There are some daily habits that I employ that have improved my life in a hugely positive way. These habits are not only easy to start and maintain, but science shows us that they are beneficial to everyone.
In this post, I will show that these habits (if adopted) will improve your mental and physical health, and increase your overall feeling of wellbeing. Furthermore, If these daily habits are sustained, then your overall quality of life will substantially improve.
The knock-on effect of this will be a happier, less stressed life with fewer health complications. Not a bad outcome for such little effort I think you will agree!
- Healthy Thinking
- Eat the Rainbow
- Be Physical
- Commune With Nature
- Cultivate Relationships
- Exercise Your Brain
- A Good Nights Sleep
- Go Minimal
- BONUS HABIT!
What is a Habit?
We all have daily habits, and these habits are demonstrated by the actions that we take every day. Whether it’s brushing your teeth, walking the dog or buying the newspaper every day.
These are called our “behavioral habits,” and they contribute to our overall feeling of health and wellbeing.
There are also some behavioral habits that are bad for us such as; constantly checking our phones, eating too many sugary foods, spending too much time indoors, and avoiding social contact.
Believe it or not, these habits not only have the power to make you unhappy but can also shorten your life span considerably!
Creating Lifestyle Choices
What we do each day and how we do it is generally described as our lifestyle. It is, therefore, our daily habits that create our lifestyle. We may choose to have a dog and walk it thereby getting into the fresh air, meet other people and take responsibility for another life. This would be deemed a healthy lifestyle choice.
Or we choose to stay indoors, out of direct sunlight and only interact with people on our phones. People that we will probably never meet. Yet these distant, virtual people cause us more stress and anxiety than they do happiness. This would be deemed an unhealthy lifestyle choice.
Always remember that It’s your life and how you choose to live it creates your lifestyle choice. It is very easy to blame your poor lifestyle choices on other factors or other people. The hard truth is that it’s your life to live, and it’s your choices that decide how easy or how bad that life may be.
This is the time to wake up, take responsibility, and then make the healthy lifestyle choices that will change your life forever.
So What Are The Daily Habits That Will Improve Your Life!
Habit 1 - Make Healthy Thinking Part Of Your Day
Your thoughts shape your actions, so it’s also important to focus on how you can make healthy thinking part of your day.
Whether it’s going for a walk, drinking more water, de-stressing with me-time, meditating, going to the gym or what you are having for lunch. If you start your day thinking in a positive way about your daily health choices then you will be a winner. This is why healthy thinking should not just become a daily habit, it should become a way of life.
“Healthy, happy people think about what they want, and how to get it, most of the time. In this way developing a positive attitude can truly change your entire life”.
Your mind has absolute control over everything that you do so make it your best friend and mentor. Thinking in a positive way about your healthy choices becomes easier over time and is actually quite enjoyable. This is because the results are so easy to see and measure.
However, It’s not always easy to stay positive. Whenever you experience a setback it may allow negative thoughts to creep in.
You should learn to treat setbacks as positive opportunities to learn and grow. It is in this way that you turn negatives into positives and bounce back stronger and faster. Source
I now keep healthy thinking at the forefront of my mind and in all the choices that I make. I may struggle with ethics or with balancing other factors at the time, but generally, I am happy with my choices.
Habit 2 - Meditate For 10 Minutes Every Day
I was actually very skeptical about meditation when I first tried it. However, the power of positive thinking persuaded me to let go of my beliefs and try it. Now, I was never stressed out or a hyperactive guy who needed to relax. So I thought the benefits, if any, would be minimal but boy was I wrong.
At the start, I found meditation was hard to take seriously and I was never really comfortable with it. As I persevered though I found that over time it became easier. Not only that but If I didn’t meditate I actually missed it and felt worse off for not doing it. This is one of the daily habits that I actually struggled over!
My mind was not as calm, my thinking did not seem as clear and I was genuinely less focused than usual. For these reasons, I decided to investigate some of the science behind this very old practice. My findings were not at all what I expected.
Here are some of the benefits that you can expect from daily meditation:
- Meditation can improve your memory
- Routine meditation can make making decisions easier.
