Are Healthy Habits Worth Cultivating?

Are Healthy Habits Worth Cultivating?

Making healthy lifestyle changes is easier said than done. Even when we're strongly motivated, adopting a new, healthy habit — or breaking an old, bad one — is challenging. At first, small changes might not seem that effective. But when put together, dozens of tiny habits can create the framework for a healthy life.

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Incorporating healthier habits can add several healthy years to your life by preventing serious illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and dementia. 

​​Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed data from more than 111,000 people who were followed for between 28-34 years.

They found objective evidence that five health habits in particular were critical for a longer healthspan. In fact, the more of these habits people satisfied, the longer they lived:

  1. a healthy diet, 
  2. a healthy physical activity level, 
  3. a healthy body weight, 
  4. never smoking, 
  5. low-risk alcohol intake,

Even having one of these health habits, contributed to two extra healthy years than those who had none. The effect was even more pronounced for those who by 50 years old regularly practiced all five; these people enjoyed over a decade of extra life!

Why healthy habits are hard to maintain

Yes the struggle is real. Making healthy lifestyle changes is easier said than done. Even when we're strongly motivated, adopting a new, healthy habit — or breaking an old, bad one — is challenging. The biggest issue for anybody bringing change upon their life is the conflict between conscious desires i.e. what you know is good for you, and subconscious drives i.e., addictions, procrastination and resistance to any kind of change, no matter how good it is for you! 

The subconscious mind always chooses immediate rewards and habits over your goals and plans to get fit, lose weight and feel better.

This internal cognitive dissonance creates confusion and the ‘stronger faster bigger subconscious mind will almost always win… the self-help book goes back on the shelf, the gym membership is cancelled, and vegetables rot in the fridge while you nurse a hangover. This cognitive dissonance creates self-sabotage and blind-spots that prevent us from seeing our destructive patterns of behaviour. When under stress it gets worse, and we always choose instant gratification over long-term gains.

Our health plan and end goal goes down the drain when we see a piece of our favourite pizza, and forget how this action today will impact us a few hours or even days later (Hint: its crashing blood glucose, neurological inflammation, reduced immune response, and irritability). 

The consequences of unhealthy habits

We’re swamped in information and most of it is cloaked in jargon, or lacks practical ways to implement into action. The latest discoveries about the impact of stress, heart rate variability, hormones and circadian rhythms provide remarkable insight into why we face epidemics of depression, disease and lethargy. They also provide athletes and exercise enthusiasts opportunities to naturally enhance performance and reach peak states of power. Here are just some of the ways unhealthy habits can wreck your health in a more significant way than you realize:

  • Sedentary behavior (like watching TV) reduces metabolism and decreases blood flow.
  • Lack of exercise reduces levels of sex hormones and impairs carbohydrate metabolism.
  • We dehydrate significantly as we age: infants are 75% water, elderly just 55%.
  • Dehydration will reduce motivation, increase perceived effort and enhance fatigue.
  • Losing just 2% of your hydration significantly reduces endurance performance.
  • Oxygen consumption drops by 2.9% for each percent drop in hydration.
  • Mild dehydration disrupts mood and cognitive function, specifically concentration.
  • Diet is the single most significant risk factor for disability and premature death.
  • Ultra-processed food increases your risk of cardiovascular issues, cancer and stroke.   
  • Cognitive decline with age is accelerated proportionally to amount of simple sugars in the diet.
  • Poor diet exacerbates mood disorders, including anxiety, depression, and neuropsychiatric conditions.
  • Consuming 75g of sugar (two cans of soda) down regulates the immune system for 5 hours.
  • Overtraining with insufficient nutrition can reduce testosterone levels by 20-30%.
  • One week of deprived sleep (5 hours per night) reduces daytime testosterone by 10-15%.
  • Sleep deprivation exaggerates your response to stress and elevates resting cortisol levels.
  • Total sleep deprivation impairs working memory, attention and decision making.
  • Partial or prolonged sleep deprivation reduces concentration, focus and vigilance.
  • Lack of sleep impairs memory consolidation, impacting emotional regulation and recall.

