10 Simple Healthy Habits Worth Adopting While Social Distancing

10 Simple Healthy Habits Worth Adopting While Social Distancing
Wouldn't it be easier if the things you know you need to do each day—eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, etc.—were simply part of your routine?

They can become that by turning simple actions into healthy habits. 

By practicing the same things over and over again, you can hardwire your brain to complete these tasks each day with little thought. You just do it because that's what you're used to!

Here's a quick introduction on how to build healthy habits, and 10 things you can practice while social distancing.

What Are Habits?

Habits are the conscious and unconscious behaviors we perform on a daily basis [1].

Whether we realize it or not, much of our day-to-day actions are repetitive. We wake up around the same time, eat many of the same foods at the same times, and generally spend a lot of our days doing the same tasks.

This is why many say humans are 'creatures of habit.' Often, we don't realize we're engaging in habitual activities as frequently as we do; it's almost as if they're a part of us.

Some of the habits we enlist are good, while others are bad. 

So the more healthy habits we can build into our routines (such as exercising regularly and following a healthy diet), the better off we'll be.

How Do You Create A New Habit?  

Science in the area of habit formation is still developing. For a long time, it was believed that it took 21 days to form a new habit in your brain. That’s three weeks!

However, current literature calls this 21-day threshold a myth, stating it may take as many as 66 days [2].

While there is no conclusive number, this means you'll want to consciously perform the same activity for somewhere between 3 and 10 weeks if you wish to make it a habit. 

What Are the Benefits of Having Healthy Habits?  

Healthy habits free our minds up to focus on other things while we practice behaviors that are good for us.

Consider the opposite scenario: if you don't exercise often, you likely know how hard it can be to get yourself to even get started. The first workout is often the hardest, and the most challenging thing of all is getting ourselves to do it.

But by creating habits, your brain creates new neural networks and behavior-reward channels that promote you doing the activity without thinking about it. 

How nice would it be to simply know you're working out that day or eating healthy without really thinking about it? 

In essence, that's what developing healthy habits can do for you [3].

10 Healthy Habits Worth Adopting

Below, we'll look at 10 healthy habits worth adopting. These are great at home if you're social distancing, but also work for pretty much any other situation, too. 

1. Drink More Water 

Depending on your age, water composes between 55 and 72 percent of your bodyweight (the number goes down as you age) [4].

Water is essential for human health and cellular function, which is why you should make a habit around drinking plenty of it.

Current guidelines recommend you drink [5]:

  • 101 ounces per day if you're an adult male
  • 74 ounces per day if you're an adult female
This number is just a baseline, and should increase if you exercise or live in a hot humid climate. (In this case you might also want to take an electrolyte supplement.)

An easy way to make hydration a habit is to drink a large glass of water right when you wake up. Get between 16 and 32 ounces under your belt right away, then drink a similar-sized glass at meals and before workouts. 

There will be an adjustment period (more trips to the restroom), but it will feel more natural over time!

2. Exercise Regularly

Moving on a daily basis helps you build a habit around working out. Don’t feel like it needs to be an hour a day for it to be beneficial. 

You could simply:

  • Take a 20-minute walk
  • Ride a bike
  • Walk up and down stairs 
  • Stretch or do yoga
After a while, your body will begin to associate rewards with exercise. Your physical appearance will change, and you'll also release endorphins after the workouts, which help boost mood and reduce physical pain [6].

3. Practice Mindful Eating 

Many of us don't realize eating is both a physical and mental activity. When we form healthy habits around both, we tend to make better food choices and eat the proper amounts of food to fuel our bodies.

During times of uncertainty and anxiety, it is normal to be more susceptible to stress eating. One way to prevent that is to practice mindful eating. Build a habit around checking in with yourself when you feel the urge to eat something. 

Ask yourself: Am I really hungry right now? Or am I just (bored/anxious/tired/depressed)?

If the answer is no, try taking a couple deep breaths or drinking some water instead of eating.

When you do eat, make a conscious effort to eat more slowly. It can take your brain about 20 minutes to register that you’re full. Eating too fast can cause you to eat more than your body needs, which can lead to weight gain. Studies have shown that fast eaters are more likely to be overweight [7

4. Eat Plenty of Fiber

Fiber is an essential nutrient your body needs to stay healthy.

It can help you lose weight, as it keeps your microbiome (gut bacteria) healthy and keeps you full longer after meals [8]. 

The easiest way to build a habit around eating fiber is to always include fibrous veggies and fruits in at least one meal per day (if not more than one). Keto-friendly options include green leafy vegetables and berries.

5. Stock Up On Healthy Foods

You can form a healthy habit around buying and producing healthy meals, too. 

For example, you could:

  • Grocery shop at the same time(s) each week to stock up on fresh produce
  • Meal prep on the same day(s) each week
  • Keep healthy "staple" foods in your pantry
Being prepared like this goes a long way towards making consistently good food choices. When healthy food is always an option, you're far more likely to make that choice! 

6. Get Enough Sleep 

Did you know that not getting enough sleep affects your ability to make decisions [9]?

This applies to the next day's nutrition, choices you make at work, and more. The probability of you being irritable, impatient, and less productive also increases [10].

To combat this, form a habit around getting quality sleep. Practice things like:

  • Going to sleep earlier (aim for 7+ hours of sleep each night)
  • Going to sleep around the same time each night
  • Avoiding electronics for 60 minutes prior to bed (the blue light from the screen messes with your ability to sleep deeply [11]
  • Sleeping in a cool room (room temperature between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended)
  • Shutting off all lights in the room (including digital clocks and technology devices)
It might also help to create your own pre-sleep ritual. Meditate, shower, or read a book to get your mind ready for rest.

7. Practice Compassion With Yourself

There are always moments in life we wish we could take back or improve. 

But as many of us know too well, bad habits like self-ridicule and negative self-talk can start to feel normal if we let them linger.

Instead, make it a priority to be compassionate. Form a habit around learning from your mistakes instead of getting upset with yourself, and don't let one bad decision spiral into several. (Journaling can help with this.)

Apply this to your diet, exercise routine, and personal life—there are always ways we can be more kind to ourselves. 

8. Connect With Loved Ones

It's a simple fact that human beings are social animals. We're meant to be around one another.

It may be difficult to feel a sense of connection to others at certain times (especially if you're practicing social distancing). But making it a habit to spend time with loved ones and develop relationships will benefit all areas of your life. 

Tools like Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, and phone calls can go a long way. You can even try writing letters.

For the next 10 weeks, try to have one meaningful conversation per day. Schedule it if you have to in order to make it happen. It might not even take that long to become a part of your routine.

9. Stretch

Joint flexibility decreases as we get older. Unfortunately, it's just part of the natural aging process [12].

But you can keep your muscles limber by stretching for a mere 5 minutes a day. It'll help protect your joints and can reduce pain in your shoulders, hips, and knees [13].

To make it an easy habit that you'll remember to practice for 3 to 10 weeks, try stretching before bed, when you first wake up, or right after you exercise.

10. Contribute To Something Greater Than Yourself

The final habit worth adopting is slightly different than the first nine.

All of the previous suggestions were focused on you—the health of your mind and body.

But another habit we should all be forming is giving back and helping others. Contributing to something greater than ourselves gives us an increased sense of well-being and purpose [14].

There are many ways to contribute. You can volunteer. Write a kind message to someone. Offer support to someone experiencing pain.

Just like any of the habits listed above, simply make it a goal to do something that serves other people each day. Practice this and over time it will start to feel like a part of you!

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