I was asked to write a list of my favorite health habits. Below is the list I created to assist you with living your healthiest and most joyful life. I began with 21 and there is a bonus 2! Enjoy.

Eat high fiber: I could write a book about the benefits of fiber. I may sometime. But for now suffice it to say that a diet high in fiber provides the following benefits: relief or prevention of constipation, decreased risk of some types of cancer, decreased cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, deduced risk of coronary disease, blood sugar control, reduced risk of type II Diabetes and decreased risk of obesity. That’s not bad for a mouthful of sticks! The amount of fiber required in your day’s diet is much higher than most people think. It varies for age and sex but in general getting 28 to 30 g of fiber a day is a good start. Take a couple of days to mentally measure the amount of fiber you’re taking in. I think you will be shocked at the results.

Eat healthy fats: For years, our country became fat phobic. In retrospect that seems a little amusing as it is one of the three categories of macronutrients. Of course, we need fat. The problem is we have consumed the wrong types of fats. A large portion of fat consumption in our country was coming from extremely dangerous fats for many years. Consciousness has been rising as to the difference between a healthy fat and unhealthy fat. In general, fats from fish, flax seed oil, butter and nuts, hemp seed, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and eggs from chickens fed a diet high in greens and insects are all good food sources of healthy fats. Healthy fats reduced inflammation in your body, improve blood clotting, create healthy cell membranes, lower bad lipids, decreased artery thickening, reduce the risk of obesity, and may inhibit cancer cell growth. This is just the beginning of the list of benefits in choosing healthy fats over unhealthy fats. Avocados are one of my favorite sources of healthy fats. Which is yours?

Drink healthy water: Here is another topic that deserves an entire book. For 10 to 15 years a fetish of drinking bottled water developed. Unfortunately, the very bottles we were drinking the water from have now contaminated our estuaries, streams, ponds and oceans in a very serious way. In addition, chemicals from manufacturing processes and chemicals purposefully added to our water supply have created an increasingly dangerous water supply. Choose a reusable bottle made from a safe materials such as steel or glass. Consider a water filtration system for your home, at least for the water you drink. Many people advocate drinking eight glasses of water a day. To be honest, there is no literature supporting this recommendation. The renal modification of fluid status and thirst mechanism of our bodies are exquisitely sensitive. Be liberal with drinking water but don’t force yourself to drink more than you feel is necessary. Just make sure your water is healthy and protect our environment while you’re doing it.

Exercise regularly: okay, here’s the raw truth about me. I hate going to the gym. I get bored walking on a little treadmill like a mouse. I admire people that find this to be enjoyable and to be sure I have had workouts that were fun. However, I love to get my exercise by doing activities that are fun. Take a walk and look at the flowers. Join a sports team and see what you can do. Get up off the couch and stop watching TV. Play with your children on the floor. Stretch yourself a little bit every day. Just move. Your body will love you and it will be fun.

Eliminate refined carbohydrates: I call these the “white foods”. Most of the foods you can think of that are white are not good for you. Bleached flour, sugar, white pasta, etc. etc. etc. in this category I would also include candies and other high sugar products. These are extremely bad for your body in the short term and in the long-term. I’m not just talking about weight gain or control of calories. I’m talking about the hormonal and chemical alterations that cause in your body which lead to lifelong decreased health. Just say no.

Limit salt intake: Actually, salt is an essential bodily mineral. We need salt each and every day. The problem is, in an effort to get people to eat the processed foods that are sold everywhere in this country a tremendous amount of salt is added to this food to improve flavor and increase the amount of food you will eat. Even if you never add salt to your diet, you are probably getting much more salt than is recommended for a day. For many people this is not such a big deal. But if you have a family history, personal history or are at risk of high blood pressure, this one activity change can be lifesaving. By decreasing your blood pressure you may decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke. That is a big deal for just a small pinch.

Stop unhealthy habits like smoking and excessive drinking: Now, if you are a smoker or you drink excessively, you probably know you should stop. I just added this one to give you a little support and encouragement in making the change. There are many people and programs out there to help you. Pick up the phone, fire up the computer, call a friend, open your heart and have courage. Enough said.

Sleep 7 to 8 hours a day: There are literally tens of thousands of studies on the effects of sleep deprivation on our bodies. As an Emergency Doctor, this became a high priority in my life so I have studied sleep patterns my entire career. My research has indicated sleep deprivation leads to decreased immunity, weight gain, depression, mood swings, vascular disease and many, many more ill effects on your body. For people doing shift work, it is even a higher priority to stay in tune with your body and to listen to what it needs. I have worked with many health care workers who seemed to wear a 4 hour sleep pattern as a badge of honor. It most certainly is not. Taking care of your body gives those around you permission to do the same. Some tips for healthy sleep: don’t overdue caffeine and none after 4 p.m., bedroom for sleep and sex only, create a comfortable space for your room and honor it, eat no later than 2 hours before bedtime, no raucous T.V. before bedtime, create a ritual that honors your life and your body (many people journal, meditate or pray right before sleep), reduce stimulants in your environment prior to bedtime, limit alcohol and address health issues that impede sleep (like sleep apnea, menopause, orthopaedic problems, etc). These tips will result in a dramatic increase in your comfort and your health.

