Last week, I listed 23 healthy habits that can be easily squeezed into your busy day. Have you tried some of them yet? If not, here are 27 more options for you to consider!
In the evening
24. When you come back home, leave your shoes at the door to avoid bringing bad germs inside. This is a tradition in many cultures, but not so much in the Western world. The average shoe harbours hundreds of thousands of bacteria. It can also carry harmful chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, fertilisers as well as dirt and grime that you will have to clean afterwards. Still not convinced? One study found that 96% of shoes were coated with fecal bacteria such as the infamous E.coli. Others found staphylococcus, clostridium and other nasties that can cause diarrhea and infections. Remember this before putting your feet on the coffee table or if you have kids who love crawling on the floor. Also, if you live on the ground floor and have conductive flooring (such as tiles or concrete), you will get more beneficial grounding time (see #21 of part I).
25. Diffuse essential oils in your lounge or bedroom. They are therapeutic compounds extracted from plants that stimulate our limbic system and affect our emotions, memory, as well as our breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. Different oils have different benefits and can be used to relax, lower stress and anxiety, sleep better, uplift our mood, help with focus and memory and so much more. Applied topically, they can soothe sore muscles, relieve headaches or pain, reduce inflammation, aid digestion, fight infections, improve skin issues and disinfect small wounds. The most common oils include lavender, all the citrus fruits, frankincense, rose, tea tree, peppermint, chamomile, eucalyptus and rosemary, just to name a few. Lavender oil is the most versatile and is often referred to as the Swiss army knife of essential oils.
27. Have 1 tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar before dinner. This achieves similar benefits as the lemon water I talked about in part I (see #8), with antimicrobial and antioxidant properties that can promote weight loss, reduce cholesterol and balance blood sugar levels. Make sure to buy organic apple cidre vinegar "with the mother" that is rich in healthy bacteria to optimise your gut microbiome. Drink it straight, dilute it in some water or add it to your salads.
28. Have another wholesome meal at least 3 hours before bedtime. I talked about eating a delicious lunch prepared with fresh produces in part I (#22). The same goes with dinner. It is better to finish dinner early, so that our digestion does not interfere with our sleep. Late meals spike our metabolism and elevate our body temperature, whereas we need a lower core body temperature to fall asleep. Some studies also found an association between eating at night and a higher risk of being overweight or obese. Also reduce your alcohol consumption a few hours before bedtime: alcohol can help us fall asleep quicker but it makes our sleep more fragmented later in the night and overall less restoring. One study observed that significant alcohol intake between 7 and 8 pm inhibited melatonin by up to 40% and another reported an increase of sleep apnea and other breathing disorders for 2 nights.
29. Dim the lights and minimise artificial light and screen time a few hours before bed time. Blue light suppresses melatonin by up to 50%, elevates cortisol and makes it difficult to fall asleep. A few seconds of exposure to bright light are sufficient to delay and reduce melatonin production. If you want to watch telly or use electronic devices in the evening and typically have troubles falling asleep, buy a pair of blue-light-blocking glasses. They can make a real difference.
30. Download F.Lux or Iris on your PC, turn on Bedtime for iPhone or Twilight for Android. They are all free apps that adjust the colour of the screen automatically after sunset, to reduce the blue light that interferes with our ability to fall asleep.
31. Stop working 1 hour before bedtime and start relaxing. Listen to music, read a book, take a hot bath, practice mindfulness or write down what you have on your mind. A hot shower or a hot bath before bedtime increases the skin temperature but decreases the core temperature, which is required to fall asleep. Relaxation techniques have been proven to improve sleep latency and quality, to feel more refreshed in the morning.
32. If you feel stressed or can't manage to fall asleep, try a deep breathing technique that activates the parasympathetic "rest-and-digest" system. For instance, inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds and repeat 10 times. You can also use this "4/7/8" technique if you wake up in the middle of the night and struggle to go back to sleep. Alternatively, if your monkey mind keeps you awake at night, a cold pack on the forehead has been shown to slow down the activity of the pre-frontal cortex, to help you fall back to sleep.
