Essential Habits

  • Sleep enough
  • Exercise regularly
  • Generally eat healthy foods
  • Keep your weight down
  • Avoid burnout
  • Connect socially with other people

Sufficient sleep

You should wake up feeling fresh. Your body and mind require a good night’s sleep. If you deprive yourself sufficient sleep, you will suffer for it in both the short and long term: Why Do We Need Sleep?.

Many of us aren’t getting enough sleep: 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep (US Centers for Disease Control)

Regular exercise

If there were a pill that did for us what exercise does for us, it would be considered a miracle drug: Closest Thing to a Wonder Drug? Try Exercise (NY Times) & Exercise is a Miracle Drug (Denver Post)

Healthy eating

For the first 25 years of my life, I fed my body way too much sugar and way too little vegetables, fish, and other healthy foods. I ate better over the second 25 years of my life. And as I’ve aged, I’ve learned about links between bad diets and diseases and grown to better appreciate the importance of eating nutritious foods. Many diseases common among Americans are common here due to our poor diets, excessively based on processed foods, especially salt, saturated fats, and sugar, which is added to almost everything we eat, in part because the US government subsidizes it and equivalents, like high fructose corn syrup: How Does Diet Impact Health? (University of Minnesota) & Poor Nutrition (US Centers for Disease Control)

Our brains also require healthy foods and operate at a disadvantage when fed junk food: Foods linked to better brainpower (Harvard Medical School)

I now eat more vegetables and regularly snack on seeds and nuts, which are healthy and easy to keep as snacks.

Avoid excessive body fat

Most of us would be healthier if we lost a few pounds.

Obesity greatly increases our vulnerability to many, many diseases and health problems: Health risks of obesity (MedlinePlus) & Adult Obesity Causes & Consequences (US Centers for Disease Control).

COVID-19 is just the latest disease to which overweight and obese humans are more vulnerable: Obesity, Race/Ethnicity, and COVID-19 (US Centers for Disease Control)

Avoid burnout

I have known or heard of quite a few programmers who have burned out at their jobs. Some have suffered debilitation that has lasted for years. Years ago, I myself came close to burnout and quit my job. I was talked out of quitting and set personal limits for myself to avoid burnout. As I write this, I just yesterday advised a former colleague to set limits because he was overworking himself and headed for burnout.

Work can be a great source of pleasure and empowerment, but it can also be a horrible cause of misery. Unaddressed, chronic unhappiness and overwork can lead to long-term misery.

Don’t let this happen to you. With burnout, avoidance is FAR better than treatment. Set limits for yourself. If you’re working a solid 50-hour workweek and still aren’t getting your work done, either you’re in the wrong job or you’re allowing your employer to abuse you. You need to set limits because you burning out doesn’t help your employer, and it certainly doesn’t help you.

Connect socially with other humans

Some people are extroverts, while others are introverts. Some of us need more time with others, while others require less. But we ALL require human connections. A few very close relationships may be enough. Many less close relationships may bring you pleasure. But we all need to feel connected with/to others:

(With appreciation to Jenny Hill for the photo on Unsplash)