During the last 10 years I read a lot of books on health and well-being. The information from different books is sometimes contradictory, but sometimes it’s very consistent when you compare different sources. Some healthy habits are universal for all people because of how we evolved as a species over millions of years.
Let me give you one example. People who are only exposed to the natural lighting (fire is ok) have pretty regular consistent daily fluctuations in certain hormones. One such hormone is melatonin. Its level increases at night – which helps us fall asleep and enhances the natural ability of our body to recover when we sleep. If we look at a bright light (especially blue light) during the night, the level of melatonin drops and we slow down natural healing processes during this particular night. By the way, taking melatonin tablets has some negative effects and I don’t recommend it.
The above is true for ALL people, no matter their genetics, their development after birth (so-called ontogenesis) or the environment in which they live.
If you know this piece of information, you have a chance to improve your health and well-being relatively fast when it comes to this aspect of your life. If you watch TV, for example, you can:
- move the TV time to earlier in the evening,
- reduce the brightness of any light source (both ambient and screens) in the evening,
- set the color mode of any light source to “warm” after the sunset; again, that applies to both the ambient light and the screens.
All the above is relatively easy to do. You will sleep better and your body will restore more effectively during the night.
Below you will find the list of good healthy habits that I compiled over the course of several years.
If you are facing a health issue and want to recover faster, you can use this list as a guide to help you switch your own habits in the right direction.
Some habits are pretty obvious, some are more tricky and are often ignored even by medical doctors. Unfortunately, your doctor doesn’t have enough time to investigate all aspects of your lifestyle.
Because of different genetics, some habits may have a bigger or smaller impact on the health of a particular individual. For example, some people may smoke 20 cigarettes a day and live to 90 years old without major health problems. Some people can work 8 hours per day on the computer and keep an excellent vision. For other people, both smoking and extended screen time are health risk factors.
Some of the habits below are more relevant to some health conditions and some to others.
So here we go:
- Move frequently. Low to moderate intensity cardio should be part of your daily routine. Because of different genetics, a perfect exercise program that would suit everyone doesn’t exist. See the book Exercised by Daniel Lieberman.
- Maximize your exposure to natural light from the sky and sun during the day. If you are currently light sensitive, please start slowly to make sure your eyes remain comfortable while you gradually increase your time outside. Note that the glass (windows or glasses) will block a lot of light, including UVB light which is necessary for the production of vitamin D and also for healthy functioning of our eyes. Aim for the minimum of 2 hours outdoors without any glass barriers. See eyesight.training – my website about healthy eyesight habits.
- Minimize your exposure to artificial lights. That includes both the ambient light and the light coming from computer screens or mobile devices. Prioritize paper and e-ink screens. If you use a projector, the light is reflected from the wall and in theory is better than the light from the light-emitting screens. However, the problem with the projectors is that in order to keep a comfortable contrast level you need to minimize the natural light from the sky and sun which contradicts the previous point. Avoid any bright light (especially blue) after the sunset and before the sunrise. If you do use artificial lights, check out smart light bulbs which can automatically change color mode to “warm” after the sunset. See the book Optimal Eyesight by Esther van der Werf.
- Get plenty of sleep. Ideally, sleep in complete darkness. No artificial light should fall on your closed eyes or any other part of your body.
- Avoid processed food, especially fast carbs and most refined oils. The processed food lacks vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients which we may not be aware of. White flour is also considered processed food. The topic of whether to consume grains or not is still discussed in the literature. My perception is that the grains are definitely not for everyone. Their safety will depend greatly on your genetics and your lifestyle. Practically everyone can find healthier alternatives.
- When it comes to which food is healthy it becomes tricky. It will depend greatly on your genetics, your physical activity level and the climate in which you live. There’s no one size fits all. The general principle is to maximize whole foods (vegetables, including greens, fruits, berries, nuts, seeds). I personally lean towards primarily vegetarian diet with eggs. Some people do very well on paleo. You will need to experiment. It may be a good idea to keep a diary where you note which foods are good for you and under which circumstances. Recommended books: How Not to Die by Michael Greger, The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss, The Plant-Based Athlete by Matt Frazier, The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. Recommended documentary: The Game Changers.
