#1- Spend at least a couple of hours outside every day
A study done by the app Mappiness in 2010 found, via 20,000 participants, that people are least happy either at work or while sick in bed.
They are most happy when they’re with friends or lovers.
And their moods tend to reflect the weather at hand.
But, one of the biggest variables is not who you’re with or what you’re doing. It’s where you are.
On average, study participants were significantly happier outdoors, in an all green or natural habitat type, rather than in an urban environment.
We are growing increasingly burdened and inundated by chronic ailments made worse by time spent indoors, from myopia and vitamin D deficiency to obesity, depression, diminishment of eyesight, loneliness, and anxiety, among others.
Since the dawn of the internet, researchers say we have grown more irritable, less sociable, more narcissistic, more distracted, and less cognitively nimble.
This might be due to both, to the internet’s effect on our ability to focus, as well as the barriers created between connecting as deeply emotionally as we once did (now, our screens tend to distract us much of the time).
This can also be due to things like advertising and media, posting selfies (look at me, look at me!), the sense of competition and comparison that social media ushered in, the seeking of status and popularity, the branding of ourselves via crafting our online images for viewers, the diminishment of wisdom, and reading articles and bits of information in short bursts, as opposed to focusing at length on, say, a book for an hour or two.
The fact that we have grown more irritable, less sociable, more narcissistic, more distracted, and less cognitively nimble, though, is also because we are spending way more time indoors.
Spending time outdoors affects our mood and well-being, emotionally and physically.
It impacts our ability to think clearly, as well as, to remember things, to plan, to create, to daydream, and to focus, as well as, even our social skills.
For more on this, check out The Nature Fix: How Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams.
#2- Stop sitting for hours each day
Instead, alternate. Sit for 15–20 minutes and then stand for an hour. Repeat.
The more you sit, the more your body will urge you to sit.
It’s a vicious cycle.
Because the more and more we sit, our stamina for standing weakens. So the more often we sit, it becomes more challenging and more tiresome to stand.
Guess what happens when you sit for hours every day?
- You get back pain and neck pain
- You’re at risk for blood clots since you aren’t moving for long periods of time
- You gain weight
- You can get varicose veins
- Your muscles get weaker and less toned
- You are more prone to depression
- You are at higher risk for diabetes
- Your butt, thighs, and stomach will get flabby and weaker.
Need I go on…?
Even if you stand for 2–3 hours of your workday, but then you sit for 3–4 hours of the rest of it, you are still spending most of your day on your butt. Since you likely sit throughout most of the evening (for dinner, watching T.V., etc). You sit on your commute to and from work.
So, standing for a couple of hours each day isn’t enough.
Make a point to instill this habit. It’s so easy to slide into sitting for an hour…then two hours…then three. And before you know it, you’ve sat for much of the day.
Set an alarm.
Make yourself get up and stand (get a standing desk for work) and move as much as you can. Even if you “don’t feel like it.”
This is one of those things to make a point not to allow to happen because it’s all too easy to do so. And it’s one you’re likely to regret later on when it causes health issues.
#3- Laugh. Play. Spend time often with people you love (and in-person)
This is so important for mental health, lower stress, and joy. Play and laughter draw people together. Here are some of the other benefits:
Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
Laughter lightens anger’s heavy load. Nothing diffuses anger and conflict faster than a shared laugh. Looking at the funny side can put problems into perspective and enable you to move on from confrontations without holding onto bitterness or resentment.
Laughter may even help you to live longer. A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer.
#4- Stop Snacking Every Few Hours
I know, this is contrary to a lot of what we’ve heard for years now. “Snack every three hours to keep your blood sugar up!” Research is now finding this to be wrong.
Guess what constantly keeping your blood sugar up does?
It can eventually cause you to run out of insulin, and this is when you get diabetes. It also taxes your body, because every time you put anything in your mouth, your body then begins the process of digesting, which is hard work.
It’s actually far better for your health to wait 5–6 hours between meals.
If you’d like to read some more research on this topic, here you go.
#5- Get Enough Sleep
You need at least 7 hours every night (The Power of Sleep by Matthew Walker, Ph.D.).
Here are some ways that not getting enough sleep impacts your health:
-Routinely sleeping less than seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer
-It’s a major factor in whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease
-Inadequate sleep, even just moderate reductions for one week, disrupts blood sugar levels so significantly that it puts your body in pre-diabetic levels
-Not getting enough sleep increases the likelihood of coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, setting you on a path toward cardiovascular disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure
-Sleep disruption further contributes to all major psychiatric conditions, including mental illness, depression, anxiety, and suicidality
-Too little sleep swells concentrations of a hormone that makes you feel hungry, while simultaneously suppressing a companion hormone that otherwise signals food satisfaction
-Attempting to diet and not getting enough sleep is futile since most of the weight lost will be lean body mass and not fat
-The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life span
-The World Health Organization (WHO) has now declared a sleep loss epidemic throughout industrialized nations
-One person dies in a traffic accident caused by drowsiness every single hour in the US. Further, vehicular accidents caused by fatigue exceed those caused by alcohol and drugs combined
#6- Exercise at least 30-minutes every day
And the 30-minutes should be heart-pumping, sweating, somewhat challenging exercise to have the benefits you’ll want.
Regular exercise keeps you strong, with cardiovascular stamina, more able-bodied, and a healthier weight. It has also been proven to cure mild to moderate depression. It can help make you sharper and improve memory. It also helps you sleep better. It keeps your heart healthy and your bones strong. If you need more reasons, go do some research. You’ll uncover a ton more.
Exercise is AWESOME for you. And it’s common knowledge that doing this every single day has great health benefits.
#7- Vacation. Take time off regularly. Take a random sick day once in a while
This whole American adage of, “The more you work, the more productive you are, and the more impressive you are” is wrong. In fact, the more you work, the more exhausted, burned out, and less productive you tend to be.
Also, this whole mindset of, “If I take time off, people are going to think bad of me,” is also a really sad, misguided one. We’ve forgotten, the point of work is for a paycheck to live and fund our lives, but then aside from our 9–5 job, the point of working is to actually be able to live and enjoy our lives. A job is just supposed to be a job. A way to live. It seems many of us have forgotten the living part, though, that’s beyond our jobs.
People in Europe get six weeks of vacation every year as standard. A lot of them get more. I know this from experience. I lived there for 4 years, and it was AWESOME. Guess what? People there are not less productive at work. In fact, research has shown that when people take more vacations, they are happier and more productive.
So, sorry America, but you’ve got this one all wrong. And it’s costing us mental health, physical health, and happiness.
Put these health practices into play, which cover mental, physical, and emotional health. Make a point to do them regularly, even when you “don’t feel like it,” since part of being healthy is having the discipline and doing things you don’t always feel like doing. You will be glad you did over the big picture, for the emotional and physical rewards you’ll experience!