- Meditation can slow down, or even prevent, some neurodegenerative diseases.
- The brain functions better with meditation.
- Meditation can help to reduce blood pressure.
There are many other benefits but too many to list here so please follow the link to find out more. Source
Habit 3 - Drink Water As Soon As You Get Up
Water is one of the biggest factors in determining our daily and long term mental health. This is because our body is between 55% to 70% water and the brain is up to 80% water. We need all that water in order to think and work at an optimal level and any drop in those levels by even 1.5% will have an immediate effect.
Studies have shown that even mild dehydration, (loss water by 1.5%+), can negatively alter a person’s mood, energy levels and ability to think clearly. Source
It might sound crazy but if you feel like drinking, then you are already dehydrated and suffering the symptoms. Furthermore, each day we lose, (on average), 2 to 3 liters of water through breathing, sweating, urine, and bowel movements.
So why not mimic the happy athlete and keep yourself hydrated rather than waiting for the dehydration effects to start. Personally, I measure out 2.5 liters of water each day and drink that throughout the day. I don’t wait until I feel thirsty and sometimes I drop a little flavor in there to keep it interesting. It’s all about creating new daily habits!
However, with the right nutritious diet, we can reduce that figure of 2 to 3 liters. Traditionally we attained a good percentage of water intake from the food that we ate.
Processed foods have high salt levels and are partly dehydrated so steer clear of these. High water content foods include strawberries, celery, green peppers, and iceberg lettuce.
Is Starting My Day With Coffee One Of The Good Daily Habits?
Starting your day with coffee, however, is a counterproductive habit as coffee is a mild diuretic. Drinking coffee, therefore, will result in you peeing out more fluid than you take in. This, in turn, will lead to the negative effects of mild dehydration. Sorry about that.
The result of keeping yourself fully hydrated all day is that you will stay happy, calm, energized, and focused on the tasks of the day. You will become less stressed, your mood enhanced and your interactions with others will improve. As a bonus, your joints and ligaments will be better lubricated and therefore may become less painful. Source
Habit 4 - Eat the Rainbow
Eating the rainbow is bourne from the principle that different colored foods have different vitamins and minerals stored within them. Therefore if you eat the rainbow you will be getting a better-balanced more nutritious diet. This is a very basic understanding of nutritional value however there is some truth to it.
For more information on a better-balanced diet please read: How to lose weight and sustainably keep it off
When you are food shopping make a point of dropping some fruit and vegetables into your shopping basket. Following this, make a point of eating or even making full meals from this resource every day. Work towards cutting out all processed foods and steadily replacing them with this fresh produce.
I now make virtually all my family meals from fresh locally grown produce. This not only feeds the family’s nutritional needs but also supports the local farmers and economy. This is one of the daily habits that I really enjoy.
There is very little nutritional value in processed food, as they are loaded with unhealthy fats, additives, salt, and sugar. Fresh produce, however, is what the human body has been digesting since the dawn of man. It contains all the essential nutrients that the human body cannot synthesize on its own and are essential to life.
For this reason, improving your nutritional intake will have the biggest effect on the quality of your life.
Asides from the nutrients; different colored fruit and vegetables have different phytochemicals within them.
Different phytochemicals mean they each have different properties which can aid your health in many different ways. Source.
How Can I Improve My Nutritional Intake?
The benefits of eating a good nutritious diet are many and varied and eating the rainbow is only the start.
So here are some tips for improving your diet in other ways.
- Eat plenty of whole-grain products
- Choose low fat, fat-free or lactose-free kinds of milk
- Choose lean meats or preferably white protein-rich meats such as chicken and fish
- Increase your intake of other protein-rich foods such as seeds, beans or tofu
So how does poor nutrition affect us?
Poor nutrition can greatly impair our health and wellbeing. It also reduces our ability to fight disease, causes a hormonal and mental imbalance and can lead to death. Source An unhealthy diet can cause obesity and also increase the risk of some cancers.
