By Andrés Muñoz

Humans are creatures of habit. The more we do things, the more these actions shape who we are. So while there may be countless activities that trigger pleasure receptors in our brains, humans should make a stop along the way and evaluate what activities create healthy lifestyles and which do the opposite. 

We live in a world of distractions, so it is your responsibility, and nobody else’s, to make sure that your activities contribute to the growth of a healthy lifestyle and mindset. Let’s explore how you can make healthy lifestyle choices and review key actions that can positively impact your mental health. 

The Motto

Before we review a few pillars behind a healthy lifestyle, I’d like to share a quote, a mantra, if you will: We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. 

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide what lifestyle changes you seek. But discipline is a life investment. While the regret of how different your life could have been is a heavy cost to bear. I’ll be the first to raise my hand and admit that personal discipline has always been an uphill battle for me, but the more I include it in my life, the better I feel about myself. 

I have a greater sense of accomplishment and of living in the here and now. The past has passed already, but you can always forge a new life path from this point forth.

Motivational verbiage aside, you’re the one who ultimately decides whether to focus on yourself or not, so take these recommendations as you wish. 

The Six Healthy Changes

Dr Monique Tello, writing for the Harvard Medical School, indicates that lifestyle medicine relies on six pillars: eating healthy foods, regular exercise, the ease of stress, avoidance of addictive substances, good sleep, and nurturing social connections. 

While it all sounds easier said than done when living in a world where we’re constantly busy and trying to simply keep it together all the time, the more of these activities you do, the better. 

Diet And Exercise

Ask yourself: what percentage of your weekly diet consists of processed foods?

When I lived in the US for a few years, that was all I ate. My eating habits had gone down the drain, ordering takeout 5-7 days a week! It was only when I returned to my native Colombia that I could appreciate how much I had missed eating healthy food. 

I also committed to getting regular exercise for a while. I got myself a gym membership, but I was done with the routine within six months. I traded the gym membership for constant cycling; my body has thanked me for it ever since. 

Stress And Substances

Life throws curveballs at you, though. Whether work, love, or anything else, humans deal with stressful situations every day. Chronic stress levels can lead to dangerous symptoms like heart conditions, anxiety, depression, etc. Whether through meditation, therapy, or just doing something that gets your mind off things, recognising negative stress responses and identifying coping mechanisms are vital to having a healthier mindset.

Do you smoke? How about your alcohol intake? While substances like alcohol and nicotine-derived products can help you take off the “edge” and are ubiquitous in social situations, the more you avoid these and riskier substances, the better for your mental and physical health. 

Must you really finish that entire bottle of wine? Addiction therapists phrase it like this: Imagine a set of buckets in your mind. The more you do something addictive, the greater the bucket becomes, and the more you’ll have to refill that bucket with said addictive substance. Try filling the buckets with activities that will nurture you and help you grow as a person. 

Sleep And Socialising

The last two items are good sleep and reinforcing social connections. There are nights when I stay up until late working, watching movies, or out with friends, but I try to compensate by napping or sticking to a sleep schedule when possible. 

Finally, echoing author John Donne, no man is an island. Nobody is 100% self-sufficient, so to a certain extent, it is important to reinforce your social interactions, whatever they may be. Whether it is a board game night or going to a music festival with your friends, engaging in physical exercise like biking or team sports, or just sitting around and preparing a meal together, positive social connections benefit our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

You might be able to do all six activities, or you might not; nobody is keeping tabs but yourself. Apply them as much as possible to create both a mental sense of peace and a physical one. 

What other healthy activities work for you? Let us know in the comments section below!