My years as a physical therapist specializing in helping older adults age well have given me insight into the daily habits all healthy people have in common (and all the habits unhealthy people have in common, but that’s a story for another day).
The reality is, their habits have more to do with their mindset than any specific approach they take to their health.
I’ve seen healthy people who lift, run, or have no formal movement practice. Some are yogis and some swear by Tai Chi. Some are vegetarians while others are keto or low carb.
So if the answer to health doesn’t lie in a specific approach, then where can you find it?
It’s all about the ways in which you view the world and what you have control over. Health stems from a mindset.
Here are the 7 habits all healthy people have in common:
"The less convenient, the more it pays." -Seth Godin
You can’t be healthy unless you’re willing to experience discomfort. And people who age well know this. The more you make your life convenient, the less likely you are to be healthy.
It’s this mindset that allows healthy people to consistently make the choice to move. To show up for an exercise routine even when they don’t feel like. Bad weather doesn’t stop these people from going for a walk or run. They consistently choose healthy eating options even when it isn’t easy.
If you expect your life to always be easy, you’ll never build the mental stamina to cope with all of the physical challenges that may come your way. It’s not that healthy people don’t ever experience adverse health events, it’s that they’ve trained their minds to handle it better when they do.
If you get on board with embracing discomfort not only are in a better place to maintain your health in the first place but if something happens you’re setting yourself up for a better recovery.
Healthy people consistently seek out new experiences and keep their minds open. They realize that the routines they have today might not work for them tomorrow. So they make a habit out of taking in new information and acting on that information as they see fit.
By seeking out new experiences, you’re less likely to get set in your ways and keep yourself open to flexible options. New experiences keep both your brain and body challenged. This helps you avoid overtraining in any one area and helps you continue to stimulate your mind. So make an effort to try something you never would have given a second thought to before.
Healthy people know that perfection isn’t possible, so they don’t let a fear of not being perfect hold them back. Perfectionism can turn into a form of procrastination.
They don’t let their body perception get in the way of their goals. They don’t let the fact that they indulged in a piece of cake that one day derail them. “Cheat days” aren’t a thing that healthy people do. They don’t punish or shame themselves for not being perfect at all times.
You might be striving for perfection without even realizing it. Have you been waiting on finding just the right clothes to wear before you start running? Researching what the best gym membership will be? Find yourself paralyzed by all the information on different diets so you just don’t make any changes? Healthy people realize none of this matters. Starting now is what matters, despite what clothes you decide to go for a run in.
Just as healthy people seek out new experiences they maintain flexible habits. Health goals and habits are a tricky subject. Because humans thrive on routine. If we do the same thing at the same time every day we’re much more likely to stick with it. On the other hand, our health thrives on variety.
Therefore, healthy people hold onto a set of routines but are also willing to be flexible within those routines. By maintaining flexible routines, you can give your body what it needs on any given day. Maybe you have a habit of hitting the gym early every morning, but today your body is telling you to get more sleep. You have to make a choice to sleep longer and skip the gym today or drag yourself out of bed and do the workout at half of your potential, setting yourself up for injury. Healthy people know when to make the call to stay in bed because their body needs rest more than it needs movement some days.
“If you have a victim mentality, you’ll only get victim results”. -Mignon Francois
Healthy people don’t let themselves fall into a victim mentality. Again, this doesn’t mean they don’t experience health events that are beyond their control. Instead, they make the decision to come to terms with what is happening, accept it, and decide what they can do to improve within their locus of control.
Falling victim to your circumstances is one of the biggest mistakes you can make for your health. Feeling powerless tends to initiate the downward spiral of one health event after another. So make the decision to acknowledge that you can’t prevent everything, but that you’ll always focus on what you can control and consistently work toward improvement.
After avoiding a victim mentality, healthy people embrace the fact that much of life is beyond our control. You can take excellent care of yourself and still end up with a devastating diagnosis one day. None of us can predict what the future will bring.
But worrying about the unknown keeps you stuck in place and even increases your risk of developing a chronic disease. Research has found that the fear of developing a chronic condition is more detrimental to health than actually having that condition.
So acknowledge that you can’t control everything. But don’t let that paralyze you. Take steps to manage what you can. By embracing the unknown you can live a healthier life.
Healthy people maintain a strong mind-body connection. This skill is cultivated over time and comes with experience. They consistently listen to what their body needs, then continue to adjust their routines accordingly.
With the advances in medical technology, it’s become increasingly difficult to develop this mind-body connection. We have wearable devices that can track every detail of our day, continuously monitoring our movement, heart rate, and sleep quality. And there is a lot of benefit to this information. Just don’t get so caught up in it that you forget to listen to yourself.
Start to facilitate your mind-body connection by using external feedback to make note of your patterns. But then use that information to develop a better system for internal feedback. Think beyond what your device is telling you. Maybe you're finally hitting 10,000 steps every day, but it’s making you miserable. If so, honor that and don’t let your device shame you.
Health is a mindset. Developing a strong set of mindset habits will allow you to age well no matter where you are starting from. So keep this list of habits in mind and choose a starting point. How can you change your mindset and habits for better health today?