Wake Up and Make Coffee

The Value of Healthy Routines and Habits

Healthy routines and habits are essential for a happy and healthy life. We say this as creatures of habit, so you can be sure that the following words reflect our bias. But it’s unmistakable. This nasty little virus that’s sweeping the world is scrambling our usual routines and habits. It’s putting us into a virtual state of suspended animation.

However, suspended animation is unsustainable. And though this virus can rob us all of our old routines, it can’t keep us from finding new routines that work for this new day. Every one of us will have to rise to this challenge.

Bodies Built for Routine

Many different lines of research in physiology, including (but not limited to) research on obesity, tell us that our bodies are built for routine. The rhythm of the day regulates the function of our bodies through a biological clock that operates all the way down to a cellular level. Our body clocks tell us when to eat, when to sleep, and when to get up and get going. Different people have different chronotypes and those chronotypes have a distinct link to cardiometabolic health.

Skipping breakfast is just fine for some people and bad for others. Meal timing is a complex subject that can have a profound effect on metabolic health. And finally, you’ll find no hotter topic that intermittent fasting. People can’t get enough of this subject. The research is telling us it’s important and we really need to know more.

Healthy Habits for Healthy Families

At a human level, healthy habits are important for healthy families. Jess Haines et al showed in a randomized controlled study just how important. A family-based healthy habits program led to children having better sleep patterns, less screen time, and lower BMI.

Routines and habits help us make healthy behaviors the default for our day. We have a finite capacity for making explicit choices – the executive function of our brains. So healthy routines and habits save us from taking the risk of a bad choice in the moment. We can pattern our lives so that the best options simply choose us.

Finding a New Normal

Now that our worlds are a bit upside down, we have to find a new normal. To stay happy and healthy, we need routines to keep us on course and keep our stress levels under control. That means having good rituals for daily living – hygiene, dressing, meals, physical activity, and social interactions. It won’t be the same as it was before the pandemic – especially the social part of it. But even the social dimensions can work if we work at it. Our lives might even be a little better in some respects.

What’s important, though, is to find the routine that works for each one of us and our loved ones. Embrace it and make it work.

Click here, hereherehere, here, and here for further perspective on healthy routines for this time of the new coronavirus.

Wake Up and Make Coffee, photograph © Linh Nguyen / flickr

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March 23, 2020

One Response to “The Value of Healthy Routines and Habits”

  1. March 23, 2020 at 6:22 am, Mary-Jo said:

    In 40+ years as working as a dietitian, I have seen the benefits of habitual, routine wholesome foods helping people feel better, improving biomarkers, and contributing greatly toward positive health outcomes. Thus, I highly encourage folks to really focus on eating wholesome — that doesn’t mean ONLY fresh foods! Frozen and canned fruits and veg, canned legumes, such as baked beans, chick peas, black beans, lentil, canned tuna and salmon, whole grain pasta, rice, quinoa, UHT milks, dark chocolate, bake quick whole-grain breads like soda breads (email me, I’ll send recipes!😁) if you can’t get wholesome breads,, dried fruits.of course, when adding to any amounts of fresh fish, chicken, meat, eggs, breads, and other fresh foods, that’s the way to go! Yes, the ‘goodies, like pies, cakes, cookies, candy bars, fried foods etc are welcome treats, but STILL there must be consumed as treats, despite the quarantine. That’s my educated humble opinion (advice 😊).