Routines, both good and bad, play an important role in determining our state of health. The everyday choices we make — how and when we eat, sleep, and even think — can impact our body's natural cycle and processes. So, what are some of the repercussions of our habits, and how do we fine-tune them to create healthy routines?
Get a Good Night's Sleep
You probably don't need scientific data to figure out that sleep deprivation impairs a range of functions. But with the demands of daily life, getting a good night's sleep has become more and more difficult, and it's easy to fall into an unhealthy routine. In fact, many of your before-bed routines may be disrupting your sleep. To change your bad sleeping habits, here are four areas to focus on.
- Using an electronic device before bed: Interactive activities, like texting and answering emails, prevent the brain from shutting down. Give yourself time to unwind by cutting down on screen time before bed.
- Drinking too much caffeine and alcohol: Like caffeine, alcohol is actually a stimulant. It may help you fall asleep initially, but as your body metabolizes the alcohol, you may wake up later.
- Eating too much: A grumbling tummy can keep you awake but so can an overly full one. Try to avoid eating two to three hours before bedtime.
- Going to sleep at odd hours: Make bedtime a ritual. Try to hit the pillow around 8 or 9 p.m., when the body automatically begins to cool. (A low core body temperature helps us sleep soundly.)
Eat Your Biggest Meal at Breakfast
We've long been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Although experts have argued over the subject, studies show that a big breakfast can positively influence your health and prevent long-term weight gain. A morning meal helps regulate blood sugar levels, triggers the metabolism, and suppresses the appetite, so you're less likely to overeat later in the day.
Sometimes it's difficult to fit an early-morning meal into our busy schedules. But, keep in mind, breakfast doesn't have to be the traditional all-American meal of eggs and bacon. It can be whatever you want it to be — within reason. Leafy greens, fruit, nuts, oatmeal, or yogurt are all healthy options that are easy for those of us on the go.
Choose the Best Time of Day to Exercise
Fitness experts have long pushed the advantages of a morning workout routine, claiming that an early fitness regimen is easier to follow, kick-starts the metabolism, and leaves time at the end of the day for other priorities. However, there are also benefits to working out in the evening. An after-work session leaves you more likely to achieve a higher level of fitness, as opposed to exercising in the morning. And contrary to popular belief, working out before bedtime doesn't negatively impact sleep — in fact, it may improve your quality of sleep.
Irrespective of time of day, the key to exercise is consistency and creating healthy routines. The best time to work out is the time that is right for you.
Do Math in the Morning, Novel Writing at Night
Circadian rhythms affect how well we work. Although we're expected to perform at a high level throughout the typical eight-hour work day, our internal clocks may have other intentions.
To develop healthy routines that improve your productivity, consider the kind of work you do. The morning hours are the best time for solving analytical problems. Researchers suggest that maximum alertness is reached between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Surprisingly, creativity is best reserved for hours when your brain is functioning less efficiently. When you're tired, your brain is less likely to filter out distraction and therefore more likely to make the connections and generate ideas needed for creative work.
It's true what they say: old habits die hard. This can be an issue if your patterns negatively impact your life. But if you can form a habit that has a positive payoff, like weight loss or a better night's sleep, why not stick with it? With these tips, you'll turn your typical routines into healthy ones in no time.