Incorporating healthy habits now can lead to a lifelong commitment to realizing one’s best self. While the journey will always have its ups and downs, there are a number of things you can do now to experience more peaks than troughs. Here are seven tips to staying healthy in college and beyond.
1. Clean Your Living Space Often
Cleaning your living space regularly is a good habit to get into. Little things like cleaning your surfaces, door knobs, keyboards, and mouse can go a long way in keeping your living space sanitary. Be sure to clean the bathroom and bed sheets regularly too..
During Winter, air circulation in rooms can be poor because windows and doors are kept shut, meaning more dust, dander, and other sneeze-inducing particles. Although it can be cringing to spend hard earned money on things like basic cleaning supplies and a vacuum, these necessities will pay dividends in keeping your living space clean and healthy.
2. Get 8 Hours of Sleep Every Night
The quality of our sleep impacts our lives. From blood pressure and stress levels to immunity and mental clarity, sleep is one of the most important aspects to staying healthy in college. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, consider these tips:
- Stay active throughout the day, through exercise, walking, or playing a sport.
- Turn off all “screens” one hour before going to bed.
- Set an alarm at night to notify you when it’s time to get ready for bed (and hold yourself accountable.)
- Minimize intake of caffeine and stimulants during the afternoon and evening hours.
- Read, draw, meditate, do Yoga, or experiment with other ways to help “turn-off” your mind as your approach sleep, all without your digital screens.
For most college students, there’s really no excuse to not getting 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night. It all comes down to being disciplined, staying healthy in other aspects of your life, and knowing when it’s time to unplug and checkout.
3. Exercise & Keep Active
If regular exercise is not already a part of your life now, then make it so. Movement, deep breathing, muscular exertion, sweating and all of the other wonderful things that come with exercise can profoundly enhance your life in many ways. Exercise and keeping active, whether in the form of strength training or cardio, positively influences sleep quality and cognitive performance. It can also be motivating to lead healthier lifestyles in aspects of diet, water intake, and being more in-tune with one’s body. Regular exercise can also help strengthen your immunity, helping you ward-off the common cold.
4. Eat Whole Food Meals & Snacks
Despite being obvious, the importance of diet and nutrition cannot be overstated in maintaining optimal health. With virtually every meal, college students have the freedom to choose what they want to eat. Like sleep and exercise, diet and nutrition will ultimately dictate cognitive performance, physical wellbeing, and overall immunity.
Adopting healthy eating habits requires mindful decision making, commitment, and being creative. The salad bar might not sound as appetizing as the pizza, but it offers more variety, creativity, and flavor and color to your meal. Taking out processed foods like pizza, burgers and fries will leave you feeling cleaner, lighter and more energized.
Incorporating more whole foods in your diet, and in creative ways, extends beyond what’s available at the university cafe. Students in particular should embrace grocery shopping and the experience that comes with proactive meal planning. It goes a long way to have healthy, nutritious, and protein rich snacks on hand when you leave for a long day of class. Not only will you keep your brain and body optimized, but you’ll minimize the stress that comes with hunger and low energy.
5. Have a Party Strategy
Social gatherings, sporting events, dance parties, and other forms of nightlife make up the liberations that come with being a college student. Going out on the weekends can be both fun and entertaining, but there’s often a turning point of when it can be unhealthy. That may be calling it a night at 11PM instead of 1AM, drinking more water to stay hydrated, being smart about who you socialize with, or using your intuition to avoid situations that feel unfit or unsafe.
The impact of staying out late in itself can have negative repercussions on sleep, immunity, mental clarity, and overall energy. The combination of other party-going behaviors can be even more physically and emotionally consuming. While you don’t have to completely forgo attending parties and social gathers, it’s important to strike a balance and listen to your body.
6. Stay Hydrated
A good habit to get into now as a college student is to bring water with you everywhere you go. Unless you’re attending a function that will have water on hand, bringing your own will naturally prompt you to drink more often. Staying hydrated is just as important as diet and nutrition. Water both cleanses the body and transports vitamins and nutrients to give you energy. It's also important for your mental and physical health, particularly your muscles, skin, and joints.
If you're not adequately hydrated, your body will not be able perform at its optimal level. You may feel hungry, fatigued, or dizzy, or experience muscle cramps, dry skin, and other symptoms. Staying hydrated is especially important after exercise and nourishing your body for a good night’s sleep.
7. Listen To Your Body
The final tip for staying healthy in college is the most important - listening to your body. Acknowledging when something doesn’t feel right, whether physical, mental, or emotional, is the critical first step to overcoming it. If you’re feeling a cold coming on, then sleep and take vitamin C. If you’re feeling pain in your neck or low back, you may want to avoid rigorous exercise.
Going to college is a significant stage in life that involves a lot of decision making. The choices we make and habits we cultivate during college will ultimately influence who we become in the future. Adopting good habits and staying healthy in college will serve you well now, and down the line.