33. Go to bed and turn off the light by 10 pm to maximise deep sleep. It is better to synchronise our sleep as much as possible with the rise and fall of the sun and to keep the same sleep schedule all the time, even at the week-end or on vacation. Deep sleep typically occurs during the first part of the night, within the first hour of the sleep onset and is necessary for tissue growth and repair, to clean the brain from toxic waste, and to support memory and learning capabilities. If you stay up late, you may be missing out.
34. Finish your shower by 30 seconds of cold water at about 20 degrees. Gradually decrease the temperature, from hot to cold or, if it is too hard, splash some cold water on your legs, arms and face to get used to it. The alternance from hot to cold has multiple benefits: it can improve our cardiovascular function, fasten recovery after exercise, strengthen our immune function and relieve depression symptoms. However, do not shock your body with cold water if you have health issues (cardiovascular issues, high blood pressure...) or if you are sick, stressed or exhausted, as cold water could put too much stress on your body.
36. Finish your day with gratitude. List a few things you are grateful for or what you enjoyed in your day, no matter how small: blue sky and sunshine, an achievement, good moments with your family, good health... This will put you in the right state of mind for a restoring night of sleep.
37. Put your phone on airplane mode at night, turn it off, or keep it a few metres away from you to reduce electromagnetic fields. EMFs can block the release of melatonin and decrease sleep efficiency. As mentioned in #19 of part I, it is recommended to keep your phone at a safe distance from your body. If you have teenagers, make sure they don't keep their phone under their pillow!
38. Sleep in a dark, cool and quiet room. Wear an eye mask and ear plugs if need be. Cover LED's and digital clocks. Even tiny lights in the bedroom can block melatonin production and disrupt your sleep.
39. Install reverse osmosis in your kitchen. In many countries, fluoride is added to tap water to "prevent tooth decay". However, fluoride is not essential for our teeth (we need calcium, a healthy diet and good oral hygiene). It can be toxic to our nervous system and can contribute to thyroid issues. Some of the other most common toxic substances in our water include chlorine, bromine, aluminium, arsenic, nitrate and nitrite, as well as bad germs. A reverse osmosis system removes chemicals, heavy metals, parasites and bacteria and is more efficient than a carbon system to get rid of heavy metals and fluoride. If you cannot install reverse osmosis, buy mineral water in glass bottles and use clean filtered water to rinse your food and to cook. The jugs that use activated charcoal can filter out some bacteria but not chemicals and heavy metals.
40. Replace conventional cleaning products by organic non-toxic versions, without parabens, SLS, DEA, fragrances and other toxic chemicals that can make you sick over the long term. You can check the toxicity of household products on the Environmental Working Group website, or in smartphone apps (see #6, part I).
41. Install plants in your lounge, your kitchen and at your desk to clean your air. According to the WHO, air pollution is the largest single environmental health risk and is linked to 12% of total global deaths every year, including from respiratory infections and lung cancers. Plants are natural air purifier in 3 ways: (i) the photosynthesis removes carbon dioxide and returns oxygen to the air, (ii) they metabolise toxic chemicals and release harmless by-products, and (iii) they sequester pollutants such as heavy metals into their tissues. The best air purifying plants are the palms (areca palm, lady palm, bamboo palm, dwarf date palm, parlour palm...), followed by the rubber plant, dracaena, ivy's, ficus, ferns, peace lilly, philodendron, chrysanthemum, spider plant, aspidistra, daisies... And having plants in our home or office offers many more benefits: They reduce dust, lower our stress and anxiety, make us feel more relaxed, more energetic, less fatigued and less depressed. They can help us focus, improve our memory, boost our productivity and creativity. If you can't have plants inside, even just having pictures of nature in your home has been proven to work.
42. Install your WiFi router in a spare room rather than in your main living area or - even worse - in your bedroom. You can also put your router on a timer to automatically turn it off at night. This will reduce the potentially harmful electromagnetic fields (see #19, part I).