Overweight and obesity are associated with at least 13 types of cancer, including endometrial (uterine) cancer, breast cancer in postmenopausal women, and colorectal cancer. These cancers make up 40% of all cancers diagnosed. This is why you should make good nutritional eating one of your healthy daily habits.
In the short term, poor nutrition can quickly lead to problems such as:
- A Reduced Immune System
- High Blood Pressure
- Inability To Concentrate
For more details please read my post on; An In-Depth Guide To The 6 Essential Nutrients And Functions. So eating the rainbow is a good start to a more nutritious diet but it’s not enough. You should also eat more greens to access the phytochemicals and avoid sugary drinks and processed food.
Habit 5 - Commit To 30 Minutes Of Physical Activity
Smart people know that you need a combination of healthy nutritious foods and regular exercise to achieve optimal health. This is why one of your daily habits should be to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.
Regular activity can improve your quality of life and reduce the risk of developing several diseases like type 2 diabetes.
A single workout produces immediate effects on your brain increasing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline.
Dopamine and serotonin are sometimes known as the “happy hormones”. This is due to the roles, they play in regulating mood and emotion. Source
They are also believed to help regulate social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function. Regular exercise will also see increases in levels of motivation, alertness blood flow and reaction times.
The first month of creating a new fitness habit is always the toughest. So its best to make a commitment to yourself to show up for every session during this time.
The exercise does not need to be strenuous to be beneficial and ideally, it would be done outside.
Exercising outside will bring you extra benefits for the mind and soul as well as the body.
Do I Have To Join A Gym?
I take my dog out for a brisk 30-minute walk, (with no digital distractions), to get my quota in. Exercise is different for everyone and should be in line with their own particular circumstances. However, its something that has to be done.
Research done by the American College of Medicine (ACSM) recommends that you exercise moderately for a minimum of 150 to 250 minutes per week. That’s about 22 to 35 minutes each day.
Remember though that committing to a healthier lifestyle is a personal decision, and it’s different for everyone. Even small amounts of exercise are beneficial to the body and mind. However, exercising outdoors will increase the effectiveness of any training that you do.
Remember that regular daily exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day could allow you to enjoy the following benefits:
- Reduced risk of a heart attack
- Lower blood cholesterol levels
- Stronger bones, muscles, and joints reducing the risk of developing osteoporosis
- Lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes and some cancers
- Lower blood pressure
- Stronger immune system
- Improved mental health
For a list of weekly exercise recommendations, please read my article; How to lose weight and sustainably keep it off
Habit 6 - Commune With Nature
Believe it or not, getting outdoors is one of the healthiest things we can do to improve our overall health. Our bodies and minds have evolved over the eons to have a direct physical and mental connection. Fresh air, sunlight, wide-open spaces and the changing colors of nature feed our minds and bodies in very tangible ways.
Sunlight helps us to produce 85% to 95% of vitamin D. This vitamin is essential for a healthy immune system, stable blood pressure, and strong muscles and bones. However, you should be careful not to burn in the sun. So take care to cover up or protect your skin with sunscreen before your skin starts to turn red or burn.
Sunlight also boosts the neurotransmitter serotonin, which can give you the feeling of calmness, joy, and wellbeing. In this way, it enables you to experience strong emotions or spiritual feelings.
Doctors sometimes treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and other types of depression with natural or artificial light. This is to counter low levels of serotonin.
Small amounts of ultraviolet light may also help to ease the symptoms of certain skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and vitiligo. However once again, you should be careful not to burn in the sun. So remember to protect your skin with sunscreen.
Cancer Research UK has tips to help you protect your skin in the sun.
Fresh, clean, oxygen-rich outdoor air cleans out the respiratory system preventing lung and other body damage. It does this by widely expanding the lungs, picking up the indoor air toxins and expelling them through the mouth.
Fresh oxygen also fuels the body and is absorbed by the bloodstream allowing us to recharge our immune system. our ancestral connection with nature doesn’t stop there either. Research shows that spending time in the fresh air, surrounded by nature, increases energy in 90 percent of people.
This is because being outdoors in the sunlight and fresh air affects the brain by increasing neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.
