Creating a healthy daily routine is a simple yet effective way to build consistency when it comes to your health. Not only does your daily routine impact your overall health, but it has a direct impact on your stress levels, sleep habits and eating patterns. Everything from what you do first thing in the morning to what you do last at night plays a role in your overall health. Although it can be tempting to change everything at once, focusing on small habits and doing them on a daily basis is the best way to make a healthy daily routine and healthy daily habits last for the long-term.
According to the dictionary, a habit is defined as “a settled tendency or usual manner of behaviour” or “a behaviour pattern acquired by frequent repetition “. Therefore, by definition, a habit is something that is done regularly or repeatedly and creating regularly healthy habits is essential for our health. Although eating vegetables once in a while or exercising once in a while is great, doing these habits frequently and regularly is how they are most beneficial.
In fact, the structure of your day and the habits you chose to follow can have a major effect on your physical, mental and emotional health. Healthy habits that are done on a regular and consistent basis can be the difference between operating at peak efficiency or struggling to reach your health goals. Although everyone is unique and everyone’s lifestyle is different, there some common healthy daily habits that everyone can implement for improved health. Surprisingly, some of the most beneficial healthy daily habits have absolutely nothing do to with diet and exercise at all.
Here is a list of 12 healthy daily habits that you can do every day to help create a healthier lifestyle.
1. Wake Up Early
Alright, you don’t need to rise and shine with the sun every morning, but waking up at a decent (early) hour is essential for optimal health. The human body and brain have evolved to follow a circadian rhythm that helps to regulate sleep and wake patterns that are set by our natural environment, specifically the rising and setting of the sun. This natural circadian rhythm also corresponds with the body’s natural cortisol levels: a hormone well known for its role in our metabolism, immune system, stress response and energy levels. In a balanced state, cortisol levels start to rise 2-3 hours after the onset of sleep and continue to rise into the early morning helping to wake us. Cortisol levels in the body will then peak around 8:30 am or 9:00 am and continue to gradually decline as the day continues. Therefore, following the body’s natural circadian rhythm and cortisol levels is a simple way to maximize energy levels, productivity and overall health.
2. Drink Water Before Anything Else
Staying hydrated is vital for our health and although we’ve heard it many times, it’s often overlooked. Our bodies are 60% water and not drinking enough water can lead to more than just dehydration. In fact, low levels of dehydration are linked to fatigue, headaches and increased cravings. Although it is imperative to drink water throughout the day, one of the best (and easiest) times to drink water is first thing in the morning. So, before you start sipping on your morning brew, drink a glass of water. Not only is it refreshing, but it can help to hydrate the body while aiding digestion and metabolism at the same time.
3. Make Time for Movement
Humans are designed to move but as we create more sedentary lifestyles we are moving less and less. Many of us work sitting down, travel sitting down, and relax sitting down, so it is becoming more and more important that we create ways to move since they are no longer occurring organically. Gone are the days where our daily lives included manual labour and, therefore, we must carve out specific time for movement lives. Exercise has tremendous health benefits for both the body and the mind and there are so many different ways to create movement in your day. Whether you love biking, swimming, dancing or going to the gym, it is imperative that you find some form of movement that you enjoy and make time for it on a daily basis.
4. Spend Time Outside
Getting fresh air on a regular basis is one of the easiest ways to improve your overall health. Exposure to the sun enables the body to produce vitamin D, which has been shown to have many essential functions in the body. Deficiency in vitamin D has been linked to fatigue, weakened immune system, bone and back pain, low mood and depression. Ironically, vitamin D is one of the most commonly supplemented vitamins, while daily exposure to the sun could prove to be a simple solution to this concern. So, whether it’s spring, summer, winter or fall, ensure that you spend some time outside every single day.
5. Eat Sitting Down
When it’s time to eat, sit down. Not only does the act of sitting down help to ensure that we are not mindlessly eating in front of the pantry, but eating while sitting down helps to support digestion. Eating while sitting down forces you to slow down and chew the food you are eating, which are the first (and most important) step in the digestives process. The act of sitting down also helps to ensure that the body is in a more optimal postural position for the digestive system. So, if you constantly find yourself munching everywhere around the house, implement this simple guideline of eating while sitting down to help bring more awareness to your food and your health.
