The term “healthy habits” gets thrown around a lot these days.
It seems like everyone from your doctor and your gym buddy, to your mom and the guy at the deli have an idea of what it means to be healthy — and what habits you should be cultivating.
So, who’s right?
What exactly are the best healthy habits one can develop?
There will probably always be some mystery involved in how our bodies optimally function and what healthy habits are best. Still, there are some that have stood the test of time.
Below, we’ve narrowed down this list to reveal the top 12 healthy habits that everyone should try to cultivate.
Table of Contents
You’ve heard it a million times before, but it bears repeating: Humans are around 60% water. So, it simply stands to reason: We need to replenish our water stores daily for optimal function of our brains and bodies. Aim for around eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.
Sure, you can join a gym, play a sport, or do aerobics in your basement. But generally speaking, walking is just as good as any other exercise when it comes to benefits for your body. It gets you moving, improves your circulation, and improves your mood. Just 20 minutes a day can make a big difference.
Researchers have found that when people get outdoors every day, it boosts their happiness and even lowers blood pressure. The fresh air, sunshine, and open spaces can also reduce long-term stress. Basically, the out-of-doors is great at helping us get “out of our heads” and into a calmer, more clear space and mindset.
It doesn’t have to be for long, but at least once a day, talk to a friend, a relative, a co-worker, or a neighbor. Humans are social animals, and we need connection. Even if it’s just saying a quick “Hi, how are ya?” to someone, this interaction creates beneficial hormones, which help regulate emotions.
How much? That’s up for debate. And really, it doesn’t matter as long as it fits your lifestyle. In general, most medical experts say that humans need at least seven or eight hours of sleep a night. But it’s been proven repeatedly that some people can do just fine with a little less than this. And others need more. The bottom line is that sleep is critical to regulating hormones, healing and preventing illnesses, and maintaining overall wellness.
You’ve heard that processed foods are “bad” for you, but what actually are processed foods? Basically, these are foods that have been processed, manipulated, and changed so much that they have completely changed states. They often contain flavors, additives, preservatives, and other substances as well. Think TV dinners and those 99 cent treats in the checkout line at the grocery store. While these are often very tasty, they provide little nutrition and may actually be detrimental to your health long-term.
Does weight really matter? Well, yes and no. Overall, yes, your overall weight does matter. It’s good to stay within a healthy weight range for your sex, age, height, and activity level. Being overweight or obese has been continuously linked to numerous serious diseases.
Still, you don’t have to be stick-thin to be healthy. Remember — it’s a range.
Unfortunately, for many of us, our weight can get away from us. This is especially common when we’re not tracking it. That’s why weighing yourself every day is wise. It can help you notice a trend upward right away so that you can make the necessary changes in your daily life to get yourself back into a healthy weight range.
Alcohol is an interesting substance because it can be lethal — either all at once or over time. But it’s also completely legal. And in all likelihood, all of the adults you know consume it on a regular basis.
Certainly, alcohol in moderation can be part of a healthy diet. On the other hand, it can also become a hidden problem for many people.
It’s best to limit alcohol consumption. Medical experts recommend that men consume no more than 14 drinks per week, and women, no more than seven drinks per week.
Screens, the Internet, and computers in general have changed our lives. In many ways, they’ve changed us for the better. But screens can be addictive as well. Many people spend tons of time online, comparing themselves to others, lost in news spirals, and otherwise doing things that don’t really enrich their lives. Carve out space every day to spend some time offline. You’ll thank yourself.
10. See your doctor regularly.
Make it a point to see your doctor for a physical at least once a year. At this appointment, you’ll get a general physical examination, and you’ll have a chance to ask any health questions that have come up over the last year.
Most adults should also get regular blood work, including a lipid profile to take a look at their cholesterol, triglycerides, liver and kidney function, etc.
Your mind wants to learn just as much as your body wants to move. Exercise for your body looks like walking, strength training, playing sports, yoga etc. For your mind, exercise means reading, doing puzzles, playing games, and learning new skills. Make sure you are doing some of these activities on a regular basis to keep your mind engaged.
Of all our bodily “functions,” breathing is perhaps the most underrated. It’s one of the only functions of the body that we both do unconsciously and also have conscious control over if we choose. In this way, it is the best way to “balance” the body and mind. That is, when a “fight or flight” stress response arises because of an emotional or anxious situation, if you can take just one or two moments to deep breathe, you can physically calm yourself down. The ultimate effects of this can be magnificent.
You certainly don’t have to incorporate all of these healthy habits if they don’t all fit for you. Similarly, some may find that building healthy habits that are listed above can be more challenging than others. If the list seems overwhelming, start with start developing 5 healthy habits. Even incorporating one or two of these healthy habits into your routine can make a significant change in your overall health and wellness.