Simple Healthy Habits That Make a Big Difference
“If you want to change your world, you need to start cultivating good habits.” Mina Tadros
When I was growing up, I used to think that good health was 90% good genes and 10% good luck. It never occurred to me that good habits were an essential part of the equation.
Sure, I knew we shouldn’t smoke and should aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night, but that was the extent of my healthy habits. “Healthy living” just wasn’t a top priority for the teenage me.
I Learned the Importance of Good Health Habits the Hard Way
A series of life-changing health crises hit me like a never-ending hurricane during my early 20’s.
In order to reclaim my health—and my life—from the throes of disease, I had to make drastic changes to my mindset and lifestyle. I came to realize just how important good habits are to good health.
It took me years to get my life back on track, and I couldn’t have done it without developing some good, healthy habits. And today, I’m going to share them—as well as other healthy habits I’m working towards—with you.
Don’t wait until a health crisis shatter your world like it did mine. Start working on these healthy habits now if you want to live a long and happy life.
But before I delve into this list, I want to offer you some ideas and tips on how you can develop and stick to healthy habits. Because I know, forming—and maintaining—habits is not easy. Just look at how many people quit using the gym memberships they signed up for on January 1 before the end of February rolls around every year. I don’t want to give you another “to-do” list without showing you how you can get it done.
So here we go.
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How to Develop Good Habits for a Healthy Life
If you struggle with developing good habits or shedding bad ones, I highly suggest you read these two books:
“Making Habits, Breaking Habits” by Jeremy Dean
“The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg
Here are a few of the most valuable lessons I learned about habits from these books:
1. Don’t Expect to Change Your Habit in 21 Days.
There’s a common myth that it takes only 21 days to change a habit, but research shows that, on average, it takes 66 days for any meaningful change in habits to occur.
So be patient and don’t give up if a habit still doesn’t feel “natural” after a month.
2. Start Small, Really Small
If you’ve never run much in your life, do you expect to run a marathon in a week? Gosh, I hope not! The key to developing good habits is to break up larger goals into small, manageable tasks, and make improvements over time.
And by the way, I have a free workbook to help you do just that.
3. You May Not Have an Infinite Supply of Willpower
Why does the donut that we could stoically turn away from in the morning look so appealing in the afternoon, after a long day at work? Some scientists believe that it may be because we have a limited supply of willpower, and that it depletes as we spend our energy on tasks requiring us to exercise self-control.
Now, some recent studies argue against this idea, but I know from my own experience that my willpower wanes when I’m tired, busy, or hungry. So what do I do to combat this effect? Make time for the habits I really want to work on earlier in the day rather than later.
4. Instead of “I will”, Say “If…then…”
Here’s a powerful tip to help you build and maintain a habit—create specific action plans in your mind that follows this pattern:
For example, I try to incorporate exercise into my daily routine. One of the action plans I created using this technique goes something like this: “If I need to go up a building and it’s not more than 5 floors, then I’ll take the stairs”.
Now you try it!
5. Anticipate Relapse
A healthy lifestyle is like Rome—it’s not going to be built in a day. In your journey to build habits for a healthy life, you’re going to encounter countless temptations and challenges.
There are times when you might stall. There are times when you might take one step forward only to fall two steps back. And then there are times when you might want to give up altogether because you keep failing.
But don’t beat yourself up. When you’re trying to establish new habits and routines, it’s normal to revert back to old ways. Try to understand what triggers a relapse and proactively plan your response using “if..then..” statements.
Now that you’re equipped with some tools on how to develop good, healthy habits, let’s dive into the 75 healthy habits to start now for a long and happy life!
75 Healthy Habits to Start Now
Healthy Eating Habits to Start Now
1. Eat until only 80% full. The Okinawans—inhabitants of the remote but picturesque island of Okinawa in southern Japan even has an official name for this concept. It’s called “hara hachi bu”, and it plays a major role in the Okinawans’ renowned longevity.
2. Cook at home more often, and choose fresh, unprocessed ingredients. Not only will you eat fewer calories, you’ll save a ton of money too!
3. Chew your food thoroughly. It’ll slow down your eating and give your brain the time it needs to recognize when you’re full.
4. Make healthy fat your friend. When I was growing up, nobody dared to say the word “fat”, let alone make it part of our diet. But research now shows that good fats are an essential part of a healthy diet. Here are some examples of foods that contain high levels of healthy fats: walnuts, flaxseed, salmon, avocado, and olive oil.
5. Avoid foods cooked on high heat. Cooking foods on high heat releases harmful chemical compounds in the process, which can lead to heart disease. So think twice before you chow down on that pound of double-fried chicken wings.
6. Eat a variety of whole foods. The key is “whole foods”—foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.
7. Let fruits and veggies take center stage. Challenge yourself to eat at least 10 servings of fruits and vegetables from the 5 different colour groups: red, purple/blue, orange/yellow, green, and brown/white. Eating 10 portions of fruits and vegetables a day is linked to a 24% reduction in the risk of heart disease, a 33% decrease in the risk of stroke, and a 13% reduction in the risk of cancer.
