healthy habits start with good oral hygiene. This doesn’t just mean brushing your teeth twice a day (although you should also do that!). You’ll also want to consistently floss, gargle, and avoid corrosive foods like soda. Keeping your teeth healthy also means visiting the dentist at least once a year, and anytime you experience enduring tooth pain.
Gum health is equally important. The American Dental Association estimates that chronic gum disease effects more than 40% of adults over 30. Worse, there’s significant evidence that having gum disease makes you more susceptible to other health issues.
Thus, it’s important to keep your gums healthy by visiting a dentist as soon as you notice inflammation. By addressing the problem early, you can prevent long-term damage to your gums.
Ultimately, the best healthy habits are those that you actually stick to. Thus, the best thing that you can do for your health is to understand your own willingness to make changes to your daily routine. By making and sticking to commitments, you won’t just improve your personal health. You’ll also feel better about yourself, improving your confidence and happiness in your daily life.
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LAWYER & ONLINE ENTREPRENEUR
After graduating from law school and passing the bar, I struggled to find work, pay my bills, and make ends meet. That's when I decided to take control of my future and start working for myself. Now, several years and a handful of companies later, I'm sharing how I launched a successful business, and how you can do it too.