Healthy Habits – The Daily Checklist for Living Better
One of the great things about life is the opportunity we’re given to start fresh each day. For the most part, the human inhabitants of planet earth experience a similar pattern that cycles every 24 hours. We wake up in the morning. We do a bunch of stuff with our time during the day. Then we go to sleep at night. The next day starts the cycle over again.
What obviously sets humans apart in how well they use each of those daily cycles, besides our unique genetics and a few other things outside of our control, is what we choose to do with each of those days.
If you’ve ever watched Stephen Covey’s “put first things first” habit explanation that uses the analogy of attempting to fill a jar with rocks and sand (I’m embedding the video below), you understand the idea that in order to be physically healthy (or to accomplish any other objective), you need to prioritize the things that contribute to that objective.
Flowing along with the “rocks and sand in a jar” parallel, here are some of the specific rocks you should be putting in your “I want to be healthy” jar on a daily basis in order to achieve health. I understand as I write this that doing these things is not as accessible to some people as it is for others, and that the specific outcomes of including these things into your daily routine varies depending upon a lot of factors, but what I’m going to describe below are the foundational daily habits most associated with being healthy.
The human body needs rest in order to function properly.
If you’re a teenager, it is recommended that you sleep for at least 8 hours per day. I you’re an adult, you should be asleep for at least 7 hours.
The National Sleep Foundation sleep recommendations are shown below.
If you want to be healthy, start with getting sufficient sleep.
In addition to adequate sleep, your body needs the right kind of fuel to keep it functioning properly. Unless you have a particular condition that prevents you from eating a normal diet, there is plenty of flexibility here, because there is a large spectrum of things people can consume. However, being assertive about your diet – starting with understanding what is good for you and what is not – is imperative.
If you don’t make a plan for your diet, you’re likely to be pushed along with the tide of unhealthy eating habits that are making Americans increasingly obese and sick.
The USDA food pyramid with its general daily food consumption recommendations has been around for decades.
However, it can be impractical to follow a general guideline without a specific action plan.
The fact that our society is having a hard time implementing the USDA guidelines becomes obvious when you compare the recommendations against reality, as shown below.
Be Assertive About Your Diet
Guidelines about hydration are relatively simple: drink plenty of water. Adult men should be drinking about 13 cups of water per day. Adult women need 9 cups.
What you should eat each day is a bit more complicated. To be assertive about your diet, determine which of the healthy foods fit within your personal preference, make a plan, and stock your refrigerator and pantry with the kinds of food that match your custom approach to the established guidelines for a healthy diet.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity.
Also, it is recommended that adults do strength training exercises that work all of the major muscle groups of the body. The suggested exertion for each muscle group is to use a resistance level that tires the muscles with 12-15 repetitions of each particular exercise.
This breaks down, on the moderate route, to just over 20 minutes per day of walking, swimming, or common activities around the house that involve some exertion, such as mowing the lawn. For vigorous activity, this recommendation means about 11 minutes per day of running or other similarly intense aerobic activities.
You should be able to follow the aerobic and strength training guidelines in less than a half hour per day.
Be Assertive About Exercising Daily
As with other elements of being healthy, it can be easy to skip the recommended exercise thresholds unless you plan them into your day. Again, using a checklist and establishing the habit will help you successfully complete the exercise element of your daily health requirements.
Daily Prayer, Meditation, Personal Time
Life for most people is hectic. There are appointments to keep, bills to pay, kids to raise, jobs to perform, and a host of other “distractions” from what life is all about. You may not see this recommendation in science journals about health, but daily prayer and meditation act as a reset, a connection with your inner self, a chance to evaluate your life and be open for thoughts and impressions that are inspired and reassuring.
Regardless of your religion, daily prayer and meditation give you a chance to connect with the divine. I highly recommend having prayer and meditating first thing in the morning as well as at night just before going to bed. It is also helpful to establish a habit of having a prayerful demeanor throughout the day.