5 healthy habits i stand by (student edition)

     Successfully navigating the complex landscape of academia demands a multifaceted approach, encompassing not only intellectual prowess, but also a balanced integration of physical vitality, cognitive agility, and emotional resilience. As students, we have all encountered the tumultuous nature of late-night study sessions, impending due dates, and the continual juggle of academic courses, extracurricular activities, and social commitments. During these periods, our well-being may become compromised, negatively impacting our academic endeavours.

     In the midst of academic chaos, students can greatly benefit by building healthy habits for themselves —a collection of lifelines that serve to anchor us, maintain our focus, and invigorate our spirits. Throughout my personal academic journey, I have identified five essential healthy habits that I have come to rely on. From the restorative impact of sleep to the revitalizing benefits of regular exercise, these practices have not only transformed my approach to the way I approach my studies, but have also fostered my holistic well-being.

     This article examines five essential habits, analyzing the scientific basis for their efficacy and presenting personal anecdotes that highlight their importance. These habits are not merely abstract ideas; they're tried, tested, and wholeheartedly embrace the foundations of my academic life. As I journey through these practices, it is worth considering how they may align with your personal experiences and inspire a renewed commitment to your overall well-being in the face of academic demands. Ultimately, learning is enhanced when supported by a healthy body, a clear mental state, and a resilient spirit.

     Note: The material presented in this article is designed solely for informational purposes. I am a high school student with a passion for psychology and mental health, but do not possess any professional licenses or qualifications in the field. The content provided within the article is derived from my individual research, personal experiences, and general knowledge. Although I strive to present accurate and well-researched information, the material should not be regarded as a replacement for guidance, diagnosis, or treatment from certified mental health specialists, medical practitioners, or other experts. 

#𝟏 𝐈 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐭 𝐨𝐟𝐟 𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐡 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐛𝐲 𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐬𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐬

     Finding moments of tranquillity can be a considerable challenge. However, consider envisioning the commencement of your day not with the abrupt sound of an alarm, but rather with the melodic chorus of avian melodies, the rhythmic rustle of leaves, or the tranquil murmuring of a stream. Integrating the orchestration of natural sounds into one's morning ritual can yield significant effects on one's holistic welfare, establishing a state of harmony for the forthcoming day.

     The auditory stimuli produced by natural environments has an innate capacity to elicit feelings of tranquility and a state of relaxation. Listening to the gentle harmonies of the natural world stimulates the parasympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system, so facilitating a state of relaxation and serenity. This can prove to be particularly advantageous in mitigating the hectic nature of early morning activities and fostering a tranquil ambiance.

     Furthermore, these activities have been linked to enhanced emotional well-being and heightened experiences of optimism. They have the potential to improve one's emotional well-being and promote creative thinking, offering a fresh outlook as one approaches the challenges of the day.

     Research has demonstrated that the exposure to natural sounds has the potential to reduce cortisol levels, which is a hormone associated with stress, and ease sensations of tension and anxiety. Beginning one's day with these soothing sounds might establish a foundation for a more concentrated and cognitively clearer start.

     Even if your daily routine confines you indoors, the act of listening to nature sounds also has the potential to cultivate a  connection with the natural environment. This serves as a reminder that the external world, existing beyond walls, continues to flourish, providing a moment of respite from the confines of one's surroundings.

     Below is a playlist of nature sounds I have been using to start off my morning:

a cottagecore playlist to feel like you're in nature

forest sounds

birds singing on the lakeshore & water sounds

spring morning ambience

relaxing meadow with ambient nature sounds

#𝟐 𝐈 𝐦𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝟏𝟎 𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐮𝐭𝐞𝐬 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲𝐝𝐚𝐲

     Amidst the demands of busy schedules and the incessant stream of thoughts, attaining a moment of solace can appear to be an elusive aspiration. The introduction of mindfulness emerges as a significant practice that holds the capacity to transform our approach to managing the demands of academia and daily life. Mindfulness entails the practice of consciously and non-judgmentally attending to the present moment, wherein one cultivates an acute awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, and immediate environment.

     The profound influence of mindfulness on the management of stress is noteworthy. Numerous studies have repeatedly demonstrated that engaging in mindfulness practices can result in a decrease in stress levels, anxiety, and even symptoms of depression. Through the development of mindfulness, individuals can enhance their cognitive and emotional understanding, enabling them to effectively navigate difficulties with heightened clarity and calmness.

     Mindfulness meditation is a pragmatic tool encompassed within the broader framework of mindfulness practices. Mindfulness meditation entails the allocation of a few moments each day to attentively noticing one's thoughts and sensations without becoming entangled in them. It offers a tranquil refuge amidst turbulent circumstances by employing deliberate breathing techniques and directed cognitive focus.

     The integration of mindfulness into one's daily routine has the potential to yield profound transformations. From my personal experience, I have observed that engaging in a short meditation practice in the morning establishes a favourable mindset throughout the remainder of the day. This practice enables the construction of a cognitive barrier between the individual and the inescapable sources of stress encountered in life. Furthermore, I have noticed an enhancement in my capacity to focus, which is a highly advantageous asset during academic lectures and study periods.

