Developing healthy habits is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves. Being in good health has a significant flow-on effect to every other part of our lives, and can have a profound impact on our quality of life. Doing our most important work becomes much easier when we have consistent energy, are pain-free and feel physically good each day.
Naval Ravikant, a Silicon Valley investor and fund manager, chose his physical health as his utmost priority. Asked which of his habits had been most beneficial to his life, he replied that his morning workout had been transformative for him:
“My number one priority in life, above my happiness, above my family, above my work, is my own health. It starts with my physical health. Second, it’s my mental health. Third, it’s my spiritual health. Then it’s my family’s health. Then it’s my family’s wellbeing. After that, I can go out and do whatever I need to do with the rest of the world.” 1
It might sound a little extreme, but the logic is sound — when we are in good physical, mental and spiritual health, we are more capable of dealing with anything that happens in our lives. Being healthy makes us more durable, more adaptable, more present.
Now, building healthy habits doesn’t have to be a huge project. We don’t have to overhaul our entire lives, living on green juices and working out for hours every day. Health is cumulative — small daily actions add up to big impacts over time.
Healthy Habit #1: Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is critical to our overall health. The National Sleep Foundation recommends a minimum of seven hours per night for people over the age of 18. While a small percentage of people can do fine with six hours, they’re the exception — not the rule.
Sleep is responsible for a surprising range of processes in the body:
- Regulates mood and emotional wellbeing
- Responsible for memory and improves learning ability
- Facilitates cellular repair throughout the body
- Maintains stable production of hormones and neurochemicals
- Protects immunity and boosts recovery from illness and strenuous activity
Having a full eight hours of sleep each night helps improve focus and creativity, improves reaction times and decision making, and makes us feel refreshed and able to handle the day. 2
While it’s not always possible to get eight hours of sleep (hello, toddlers), it’s very much to our advantage to protect our sleep as much as possible.
The Sleep Foundation recommends sticking to a sleep schedule (going to sleep and getting up at the same time each day, including on weekends), creating a relaxing bedtime ritual that helps you drop off quickly, and limiting electronics, alcohol and caffeine in the evenings to help your body wind down.
Healthy Habit #2: Handle Your Nutrition
Eating right for our individual needs makes a huge difference to our daily life. While we all need a baseline of a few things — water, vegetables, protein – each person’s dietary needs vary a lot based on their lifestyle. Some people do well with lots of carbohydrates from whole grains and fruits, while others function better on high-fat diets with lots of avocados and nuts. Others still need a balance, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach here.
Getting to understand what makes your body feel good and function at its best is a process of discovery that we all have to go through to in order to get to our peak.
To do this, it can be really helpful to keep a record of what you eat for a week or so, with notes on how you feel physically in the hours following each meal. It seems like a hassle to do — track my food for a whole week?! — but in the long run it will save you a lot of time and wasted energy, and ensure that you choose foods that help you perform at your best.
If you already know what makes your body feel good and function well, but have trouble sticking to it, consider getting an accountability partner that you report to. If you have to share a picture of your grocery receipt each week, you’re much more likely to leave the candy on the shelves! One of the easiest ways to stick to a specific way of eating is to find a few recipes you like and that fit the bill, then prepare them in bulk each week.
Staci Ardison from Nerd Fitness runs a community of over 300,000 people, and to avoid making food choices when she’s pressed for time, prepares meals every Sunday that last her most of the week (you can check out her spread here).
Healthy Habit #3: Find Your Favorite Exercise
Getting regular exercise is a powerful tool for living a healthy life, and for getting your most important work done. Exercise helps us shift our focus away from problems we might be stuck on, giving our brain to work on them in the background. It helps us feel energized and refreshed, it challenges us, and it shows us what we can achieve if we stick at it.
There’s nothing like the clarity that comes after a good workout but like good nutrition, we all need to find the kind of exercise that suits you and your schedule, that keeps you feeling energized, and that challenges you and helps you improve over time. Some people love lifting really heavy weights. Others love a long run, while others still love yoga or climbing or surfing.
Finding the type of exercise that you look forward to doing is a gamechanger. If you’re itching to get to your workouts, you won’t skip them.
Of course, life will get in the way even of the things we love the most if we let it. That’s why exercise needs to be scheduled onto your calendar every week — a non-negotiable meeting with yourself. Three or four sessions per week, on the calendar, rain, hail or shine.
Exercising keeps our bodies strong, durable, and less likely to have pain. Building up our fitness helps us to thrive in all kinds of situations, and opens up opportunities for some of the adventures and fun that give life its richness.
These three healthy habits are the foundation of vibrant lifelong health. They help us to look and feel great, and to bring our best selves to our most important work. If you’re ready to work on building up your healthy habits, join the 66-Day Wellness Challenge here!