Healthy Habit Examples

A healthy habit is any activity or behavior that can benefit your physical, mental, or emotional well-being. ​At first, these small changes might not seem that effective.  But when put together dozens of these tiny habits you can create a framework for a healthy life. We've included some examples of healthy activity, nutrition and sleep habits below. While some may not apply to all people, these habits are a great starting point for anyone who may be looking to better themselves.

  • Regular exercise increases health span, delaying onset of 40 chronic conditions.
  • Endurance exercise improves mental health and mitochondrial function at a molecular level.
  • Lifelong aerobic exercise takes four decades off your biological age and preserves lung fitness.
  • Exercise enhances neurotropic factors (like BDNF) which actively protect the brain.
  • Strength training provides robust protection against stress-induced depression.
  • Exercise promotes hippocampal neuroplasticity, helping us adapt to change.
  • Exercise significantly reduces diabetes risk and improves insulin sensitivity.
  • Doing just 10 minutes of exercise per day will actively improve your health.
  • Optimal eating increases life expectancy, reduces chronic disease, and enhances DNA regulation.
  • High intensity exercise 18 hours before eating Fast-Food reduces the cardiovascular damage caused by it.
  • Vitamin A and zinc regulate immune cell division critical for effective immune response.
  • Fasting for 36 hours significantly increases the number of phagocytic immune cells.
  • Increasing green tea, fruit or vegetable intake reduces depression and depressive symptoms.
  • Organic crops have significantly more vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus than toxic-crops.
  • Increased organic intake reduces the risk of infertility, birth defects, allergies, metabolic syndrome, obesity, ear infections, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (cancer).
  • Hypohydration of 2.6% to 5.6% has a significant positive impact on HIIT and endurance.
  • Drinking water increases subjective alertness and arousal even when well hydrated.

How to build healthy habits

Unfortunately, your subconscious ‘sneaks in’ these destructive actions without conscious consent. You’re left genuinely wondering why you didn’t get up before midday, cancelled your training session and had beer for brunch when the plan was a 6am jog and green smoothie! 

Unless you have: strict accountability (i.e. a 24/7 personal tracker who is actively watching you); no addictive outlets (no access to sugar, bread, alcohol, coffee, internet, nor mobile phone) and a concrete plan... your mind will naturally steer you towards the easy options. This is the byproduct of a survival mechanism designed to keep us safe, but it holds us back from becoming better versions of ourselves.

Your subconscious mind is driven to minimize energy expenditure and achieve homeostasis. ‘Easy’ options require less energy, so they are the ‘best’ choice. Your subconscious doesn’t predict more than a few days ahead, or a few moments when under stress.

​It is important to remember that healthy habits can be created in stages. What might be an unhealthy habit for one person today may be a healthy habit for someone else.

Start where you are and make progress towards habits that will be healthy for you.

Health Habit Tracking

Speaking of a 24/7 personal tracker... humans typically create 1 gigabyte of health-related data before they die. What are you doing with yours?

Wearable technology is being adopted at an exponential rate, but how effectively are you using this immensely valuable dataset?

Over 70% of wearable data is not utilized.

Wearables provide unique insight into our bodies and for most people ‘health’ is the primary driver for tracking our personal physiology. Advancements in technology are making it easier to collect the critical data needed to drive a healthier lifestyle, or improve chronic conditions. By combining wearable technology and automated analytics you become more conscious of your constructive and destructive habits. 

Data makes us get conscious about decisions because it requires logic (a function of the neo-cortex). By combining personal data with these biological insights you can start to override subconscious bad habits and automate conscious decisions. 

The potential to enhance our well-being by making data-driven decisions is huge. But, the reality is that without analytical support, and effective accountability, most people flounder in the numbers and make the same destructive decisions (subconscious habits) despite the data.

Stop wasting your health data and start capitalizing on it – discover the hidden patterns that are holding you back. Benefit from cutting-edge AI, that will save you hundreds of hours of research and planning - our team has reviewed terabytes of data, so you don’t have to! Remove the obstacles to growth and get personalized insights that help you understand your mind and body better by taking control of the information your body is generating to influence your conscious decision making.

Basis provides a unique, data-driven perspective on your current physiology, allowing you to effectively track the impact of your actions and take responsibility for your long-term health and wellness.

Sign up for Early Access to Basis


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