The brain is also stimulated by the sights, sounds, smells, and colors of nature. These elements are brought together in the hippocampus evoking strong emotions and an enormous feeling of wellbeing.
Imagine spending your day in a place like this:
The health benefits gained from communing with nature are huge, and in this article are understated! Getting outdoors should become one of your daily habits, even if it’s the only daily habit that you adopt.
The short term benefits are obvious but do you know that in the long term the extra neurotransmitters will cause your hippocampus to grow.
Studies show that people who exercise regularly, get outdoors and are physical, fit have a bigger hippocampus. This is important because the bigger your hippocampus, the lower your risk is of developing mental diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
A bigger hippocampus can also protect us against dementia symptoms in our 70s and 80s.
Habit 7 - Cultivate Relationships
Social connections not only give us pleasure, but they also influence our long-term health in ways just as powerful as sleep, fresh air, or a nutritious diet, and exercise can. Many studies have shown that people who develop strong social ties and community support with those around them live longer.
They are also are happier, develop fewer mental and physical health problems and are 2.4 times less likely to die of cardiovascular disease. Source.
Relationships are as important to us as food in our bellies or sunlight on our souls. The effects of being noticed and appreciated in life are very real and tangible.
Studies show that the people who live longer, healthier and happier have 3 things in their lives:
- People who they love and invest their quality time with
- Others who they invest their time with who are like-minded (republicans, democrats, flat earthers)
- Regular and quality meetings with those that they form a connection with ( hobbyists, people of faith, women’s groups, etc)
There is a huge variety of factors involved, however, in all studies, one thing remains a constant. Social ties affect mental health, physical health, health behaviors, and mortality risk. Source
Other relationship studies concluded that If you have good close relationships you are also:
- Less likely to have a cold
- You will recover faster from surgery
- You are two times less likely to have a major health challenge
- Your life expectancy will be extended
So are There Any Health Risks Associated With Fewer Social Ties?
Berkman and Syme (1979) showed that the risk of death among men and women with the fewest social ties was more than twice as high as the risk for adults with the most social ties. Moreover, they suffered from poor mental and physical health which prompted unhealthy behaviors.
These behaviors then exacted a huge toll on individuals, families, friends, and society. This then concludes, that to be a social leper is just as damaging to health, as being a social butterfly is beneficial.
So if you want a life of solitary exercise, outdoor runs, meditation, and riches. A life full of achievements fulfilled goals and objectives but have no one close by to share them with. No one who cares, no one to support you through the tough times, and the good, then what’s the point.
A solitary life and loneliness kills.
For this reason, I make cultivating relationships, sharing success and being happy one of my daily habits.
This is a daily habit that I urge you to try. Not only will people love and admire you but you will live longer, healthier and be the more fulfilled for it. This certainly is a daily habit that you should invest more time in and what’s more, it is cheap to do.
The only thing you need to invest in is a smile.
Habit 8 - Exercise Your Brain With Something New
There are multiple benefits to stimulating your brain on a daily basis, some of which, are not immediately obvious. The science is that our brain changes as we learn, and this change is called “neuroplasticity”.
Basically this means that our brains continually change, grow and make new connections as we learn new things.
Also, our brains learn best from being active, not passive. Or in other words, by being fully engaged in whatever it is we are reading or listening to. Just being there doesn’t cut it! Similarly, without exercise, our brains actually slow down, become less responsive and more prone to disease over time.
This means that people who continue to learn well into adulthood have faster responses, better social skills and have greater overall wellbeing.
Knowing that you will be learning something new gives you a sense of purpose and makes you a more interesting person.
Having greater neuroplasticity also has other benefits such as:
- It can help to fight dementia
- Improved memory skills
- Increased ability to process new information
- Greater knowledge makes you more productive and interesting
- Fights off the effects of aging which transfers into the mental and physical condition
Is It Too Late To Learn If I Am Over 65?
In the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) trial; healthy adults 65 and older participated in 10 sessions of memory training. The results showed that the sessions improved participants’ mental skills in the areas in which they trained.
Moreover, most of these improvements persisted up to 10 years after the training was completed. So you’re never too old to learn or to benefit from the advantages of that learning.
