As a busy professional in your career, it’s easy to surrender your wellness for the wellness of your family, your career or other people. However, let’s remember that self care is not selfish and in order to achieve our goals, well we have to make sure we are still around…right? Here are 10 healthy habits to establish before you turn 40 years old (disclaimer: age is just a number).
Establish a health baseline
When was the last time you had a health check up? Were you still in high school or college? A lot has probably happened since then, so this is the first PROactive step you can take to stay on top of your health and your game. Make sure to get a comprehensive yearly check up that includes labs, a physical exam, review of health/cancer screenings, recommended immunizations and follow up on any chronic conditions.
Eat more healthy and antioxidant rich foods
Your nutrition is just as important as any other habit, as it alone can worsen but also treat and even prevent certain health conditions. I encourage you to eat minimally processed foods and more whole/organic veggies, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. These contain an abundance of nutrients, minerals and other disease fighting properties like antioxidants (for example Vitamin C) that can help fight inflammation in the body. Similar to rust on a metal pipe, if inflammation is left unchecked, it can lead to “leakage” of harmful toxins that can cause heart attacks, strokes and organ damage.
Exercise on a regular basis and stay hydrated
Hitting the gym every day for an hour is not feasible for most of us, but studies have shown that even 10 minutes at a time throughout the day, whether walking, yoga or stationary exercise can be beneficial to your body and improve your mood. Dehydration can make you feel tired, sluggish, and foggy. Drink 2-4 Liters of water per day depending on your level of activity, gender, age, your environment and other factors (infuse with fresh fruits to make it fun!). Adequate hydration will also help your muscles, brain, and skin stay younger. Lastly, look at your urine, light yellow to clear, as a sign that you are getting enough fluids.
Build a clear financial plan
This habit has nothing to do with physical health but everything to do with long-term personal health. Without our finances in order, we have a harder time reaching our goals or planning for the future. Be proactive with your finances and work with a financial planner if needed to plan for retirement or college funds and have an emergency fund for the unexpected. Try to live below your means and update your plan on a regular basis through communication with your life partner.
Have a positive attitude and build meaningful relationships
This one I really love and I have been practicing it religiously through my life and career. Why is positivity so important? If you mostly have a negative attitude, self doubt and surround yourself with toxic relationships, then your brain becomes trained to be in a defeatist state of mind. However, you can get out of that cycle through positive thinking, building your confidence and maintaining meaningful relationships. Your brain has the ability to regenerate and adapt, through a process known as neuroplasticity- proof that we can actually modify our habits. By changing your mindset over time your brain will actually make structural and functional adaptations between the neurons in response to those adjustments, essentially rewiring your thinking to a more positive state of mind.
Practice meditation daily
The art of meditation has been around for thousands of years and the 21st century has popularized this ancient art more than ever. By practicing meditation every day, preferably in the morning and at the end of day, we are allowing our brain, body, and spirit to set a clear intention for the day but also to reset from the stimuli of the day. In a life busy with multitasking and numerous responsibilities, taking 5-10 minutes to meditate can provide the inner peace necessary to organize cluttered thoughts and feelings leading to a better understanding of your present state of mind. Meditation can open your eyes to new opportunities and be your guide to greater success.
Keep it regular - sex is not taboo
This habit ties in several of the previous habits we discussed including meaningful relationships, positive thinking, social connectedness, regular exercise, and even meditation (ever heard of tantric sex?). As interconnected beings, we thrive when our relationship with our partner thrives as well. Have open and healthy communication with your partner about each of your wants, needs and desires. You may discover that after years of being together, there are still things you didn’t know your partner enjoyed or was curious about sexually. Now keep in mind, the emphasis is on healthy habits, not irresponsible sex- there is a difference. Make date night a relaxed experience, be creative and burn some calories on a regular basis.
Identify unhealthy habits, make a change
We are instinctively creatures of habit and this applies to vices too. Harmful toxins like tobacco, overconsumption of alcohol, environmental exposures or even addictions to drugs, social media, TV, and others can cause great stress to your mind and body. There are many factors that can lead to unhealthy habits but know that you are not alone and help is available from your family, community and your doctor.
Prioritize restful sleep
About 70-80 million people in the US report having poor sleep, so it’s a very common issue. Sleep is a very complex process that helps our brain and bodies to rest, repair and restore various mechanisms affected by stimuli from our daily activities. Poor sleep can affect your physical and mental health, including brain cognition and daily functions. Some of the factors that can lead to poor sleep can also simply be modified for better sleep by cooling your surroundings down to 62-72F, keeping noise and distractions to a minimum (including keeping your pets out of your room), avoiding blue light from electronics at least 1 hour before bedtime and treating seasonal/environmental allergies will help you breathe better while you sleep.
Set SMART Goals
So how can you accomplish all these goals without feeling overwhelmed? Set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time oriented). Research has shown that having goal oriented tasks is more effective than random tasks. It gives you something to focus on and check off when accomplished, which boosts your confidence. Break down large tasks into smaller actionable items, decide how each task will be measured, and make sure each task/goal is reasonable to achieve in a predetermined time frame. Visualize your goals, share them with others, and encourage others to do the same in their life and support each other through challenges. Remember to reward yourself when you achieve each item or step, every little bit of encouragement helps!