January is a good time of the year for reflection.
For most of the day, we are in autopilot mode. Our habits take over and we often go through activities mindlessly. This helps us conserve mental energy for more important decisions. Some of our habits are helpful; think about how much harder remembering to brush your teeth would be if it wasn’t a habit. It is useful to pay attention to our automatic patterns and see if some of them need to be modified
Here are three healthy habits particularly helpful for busy people.
3 Healthy Habits You Should Adopt
1. Get more sleep
Most people don’t get enough.
Melatonin, a hormone secreted by the brain when we are in darkness, aligns our body rhythms with the day–night cycle. It’s a powerful antioxidant, modulates our immune system, and may discourage the growth of certain cancer cells.
During sleep we recover from the activities of wakefulness. Our bodies rebuild stores of molecules by replacing or repairing damaged molecules needed for the next day. When we don’t get enough sleep, the brain makes molecules that are ordinarily associated with stress. In other words, if you sleep well, you get an overnight tune-up. If you don’t sleep well, your body experiences cellular stress.
How much should you sleep? Enough to wake up feeling refreshed and have no daytime drowsiness.
9 Tips to Improve the Quality of Your Sleep
Here are my top healthy habits for sleep:
- Adopt a regular sleep time.
- Develop a relaxing bedtime routine. During the hour or two before bed, don’t eat or drink too much. Avoid vigorous exercise or thinking about aggravating issues.
- Stay away from your electronic screens an hour before bedtime and don’t leave them charging beside your bed.
- Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.
- Go to bed tired and turn out the lights.
- Have a comfortable mattress and pillow.
- Limit daytime naps to a maximum of thirty minutes.
- Sleep in total darkness or use a sleep mask.
- Avoid nicotine, and limit nighttime caffeine, alcohol, and sugar consumption. All of these chemicals are stimulants.
2. Make a home
Your home should be a safe, relaxing place. You go to rest and recover from each day’s activities.
You do not need a lot of money to make your home beautiful. Give some thought to what you like to look at, have music available, and try to get some ambient lighting. Restrict clutter so that it does not take over all your space. I always feel so refreshed when I go through closets and drawers and decide to give away those things that no longer fit well into my life and do not give me joy. I feel lighter when I take those bags into a charity.
Have fun! Laugh! Play! do it for no reason at all, except for the sheer joy of it.
So many of my patients forget how to play. Enjoy play. Your body will, too.
There are countless ways to ‘play’. You could play an instrument, play a sport, play a computer game, or go to a theatrical play where “players” play others. To play is to be “not serious,” to be outside the boundaries of ordinary life, to be lighthearted. During play you integrate the left, analytical, side of your brain with the right, creative, side.
Take time out of your schedule, no matter how busy, and play. Let loose like you did when you were six. Enjoy!
Chew on this
Habits aren’t always voluntary. Sometimes, they’re hard-wired into your brain. Fortunately, your brain can change and adapt. We call this neuroplasticity.
Our brains get better at whatever we focus on, just as our bodies get better at sports when we practice. We can train our brains to remember to sleep well and have fun.
Have you added more healthy habits to your routine? Tell us your story in your comments!