Nurturing a Lifetime of Health
Our habits are the foundation of our daily existence. They are not mere routines but the seeds we plant for a lifetime of health and well-being. In this article, I’d like to explore the significance of cultivating healthy habits in the formative years and how these choices can shape a future of vitality and fulfillment. I feel the need to talk about the importance of planting seeds of wellness as part of my mission to make the world a disease-free place for generations to come.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
The functional medicine approach tells us it takes decades for a chronic disease to show symptoms. Cardiovascular issues, auto-immune conditions, type-2 diabetes, cancer, and even neurodegenerative diseases – like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, slowly build up in our bodies. Years and years of nutrient deficiency and dehydration, together with poor sleep hygiene damage our organs little by little without us even noticing. That’s why it’s important to establish healthy habits as early as possible in life, as they serve as powerful preventive measures against a myriad of health issues.
What are Habits?
Most of us assume those hyper-achievers who are always able to squeeze in their workout, eat healthy foods, ace their exams, and pick their kids up on time must have superhuman self-control. But science’s answer is quite different. What we mistake for willpower is often a hallmark of habit. We don’t even notice but most of what we do daily are habits. Humans are creatures of habit. Let me clarify, habits are the things we do every day and how we do them.
Habits Are Key
People with good habits rarely need to resist the temptation to laze on the couch, order greasy takeout, procrastinate on assignments, or watch one more viral video before dashing out the door. That’s because autopilot takes over, eliminating temptation from the equation. Having established good habits, little to no willpower is required to choose wisely. Sounds great, right? The only catch is that building good habits takes effort and insight. Thankfully, science offers both guidance on how to begin and strategies to make it easier.
How to Change
Award-winning University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School Professor Katy Milkman has devoted her career to the study of behavior change. Her book How to Change gives us 5 practical steps to creating habits:
- Set a specific goal – use SMART goals like, “I’ll meditate for 15 minutes each day”.
- Create a detailed, cue-based plan – like “Every workday after my last meeting, I’ll spend 30 minutes studying Spanish in my office” which is much more likely to stick as a habit.
- Make it fun to repeat – you are far more likely to stick with something you enjoy. As repetition is key to habit formation, making sure you’ll have fun helps a bunch.
- Give yourself the grace to be flexible – successful habit-building relies on frequently repeating a behavior. A flexible habit means you can still do what you need to even if it’s not at the same place and time.
- Find the right support – good habits are contagious, so find people who are a little ahead of you on the learning curve to hang out with. A coach, mentor, or accountability buddy can be very helpful.
Foundation for a Strong Body and Mind
Cultivating healthy habits lays the foundation for a robust and resilient body. This incredible and so perfect machine we call “Body” is resilient regardless. It can very well recover at any point in life from almost all ailments. However, it’s possible to avoid a lot of suffering (and save time and money!) by prioritizing good habits early on. Which will set the stage for a lifetime of vitality. Make exercising a habit. Drinking a big glass of water first thing in the morning is another good habit. As it’s to prioritize eating nutritious meals, and a consistent sleeping schedule.
Lifelong Learning and Growth
Habits that foster physical and mental health are the absolute priority. However, learning habits are the cornerstone for a fulfilling and intellectually rich life. Whether it’s reading, exploring new hobbies, or seeking knowledge, early habits of curiosity and intellectual stimulation foster a growth mindset. Which is the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through disciplined practice. With which challenges are learning opportunities, setbacks are steps for improvement, and effort is the path to mastery.
With a growth mindset, you can succeed at whatever you put your mind to. As Steve J. Scott from Develop Good Habits says, “The only way to improve yourself is to set achievable goals and develop daily habits that move you toward them”.
There is no doubt that physical and mental health allied with a growth mindset will set anybody up for success. Nevertheless, it’s not going to be easy to navigate life’s challenges without emotional intelligence. That’s the reason why it’s so important to develop early habits of emotional well-being. Incorporating healthy coping mechanisms such as mindfulness, gratitude, meditation, self-reflection, journaling, and effective communication, into our daily routine, equips us to face adversity with strength and grace.
As social beings, we are meant to connect and relate to each other. So, building healthy habits includes fostering positive social relationships. A meaningful and healthy relationship is one where kindness, empathy, and effective communication are present. In the ideal world, all social connections would be a positive source of support like that. Unfortunately, in the real world, we need to create the habit of being open to and nourishing positive connections while still recognizing and shutting down negative ones.
As we live in a material world there is no way to talk about wellness without talking about money. Having financial literacy and, more importantly, a healthy relationship with money is something we should all learn as early as possible. Creating the habits of budgeting, saving, and managing finances responsibly paves the way for a stress-free life and a secure future.
There are lots of good resources to learn about the subject – I gave my daughter one of Manisha Thakor‘s books On My Own Two Feet – A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance. Manisha is the founder of MoneyZen LLC and an ardent financial literacy advocate for women.
It’s finally becoming common sense that the planet Earth is our home. We are just one big community responsible for taking care of the land we inherited. Cultivating environmentally thoughtful habits promotes sustainability. Simple practices like recycling, conserving water and energy, and mindful consumption contribute to a healthier planet for future generations. Besides being key to a sustainable future, mindful consumption is also key to financial well-being. Embrace the Be-Do-Have way, in which the priority is being, not having.
Creating a routine is a good way to set your habits in an organized way. In my e-book, I have a good example of daily habits for productivity. I also go over the importance of having a self-centered morning routine and a relaxing bedtime. I encourage you to set your goals and establish your own routine. Try different things until you find what makes you feel great and accomplished every day.
In essence, the habits we instill will shape our existence. It’s never too late but, the earlier we start planting those seeds of wellness the better. So, we can all watch as they blossom into vibrant, healthy, and joyful life.
After all: Good is what makes you feel well!
For a ton of extra resources on how to build goals and habits check the Develop Good Habits website.
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I’m excited to share that I just published my first e-book
A Weekend of Feeling Great!
In this book, you’ll find all the steps you can take to feel great. Besides all the foundational principles of multidimensional health, it has a sample of a productive daily routine and a two-day menu with 10 healthy recipes for you to try.