Make exercising your brain one of your daily habits as there are learning opportunities all around you.
From something as difficult as a new language to something as simple as making pancakes from scratch, every day presents a new chance to broaden your horizons.
For me, I have joined an amateur theatre group and it gives me the opportunity to learn something new virtually every day. It’s hugely enjoyable and also ticks a lot of boxes within this article.
Habit 9 - A Good Nights Sleep
We all know that getting a good night’s sleep is vital to our physical and emotional wellbeing. It’s also understood that sleep deprivation can lead to many short-term and long-term health problems. However, the importance of sleep is largely misunderstood and taken for granted by most of us.
The short term effects of sleep deprivation include tiredness, lethargy, fatigue, irritability, and memory difficulties to name but a few. However, we believe that these are short-lived and the average body can quickly recover without any long term problems.
The question is, Is this true?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that adults between the ages of 18 and 60 years get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.
Regular short sleep duration, less than 7 hours per night, is associated with greater likelihoods of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, frequent mental distress, and death.
What Are The Effects Of Long Term Sleep Deprivation
long term sleep deprivation shortens life expectancy by exerting pressure on the body’s immune system and mental faculties. These stressed bodily functions are then prone to heightened blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
The mind is also under pressure with an increase in mental disorders, extreme paranoia, and memory loss. So why does a simple lack of sleep turn into this physical and mental nightmare for the body?
The answer is this. During the day our brains’ intense electrical system uses up one-quarter of the body’s energy supply in nutrients. This, in turn, produces a lot of toxic chemical waste that the body needs to flush away.
However, it can only flush and drain the system when we are asleep.
Sleeping enables the glymphatic system to allow cerebrospinal fluid to flow through the brain, between the cells and pick up and remove the toxins.
Without this glymphatic flow, the toxins build up over time and the brain becomes damaged.
Mental disorders and disease now become likely as a direct result of long term sleep deprivation.
The conclusion is that a full, deep and undisturbed sleep is vital if we want to live a long and healthy life. Sleep not only rests our body it protects our mind and gives it the ability to fend off disease.
This is why I make getting a good night’s sleep a top priority and one of my, must do, daily habits.
General Sleep Hygiene Tips
Quality matters when it comes to sleep, as napping will not ensure that long term problems will not occur. However, you can improve your sleep quality and duration by taking certain actions prior to settling down for the night.
These actions will not only improve your sleep quality but will also improve your awake hours’ alertness.
Sleep hygiene tips include:
- Not using any form of light-emitting electronic devices for at least 1 hour prior to bedtime
- Avoiding drinking any stimulants or diuretics such as coffee, tea or alcohol before going to bed
- Not eating close to bedtime
- No vigorous exercise or physical activity close to bedtime
- Do have thick curtains to block out any bright light
- Make the bedroom a warm, cozy, relaxing and inviting comfortable space
- Wind down prior to going to bed, for example, a warm bath, meditate with essential oils, read a book
- Wear a sleep mask over your eyes and use earplugs if necessary
- Create a constant sleep schedule and stick to it even at weekends
- Inform all family and friends that you are uncontactable between certain times of the night and day
If you make these sleep hygiene tips part of your daily habits; you should find that very quickly you are getting a good night’s sleep.
Habit 10 - Go Minimal
Don’t worry, I am not saying clear out all your stuff and start reading Marie Kondō or anything like that.
However, I am saying that at present we all have too much stuff and that can negatively impact our lives. We spend a lot of time collecting, displaying, moving, cleaning and finally storing stuff.
Stuff that doesn’t even make us happy anymore!
Life is short and it can be Hectic. Owning and moving all that stuff plus keeping down a job, working at a relationship and having the stress of bills can contribute to sensory overload.
“Sensory overload can produce physiological states of distress, such as increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, irritability and confusion. It is fueled by too much clutter, multitasking and technology overuse”.
It’s for these reasons and more that people are turning to minimalism. It’s not a hippie thing, or a save the planet extremist thing, but it is a health and wealth thing!
