(And None of Them is Running)

Here are several habits that will help you lead a healthy life. I’ve been cultivating most of them for the last four and a half years and I was sick only twice in that period. They work.

1. Exercise Every Day.

In cultivating habits, consistency is much more important than results.

If you exercise 5–6 days a week, this naturally means 1–2 days without exercise. However, this is confusing for your mind — is exercise a habit or not? It’s also confusing for your identity- am I the person who exercises or not?

It hampers your momentum. It increases your “willpower price” every time you come back to your exercises after even a 1-day hiatus.

It’s much simpler to exercise every day and erase all this nonsense. If necessary, make just a token effort, exercise for 30 seconds, do a few pushups or whatever. 
Whether you do one pushup or 50 of them, you must go exactly through the same deciding process and motions.

Even though a token exercise such as I suggest doing as a ‘placeholder’ to ensure continuity, will provide almost no physical benefits, it will provide your mind with reinforcement that exercise is something you habitually do.

Your habit will solidify quicker and it will become stronger.

My daily portion of pullups

2. Drink Enough Water.

Most of us are constantly dehydrated. We simply don’t drink enough fluids and when we do, we drink the wrong kind. Almost every beverage flushes minerals from your body. The same goes with water with too little mineral elements (and most bottled water is like that).

The“Drink more water” mantra overlooks problems with drinking too much water. Moderation is a key to health. You can damage your health with too much of anything, including water.

Two liters a day is a rule of thumb. You need to find the amount optimal for you.

For weight loss, drink cold water. Your body will expedite additional calories to warm it up.

3. Sleep Enough.

Under-sleeping is another common sin. Only about 5% of the population can function optimally with 6 hours of sleep or less. Unfortunately, everybody thinks they belong to this 5% minority.

Sleep needs are individual. You have to test on yourself different intervals.

I need about 7–7.5 hours of sleep. Not too shabby.

People who live in natural conditions, eat whole foods and experience less of the stress in modern life, need only 6.5–7 hours a day.

Most stressed adults in the first world, who live in a polluted environment — and eat junk — need 8+ hours a day.

By the way, physical activity decreases sleep needs. Even several minutes a day compounds to a lot of time over years and decades.

If you cannot sleep long enough in the night, then nap. The optimal length of a nap is less than 25 minutes. My personal rule is that I nap as long as I can whenever I can. I rarely get enough night sleep (too many obligations), thus I have to compensate for that.

One more thing: night sleep is better than an equally long period of sleeping in the day. Your body’s awake-sleep cycle is regulated by hormones and they are connected to the amount of light your body receives.

4. Track.

You think you eat healthy? How so? Be careful, it may be a self-imposed illusion.

I’ve thought my eating is alright. However my scale tells me how it is. I gained 4 pounds in the last 4 days. 
In hindsight I can see how a cake my wife bought me yesterday, or the one and a half pounds of raisins I consumed within the last two days might have had something to do with this.

If you want to be aware of your health, track important metrics. I make sure I eat at least 1 vegetable/ fruit per day, I write down how much I sleep and make sure I exercise every day.

5. Read Food Labels.

This is a simple, yet powerful habit. It instantly improves your awareness about what’s going into your body, educates you about food industry, allows you to target processed foods and quickly teaches you about different type of nutrients.

And of course any type of natural food (from a source you know, e.g.: vegetables from your garden, eggs or milk from your neighbor’s farm) are better than foods with labels.

Health is not just your body. A healthy mind and a healthy soul harmoniously co-exist with a healthy body. Hence:

6. Cultivate Gratitude.

Gratitude enhances everything, including health. Among the benefits of gratitude identified by scientists are decreased level of cortisol (stress hormone) and better sleep.

But it’s just the beginning of what gratitude can do for you.

“When the brain is positive every possible outcome we know how to test for raises dramatically.” — Shawn Achor

“Every” means every. Your relationships, finances, spirituality, education and career will improve as well. This habit is no-brainer.

The fast, easy and effective way to cultivate gratitude on a daily basis is to keep a gratitude journal in which you write at least three new things you are grateful for every day.

7. Meditation.

This has similar holistic advantages as gratitude. Through practicing meditation, you may increase both focus and performance. Like gratitude, meditation quickly improves your emotional state and consequently there will be a flow-on effect into your health.

If you have never meditated, you should keep your sessions short at the beginning, about one-three minutes. Again, consistency is more important than results. If you maintain two-minute meditation sessions for 11 days in a row, your chances of developing a lasting meditation habit skyrockets to 90%.

Once your habit is solidified, you can scale it up.

Originally published at www.quora.com.

Originally published at medium.com