What is health?
This is a question I (along with many others, I’m sure) have considered extensively. Is a healthy lifestyle having a good diet? Is it only going to the doctor once a year? Is health being happy more often than not?
It turns out “health” can mean many things to many different people. However, most extremely healthy people and cultures around the world would agree on one thing: health is holistic.
And by holistic, I mean it’s not just limited to eating a healthy diet or having good energy levels. It’s about having daily habits that support health from your toes all the way up to your brain.
Here we’re going to dive into the top habits that contribute to “health” across the board: physical, mental, and emotional.
The Best Habits That Contribute to Ultimate Health
Below are the top habits that contribute to an overall healthy (and happy!) life. They’re not in any particular order, but are instead all are considered “essential health bases” to integrate into your life.
1. Quality Diet
Most of us are aware that diet and consuming quality natural foods is a key part of staying healthy. This is because diet, at the end of the day, can cause a cascade of effects on not only our physical health, but mental, which then affects nearly every other area of our lives.
For example, eating a diet high in processed foods laden with sugars and chemicals has been shown to contribute to mood and mental disorders (which can affect your relationships), all types of diseases, including cancer, and can even disrupt your sleep quality. These are all pillars of healthy habits you’ll find on this list that can be impacted just by a bad diet alone.
The bottom line with diet to keep in mind is that the nutrients found in foods aren’t simply “optional”: they are literally the building blocks of our bodies. When even one is off or lacking, it affects your body as a whole, setting off a chain reaction of side effects.
When you focus on consuming high quality, fresh foods, including tons of veggies, nutrient-rich berries and fruits, wild and organic meat and fish, and plenty of nuts and seeds, your body gets the nutrients it needs for you to feel energized and to perform at your best. It helps you maintain a happy mindset, as well as a great physique, which can help improve confidence.
At the end of the day, quality diet is a cornerstone. The easiest way to maintain a healthy diet is to keep it simple by sticking to whole foods, avoiding foods with chemicals or other unpronounceable ingredients, and purchasing as few boxed and processed items as possible.
2. Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep is typically underrated and under-discussed when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle; however, it can be argued that like diet, it’s one of the most important aspects.
Lack of sleep can negatively affect your mood, disrupt your hormone production (which can also cause mood disorders), stall weight loss, and has been linked to obesity and diabetes, among many other diseases. [*]
You can think of sleep as the ultimate “reboot” for your body and mind, and without it, things start to malfunction or slow down. As such, it’s extremely important to focus on getting those 7-8 a night. If you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, try these tips:
• Establish a sleep schedule and stick to it as much as possible. This helps regulate your circadian rhythms.
• Avoid electronics at least an hour before bed (the blue light disrupts your melatonin production, which is essential for telling your body to fall asleep).
• Get rid of any and all light in your room (even from the alarm clock). This also disrupts melatonin.
• Start a relaxing ritual every evening, such as reading, taking a bath, etc…
• Try sleep-promoting supplements like valerian root, lavender, and magnesium.
3. Getting Enough Sun and Time Outdoors
Getting outside several times a week is crucial for getting enough vitamin D, the “sunshine” vitamin a majority of Americans are deficient in. Not getting enough has been linked to an outstanding number of disorders, which researchers theorize is due to vitamin D being involved in over 400 enzyme reactions in our bodies. [*]
In addition, getting outside in nature has also been shown to significantly reduce anxiety and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. [*] The other great news is that even as little as 20 minutes can have a massive effect.
Bonus points if you can get both sun on your skin and some contact with nature (even if it’s just a shown trail walk) several times a week.
“An object in motion stays in motion,” is the law of physics to keep in mind when we talk about the necessity of exercise within a healthy lifestyle. Keeping your body moving is not only great for, well, getting shredded or getting stronger, but also for essentials like proper circulation, maintaining good oxygen levels, and keeping your heart and lungs strong.
Not to mention, movement and working up a sweat are also essential for detoxification, which has become somewhat of a necessity as modern man has replaced nature with an environment filled with chemicals and other toxins.
And if that wasn’t convincing enough, studies out of Harvard and Yale have found exercise to be more important for mental health than higher economic status (aka: more money).
6. Less Stress
Stress is sometimes referred to as “the silent killer” for a reason: even if you live a healthy lifestyle in terms of diet and exercise, chronic stress can still do a number on your health.
Don’t get me wrong – some stress can be “good” stress, or stress that encourages us to build resilience and a better life. Much like putting your muscles under stress from working out makes you stronger, some stressors in life do the same. However, when stress becomes chronic, or a daily occurrence, the constant release of stress hormones like cortisol can damage your body. [*]
Raised cortisol in particular is linked to the development of metabolic syndrome, which includes obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. [*] In reality, this is just the tip of the iceberg of research that highlights the negative impacts of stress on your body.
Practicing activities that reduce stress on the other hand has been associated with all kinds of health benefits, including a more positive mindset, lower blood pressure, and even weight loss.
A few suggestions to help manage stress include:
• Practicing yoga and meditation
• Going for a walk or hike in nature several times a week
• Taking adaptogenic herbs like Ashwaghanda and Rhodiola Rosea
• Talking with someone, even if it’s a therapist
7. Having a Purpose and Passion
Feeling like you have a purpose in life, or pursing a passion, cannot be understated when it comes to overall health. After all, having a reason to keep living a full life is a huge motivator to keep practicing other healthy habits.
Think about it: how many times have we been depressed or anxious and used, say, comfort food or sweets (or even alcohol) to cope? Lack of direction or purpose can easily lead to depression, anxiety, anger, and other emotions that can spur on unhealthy behaviors.
Finding a passion or purpose doesn’t necessarily have to be your career; it can easily be something that you just enjoy. This can be anything from a sport, to art, to travel – you name it. The key question is: does it make you feel fulfilled?
If so, keep at it.
As you can see, being healthy on all levels involves cultivating habits that are physical and non-physical. When you approach healthy habits in this holistic sense, you’ll notice that even when, say, you develop a healthy habit for your mind, the positive emotions spur the release of feel-good hormones that benefit your physical health, and vice versa.
Aiming to integrate these habits into your daily routine, with a long-range vision, will help you stay on your ultimate health game for life.