8. Take care of your gut flora.
New research shows that your gut bacteria may be the key to preventing and treating certain diseases.
One of the best ways to maintain a healthy gut flora is to be careful with antibiotic use. Another simple way to promote good bacteria growth in your gut is to eat fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, or kefir.
9. Say no to sugar. Beware of sugars hidden in sauces, juices, and non-dairy milk beverages too.
10. Cut back on salt.
11. If you’re going to eat meat, choose wisely. There’s nothing wrong with eating meat in my opinion. But it’s no secret that a lot of the meat we see in our supermarkets are pumped full of antibiotics and hormones. So if you’re going to eat meat, choose wisely.
12. Fast intermittently. Intermittent fasting has many purported benefits including weight loss, lowered blood pressure, improved blood sugar levels.
13. Treat food as medicine. Instead of reaching for the medicine cabinet for the smallest of ailments, learn more about how you can harness the healing powers of food.
14. If you can’t pronounce the ingredient, don’t put it in your mouth.
15. Take supplements only if you need to, and do so with caution. At the end of the day, remember the best source of nutrition comes from real food.
16. Create a schedule for eating and stick to it. I make bad eating choices when I’m hungry, and I bet you do too. So make a schedule for eating and try your best to stick to it. That way, you’re not hungry to the point where you’re desperate for a sugar hit.
17. Practice mindful eating. Turn off the screen and focus on how your body feels when you’re eating. Not only will you enjoy the experience more, you’ll feel full sooner and consume less calories.
18. Be careful with fad diets. Before you plunge into another diet trend, ask yourself: “Is this something I can keep up for the rest of my life?” Because if the answer is no, it’s not going to work.
19. Everything in moderation.
20. Make water your go-to drink.
21. Drink warm water. It’s not popular in the Western world, but this is a standard practice in the East. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, warm water promotes good health by balancing your yin and yang, and maintaining a harmonious digestive system.
22. Avoid raw fish and meat. If you’re a sushi lover like me, this one is going to be hard. But raw fish and meat are a hotbed for parasites and bacteria. A moment of indulgence that ends with worms potentially crawling in my eyeball? No thanks.
Healthy Fitness Habits to Start Now
23. Listen to your body.
24. Maintain bone health with weight-bearing exercises.
25. Make stretching a daily routine. This one only takes 5 minutes and you can do it anywhere:
26. Take your exercises outdoors. Research shows that exercising in the great outdoors can reduce stress, rejuvenate the body and mind, as well as improve self-esteem.
27. Opt for lower-impact exercises. Some of my favourite low-impact exercises include swimming, walking, elliptical, and Tai Chi.
28. Incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Here’s a list of easy exercises you can do when you’re brushing your teeth or waiting in line at the grocery store.
29. Ditch the “all or nothing” exercise approach. You don’t have to spend 3 hours every Saturday at the gym to see results. You can get amazing benefits from exercising even if you just have 10 minutes a day. Here’s a 10-minute HIIT cardio workout you can do at home:
30. Walk whenever you can.
31. Practice breathing exercises. Breathing is the foundation of life. Here are some simple breathing exercises that’ll help with your lung function and improve your overall health.
32. Learn to breathe with your belly. This book on belly breathing opened my eyes to the importance of breathing properly and shares many useful techniques that will help you breathe the right way.
33. Stop breathing through your mouth. Not only does it increase the chance of dental problems, it can also add more stress to the heart and lungs.
34. Get up and move at least once every 30 minutes. Research shows that adults who sit for less than 30 minutes at a time have the lowest mortality risk.
Healthy Living Habits to Start Now
35. Get to sleep before 11 p.m. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. is when key organs such as the liver go into detoxification and repair mode. It’s best to hit the sack before 11 p.m. each night so you get the maximum benefit from this natural process.
36. Practice meditation. Meditation can improve concentration, reduce anxiety, and protect our brains from aging. Don’t know where to start? Try this free and easy-to-use meditation app.
37. Dry brush your skin. It’ll improve your blood circulation, rejuvenate the skin, and help with muscle tone. The key to find a quality, natural brush with the right firmness and texture.
38. Incorporate “Gua Sha” massage into your evening routine. “Gua sha” is an ancient healing technique that originates from Traditional Chinese Medicine. It can help detoxify the body, reduce pain, and improve circulation. Stay tuned as I’ll be talking more about “gua sha” in a future post on the blog.
39. Make time for yourself. Here are some tips to help you fall in love with “me time”.
40. Quit smoking/vaping. On the surface, vaping may appear to be “cleaner” than smoking cigarettes, but it’s just as insidious and may cause lung injury. Recent reports suggest there’s a link between vaping and increased lung disease.
41. Create a calm space in your home. Because you need a place in your home where you can relax your body and unwind your soul. And you don’t have to have a knack for interior design to create this kind of space, just follow these simple and affordable tricks.
