I’ve been obsessed with health and nutrition for a long time. If you study these fields—or any field —long enough, you’ll eventually realize that you know nothing about everything or everything about nothing because of the massive amount of conflicting information that exists. Oddly enough, you’ll also likely realize that there are, in fact, certain habits, or principles, that are common among those who have robust health, regardless of all the other countless factors that may be at play.
Health is not just the absence of disease. It is the abundance of physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
It’s been said that the human body is designed to live about 120 years or so. Our caveman ancestors didn’t have this opportunity, what with getting eating by lions and and all. Unfortunately, in modern times, the food supply and environment has become so toxic that it hasn’t allowed our longevity potential to be fully expressed either.
Nevertheless, accounts of long lived people and folk legends of immortality are super interesting concepts that have always intrigued me. To be clear, I’m not talking about living a long time in a crippled state of health. There’s no point in being alive if you don’t feel alive. I’m talking about feeling awesome your entire life, living as long as you want, then passing on peacefully—similar to falling asleep after a long day of fun and exercise. Or Yoda.
Even if living to 120 and beyond isn’t something you’re interested in, I think we’d all agree that a novel goal is to feel awesome for whatever length of time that you are on this planet. Here are seven habits, or more accurately, ‘disciplines’ that will help you do just that.
1. Eat longevity foods
There have been studies showing that chocolate eaters tend to live longer than their non-chocolate eating counterparts (and are happier too). And get this: these studies are talking about convenience store chocolate like Snickers and Hershey’s—far from the best stuff ever. To maximize taste, heath benefits and overall fun, I recommend eating chocolate the way it was meant to be eaten—in its natural, raw, unprocessed form: the cacao bean. The cacao bean is the seed of the cacao fruit and is what all chocolate is made from. It has tons of minerals, ridiculous amounts of antioxidants and complex compounds like anandimide, which is also known as the “bliss chemical” because of the feeling of euphoria it brings. You can buy the beans whole, or peeled and broken up into small chocolate “chips” (called nibs) and use them however you want. Mix them into honey or throw them into smoothies or other recipes. Funnest food ever.
Leafy green vegetables
While not as fun or sexy as chocolate, leafy green vegetables are a staple in any healthy diet. Sorry, that’s just how it goes. They are one of the most natural foods we can eat. Throughout history, they’ve consistently been one of the most widely available and easily accessible food sources on earth. Historically, it has always been easier to forage wild plants than it has been to hunt and kill a bison. Greens have crazy amounts of fiber and concentrated nutrients that are hard to come by otherwise. They’re like Nature’s perfect multivitamin. So make a kale salad. Blend some spinach into your fruit smoothie. Sauté some collard greens with garlic. Have fun and be creative. But eat your greens.
Cultured and fermented foods
The process of culturing and fermenting foods is a very old way of preserving food naturally without refrigeration. Turns out that it actually makes food healthier, too! Who knew? When you eat something like raw, unpasteurized sauerkraut, you are receiving the benefits of probiotics. Probiotics are not some fancy new supplement trend that was created to sell yogurt (although it may seem like that). Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live inside your intesinal tract and help digest food, regulate hormones, manufacture certain nutrients, keep your immune system in check and other cool stuff. It can be argued that a healthy balance of this good intestinal bacteria—or flora—is the foundation for good health.
This could be anything from cinnamon to ginseng. Herbs are plants or other natural substances with unique medicinal qualities. They are your nutritional health insurance policy, so to speak. They are more like a supplement or medicine rather than a food. Some, like Reishi mushroom for instance have been used for thousands and thousands of years to treat disease and as a daily tonic to keep people healthy. Only recently in the past 100 years or so have we introduced pharmaceutical drugs to take their place. Some great tonic (daily maintenance) herbs to look into and introduce into your diet would be medicinal mushrooms like chaga and reishi, ginseng root and ashwaganda root. These can be purchased at your local “herb dealer” in capsule, tablet or tincture form and very easily incorporated into your daily routine. Other more common herbs that you can use in a more culinary way but still have medicinal and health promoting properties are oregano, thyme, turmeric and cinnamon.
Chocolate eaters tend to live longer than their non-chocolate eating counterparts (and are happier, too).
2. Drink the best water ever
What is the “best water ever?” It makes sense to me that the best water ever would be water in its most natural state. What kind of water is that? Water from the source. What’s the source? Natural springs. I think we all know that most tap water is completely toxic and loaded with dangerous chemicals and should not be considered safe to drink. More surprising though, is that most bottled water is also pretty bad. An average bottled water has been treated with UV rays to remove “bacteria” and make it shelf stable for stores. It is also often heated and treated with additional things like magnesium sulfate, potassium chloride and table salt. This is weird. I recommend seeking out water that is as close to it’s natural state as possible. If you can find a spring in your area, set aside half a day to gather some water straight from the source in 5 gallon containers. It’s fun and can be a cool adventure outing for you and your family or friends. If you can’t/don’t want to do this, then look for water that is bottled in a non-chemical leaching container like glass and that comes from clean, reliable sources. I personally like Mountain Valley, Voss and Fiji waters (even though Fiji is in plastic). Water quality is one of the most overlooked things our diets and also one of the most important. Why is it so important? Because the human body consists mostly of water. It is the life blood of all of our cells. If you’ve read The Hidden Messages in Water by Masaru Emoto, you also know that water physically responds to certain words and emotions in different ways. It’s molecular structure and crystal formation patterns differ when shown the word ‘love’ versus the word ‘hate’. (Guess which crystal formation is more symmetrical, detailed and beautiful). Water seems like such an innocuous, simple substance but the truth is that it is complex and godlike beyond our understanding. In my opinion, it is the closest physical representation of a higher being that exists on our planet. Think about it.