Take quality supplements: One of the most extensive studies on the subject was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2002. The findings of this study revealed that it is prudent for adults to take a multivitamin every day. There are multiple reasons for this including the decreased nutritional content of our food, the increased processing of our food supply, the substitution of healthy foods with unhealthy foods and the list goes on. The USDA surveyed 16,000 Americans and found that not one person obtained 100% of essential nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin D, and zinc. Similarly, children and adolescents did not obtain enough essential nutrients such as folate, vitamin C, and calcium. The results are in and the answer is yes. Yes, you need supplementation with quality nutritional supplements.

Reduce stress: I reflect on the conversations I’ve had in the last 48 hours. It seems that all of the people I spoke with were under some sort of stress. We have not created a society or an environment where peacefulness is valued. If you have a stressful life my recommendation is insert into your day what I call “peace breaks”. These are little moments of solitude. It can happen in your car, it can happen in the bathroom, it can happen when you take a short walk around the block. Taking a few moments to let your blood pressure fall, your mind relax and to consciously put your attention on peacefulness and releasing any thoughts. Doing this 2 to 3 times a day, especially right when you wake up and right before you go to sleep, can change your life dramatically. Take a moment to pencil this in!

Limit screen time: The statistics on screen time (you know, computers, TVs, video games) are astounding. So here is a challenge for you. Consider turning off all screens for a week. No, not just the kids. All of you. For families caught in the trap of stress and disconnect, this one activity can renew relationships, inspire creativity and change your life. I would love for you to report your experience.

Be cognizant of children: 33% of children born today are expected to develop diabetes. If Black or Hispanic, that jumps to 50%. The future of our world is our children. Your behavior in front of children is so powerful. If you want children to live a healthy life, be an example of health in front of them. Don’t reward with candy. Reward with time, with reading, with love and attention and with other “things”. It is time for our culture to get out of the habit of making candy the reward for behavior. Stand for healthy habits in schools. Be a mentor. So many people I know have come from hard beginnings to become truly magnificent people. The commonality in all of them is they had at least one person in their childhood who really cared. Be that person for someone.

Vote with your money every day: Read food labels and buy foods that don’t come in packages (apples, etc) as often as possible. Every single time you purchase a healthy food you are voting “yes”. Every time you buy chips or unhealthy foods you are voting “no”. If voting is the basis of our democracy, your ‘purchase votes’ are the basis of our capital society. As they say, vote well and vote often!!

Floss twice a day: Most of us know that flossing our teeth can prevent tarter build up and gingivitis. Not everyone knows, however, that lack of flossing may be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. One study revealed that patients who flossed their teeth at least every other day reduced their serum CRP (a risk factor for cardiovascular disease) to normal levels within six months. Harvard Medical School released a study indicating one of the key factors to longevity was flossing. In fact, they stated flossing could lower your Real Age by as much as 6.4 years. Not a bad investment of time, I would say. And the side effect of a gorgeous smile is a real winner!

Eat breakfast and eat a low glycemic, Mediterranean style food pattern: It is well documented that eating a healthy breakfast (low glycemic, high nutrient foods) helps maintain hunger levels, sugar levels and health eating throughout the day. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2008 compared low fat, low glycemic and Mediterranean diets and found the latter two to be superior in ability to lose and maintain weight. Keeping a steady blood sugar throughout the day by eating 5 to 6 small, low glycemic, Mediterranean style meals appears to be a delicious and healthy way to maintain your physique and avoid disease. Give it a try!!

Find passion in your life: Many people think their life is “not as important”. I believe what you create with your life is your individual expression of the divine (or whatever paradigm suits you). It all counts. The way you smile or don’t, the way you open your eyes with love when your friends and family enter the room, the way you express with your words and your actions, the passion with which you express in your job and your hobbies, the friends you choose, the social circles you involve yourself with, and the love you bring to each and every relationship is the sum total of that which matters in your life. You don’t have to be president, you don’t have to run the show, you don’t have to be a CEO to matter greatly. What matters is the love you bring to your life. Express your life with passion and know that it is received with enthusiasm. You matter more than you will ever know.

Seek balance: There is a famous book with the following passage: “to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the sun.”. That not only goes for years, but for weeks and days, also. Have a “season” of rest in your day, a “season” of movement, a “season” of learning, a “season” of love. Make each day as rounded as possible and this will flow into your weeks and your months and your years. At the beginning and end of each day, note the “seasons” you created. Make an effort to make each day full with “seasons”.

