What are the best habits for a healthy mind and body?
I see this question asked ALL the time.
Here’s the thing…With pretty much any “habit” someone is promoting, it doesn’t mean it will benefit you as well. We’re not all the same. What works for some people might not work for you.
So, how can you work out the “healthy habits” that give you the best chance of helping you?
Scientific research, and lots of it!
Research is designed to eliminate factors you can’t control, and also be statistically significant for the majority of participants. And the more positive research there is, the higher the chance it will benefit you.
So, in this post, I’m going to go over five natural habits that science says will probably work. Enjoy!
Humans are built to run. We evolved to run great distances hunting prey and gathering food.
So it’s no surprise that research suggests running could be one of the most effective habits for your health, physically and mentally.
A 2014 study that appeared in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that “running, even 5-10 minutes a day, at slow speeds, even slower than 6 miles per hour [10: 00-minute pace], is associated with markedly reduced risks of death from all causes and cardiovascular disease.”
A 2017 study found that, in general, runners have a 25%-40% reduced risk of premature mortality and live approximately three years longer than non-runners.
It’s not just your physical health, either. Running, and other forms of exercise, can reduce anxiety symptoms and help you relax, according to studies cited by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. In some studies, running may work as well as medication to relieve anxiety.
Running has also been found to help people with depression. Science has found that depression is related to low levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine, both of which are stimulated by exercise.
So, what’s the “perfect” amount of running per week? According to Carl. J. Lavie, MD, “Running for 20 to 30 minutes, or about a mile-and-a-half to three miles, twice per week would appear to be perfect.”
[Buddhism has an incredible amount to teach us about living better lives. In my latest eBook, I use iconic Buddhist teachings to provide no-nonsense suggestions for everyday living. Check it out here].
2) Intermittent Fasting
If you were to do intermittent fasting, you would not eat from say, 7 PM until 11 am (16 hours) and during 11 am to 7 PM; you would eat as much as you want.
There are other ways to practice it. You could not eat for 24 hours, once or twice a week.
Of course, it doesn’t mean you can eat junk food, and you will experience the benefits. It’s still important to eat healthy food.
There’s starting to be a lot more research on intermittent fasting.
First, intermittent fasting has been found to boost the metabolic rate (increase calories out) and reduce the amount of food you eat (reduces calories in).
According to a 2014 review, intermittent fasting can cause weight loss of 3-8% over 3-24 weeks. The people also lost 4-7% of their waist circumference, which indicates that they lost lots of belly fat, which is harmful in the abdominal cavity that causes disease.
Studies also show that intermittent fasting can reduce oxidative damage and inflammation in the body. This should have benefits against aging and the development of numerous diseases.
Also, intermittent fasting has been shown to improve several risk factors for heart disease, such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and inflammatory markers.
If you want to be inspired to try intermittent fasting, check out this video of Terry Crews explaining how he goes about it. It’s what inspired me to give it a try and I hope it can do the same for you:
3) Lift weights
Weightlifting is not something that readily comes up when it comes to health. But it can be very beneficial for your body and mood.
Research suggests that lifting weights can add years to your life. A 2014 UCLA study indicated that the more muscle mass we have, the less likely we are to die prematurely.
The lead researcher said in a statement, “the greater your muscle mass, the lower your risk of death…Thus, rather than worrying about weight or body mass index, we should be trying to maximize and maintain muscle mass.”
Your sleep also improves when you do resistance training. In a small 2012 study in older men, researchers found that resistance training reduces the number of times the study participants woke up during the night.
For more inspiring articles on self-improvement and mindfulness, like Hack Spirit on Facebook:
4) Stop using Facebook
You may not like this one, as you’re probably reading this article from Facebook.
But research is starting to show that staying off Facebook will probably make you happier.
Researchers in Denmark asked people to stop using Facebook for one week to see if it made them happier. Compared to the control group who continued to use Facebook, they appeared more satisfied with their life once the experiment was complete.
The lead researcher of the study attributed the results to people’s tendencies to compare themselves to others on social media. The researcher stated:
“Facebook distorts our perception of reality and of what other people’s lives really look like. We take into account how we’re doing in life through comparisons to everyone else, and since most people only post positive things on Facebook, that gives us a very biased perception of reality…If we are constantly exposed to great news, we risk evaluating our own lives as less good.”
There have also been plenty of studies that have found correlations between heavier Facebook use and depression, feelings of envy and isolation and lower self-esteem.
There’s no doubt that Facebook is great for keeping in touch with people, but there’s no shortage of messaging apps. So instead of mindlessly scrolling Facebook, your time might be better spent using useful apps that help you learn and gain knowledge.
(If you’re looking for a structured, easy-to-follow framework to help you find your purpose in life and achieve your goals, check our eBook on how to be your own life coach here).
5) Get outside in nature
We’re spending a lot more time indoors, thanks to urbanization and technology controlling our lives.
Unfortunately, this means we’re not getting enough time out in nature. However, there’s plenty of research to suggest that getting out in nature, whether it’s forests, mountains or the sea, can reduce stress and make you happier.
A study in Japan found that participants who were assigned to walk in a forest (compared to an urban center) were found to have significantly lower heart rates and increased relaxation and less stress.
Another study in Finland found that urban dwellers who strolled for as little as 20 minutes through an urban park or woodland reported significantly more stress relief than those who walked in the city center.
The reasons are unclear, but scientists believe that we evolved to be more relaxed in natural spaces.
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