Water physically responds to certain words and emotions in different ways.
3. Eat less, live more
Studies have consistently shown that eating less food in general can increase your lifespan and vitality by activating certain longevity genes, protecting and preserving your cells, and increasing production of HGH (Human Growth Hormone), which is a hormone commonly associated with longevity and youthfulness. The point here is not to starve yourself, but to adopt the habit of eating until you’re only 80% full as opposed to stopping when you’re completely stuffed. This is one of the habits that has been attributed to the health and longevity of the people of Okinawa, Japan, who have the highest population of 100+ year old people in the world. In general, the digestive process is taxing on your body, so the less food your body has to deal with, the more energy it will have to do other cool things like travel, hike, study, read or whatever it is you want to do. That’s why it’s so important to eat food with a high nutrient content—it gives you the most bang for your buck. Digestively speaking, you can eat less and still get all the nutrients you need. That said, eating is fun so don’t deprive yourself. But do keep this principle in the back of your mind. If you practice it daily you’ll feel lighter, healthier, more energetic and more clear-headed. You also won’t have that 2:00 pm crash after lunch :)
You don’t need to enter any marathons for this one. In fact, moderate exercise like push-ups or intermittent sprinting is actually better for you than extreme exercise like bodybuilding or long distance running. Constant strenuous exercise has been shown to weaken your immune system and have a negative impact on your joints and internal organs. It’s like putting a bunch of miles on your car. The more miles you put on it in a shorter period of time, the less likely it is to run for a long time and the more often you’ll have to do repairs. By the same token, if you just keep it in storage for months it will develop engine sludge and other problems that won’t allow it to run properly either. A happy medium is what is required, as is with most things in life. Everything in moderation. Even moderation.
5. Get sunlight
Many people are scared of the sun nowadays. The truth is, you need the sun to be healthy. It helps stave off depression, is responsible for Vitamin D production and even draws toxins out of you. The conventional wisdom is that if you don’t wear sunscreen, you’ll get skin cancer. Sadly, the truth is that skin cancer rates have gone up since the invention of sunscreen. I don’t ever wear sunscreen. What you’re doing when you wear sunscreen is using the sun’s radiation to essentially bake all the chemicals and drugs from the sunscreen into your skin. Interestingly enough, it turns out that your tolerance of the sun’s UV rays is directly related to your diet, internal health and how much you are exposed to the sun without sunglasses, sunscreen and other UV ray protective mechanisms. The sun has the ability to actually draw out toxins from your body and if you have lots of toxins in you, exposure to the sun will cause wrinkles, leathery skin and even skin cancer. Doing the right cleanses to detoxify your body in conjunction with eating foods that are high in antioxidants will make your body much more tolerant of the sun. Antioxidants have the ability to absorb radiation and fight off free radicals caused by too much sun exposure. Additionally, when you block UV rays from entering your eyes with sunglasses, your body doesn’t have a chance to build up the proper internal resistance to the sun. Obviously, you don’t want to overdo it to the point where your skin burns. Use common sense. Shade and clothing are some of the best sunscreens out there.
You need the sun to be healthy.
6. Have a purpose
This is relating to mental health. Most people are miserable without a mission. Having direction and goals leads to optimism and a desire to feel the best ever and live a long time. This doesn’t mean that you have to know exactly what you’re doing with your life. No one really knows exactly what they’re doing with their life or where they’re headed, even if it appears that they do. We’re all just figuring stuff out as we go along. Even those who are super successful, wealthy or famous have gotten there by taking it one step at a time. So set small but achievable goals. One of my recent goals was to (finally) start a blog. I did and now I’m constantly excited about gathering, thinking of and sharing new and valuable content with my readers. It’s a small thing, but it’s very helpful for my mental health. The achievement of small goals and milestones gives you confidence and a certain aura and vibrancy that is undeniable. It’s like superfood for your mind. Even if you don’t know why you want to do something, just do it. Nothing is the end all be all of your existence and 99% of decisions are reversible and/or not negatively life altering. I realized this after reading The 4 Hour Work Week, an eye-opening book written by one of my favorite mentors and authors Tim Ferris. More often than not, trying out different things will lead you to something else that will lead you to something else that will lead you to something you’re absolutely passionate about. Follow your interests and see where it takes you and how happy you can be.
No one really knows exactly what they’re doing with their life or where they’re headed…we’re all just figuring stuff out as we go along.
7. Believe in something
This has to do with that part of the human psyche that’s inherently curious about the unknown. Although advances in modern technology have seemed to provide us with so many answers to so many things, it seems like the more we discover, the more we discover that we don’t know anything. The more answers there are, the more questions there are as well. As the great philosopher Socrates once said, “The beginning of wisdom is knowing that you know nothing.” Embrace this concept, but also seek to understand. The religions of the world were created to explain why we’re here and where we go when we die, two mind boggling concepts. If you practice a particular religion and it serves you well, then that is healthy. If a particular doctrine makes you feel guilty or not worthy, then reevaluate if that is the right path for you. I’ve practiced organized religion and I like some aspects, but not others. At this point in my life, I believe in Nature. Although the inner workings of Nature are still such a mystery, She is something tangible that I can see, touch, smell and hear. Nature has always been here and I have always been a part of Nature. But most importantly, it feels right.
I believe in Nature.
By no means is this a complete list of what it takes to be extremely healthy, but I’d say it’s a damn good start! What do you think?