     The body scan is a mindfulness technique that I have personally found to be extremely useful. This practice entails focusing one's attention on various regions of the body, observing any instances of tension or sensations, and granting oneself permission to unwind. This exercise not only promotes physical relaxation but also cultivates a more profound integration between the mind and body.

     Upon incorporating mindfulness into my daily regimen, I have observed its profound influence on my holistic well-being. I have developed a heightened sense of self-awareness, allowing me to effectively navigate various obstacles with more emotional fortitude.It has also provided me with a revitalized sense of gratitude and recognition for the seemingly insignificant moments that frequently elude our attention amidst the hectic nature of academic life.

Below are links to a few of my favourite body scans, ones I have been consistently listening to over the past few years:

10 minute body scan

guided body scan meditation

10 minute mindfulness meditation

10 minute guided meditation for relaxation

     All in all, mindfulness serves as a potent remedy for the pressures frequently encountered during the academic journey. Through the regular engagement in mindfulness meditation, individuals can cultivate a tranquil haven wherein they may seek consolation and enhance their ability to concentrate. Whether engaging in a tranquil morning meditation or briefly practicing mindfulness  between study sessions, the process of attaining a more focused and serene self begins with a single breath.

#𝟑 𝐈 𝐞𝐚𝐭 𝟏-𝟐  𝐠𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐟𝐨𝐨𝐝𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐭𝐞𝐢𝐧 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐦𝐞𝐚𝐥

     In the whirlwind of our studies, it is easy to overlook the importance of what we put into our bodies. However, it is evident that there is a correlation between one's diet and their capacity to excel academically. The human body can be likened to a complex mechanism, and similar to any mechanical system, it necessitates appropriate nourishment in order to operate optimally. The concept of a balanced diet extends beyond simply satisfying hunger; it is about the nurturing of both physical and cognitive well-being.

     Scientific studies have repeatedly established a link between nutrition and the maintenance of sustained energy levels. The significance of maintaining stable blood glucose levels was underscored in a study published in "Nutrients", that stressed the importance of adhering to a well-balanced diet that is abundant in complex carbs, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These levels exhibit a strong correlation with both our energy levels and cognitive performance. A separate research investigation brought attention to the beneficial impacts associated with the intake of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential nutrients, present in fatty fish and flaxseeds, were observed to enhance cognitive functioning and concentration.

     In school cafeterias especially, access to nutritious food might seem limited. A key is to look for options that include all three macronutrients: protein, carbs, and fat. For instance, opt for a turkey sandwich instead of your usual grilled cheese. Also, portable snacks like mixed nuts, fruit, and cut vegetables offer essential vitamins and minerals while being convenient for on-the-go consumption. 

     Personally, my rule of thumb is to always have something green and some form of protein on my plate. By doing so, I have discovered that deliberately choosing nutritional options greatly influences my energy levels as well as my ability to focus. When I give priority to consuming complete, nutrient-dense foods, I feel more alert and engaged during lectures and whilst studying. On days when I opt for quick, processed snacks, I observe a dip in my focus and energy. This is not to say that such foods are off-limits, but rather that maintaining a diet consisting mostly of nutritious options has proven to be greatly beneficial for me.

#𝟒 𝐈 𝐨𝐛𝐭𝐚𝐢𝐧 𝐚𝐭 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐭 𝟕-𝟖 𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐬𝐥𝐞𝐞𝐩 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲𝐝𝐚𝐲

     In a world, that often glorifies the practice of late-night study sessions and sacrificing sleep for academic pursuits, the significance of adequate sleep is frequently overlooked or marginalized. However, several scientific studies have consistently confirmed the indisputable importance of sufficient sleep in relation to cognitive functioning and overall well-being. As we explore the field of sleep science, it becomes apparent that sleep is not merely a discretionary indulgence, but rather a fundamental physiological requirement.

     Numerous studies have demonstrated that throughout the sleep cycle, the human brain engages in a fundamental cognitive process known as memory consolidation and information processing. This implies that insufficient sleep not only results in feelings of drowsiness but also impairs our capacity to efficiently retain and recollect knowledge. Furthermore, sleep has a pivotal function in the regulation of mood, the management of stress, and the maintenance of a robust immune system.

     Now, let us discuss strategies. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule may appear to be a daunting undertaking within the context of a busy academic lifestyle; nonetheless, it is a habit that yields significant benefits. In my personal experience, I have had favorable outcomes by establishing a consistent nighttime and wake-up schedule and adhering to it consistently, including weekends. Since sophomore year, I have been consistently clocking in at 12am and waking up at 7am. This mechanism aids in the regulation of the body's circadian rhythm, facilitating the process of falling asleep and awakening with a sense of rejuvenation.

