7 tips for a (hopefully) healthful existence

Earlier this month a high school friend of mine posted on Facebook that she and her recently graduated-from-high-school daughter were talking about how there should be classes to teach you about how to get through life. Examples that they cited were how to do your taxes, how to file for financial aid, and that every day there should be a tip for life. (Her daughter’s example for the latter was: don’t put tinfoil in the microwave.) Then she asked her Facebook friends to give life tips. This post is dedicated to them.

I have created an entire career writing about health and offering tips so that people could use the information in their own lives. Over the course of nearly 20 years, I have written thousands of tips about achieving wellness. But when it comes to my health, which are the ones that I have adopted?

Here are a few of my favorite. These are the ones I practice weekly, if not daily, trying to achieve some sense of physical, fiscal, and emotional well-being. This isn’t exhaustive and I don’t always maintain this existence, but I try to get these basic ones. What are yours?

Enjoy rainbows.

You know that feeling when you see a rainbow? It’s a bit of unexpected wonderful that makes you stop, look and take in the moment. As I see it, there are rainbows all around us—moments of beauty, awe, and amazement. We just don’t realize it because we are scurrying like ants, usually with our eyes focused on a screen. There is no harm in slowing down, looking around and where you are walking to notice the world you’re moving in. It is amazing what you can discover.

Just recently on my morning walk I noticed that the benches along my path have plaques. I walk that path everyday and after doing so for over a year I just noticed them! That day I read many of them and by doing so got a glimpse into my community.

What’s more: Making physical connections to the environment and the people around you help stimulate the neurons that help us develop empathy, says Diedra L. Clay, PsyD, chair and associate professor of the counseling and health psychology department at Bastyr University, who I interviewed for this article. A phone screen and the connections on the other side cannot do that.

Enjoy rainbows, Part 2.

“Enjoy rainbows” also refers to my eating philosophy. Plants are such a wealth of phytochemicals and nutrients that your body needs to function. And if you haven’t heard, each color found in nature gives you a different kind of nutritional boost. By “eating a rainbow” as coined by David Katz, MD, MPH, of Yale University, I am insuring that I am nourishing my body. (Since I enjoy food I have changed the moniker to: enjoy rainbows.) When my eating (or my family’s) goes off the rails, I draw up a rainbow chart and we keep track of the colors we eat each day.

Be active each day.

Exercise has always been a part of my life. In elementary school, I played soccer, danced and roller-skated. When I was in high school, my friends and I hung out (and worked out) at the local Gold’s Gym. In college, I started walking for exercise, which lead to me learning how to racewalk. I have participated in numerous half-marathons and did my one and only marathon at the age of 30. My exercise habit insured that I would recover from my heart surgery, because despite its gross malformation at the time, my heart was strong and recovered “remarkably” well after stress tests.

Normally, this rule would be to exercise each day because I believe that I should. The health benefits of exercise are numerous (You can read about how it improves your work performance here and how it can change your genes here to get some idea of its benefits beyond just making you look good). But there is a growing amount of research that says that your daily workout isn’t enough and that the key to being healthy is all-day activity. (I wrote about one such study here.) So now I view my walks or my gym workouts as insurance in case I don’t leave a chair as much as I would like.

Drink water.

Water is my go-to drink. I never have been a huge soda fanatic and drink other things, but when I am thirsty I reach for water first. Water makes up approximately 60% of our bodies so making sure that I am hydrated all the time makes me feel better. And to do that, why not make it simple?

Keep it simple.

In journalism school, I learned K.I.S.S. or Keep It Simple Stupid. Meaning that there was no reason to complicate our writing when we are trying to tell a story, explain a concept, or convey facts or opinions. But I extended this philosophy to other areas of my life: food, fitness, beauty, and style. By approaching these things in the most direct way possible, I don’t feel overwhelmed or weighed down.

Clean your house like you’re moving at least once a year.

We play a game in our house called “50 Things.” My husband read about it somewhere and we adopted it to limit the crap that can take over a home. We do this at least twice a year and usually go through more than one round of 50. However, we have been doing this for 7 years and now getting to 50 is harder. The first time we did it we got rid of nearly 500 things. We felt lighter—mentally and physically.

Only buy things you love.

One of the reasons it is getting more difficult to reach 50 things is that we are not spending money on things that we don’t need or really, really want. Why waste the money, space (and in a New York apartment space is sacred), or energy on something that you feel so-so about? To insure this, my husband and I talk about any expense over $50 dollars before spending it. I also will not buy something on impulse. If I see a pair of shoes, blouse, or anything else that interests me in a store, I leave the store and see if it starts invading my thoughts. After thinking about it for a few weeks I may purchase the item. Case in point: I bought my leather joggers six months after seeing them in store.

Be Your Name, Inc.

No matter whether I work for someone else or I work for myself, everyone is a client. What does that mean? I look at myself as a successful company (like a NIKE or Apple) and manage my finances, business interactions, and social media presence accordingly. By doing this, I have the freedom to fire/dismiss clients who aren’t working out and manage my reputation in the public. Social media has changed the game for writers (everyone really) and no longer are we hidden. This is why I try to post thoughtfully on my accounts.

Wear sunscreen.

I hope I really don’t have to explain this one. But here’s why I do and you should.

I’d love to see your favorite health tips. Please share below.

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2 thoughts on “7 tips for a (hopefully) healthful existence

  1. Hey Carey, I really like your blog. I notice you have a lot of journalism experience. I am striving to enter this field (with a bachelors in Philosophy and Psychology). I was wondering if you have advice for getting published or starting a freelance writing career? I currently work in addiction research at Penn.

    Many thanks!

    Like

    1. Hi Molly, Thank you for the kind words. The best way to get published is to contact editors with story ideas that you are comfortable writing about and that their readers will want to read. A simple letter outlining that is all you need to make contact. But don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from someone. There is a lot of silence and a lot of rejection in this business. You just need to keep at it. Best of luck, Carey

      Like

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