8 Things You're Already Doing That Benefit Your Health

Your health journey isn't just about gaining new habits; it's also about honing the ones you already have.

Taylor Leamey Senior Writer
Taylor Leamey writes about all things wellness, specializing in mental health, sleep and nutrition coverage. She has invested hundreds of hours into studying and researching sleep and holds a Certified Sleep Science Coach certification from the Spencer Institute. Not to mention the years she spent studying mental health fundamentals while earning her bachelor's degrees in both Psychology and Sociology. She is also a Certified Stress Management Coach.
Expertise Bachelor of Science, Psychology and Sociology Credentials
  • Certified Sleep Science Coach, Certified Stress Management Coach
Taylor Leamey
5 min read
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So many of us are concerned with being healthier and will try almost anything to get ahead of the curve. While there's no cheat code to wellness, you'll be happy to learn that being healthy doesn't always require huge changes to your everyday life. You can make simple steps that have big impacts. And more than likely, you've already established the basics of healthy habits. 

Here are the 8 most common healthy habits 

1. Drinking water

We're basically all water -- it makes up 60% of the body and 73% of the brain, according to the US Geologic Survey's Water Science School. Drinking water is one daily thing you can do to maintain your health. It's not much effort, but the payoff is huge. Water is central to many bodily functions, like regulating body temperature, protecting organs and keeping our kidneys healthy, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's also important for mental health, as it boosts serotonin production and cognitive function. 

You're on the right track if you already get the recommended fluid intake of 11.5 cups for women and 15.5 cups for men. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommendation defines fluid intake as what you get from water, other beverages and food. The exact water you need will vary by several factors like medical conditions and exercise levels. One way to monitor your water intake is by checking the color of your urine. A hydrated body has pale yellow urine. If it's darker, you should up your water intake. 

2. Passive exercise

While it's important to incorporate physical movement into your lifestyle, that doesn't automatically mean that you have to gear up and head to the gym. There are several everyday activities you probably already do that count as exercise

Chances are you're getting more physical activity than you realize. Activities like playing with your kids, cleaning the house or walking your dog (or yourself) are all forms of physical activity that get your heart pumping.  

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3. Going outside

Spending time outside has several physical and psychological benefits. To start, giving yourself time in the sun increases your vitamin D production. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for several bodily functions, like the absorption of calcium and reducing inflammation.

Being in nature can also give you immediate relaxing benefits. Studies have shown that going outside reduces stress, lowers your heart rate and helps relax muscle tension. While this might seem like a little thing, easing these symptoms keeps your body from being under chronic stress, which contributes to conditions like hypertension, heart disease and type II diabetes, according to Yale Medicine. 

Additionally, getting out into nature can seriously affect your mental health. Studies investigating mood disorders have shown that being in natural spaces can help lessen depression symptoms

4. Getting enough sleep

Sleepyheads, it's your time to shine. Sleep is one of the most important contributing factors to overall health. So if you prioritize sleep and get around the CDC's recommended 7 to 9 hours each night, congratulations, you're another step up in daily health. 

Sleep is one of those things that influence everything around it. How much sleep you get will determine your mood, depression symptoms, hormones and energy levels. Rest is an important time for healing and recharging. It also allows the brain to form neural pathways and remove toxins, according to the National Institutes of Health. 

Sleep deprivation increases your risk of developing heart disease and compromises your immune function. You simply cannot be truly healthy if you aren't getting enough sleep. 

5. Cooking at home

Whether you're a seasoned chef or someone who just cooks to eat, making meals at home is another good habit for your health (and your wallet). Studies have found that people who regularly cook tend to have a better diet. That's because take-out food tends to be higher in sodium, sugar and saturated fats

Eating at home gives you complete control over what and how much you eat. You also have the power to substitute ingredients for healthier options -- like whole wheat or olive oil. Don't worry; eating out won't wreck your progress. But home-cooked food always does your health a favor. 

6. Having friends

The time you spend with your friends and family promotes better overall health. Companionship has been found to decrease the chances of developing health conditions like depression and high blood pressure

When we experience social interaction, our brain floods with oxytocin, often called the love hormone or cuddle chemical. Oxytocin causes the stress hormone cortisol to drop. Chronically elevated cortisol levels has been linked to type 2 diabetes, as well as high blood pressure and heart disease, per Mayo Clinic. 

If you want to take your time with friends to the next level for your health, you can start a walking group or join fitness classes together. It's a win-win; you get the benefits of spending time together while you work out. 

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7. Treating yourself

That's right, treating yourself is one of the healthiest daily habits you can have. Treating doesn't only mean indulging in snacks or shopping when the mood hits – it's taking care of your body and mind. Rewarding yourself in a small way boosts your confidence and reinforces positive behavior. It can also make it easier to keep moving toward your goals. 

Treats can also look like investing in yourself. Mindfulness and meditation are great ways to invest in your health. Short sessions each day can help you connect to what you are feeling and thinking, which can help ease symptoms of anxiety and stress. 

8. Avoiding restrictive diets

Fad diets and extremely restrictive meal plans generally don't work for the average person. They can actually cause you to gain more weight over time, especially if you start and stop diets often. Don't get me wrong, not all diets are bad. Some diets -- like the Mediterranean diet -- are simply a different way to eat. 

The issue is when a diet calls for restriction, which isn't healthy for most people. Unrealistic and unsustainable diets never last. It's best to avoid them entirely. Some types of dieting cross the line into disordered eating since they include unhealthy eating habits like extreme restriction, skipping meals and cleanses. Disordered eating can develop into a diagnosed eating disorder where someone obsesses about their food, weight and body shape until it affects their ability to function

So congratulate yourself for not dieting. 

Are healthy habits enough?

Don't worry if you didn't check off every habit on this list. Health looks different for everyone. You may choose to do some things others don't or disregard some common suggestions -- like daily weigh-ins or counting calories -- depending on your needs. And that's okay. The truth is, you do more things for your body than you realize, and that's something to celebrate. 

Healthy habits are the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle, though there's always room to make improvements. Certain habits, like a diet high in sugary drinks, can hold you back from achieving your health goals. 

If you want to make a few changes for the better, start by taking stock of your habits. There will likely be a mix of good and bad ones. Once you know what's working in your favor, you can start setting reasonable goals for the areas you want to improve. It can be something as small as choosing water over soda. Every effort you make counts. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.