- Avoid soft or liquid food. Your jaw should get enough stimulation. The jaw is the only bone in our body that can grow even when we are over 60. Eating soft and liquid food has a negative effect on the teeth, jaw development, and even on the brain function. To put it bluntly, not chewing enough makes you stupid. As a direct consequence of this point, do not overcook vegetables and avoid canned vegetables.
- Make sure that most of the time your breathing is deep, slow and abdominal, that is you use mostly your diaphragm for breathing. To make the breathing “deep” put your focus primarily on making deep exhales, the inhales will become deep naturally.
- Unless you speak or sing, keep your mouth constantly closed during the day and tape it shut during the night. For the last three points see the book Breath by James Nestor.
- Avoid root canals – it’s a dental procedure when the nerve is extracted from your tooth, which leaves a piece of dead tissue inside your body for years. The bacteria which grow inside such teeth will secrete toxins. These toxins may negatively impact your health. They increase the risk of atherosclerosis, stroke, heart attack, pneumonia, arthritis, etc. Note that the official position of American Association of Endodontists and Canadian Dental Association is that the root canal is a safe procedure. This is a lie. See the book Toxic tooth by Robert Kulacz. If you already have a root canal, I highly recommend you read this book.
- Walk barefoot as much as you can. It seems that if you contact the soil directly with your bare feet, it is even more beneficial.
- Breathe fresh air.
- Expose yourself to different temperatures. If you live at a constant air-conditioned temperature 24/7/365 and take only warm showers, you deprive your body from a chance to release some powerful hormones that can boost your immune system. It seems that the ambient temperature when you sleep during the night should be colder than during the day. See the book The Wim Hof Method by Wim Hof.
- Fast occasionally. Just like with the cold exposure, fasting will promote your body’s natual ability to recover. For the last two points see the book Tools of titans by Tim Ferriss.
- Avoid ingesting, inhaling or applying to your skin unnatural chemical substances. That includes nicotine and caffeine. Even the chemicals naturally produced in our body or contained in foods, when consumed in high doses orally, may have unpredictable effects. Obviously, do not stop any regular medications without discussing it with your doctor.
- Organize your activities in such a way that you can look into the distance frequently and your peripheral vision remains engaged. To achieve this you can, for example, put your computer in front of the window. However the window glass is still only the second best way to look into the distance. Ideally there should be no barriers between you and the distant object you look at.
- Avoid multitasking in most contexts. For example, eating and watching TV is a bad idea. The full commitment to the task at hand is the best approach you can take. At first, you may think that this contradicts the previous point in a sense that engaging peripheral vision may distract us from the task we perform. “If we are focused, everything else should disappear”. Unfortunately, the format of this article doesn’t allow me to go deeper into the topic, just believe me that you can perform very well with both your peripheral and foveal (central) vision engaged.
- Find a way to release chronic muscle tension if you have any. The most affected areas are: neck, shoulders, jaw, facial muscles, muscles around your eyes, abdomen. The tensed muscles decrease the blood flow in the affected and adjacent areas. That means less nutrients, less oxygen and a buildup of waste products. Recommended modality: Feldenkrais method.
- Avoid the exposure to very high intensity electromagnetic fields, including radiation.
The number of the good habits may be overwhelming at first. There are two good news, though:
- They are all interconnected. Changing one will most likely positively affect some of the others. For example, if you sleep better, your body may release some chronic tension and your breathing may become deeper and calmer.
- Because we are all different (genetics, ontogenesis, environment), most likely there are only a few of them that are extremely important for you. Experiment to find out which ones!
Some habits are pretty easy to change – see the example in the beginning of this article with the artificial lights at night.
On the other hand, for some habits you may want to take only one small step at a time. A common example of such habits is consumption of addictive junk food.
Let me give you one example. Let’s say, you always drink your coffee with 2 teaspoons of sugar. Start by reducing the amount of sugar to one and half spoons per cup for one week, then to one spoon for one week, etc. Yes, it may take you one month to remove sugar from your coffee, but your chances to succeed are much higher compared to someone who tries to do it “cold turkey”.
The speed at which you introduce changes will depend on your motivation level and the urgency of the health condition.
If you have a health challenge and you need a one-on-one coaching session, feel free to book a free 15-minute consultation.