How to Build Healthy Habits

Learn about how to increase your quality of life by cultivating healthy habits.


Although cultivating healthy habits might seem daunting at first, it is beneficial for your health to nourish yourself, both physically and spiritually. Studies show that healthy habits can contribute to healthier and longer life expectancy (Li et al., 2020). Here are some key healthy habits to focus on.

A Healthy Diet

We eat to live and we live to eat. People with healthy eating patterns live healthier, longer, and are at lower risk for numerous diseases, including heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, or obesity. For those who have chronic conditions, eating healthy may help them manage these conditions and prevent complications (CDC, 2021).

​What to do:

  • Eat the rainbow. According to the CDC data, fewer than 10% of children and adults eat the recommended daily amount of vegetables (CDC, 2021). When you “eat the rainbow,” you eat many colorful fruits and vegetables. These contain phytonutrients that can protect us from manic chronic diseases. Some fun examples include tomatoes and cranberries (red), carrots, peppers, and bananas (yellow and orange), spinach and avocado (green), blueberries, grapes, eggplant, and purple cabbage (blue and purple), cauliflower, garlic, and onions (white) (McManus, 2019).

  • Drink water. Drinking water has many important benefits for a healthy lifestyle. You can drink other beverages, of course, but the main beverage should be water or unsweetened tea. You can also add fruit pieces into your water to flavor it naturally. Drinking water has been linked with higher diet quality, reduced appetite, and weight in a healthy range (Stookey, 2016; Barcamontes-Castelo et al., 2019; Gazan et al., 2016).

  • Eat slowly. The speed at which you eat actually impacts how much you eat because your appetite is controlled by hormones. Although hormones tell your brain if you’re still hungry or you’re full, it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to actually receive these signals. Also, faster eaters have been shown to eat more and have a higher body mass index (BMI) than slow eaters (Teo et al., 2020). So slowing down when you eat can actually make you eat less and keep a healthy weight.

  • Get baking. Baking or roasting instead of frying can significantly impact your overall health. If you’re eating something fried, some potentially toxic chemicals are formed during the frying process. These components might increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, blood pressure, and obesity (Poursafa et al., 2017). So try baking veggies and meat, poaching eggs, or slow cooking a stew.

Healthy Sleep Habits

Researchers show how good things happen when we sleep, and bad things happen when we don’t.

What to do:

  • Be consistent. Everyone needs sleep and sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. According to the CDC, most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. It’s ok to miss a few nights of sleep here and there, but sleep deprivation is linked to poor mental health, heart disease, kidney disease, higher blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Sleep is very important for your health, as it is involved in healing and repairing your blood and heart vessels, and it allows the body and mind to recharge.

  • Set a fixed sleep time. Sure, sleeping in is great, but having a consistent sleep schedule has numerous benefits. Your body might have a hard time resting if you constantly wake up and go to bed at different times. If you’re consistent with your sleep and waking times, it can increase the quality of your sleep (Giannotti et al., 2002). So choose a schedule that works for you and try to stick to it even during weekends.

  • Wind down. Relax and clear your mind before going to bed: take a hot shower, read a book, do a meditation exercise, or listen to music. Relaxation techniques before bed may help you fall asleep faster and have better sleep.

Healthy Habits for Mental Health

In addition to taking care of our bodies, we can benefit from taking care of our minds as well.

What to do:

  • Try meditation. Whether you do a mediation exercise before bed or a walking meditation during the day, it can significantly improve your quality of life, reduce stress and anxiety symptoms, and keep you more attuned to the present moment. Mediation is a great way to reconnect to your body and to bring awareness to the here and now.

  • Connect. Having an emotional support system is linked to better physical and mental health, including lower levels of anxiety and depression, less stress, protection against post-traumatic stress disorder, and lower mortality (Taylor, 2011). You can build connections by catching up with an old friend, spending quality time with a loved one, or cuddling a dog. You can grow your circle of friends or strengthen the connections that you already have. Either way, staying connected to others has numerous mental health benefits.

  • Take a break. Sometimes the best way to improve your mental health is to take a break from what’s stressing you out. If you’re tight on time, you can do breathing exercises or a short meditation, but if you have more time, you can also do other things that you enjoy doing but can’t because you’re always too busy. Take a walk in a park, visit a museum, or call a friend—it may instantly make you feel better.

References

  • ​Castelo, G. B., Gascón, M. B., & Cruz, A. J. (2019). Effect of water consumption on weight loss: a systematic review. Nutr Hosp, 36(6), 1424-1429.

  • Center for Disease Control [CDC]. (2020, April 21). Prevent Heart Disease.

  • Gazan, R., Sondey, J., Maillot, M., Guelinckx, I., & Lluch, A. (2016). Drinking water intake is associated with higher diet quality among French adults. Nutrients, 8(11), 689.

  • Li, Y., Schoufour, J., Wang, D. D., Dhana, K., Pan, A., Liu, X., ... & Hu, F. B. (2020). Healthy lifestyle and life expectancy free of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: prospective cohort study. bmj, 368.

  • McManus, K. (2019, April 25). Phytonutrients: Paint your plate with the colors of the rainbow.

  • Poursafa, P., Moosazadeh, M., Abedini, E., Hajizadeh, Y., Mansourian, M., Pourzamani, H., & Amin, M. M. (2017). A systematic review on the effects of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on cardiometabolic impairment. International Journal of Preventive Medicine, 8.

  • Taylor, S. E. (2011). Social support: A review.

  • Teo, P. S., van Dam, R. M., Whitton, C., Tan, L. W. L., & Forde, C. G. (2020). Association between self-reported eating rate, energy intake, and cardiovascular risk factors in a multi-ethnic Asian population. Nutrients, 12(4), 1080.

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