9 Healthy Habits That Will Improve Your Life

These nine healthy habits are so obvious that it’s an absolute shame that not a single person who reads this will have performed all of them in one day.

Every single person has some excuse for not taking care of themselves. Most of those excuses will relate to not having enough time. But you make time to check your Facebook and Twitter feeds dozens of times a day. Just start doing these nine things and you will be guaranteed to end up happier and healthier.

1. Sleep 8 Hours Every Night

There is absolute mounds of evidence that the human body needs at least seven hours of sleep every single day. And that’s a minimum. You will be happier and more alert if you ensure you consistently sleep a minimum of eight hours each and every night.

Sleep for eight hours every night

Image by Katherine Squier via Flickr – Creative Commons License

You’re considered to be sleep deprived if you rely on an alarm clock to wake you up in the morning. Never mind hitting the snooze button.

And there’s no such thing as a “sleep debt.” You’re not catching up on the weekends. You’re just getting an appropriate amount of sleep.

Several studies show that not only does sleep deprivation effect your mood and concentration, but also your life span. A lack of sleep has been shown to increase risk of heart disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes and weight gain. Weight gain from not sleeping enough. Which is going to increase your risk of for heart disease.

It’s a vicious cycle.

So go to sleep earlier.

2. Eat Home-Cooked Food

Most grocery stores are designed similarly. The meat, produce, and dairy sections along the three outside walls, and all the processed garbage along the aisles in the middle.

The majority of foods purchased in the middle aisles of a grocery store are loaded with preservatives and other things that aren’t food. If you can’t pronounce the name of an ingredient, you shouldn’t be eating it.

The time it takes to prepare food from “scratch” is negligible if you take the time to prepare a meal plan. A simple meal plan prepared the week before and designed around eating a healthy balanced diet allows you to purchase and prepare much of the food in advance.

You can make your own pasta and have it keep for days. You can make your own sauces and have them keep for weeks.

A healthy homecooked meal

Image by dbgg1979 via Flickr – Creative Commons License

You can simply just make things easy enough that you don’t have to worry about keeping them around at all.

It’s not important to eat organic, but it’s certainly important to eat actual food. If it was created in a lab to taste amazing for nine cents a pound, it’s probably not food.

3. Don’t Drink Soda

The majority of ingredients in soda are unpronounceable, and the rest of them are corn.

There is almost no nutritional value in sodas – but there is a ton of calories. Unless you’re drinking “diet” sodas, in which case you’re just consuming large quantities of a chemical that has a(n unconfirmed) link to several types of cancer. Is spending several dollars a day on something that’s making you unhealthy worth the risk?

Think about it for a moment. You’re drinking water, dyed brown, loaded with chemicals. But at least it’s sweet, right?

4. Exercise At Least 30 Minutes a Day

Thirty minutes a day to keep your body in working order. Is that too much to ask?

A simple aerobic exercise, just enough to elevate your heart rate for an extended period of time, will have a powerful long-lasting effect on your cardiovascular system. Thirty minutes of exercise as infrequently as three times per week has been shown to dramatically reduce plaque build up in the arteries. Which very simply means a longer life.

You don’t have to be doing P90X.

Two women exercising

Image by Mike Baird via Creative Commons License

Moderate daily exercise has been shown to elevate your mood, increase your overall stamina, and even keep your cognitive abilities sharp into your later years.

It will also keep you from getting fat.

5. Drink at Least One Glass of Water Immediately After Waking

Signs of dehydration include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Cravings for sugar or salt
  • Dark urine
  • Thirst (If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.)

And a huge number of people spend all day, every day, dehydrated. Many don’t even realize when they’re thirsty.

After sleeping all night you haven’t ingested any water in a long time. (Hopefully at least 8 hours.) There may be water in your coffee, teas, and sodas, but it’s important to start the day off right with at least one large glass of water.

Intentionally drinking several glasses of water throughout the day is great, but making sure you start the day off with a big infusion will work wonders.

6. Eat Breakfast

Why don’t you just sit down and have a nice big glass of water with the meal you’re supposed to eat every morning.

Studies have shown that nearly 80% of Americans don’t eat breakfast. Other studies have shown that it’s the most important meal of the day. Is anyone paying attention?

A great breakfast

Image by Fin Fahey via Flickr – Creative Commons License

Eating breakfast will help give you energy first thing in the morning. It will help suppress your appetite while you’re working and unable to prepare a meal. And when you’re hungry and unable to prepare a meal, you’re going to eat some sort of pre-packaged vending machine garbage.

And of course, since you will most likely be eating breakfast before you go to work, it can’t hurt that eating breakfast has been shown to assist with concentration early in the day.

