It’s hard to believe the city has been on “pause” for two months. Everyone is saying now is the time to do something creative or start a new hobby or learn a language or… how about we just try to get through this with our health and sanity intact? Our normal routines have been completely disrupted and we can’t do much about the outside circumstances. It’s overwhelming, but there are manageable things that we can do to improve our health and help us to feel better every day.
Here are seven simple ways to get into a healthy routine:
1. Get 7-8 Hours of Sleep
The benefits of getting adequate sleep are tremendous. Several studies have shown that sleeping 7-8 hours a night can support immune function, manage appetite, and boost your memory and cognitive function. Make sure to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday! It’s easy to hit snooze on quarantine…don’t do it!
2. Read for at least 15 minutes a day
Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, HBO GO – it feels like there are too many streaming options these days. And while you deserve a bit of tv time, we also need to take a break from binging the latest docuseries and actively stimulate our minds. Your brain needs exercise just as much as your body, and reading for 15 minutes a day is a great mental workout. It helps to build neural pathways, contributes to your learning capacity, and even improves emotional intelligence. And while we don’t know for sure if it prevents diseases like Alzheimer’s, it is linked to fewer symptoms and reduces the rate of memory decline by 30%.1
3. Plan out your meals
Raise your hand if you’ve been snacking a lot more than usual. It’s easy to suddenly feel “hungry” when your new office is a few feet away from the kitchen. One way to combat the excess calorie intake is to plan out your meals. This doesn’t have to take hours of planning. It’s as simple as making a few rules for yourself and sticking to it. And if you have a weakness, you can do as James Clear says in Atomic Habits and “make it invisible” – don’t buy it so it’s not in the house!
4. Drink plenty of water
This is another great way to minimize overeating – a nice tall glass of water will fill you up. We need a lot of water and chances are you are not getting enough every day. Our bodies are made up of over 50% water, so it’s a pretty important part of our intake. The recommendation is 64 ounces per day – an easy way to remember that is the 8 x 8 rule: eight glasses of 8 ounces of water (8 ounces = 1 cup). If you find you are not drinking enough, plan it into your day (like meals) and every 2 hours, fill up a glass of H2O. Add a slice of lemon or give your water a refreshing mint flavor – put some mint into an ice cube tray, add water, and freeze.
5. Exercise at least 3x/week
It’s recommended that adults exercise for a MINIMUM of 150 minutes per week at a moderate-high intensity. Are you hitting the minimum? We can’t emphasize this one enough! The benefits of regular exercise are tremendous. Exercise and sleep are the foundations of being a high achiever and pillars of success. Everything else on the list gets better with these two in place.
6. Meditate daily
Some people find it’s hard to meditate, but it’s like learning any new skill – it takes practice. When you add a new exercise to your workout regimen, you have to think about what you’re doing at first, but soon enough it becomes second nature. Studies have shown that meditation increases the volume of certain areas of the brain that contribute to learning and memory.2 It also decreases the size of the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls fear and anxiety. We could all benefit from lower levels of stress! And if you’re having a hard time quieting your brain, practice gratitude and think about the things you are thankful for. It’s easy to get caught up in the madness and forget to appreciate what we have.
7. Use a calendar app to stay organized
This simple tip can be a game changer. It will help you stay organized and help you achieve all of the above! Block out times for exercise, reading, work, etc. If it’s on the calendar, you put it out into the world, it’s more likely to keep you accountable and you’ll get it done!
These are tough times. Don’t be so hard on yourself! Start small – choose 1 or 2 habits and implement them this week. Good habits start compounding, so a baby step this week will lead to major changes in no time.
One last thing – get an accountability buddy! Especially if you are spending most of your time alone, make sure to connect with other people who help you stay motivated.
1. Wilson RS, Boyle PA, Yu L, Barnes LL, Schneider JA, Bennett DA. Life-span cognitive activity, neuropathologic burden, and cognitive aging. Neurology. 2013 Jul 23; 81(4):314–21.
2. Holzel, BK, Carmody J, Vangel M, Congelton C, Yerramsetti SM, Gard T, Lazara SW. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Res. – Neuroimaging. 2011; 191: 36–43.