In May 2013, I finished college as an ambitious 23-year-old with a goal to make the largest dent in the universe possible. On this pursuit, I picked up some of the following unhealthy habits:
- Slept less than 7 hours per night. I would get more like 5-6.
- Worked upwards of 55 hours a week consistently.
- Ate lots of carbohydrates (i.e. pizza and sandwiches) for convenience.
- Stayed up late into the night looking at a computer.
- Checked work email frequently outside the workday and on weekends.
- Looked at Instagram immediately upon waking up.
- Said yes to everything.
These unhealthy habits were no ones fault but my own. In college, I was young enough where unhealthy habits did not have an evident negative impact. However, when I was placed into an environment different from what I was used to, I found unhealthy habits negatively affected my mood and relationships with others.
While there is research behind why the habits above aren’t great for humans, it really depends on the individual. If you are doing any of the things above and feel great, keep at it! I still indulge in the things above from time to time; that said, I know I don’t want to make habits out of them again.
In place of my sleepless, overworked, exhausted, carbohydrate filled self, I picked up some healthy habits below that improved my mood and relationships with others.
Couple eggs over hard or easy, half an avocado, a few blueberries and sausage. I look forward to this awesome breakfast every morning, since it helps me stay energized throughout most of the morning. Prior to this, I ate an English muffin with peanut butter. Though super delicious, that type of breakfast doesn’t quite have the same effect.
This is a newer habit I picked up. I set a 5 minute calendar reminder to meditate in the morning or at night. Here, I focus on box breathing (learn box breathing here) and letting thoughts come and go more naturally. My mind tends to race with thoughts, so meditation is pushing me outside my comfort zone.
Set Alarm To Prepare For Bed
Before picking up this habit, I would allow the clock to hit 12AM before bringing myself to bed. Sidetracked by work, TV, the interwebs, or something else – before I knew it – it was much later than expected. Staying up late is fun and I still love doing it from time to time; however, it consistently put me at 5 to 6 hours of sleep rather than 7 to 8. For me, bed prep is listening to relaxing music, reading a book, or watching some TV. I keep lights dimmed and avoid looking at my phone or computer to better prepare my mind and body for sleep.
Sleep 7-8 hours
I used to tell friends I can get by with 6 hours of sleep. While reading Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution, I had an eye opening moment when I read the chapter about sleep. I learned why sleeping less that 8 hours is not healthy. I also realized I couldn’t actually survive on 6 hours of sleep because there would be that Saturday or Sunday morning I would long to sleep in to get 10-12 hours that night.
Make Lunches On Sunday
I make my five lunches on Sunday afternoon and sometimes dinners. I found this to save a ton of time during the week, which allows me to focus on the activities I really enjoy. Sunday cooking has become a calming exercise I look forward to every week!
Place Water Bottle On Nightstand For Morning
I have been doing this one for a long time. Personally, I wake up very dehydrated. I balance my hydration levels by chugging 16 to 24OZ water bottle in the morning. I follow this up by consistently drinking water throughout the day. I am also cognizant about not over hydrating by paying close attention to how I feel and only drinking water when thirsty.
Save Morning for Human Activities
Previously, the first thing I did was grab my phone with one eye squinted open and click the Instagram app to see what my friends were up to. I started to recognize this was not a habit that made me feel great. Starting a precious day looking at other peoples’ lives rather than focusing on preparing for mine. Now, I don’t let myself do that. Instead, I try to pop out of bed as soon as possible with limited snoozing, get some upbeat music on right away, shower, and brush my teeth. These human focused activities help me prepare for a precious day ahead.
Say No to People
As a young adult with ambition, I would say yes to everyone. At work or with friends, whenever I was asked to do something, I’d say yes. Things piled up quickly that way and for a some time, I liked that. Then I realized it was not the most sustainable behavior. This is not a easy habit to turn away from. I still commit to things I do not have time for; however, I am working on thinking through things more before saying yes.
Below are some resources that helped influence some of the habits above:
- The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf
- The Wahls Protocol by Terry Wahls
- Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
- Barbel Shrugged – Sleep (podcast)
- The Way of the Seal by Mark Divine