7. Don’t Drink (Much)

At least, don’t drink often. The “it’s the weekend, let’s get wasted” routine is going to kill you. Seriously, look:

Chronic excess alcohol intake, or alcohol dependence, can lead to a wide range of neuropsychiatric or neurological impairment, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and malignant neoplasms. The psychiatric disorders which are associated with alcoholism include major depression, dysthymia, mania, hypomania, panic disorder, phobias, generalized anxiety disorder, personality disorders, schizophrenia, suicide, neurologic deficits (e.g. impairments of working memory, emotions, executive functions, visuospatial abilities and gait andbalance) and brain damage. Alcohol dependence is associated with hypertension, coronary heart disease, and ischemic stroke, cancer of the respiratory system, and also cancers of the digestive system, liver, breast and ovaries. Heavy drinking is associated with liver disease, such as cirrhosis.[12]  – The negative effects of alcohol as listed by Wikipedia.

There is some evidence that moderate alcohol use can actually benefit your cardiovascular system. But moderate use is in the area of 1 or 2 drinks at a time. When Friday night comes around, you should probably work on a hobby instead of a six-pack.

8. Don’t Smoke

Definitely just don’t smoke. You can actually make an argument for drinking. But smoking? Why bother?

Seriously, you’re basically just spending a ton of money on being addicted to a habit that consumes your money, your health, and somewhere in the area of an hour or two a day that you could spend more productively. You could at least spend that time sleeping, since you’re probably not getting enough time for that either.

No smoking, ever. For any reason.

Image by Isabel Bloedwater via Flickr – Creative Commons License

9. Be Happy

Just be happy. You can control how happy you are surprisingly easily.

Seriously, most people don’t understand that being happy is as simple as deciding to be happy.

Other than obvious complaints about being fatigued or irritable, which points one through eight will fix, why are you unhappy?

Just don’t be. Be positive. Help others. Just be happy.

  • http://10stepstofindingyourhappyplace.blogspot.com/ Galen Pearl

    Hi, Rob–Saw your response to my comment on Advanced Life Skills and popped over to check out your blog. 3 weeks?! Way to go! Loved this list, and I do most of these things. Your last one is what my blog is all about. Anyway, good luck to you and thanks for the additional comment about the serenity prayer–my mantra!

  • @feraltwit

    WIN, I do all those things. Consiquently I burp smugness and fart rosy mist.

    Seriously though, all those things are money saving so you can work less and have more time to do those things!

  • Demorfellis

    I appreciate this simple but practical list. However, claiming that being happy is just a matter of deciding to do so is naive. Roughly one in ten Americans suffer from clinical depression, which prevents them from ‘deciding to be happy.’ While being happy does, indeed, improve one’s health, and doing so usually requires a decision to do so, happiness is elusive or even unattainable for some people until they find a medical treatment for the underlying physiological and/or psychological conditions that are the cause of their unhappiness.

    • Anonymous

      Amen! As I read this I felt it was all good (and obvious) information EXCEPT the “just be happy” part. Who would argue that the human brain is the most complex organ in the body and possibly the most complex thing that has ever existed? Yet oddly, many people have a belief that it never goes awry. No one would say “Oh, you have cancer? Well just stop it!” People who are depressed can’t just “be happy”. I’ve spent decades trying to help a family member be happy who suffers from depression. Trust me, she wishes with all her heart that point #9 was as easy as you suggest!

    • Anonymous

      I don’t think #9 was implying that depressed people should just stop being depressed. Obviously, there’s a lot more to it than that. Rather, I think it was saying that people who aren’t depressed need to stop clinging to the bad things in every day life (No parking spaces, the dog peed on the floor, you had tooth paste fall on your shirt, etc.) and focus on the positives. Clinical depression is on a whole other level and #9 clearly doesn’t apply to that.

  • http://everythingofcooking.com/ everythingofcooking

    I do all those things. I came to them not long ago, but the most important i did came to them! I can add one more thing here – Have hobby or the work you really like!

  • http://programminglife.net M. Catlett

    Excellent reminders all in all! That picture of breakfast is definitely unappetizing to me, but hey, different strokes.

  • Tim

    Already doing al 9. Feeling pretty good, besides the hangovers…

    If you wanna give tips on a better way of living, skip the basics. People know this, just not all who commit to it.

  • http://www.tiffany267.wordpress.com tiffany267

    Mostly quite sensible and helpful tips, but there is no such thing as deciding to have an emotion. What we can and should decide is our rational course of action (such as following the other tips in the article) – happiness will naturally follow by consistently acting in our rational self-interest.