6. Go For a Walk
Walking is one of the most underrated healthy habits you can do. Walking is often overlooked because it’s so simple or it “doesn’t burn that many calories” but science shows that putting one foot in front of the other can lead to some impressive mental and physical health benefits. Not only does walking improve fitness, cardiovascular markers and help to prevent weight gain, but it has also been shown to improve posture, mood, circulation, the risk for chronic disease, as well as alleviate fatigue and depression. Moreover, going for a walk every day, long or short, can help to increase the amount time spent outside and exposure to sunlight, further supporting the body’s production of vitamin D and natural circadian rhythm.
7. Take Time to Cook
Learning to cook is one of the simplest healthy daily habits you can do and one of the greatest gifts you can give to your health. Although cooking is often thought of as a “chore” it is, in fact, a basic human skill that is required to satisfy a basic human need. Not only is does cooking help to control the quality of the food that you eat, but it helps to create more appreciation for your food and a connection to it. If you are just reheating food in the oven every night or ordering takeout it will be more challenging to bring mindfulness to your eating habits and your food. Moreover, cooking is a simple form of self-care that you can practice every single day, making it one of the most beneficial healthy daily habits.
8. Eat a Vegetable
This is certainly not the first time you’ve been told to eat vegetables, so consider it a simple reminder. Not only are vegetables whole foods but they are rich in vitamins, minerals and are great sources of fibre, which can help to maintain a healthy gut, prevent constipation and other digestion issues. Individuals who consume vegetables regularly had roughly a 20% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, compared with individuals who ate less than 3 servings per day. Moreover, by virtue of adding more vegetables to your diet, there becomes less and less room for processed foods, refined carbohydrates and added sugars. So, instead of focusing on what not to eat, focus on what you can eat and eat more of it.
9. Put Your Phone Away
Putting away your phone (tablet or computer) might seem like a simple challenge, but being connected 24/7 can have many negative side effects on our health. The average person has eight social media accounts and spends at least 2 hours and 24 minutes checking their phone every day. Just think of all the time that could be spent outside, moving, exercising, or cooking! This constant digital connection can increase perceived stress and constant exposure to blue light has been shown to suppress the production of the body’s natural melatonin production, which is integral for the body’s natural circadian rhythm and sleep patterns. So instead of cruising the web until the wee hours of the morning, turn off your phone at least one hour before bed and allow yourself to relax and unwind without the digital stress.
10. End the Day with a Clean Kitchen
Whether you are aware or not, the physical space we live in has a large effect on how we behave. A messy bedroom, cluttered living room and dirty kitchen can all have a negative impact on our mental state and our health. Not only does tidying up help to make things like cooking and exercise easier, by creating more space and time, but it decreases frustration, improves efficiency and can serve as a catalyst for further change. So, after every meal, do the dishes and put things away or, at the very least, do the dishes at the end of the day. Going to bed with a clean kitchen allows you to wake up to a fresh start without having to deal with yesterday’s mess.
11. Read Something
Reading has benefits to both your physical and mental health and those benefits can last a lifetime. Not only can reading stimulate growth, but it can help to reduce stress, prevent age-related cognitive decline and promote a good night’s sleep. Reading is the workout for your mental health and, the same way you take care of your body, it’s important to take care of your brain.
12. Go to Bed Early
Sleep is the only time during the day where our bodies are able to relax, unwind and recover. Unfortunately, many people are falling short of the recommended 8 hours of sleep per night and this can have devastating impacts on our health. Many people are putting off bedtime in favour of other activities; including television, social media, and video games, but over time this can come at the cost of our health. Lack of sleep, or poor quality sleep, has been linked to memory issues, mood changes, weakened immunity, altered eating behaviour and increased ageing. Not to mention, sleep has been shown to support weight loss given lack of sleep has been shown to create hormone imbalances in insulin, leptin, cortisol and many other hormones, which have a profound impact on weight. Moreover, going to bed earlier will actually make waking up early easier, which is one of the most important healthy daily habits you can do. So, if you are a night owl, try to get to bed a little earlier by giving yourself a curfew because, let’s be honest, nothing productive happens after 10:00 pm. Turn off digital devices, turn down the lights, read a book and focus on getting restful shut-eye.
The Bottom Line
Creating a healthy lifestyle does not mean that you need to pull a 180 or make sweeping changes all at once. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. By focusing on small healthy daily habits and creating ones that you truly enjoy, you are more likely to maintain them for the long-term. Developing healthy daily habits will take time, dedication and determination, but that does not mean they can’t be done. Remember, you’re not in a race. Instead, avoid extreme solutions, take your time and work on individual healthy habits to help ensure that your health and success are long-lasting.