42. Clean your house regularly, but don’t overdo it. You don’t need to worry about keeping everything in your home spotless at all times. In fact, you shouldn’t. Scientists now believe that a lack of exposure to bacteria is bad news for our immune system.
43. Ditch the anti-bacterial sanitizers. Same reason as above.
44. Apply acupressure on yourself regularly. Acupressure is another ancient healing practice stemming from Traditional Chinese Medicine. Learn more about acupressure, and how you can use it to reduce stress and anxiety, here.
45. Limit screen time. Too much screen time is bad for your eyes, your posture, your social relationships, and your mental health.
46. Harness the power of visualization in making positive changes in your life. Visualization is the practice of using mental imagery to help you achieve your goals. A number of successful people from Bill Gates to Michael Phelps have all benefited from the practice, and you can too.
If your goal is to eat more fruits and veggies, imagine yourself reaching for an orange (or any other fruit you like). What does it smell like? How does it feel in your hands? How does it taste when you bite into it? Now picture yourself eating the entire fruit. Repeat this for a few minutes every day and you’ll increase your chance of success at changing your behaviour.
47. Maintain a steady, loving relationship. A fulfilling relationship is just as important to our health and longevity as getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and quitting smoking. Here’s a free 30-day challenge to help you build a better relationship with your partner.
48. Make work-life balance a priority.
49. Engage in more physical touch. Physical touch releases feel-good hormones in the body such as Oxytocin, which can help reduce stress and promote feelings of security and wellbeing.
50. Laugh more. It really is the best medicine.
51. Take baths or soak your feet regularly. A nice, hot soak will improve your circulation, boost your immunity, and prepare you for a good night’s sleep. And did you know that it also helps you burn calories? Here’s a convenient temperature-regulated foot soaker that’ll help you make foot baths an easy night-time routine.
Healthy Mental Health Habits to Start Now
52. Do something that’s out of your comfort zone every now and then. It’ll boost your confidence and strengthen your resilience.
53. Set boundaries with toxic people, even if they’re friends or family. It’s OKAY to say no to unnecessary drama and negative energy.
54. Be self-sufficient. A strong sense of agency—the feeling that we have control over our actions and their consequences—is essential to our wellbeing. And if you want to build a strong sense of agency, you first have to learn to be self-sufficient.
55. But learn to ask for help when you need it. Being self-sufficient doesn’t mean you must do everything on your own and never ask for help. Hey, even superheroes need help from a sidekick from time to time.
56. Don’t take yourself tooooo seriously. Let your hair down. Laugh at yourself. Do something unexpected of you, or even a little crazy (but please be safe and try not to end up in jail). You’ll discover more self-love and happiness if you stop taking yourself too seriously.
57. Make actual face-time for friends. On the surface, technology seems to make social connection easier and faster these days, but it’s actually making us more lonely. To protect your mental health, switch off the phone and have a real, face-to-face conversation with friends instead.
58. Don’t turn other people’s problems into yours. Taking on other people’s problems is like plugging in other people’s phones into your only power bank-the more you take on, the faster you run out of battery for yourself.
59. Acknowledge negative emotions. Suppressing or running away from negative emotions can wreck havoc to your wellbeing. Acknowledging all your emotions—both the bad and the good—is key to self-acceptance and inner peace.
60. Stop Googling your symptoms. Think you’re anxious about that mysterious symptom you have now? Looking it up online will scare you numb. Do yourself a favour and go see a doctor instead.
61. Stay in the present moment.
62. Stay curious. Research shows curious people are happier. Hmm…I wonder why?
63. Spend time on a productive hobby. Whether it’s arts and crafts or journaling, doing something that makes you feel deeply fulfilled is an important contributor to happiness in life.
64. Make plans for positive experiences in advance. Anticipation is one of the sweetest joys in life.
65. Stop complaining. Complaining rewires your brain for negativity—so the more you complain, the more things you’ll find to complain about.
66. Have a good cry when you need it. Here are a few tips to help you let it all out so you can feel better.
67. Make time for reflections. Savour the joyful moments and learn from the disappointing ones.
68. Understand and accept yourself. Here are some good questions to help you understand yourself better.
69. Stop over-apologizing. Accept responsibilities for the mistakes you made, and commit to doing better next time. You don’t need to keep saying sorry to yourself or anybody else.
70. Avoid using these words in your vocabulary.
71. Stop wallowing in regret. But how do you actually move on? Here are some ways to get over regret and start enjoying your life.
72. Mentor others. It’ll make you feel happier and more purposeful and work.
73. Curb excessive worrying by asking yourself these 3 questions.
74. Show appreciation for yourself and others. Here are 20+ simple ways to show gratitude for the people around you.
75. Practice seeing things from another perspective. Nothing’s fixed in stone, and so shouldn’t your mind.
Which of these healthy habits are you planning to start this year? Let me know in the comment below!
And hey, let’s practice these healthy habits together.