43. Consider natural remedies for treating common illnesses and minor complaints or wounds. Many plants have been proven to have great therapeutic activities, sometimes as efficient as synthetic drugs and with generally less side effects. 80% of people worldwide already rely on them for some part of their healthcare and many man-made drugs are inspired from the medicinal properties of plants. However, talk to a qualified healthcare provider before using them, to check for contraindications or toxicity.
44. Ditch all the processed foods and snacks from your pantry. This will remove the temptation and will encourage you to cook nutritious wholesome meals instead. Almost of all the processed foods contain harmful ingredients such as processed sugar, processed fats, chemical preservatives, artificial flavours and colours, texturants, GMOs... They mess with our brain, guts, hormones, immune system, energy production and are associated with the exponential growth of many diseases (diabetes, obesity, cancers, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, autism, cardiovascular diseases, depression...). They are also responsible for the constant struggle of millions of people to maintain a healthy weight. Processed foods taste good because they have been engineered for over-consumption, with sugar, bad fat and salt, to the point where they become addictive. According to the Global Burden of Disease study, eating unhealthy food is the leading risk factor for illness, death and disability worldwide and is associated with a 2-fold increase of all-cause mortality. Don't become a statistic for chronic diseases and stay away from processed foods.
At the week end
45. Spend some time in nature. I wrote about the benefits of grounding and sun exposure in part I (see #21). When we immerse ourselves in nature, we shift our nervous system from the "fight-and-flight" mode to the "rest-and-digest" mode. Many studies have observed the health benefits of being surrounded by nature, to reduce anxiety, depression and to improve sleep quality. Nature is soothing and provides a positive way to channel our stress, better than any medication. So, go for a walk, a hike or a bike ride with your family or friends, nurture your garden or try the Japanese forest bathing. You will feel revitalised.
46. Stay physically active. It is even easier at the week-end than during the week (see #20, part I). Play soccer or Frisbee with your kids, run around with your dog, mow the lawn or go for a swim. Just don't be a couch potato.
47. Avoid social jet lag. This takes us back to habit #1 of part I. We suffer from social jet lag when we stay up late at the week-end or on vacation. This disrupts our natural circadian rhythm that governs our sleep and wake cycles, hormone production, cell regeneration and other biological activities. This habit might be difficult to adopt by those who love going out with friends, but there is nothing wrong with having a good time with them earlier in the day.
48. Challenge your brain: listen to educative podcasts, learn a new activity (juggling, painting, playing an instrument...), a new language or a new sport. Engaging in mentally stimulating activities is associated with better cognitive function, reduced cognitive decline and a lower risk of developing dementia. It allows the brain to build new circuits that compensate when one or more regions of the brain stop functioning properly.
49. Take care of yourself with massages, saunas and relaxing activities. Research has shown that frequent saunas have tremendous health benefits. If you are looking for the fountain of youth, that may be it! They can:
reduce all-cause mortality risk by up to 40% as well as the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases and Alzheimer's,
improve our skin (collagen synthesis), brain (neurogenesis), heart and metabolic health,
reduce body fat,
detox heavy metals (mercury, arsenic...) and chemicals,
improve sports performance by increasing blood flow and oxygen delivery to our muscles and by boosting growth hormone production and muscle synthesis,
slow down aging by protecting us against free radicals, DNA and cell damage, and by increasing DNA repair,
promote deep sleep,
support our immune function to fight off pathogens,
trigger serotonin and endorphins and make us feel good.
50. Prepare your meals for the week ahead. There is a much higher chance that you will eat healthy and nutritious lunches instead of buying processed take-away's. You may also find it cheaper, quicker and tastier. You can cook your meat, chop veggies, add some nuts, seeds and seasoning and prepare 5 individual portions for the week.
Voila! 50 habits that you can easily add to your busy day. Many of them are free and don't take much time at all. Think about all the amazing benefits that you can get by just adopting a few of them. I hope this article will give you plenty of ideas and encourage you to take control of your own health and well-being. You are worth it!
This article is for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, heal or prevent any disease or medical condition. See full Disclaimer here. I encourage you to do your own research and to discuss with a qualified healthcare practitioner the options that could work the best for your specific circumstances.