Here’s how Leo Babauta, author of Zen Habits, defines minimalism:
“It’s simply getting rid of things you do not use or need, leaving an uncluttered, simple environment and an uncluttered, simple life. It’s using simple tools, having a simple wardrobe, carrying little and living lightly.”
“It’s simply getting rid of things you do not use or need, leaving an uncluttered, simple environment and an uncluttered, simple life. It’s using simple tools, having a simple wardrobe, carrying little and living lightly.”
So the basic concept is that you only surround yourself with things that you need and have an emotional attachment to. Now at the beginning of the process that might be a lot of stuff, however as you start to declutter that will change.
As you begin to let items go as part of your daily habits, you will begin to realize exactly what is important to you and what is not.
Many people find this process quite liberating and cathartic and it seems to clear the claustrophobic feeling in the mind.
Why Go Minimal?
Decluttering your house has the effect of decluttering your mind. All that stuff around us causes us stress, unrequired work on its upkeep and possibly even arguments with others.
By going minimal you can decrease the stress around you, and move the focus from possesions and tasks to family and enjoyment.
As you spend less on buying and replacing things your wealth will increase but the real gain is in time. Living in a minimalist style will make your home easier to clean, your time easier to manage and essentially your life easier to live.
You won’t be living without stuff, you will simply be living with less, but with better more loved belongings.
So living a minimalist lifestyle is all about reducing but at the same time turning less into more.
Here are some of the benefits of living with fewer possessions:
- You create space for the important stuff that makes you happy
- Less time is spent moving unused stuff around or worrying where to store it
- An uncluttered environment also unclutters the mind freeing it from stress and worry
- Less time is spent on repetitive tasks freeing up time to do the things you love
- Being surrounded by only the things that give you joy creates a sense of calmness and euphoria
- Wealth is created as money is no longer being spent caring for or buying things that you don’t need
- You can better organize your life which creates a feeling of purpose and achievement in life
- You become a more confident, interesting person who others will gravitate around
What does Being A Minimalist Actually Mean?
Being a minimalist does not mean giving up on all your possessions, nor does it mean only keeping 100 items or less. For me, following a minimalist lifestyle means ending my cultural obsession with collecting mindless distractions.
I want to free my mind from the time-consuming stress that they bring and replace it with simplicity.
Being a minimalist means no longer saying “I am busy,” but being able to say, “I am Free”.
Make decluttering your life and your headspace one of your daily habits. I promise you that you will never look back.
These daily habits have been adopted by me over time and I have grown greatly as a person through them.
However, do not feel as though you must attempt them all at once to get the benefits. You must take everything at your own pace and do what is right for you.
I sincerely hope that you will adopt 1 or all of these daily habits into your routine. The science shows that they will have very real and tangible benefits to you.
They will extend your life expectancy and make that life a life worth living. Be the person you want to be and reward yourself with the life you promised yourself all those years ago!
One Last Thought
Habit 11 - Connect with your fellow man and spread the love
This is a bonus daily habit but its one that we should all be doing really. It costs nothing but can boost your overall happiness and wellbeing. (that little glow in the soul).
Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Smile politely at a stranger as you pass them
- Give, someone, you love a hug or let them hug you.
- Tell someone something that you like about them just to make their day.
- Pick up the phone to reconnect with an old acquaintance or family member you have not spoken to in a while.
- Next time you are in a conversation make a point of really listening to, and taking an interest in them.
- Pay it forward and do something for another completely out of the blue and at no cost to them
- Write a note telling a loved one how you feel about them and show that you appreciate them
- Start the habit of love bites – taking a moment in each day to express your love to another. This love bite could be a warm hug, a kiss, a smile, or even a quick text message. These love bites are the best things of all.
Trust me, if you make this habit the only one you take from here then you will still live a much fuller and happier life.
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life”.John Lennon
Take care all,
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Mark Aspland is a proud father of two boys, would be amateur actor and green living enthusiast. He has been sharing hints, tips and sustainable living content on his website Sustainability Dad since august 2019.
He now has an army of followers who are like hearted individuals passionate about the environment and how to affect positive change through peaceful action.