I, Blake Snow, wrote this for my children, but figured you might enjoy it too. According to science, the following habits lead to a healthy, happy, and sustainable lifestyle:
1. Eat different kinds of foods. Most of you are good at eating breads and sugars. These are easy to like and fun to eat. But you’ll need to reach for veggies, fruit, nuts, milk, eggs, and meat a lot more if you want to get the most from your body and mind. To help you do this, only a fourth of your plate should be breads, rice, or potatoes. Half should be veggies. The other fourth should be protein—chicken or beef is a good option.
2. Drink only water. Doing so will make you feel better, less tired, and it will actually improve how well you digest and get the most of the good foods you eat. It will even help you think and make your skin shine. Now I like sugar water, soda, and juices as much as anyone. But these should be viewed and consumed as treats and desserts, no more than a few times a week (and NOT in addition to treats and desserts you can chew). As an active grown man, I drink six cups of water before breakfast, one cup before a 25 minute weekday workout, three cups more at lunch, and finally, three more cups at dinner. I should probably drink a few more cups, in fact. Moral of the story: Drink waaaaaay more water than you think you need. If you’re not peeing several times a day (and slightly clear urine) you need to drink more water.
3. Work hard, break often. The best talent in the world (also known as “geniuses”) work hard for 90 minutes then break for 15 for. This goes for world-class athletes and musicians as well as top-performing businessmen and scientists. Don’t feel obligated to work all the time. You weren’t made to work that way. Rather, take periodic breaks for fun, relaxation, and fresh air. Then power through and work hard the rest of the time to improve, contribute to the world, and feel good about yourself. To do this, you’ll need to create healthy habits for yourself. That could be spending a few minutes each day learning something new, taking a cooking class, traveling the world, or learning a new language.
4. Serve others and invite them to play, hang out, and talk. Like gorillas, elephants, and dogs, you are a social animal. That means you need to be around other people to feel your best. Since many people are shy and afraid of rejection, however, you cannot count on them to invite you. If you do, you’ll be lonely. So now and forever, plan and initiate social encounters several times a week, in addition to spending time with family at home or nearby. And avoid negative or selfish people that make you frown more than smile, including family members. Seek out positive people that make you feel good about yourself and want to help you be better. But most importantly, looks to serve everyone around you; people you like as well as people in need. You cannot do this if you feel sorry for or only think about yourself. So get in the habit of thinking about others.
5. Read (and think) daily. You’re probably sick of hearing how good reading is for you. Maybe you think it’s overrated and incapable of saving the world from mean people, a belief I share. Nevertheless, reading is the best way you can improve your mind and inspire new ideas. It reinforces good character, improves thinking, educates, and awakens the imagination. Don’t over do it — you’ll need an equal amount of physical experiences to get the most out of life. That and thinking must be done on your own to keep your mind sharp. But you should attempt to read one book a month; no more than one or two a week (on average).
6. Exercise daily. As a child, you’ll move around a lot more than adults do, so you don’t need to worry about this as much. But as you get older, and even today, you should plan for extended periods of cardiovascular exercise (i.e. running, biking, swimming—any monotonous physical activity that keeps your heart beating an an elevated rate) and some resistance or weight training to tone and strengthen muscles. My personally? I work out 25 minutes Monday–Friday from home and walk, skateboard, or bike every day in addition. The more you move, the longer you’ll live and the better your body will function. For even more enjoyment, make song and dance a regular part of this habit.
7. Sleep 8 hours a night. The more you move and harder you work and play, this won’t be a problem. But as you get older, you’ll be tempted to deprive yourself of sleep to make of for lost or otherwise procrastinated time. Don’t do it. In addition to eating healthy foods and regularly exercise, sleeping eight hours a night is equally important to your physical and mental health. Some of your parents and a lot of adults will lie to themselves saying they only need four to five hours a night. But science says 95% of people require eight hours of sleep, and the rest of the minority need almost as much.
8. Clean daily. This goes for your body, teeth, and hair as much as the room and house you live in. It also goes for clothes, linens, and any pets in the home. The more you do this today, the less you’ll have to worry tomorrow. Admittedly, this can be boring work. But it’s an important part of feeling good about yourself for a longer period of time. You can make cleaning more bearable by daydreaming and thinking about exciting ideas or things. Or my personal favorite, listening to music.
9. Learn to let go. To be happy, you’ll need to do this with thoughts, feelings, situations, people, and consequences you have no control over. You’ll also need to get rid of physical things that haven’t brought you joy in the last year. Most of them will seem important, so you’ll want to hold on to these things. But they really aren’t. They just weigh you down. Of course, it’s okay to feel disappointment, sadness, and loss. Without those feelings, we would never experience learning, gain, or joy. But the sooner you accept the idea that “It’s okay if this happens, and it’s okay if it doesn’t happen,” the better off, happier, and freer you’ll be.
10. Express gratitude. As you grow older, you’ll be tempted to compare yourself to others who seem happier, richer, famous, more social, and/or more talented. If you choose to do this, you’ll only feel bad about yourself. But there is a way to counter this negative behavior. It’s called gratitude and it’s scientifically proven to make you happy. So count your blessings on a daily basis as you continually try to improve. You’ll be happier and better for it, and you’ll have more friends if you do. I promise.