The Nine Habits of Highly Healthy People
We don’t yet have the perfect formula for longevity, happiness, and physical health, but a little diligent distilling of the vast body of health and longevity research reveals this cultivation nine basic habits will significantly increase the chances of a long, healthy and happy life in a robust, healthy and weight-appropriate body.
- Eat your veggies. No kidding – and I’m talking at least 9 servings a day. Unless you’re following the strictest first stage of the Atkins diet, you should be able to eat 60-120 grams of carbs per day (depending on your weight and exercise level), and you’d need to eat a whole heap of spinach to reach this amount. Every major study of long-lived, healthy people shows they eat tons of plant-based foods. Nothing delivers antioxidants, fiber, flavonoids, indoles, and the entire pharmacopoeia of disease-fighting phytochemicals like stuff that grows in fertile soil.
- Eat fish and/or take fish oil. The omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish like salmon deserve the title of “Wellness Molecule of the Century.” They lower the risk of heart disease, they lower blood pressure, they improve mood and they are good for the brain. And if you’re pregnant, they can make your child smarter!
- Connect. And I’m not talking about the internet. In virtually every study of people who are healthy and happy into their 9th and 10th decades, social connections are one of the “main drivers” in their lives. Whether it’s church, family, volunteering, or community, find something you care about and bigger than yourself to connect with and that involves other people (or animals) – will lengthen your life, increase your energy and make you happier – always.
- Get some sun. At least 10-15 minutes three times a week. Interestingly, a recent study showed that the four healthiest places on earth where people lived the longest were in sunny climates. Sun improves your mood and increases levels of cancer-fighting, performance-enhancing, and bone-strengthening vitamin D—a vitamin most people don’t get nearly enough of.
- To sleep well. If you’re low on energy, gaining weight, feeling grumpy, and looking haggard, guess what? You’re probably not sleeping long enough or well enough. By “sleep well” I mean uninterrupted sleep in the dark – without the TV on, in a relaxed environment. Nothing nourishes, rejuvenates and reboots the system like 7-9 hours of sleep. Tip: start by going to bed an hour earlier. And if you have a computer in the bedroom, ban it!
- Practice every day. Forget those 20 minutes three times a week. Long-lived people do things like chores at 4:30 in the morning! Our Paleolithic ancestors walked an average of 20 miles a day. Our bodies are designed to move regularly. New studies show that just 30 minutes of walking a day not only reduces the risk of serious illnesses, but even allows new brain cells to grow!
- Practice gratitude. By making a list of things you are grateful for, you focus the brain on positive energy. Gratitude is incompatible with anger and stress. Practice using your underused “right brain” and spreading some love. Focusing on what you’re grateful for—even for just five minutes a day—has the added benefit of being one of the best stress-relief techniques on the planet.
- Drink red wine or eat grapes. The resveratrol in dark grapes is being studied for its life-prolonging effects, which seems to be the case in almost every species studied. (Also eat about a third less, by the way.) If you have a problem with alcohol, you can get resveratrol from grapes, peanuts, or supplements. (And if you’re a woman and you choose the alcohol option, make sure you’re getting folic acid every day.)
- Get out the sugar. The greatest enemy of vitality, health and longevity is not fat, but sugar. The effect of sugar on hormones, mood, immunity, weight and possibly even cancer cells is huge – and all of it is negative. To the extent that you can remove it from your diet, you will add years to your life and life to your years.
This list may not be perfect and may not be complete, but it’s a start. As my dear grandmother used to say, “Can’t hurt.” None of these “habits” will harm you, all will benefit you, and some can make the difference between life and death.
And it’s never too late to start cultivating.
Thanks to Dr. Jonny Bowden