Eight Habits of Highly Healthy People

Back in April, I wrote a post about my day job, what it involves, and how much I have learned because of it.

The knowledge I’ve gleaned from years of abstracting articles, blogs, and studies has led me to create my own list of health tips. Obviously, I’m no medical professional, but I would say that this advice is pretty much universal. I should note that some of my conclusions came not only from my own job, but from things I hear from the many, many health professionals in my family—from my physician father to my nurse-practitioner mother to my nurse aunts and cousins.

(You’ll notice that I don’t have links or sources to back up my suggestions. As I said, this is stuff I’ve gleaned from years of readings, so I don’t have any specific articles for you. But you’re already reading this online, and Google, Wikipedia, WebMD, and Snopes.com are all just a browser-tab away … )

And so, I bring you, Em’s Eight Habits of Highly Healthy People

1. Don’t Smoke

This one came from both my work readings and my mother, who encounters many elderly people at work, some of whom have decades of smoking under their belt—and it shows. “I’ve decided that smoking is the worst thing you can do to your body,” she told me once.

Now, as a libertarian who believes in the free market, I do not think this means smoking should be legally restricted. I advise against it, but if people want to do it, go ahead. Personally, I think it’s gross and smelly and discourteous to those standing downwind, no matter how sexy you may look doing it.

(Stop that.)

I also don’t think “establishments” of whatever kind you want to think of should have to forbid smoking. If a business wants to allow cigarette smoking, marijuana smoking, or topless crowd-surfing, that’s their prerogative.

2. Exercise as much as you can, within your physical capabilities

In contrast to smoking, exercise is the best thing you can do for your body. Obviously I added the “within your capabilities” part because people have a range of physical abilities. People who use a wheelchair might try some free weights. People with bad knees may try swimming. People not used to exercise at all might start with a walk around the block. Besides avoiding injury, the most important thing is to make it enjoyable.

3. Eat a variety, in moderation, but lots of vegetables

This is another “your mileage may vary” type of thing, since vegans, people with allergies, or diabetics may have their own restrictions. But in general, unless otherwise suggested by a health condition or medical professional, you don’t have to completely swear off any particular food. The occasional sandwich will not kill even the most ardent paleo-dieter, but you don’t want to have sandwiches every day. You also don’t want to have dessert every day, or salad every day. Mix it up, try new recipes, expand your food horizons.

(Shawarma, like crime fighting, should be done in moderation.)

In general, I’d say more vegetables is a good thing. And based on what I read, I would suggest lots of Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and omega-3. That shit is amazing.

4. Drink moderately

Obviously, for people with substance-abuse issues, “moderately” should be taken to mean “not at all.” But otherwise, as they say, “drink responsibly.” The occasional glass of wine really can be good for you. However, years of heavy alcohol consumption can not only cause liver damage, dependence, and financial woes, but can also cause dementia.

Drinking has obviously already caused this man some form of mental damage.

5. Find out how much sleep you function best at, and make that your goal every night

I’ve written before how sleep is vital to my own emotional well-being. It’s also good for just resting and healing your body, reducing physical and mental stress, and improving memory. Plus, dreams can be fun! Unless you’re me and you have dreams about being pregnant or participating in The Most Dangerous Game. Not so much fun.

6. Make/keep friends

Humans need relationships. Make new ones, maintain old ones, and don’t be a jerk.

7. Learn/Try new things

Not only can this be fun, it also extends the life of your brain by potentially warding off dementia. It doesn’t necessarily mean going skydiving when you have a fear of heights. Try a new restaurant, read a new book/magazine/blog, or even find a new route to work. Take a class, try a new recipe. Rearrange your furniture. Break routine just a little bit.

Solving crimes, for example

. . .

8. Take time to relax and de-stress

Stress wears you down, physically and mentally, in ways you may not be aware of. It can also keep you from functioning at your best. Pray, meditate, sit in a dark and quiet room, take a nap, savor a cup of tea, or take a kickboxing class—whatever works for you, take the time to find out.

What say you? Got your own recommendations? Anything you consider vital that I missed?