Periodically challenge yourself: Sometimes it can feel really wonderful when life is on autopilot. But without an occasional challenge, be it mental, spiritual, emotional or physical, life can get a bit boring. What have you wanted to do in life that you just haven’t taken the time for? Is it a trip? Riding in a hot air balloon? Taking a challenge in your relationship? Reading a new book or taking a new class? Stepping just a little bit out of your comfort zone can make life exciting and full. Don’t miss out on this opportunity. Bring your spouse along if he/she will come. Make it a family affair. Enjoin your friends. Create more excitement in the world. You know, you only pass this way one time.

Create habit: The opposite of new challenges is the steady hand of habit. Studies show that people who eat roughly the same foods each day have a much easier time of it. Creating habits can open space and energy for creativity. What part of your life feels confusing and out of control right now? What habits could you install to balance this chaos? By creating a life of habits, you also make room for challenges and inventiveness. Do this for yourself!!

Have a healthy social circle: I am giving you an opportunity to take stock of your social circle. Studies tell us your income is most likely the average of the 5 people you are closest to. I believe this goes for more than just money. The belief systems you develop are deeply influenced by the people in your life. Who in your life supports your most deeply felt beliefs? Who in your life moves you away from your emotional, financial, spiritual and physical center? How much time do you spend with these people? Are there people in your life at all? If your only circle of friends are the people you work with every day, it may be time to open and widen the circle a little. You don’t have to make radical change: just choose one new activity where you will meet people that are interesting and new. Make one new friend and cultivate that friendship. Choose a friend who is loving and supportive, who fills your life with positive words and be that friend to others. Studies show that lifespan is greatly influenced by the company you keep (or lack thereof). Just as money, food, housing, etc are important to your life, so much more are the friendships. Step out of your comfort zone and make a new friend this week. You may both benefit greatly.

Laugh a lot: Truly, when is the last time you belly laughed? I mean the kind of laugh that rocks your body, that rattles your teeth, that causes tears to stream from your face? If it has been a while, perhaps it is time to lighten up. Look for opportunities to laugh. Go to a comedy instead of that horror show. Make your family and friends laugh. Play a gentle, loving trick. Look at the situation just a little differently. If you have a hard time getting started, get tickets to a comedy club where a lighthearted comic is playing. Spending the evening laughing with your friends may put a whole new veneer on your week. Here are some great ideas to create a smile: Give a gift, write an unexpected and heartfelt note of acknowledgment, invite a new friend to coffee, babysit small children, volunteer to make someone’s day a little brighter, express gratitude where ever you can. And here is the best one I heard, “Plant a seed in your eye.” Namaste!

Give: There are many ways to give in life, but I am speaking specifically of volunteering. In this respect, I am speaking of an act or donation that is mainly anonymous and brings worth, peace and love to the world. Why would you want to do this? Here is a partial list of the reasons and benefits: make new friends, build confidence and self-esteem, see more of your community and the world, gain important skills and experience, relieve stress, fight boredom, spend time doing what you really care about, expand your education or career, experienced the feeling of being needed and important, get active and healthy, use your mind-body and creativity, experience a sense of satisfaction, make a difference in the world, have fun, acquire training, experience a sense of reward, and mainly just have fun. I have worked with many wonderful organizations including Volunteers of America, which is a great group. Give them a ring and find out what their needs are. Other activities in which to volunteer include the venues of health, children, the arts, environment, community, the elderly, domestic and international needs and other venues too lengthy to list. It is truly exhilarating to be surrounded by giving, loving people in the act of improving the world for those around you. I highly recommend it.

Be a positive role model: One of the things I really love about studying concepts of leadership is that we are ALL leaders. We all lead by example. If you are at a party with a bowl of chips and a plate of veggies, reaching for the veggies is a powerful statement to all those around you that you care about your health. You may not think this one action is important, but especially over time your loved ones will begin to emulate your behavior. Drip by drip, the ocean fills. Action by action, you can empower your loved ones to live the healthy life they deserve. This is leadership in action!!

So, here is my list. Post this somewhere you will see it often. Put these concepts in practice in your life. Find one small way to make the world a little better today. If we all do that, we have created a movement of health, love and joy. Be a part of the movement today!

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Kelly Sennholz is the founder and Chief Medical Officer of Symtrimics LLC, a Physician Prescribed Wellness Program. She has been instrumental in creating excellent health for thousands of patients and transforming medical practices to true sources of health. Symtrimics allows doctors to once again feel satisfaction in their medical practice and real relationships with their patients.

“Symtrimics empowers you to take control of your health, and ultimately, control of your life,” ~Dr Kelly Sennholz.