     The correlation between sleep and academic success is unequivocal. Sufficient sleep is associated with greater cognitive abilities such as increased focus, improved problem-solving aptitude, and enhanced decision-making capabilities. These cognitive functions are crucial for achieving excellence in scholastic pursuits. On the contrary, sleep deprivation has been linked with a reduction in attention span, an increase in errors, and a decline in total productivity.

     A study published in the "Journal of Sleep Research" revealed that university students who regularly obtained a sufficient amount of sleep demonstrated superior academic performance in comparison to their counterparts who prioritized study time over sleep. This statement underscores the significance of a well-rested mind as a valuable resource in the pursuit of academic excellence.

     The science is clear: giving priority to sleep is not indicative of fragility, but rather a deliberate and calculated decision aimed at augmenting cognitive abilities and promoting overall well-being. The establishment of a regular sleep pattern is not merely a subjective account, but rather a scientifically supported approach to enhancing both academic achievement and overall well-being. Achieving success is not only reliant on engaging in late-night study sessions, but rather, enhanced by the rejuvenating effects of obtaining a good night of sleep.

#𝟓 𝐈 𝐦𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐦𝐲 𝐛𝐨𝐝𝐲 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲𝐝𝐚𝐲

     Within the cadence of our everyday existence, a little yet profound endeavor warrants our consideration: engaging in daily physical activity. Irrespective of one's age, level of physical fitness, or personal commitments, engaging in physical activity provides a wide range of advantages that extend beyond just physical well-being. Daily physical activity serves as a fundamental pillar for comprehensive well-being, contributing to enhanced cognitive acuity and emotional fortitude, as well as facilitating a more profound attunement with our physical selves.

     Regular physical activity has a significant influence on cognitive function. Research has indicated that engagement in physical activity has the potential to induce the synthesis of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that has been linked to improvements in cognitive function. The regularity of physical exercise promotes enhanced cerebral blood circulation, resulting in heightened levels of attentiveness, focus, and proficiency in navigating complex tasks.

     The advantages of engaging in regular physical activity also extend into one's mental well-being. Studies indicate that maintaining regular physical activity is associated with a decrease in stress levels and an improvement in emotional resilience. The act of engaging in regular physical activity stimulates the secretion of endorphins, which serve as intrinsic agents for alleviating stress, so promoting a more balanced emotional state.

     Moreover, engaging in everyday physical activity establishes the foundation for healthy habits to flourish. Consistent engagement in a particular behavior on a regular basis has been found to facilitate the development of habits, which in turn can result in significant changes to one's overall lifestyle. Over the course of time, the act of engaging in physical activity becomes deeply ingrained within one's daily regimen.

     The essence of regular physical activity is also rooted in pleasure and satisfaction This presents an occasion to engage in various activities that align with your own personal preferences, ranging from invigorating walks, yoga sessions to dancing or cycling.  From my personal experience, I have discovered that joy can be found in a variety of physical movements. Dancing to my favourite music, whether alone in my room or with the accompaniment of friends, imbues my day with a sense of liveliness and optimism. Engaging in leisurely strolls amidst natural surroundings not only facilitates physical exercise but also fosters an intimate connection with the beauty around me. And yoga, characterized by its emphasis on mindfulness and flexibility, provides an experience that elicits a sense of centeredness inside me. 

     Over the past two years, I have consistently began each morning by engaging in a series of daily stretching exercises. Furthermore, choosing to walk to specific destinations instead of driving has not only resulted in financial savings, but has also helped me reach my daily step goal. There exists an endless abundance of strategies that can be employed to integrate additional physical activity into one's everyday routine. Embrace them!

Within the corridors of academics, one can use this collection of indispensable habits that may collectively help one in surpassing the challenges posed by the demands of school life. Let us now take a moment to revisit these habits one last time:

1. Listening to nature sounds

2. Engaging in mindful meditation

3. Nourishing the body with a balanced diet

4. Prioritizing sleep

5. Maintaining physical activity

     The combination of these five habits forms a symphony that integrates the physiological, cognitive, and emotional dimensions of our being. The interaction between these habits harmonizes a symphony of energy, concentration, clarity, and emotional balance. Collectively, these elements constitute the framework for attaining not only academic accomplishment, but also a deeply rooted sense of state of well-being that can permeate through every facet of life.

     As you journey forward, consider this array of habits as an opportunity to delve deeper and reflect upon your own everyday habits. In a similar vein to how I shared my personal encounters and techniques,  think about which habits correspond with your individual values, aspirations, and distinct circumstances. Embrace the ones that align with your values and beliefs, and modify them to suit your own unique rhythm and demands.

     It is important to acknowledge that the endeavor to achieve a satisfying and harmonious way lifestyle is not a universally applicable path. Regardless of your role as a student, professional, or anyone grappling with life's complexities, these habits can serve as guiding principles towards a more fulfilling and dynamic lifestyle. I hope these habits can help you, or inspire you to  develop your own practices that enable you to flourish and enjoy the entirety of life's possibilities.

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