Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Best Habits for a Healthy, Happy Life from the Jungle Red Writers

Beautiful Tonka

LUCY BURDETTE: This week, I came across an interesting article about the 25 habits you need in life in order to succeed and be happy. It’s a great list including eating breakfast, exercising every day, journaling, taking vitamins, setting goals. I don’t agree with every single one of them, and looking at the list as a whole can seem overwhelming. But it got me thinking about what habits we at Jungle Red Writers feel are most important…

I’d put on my list: walking or biking most days with some strength training thrown in twice a week, eating lots of fruit and vegetables but then treats in moderation (actually, everything in moderation!,) spending time with people and animals whom you love, reading every night, and writing 1000 words a day, five days a week (if only.) Phew!

How about you Reds, off the top of your heads, what habits are most important to cultivate?

Hank and Jonathan in Paris
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  I love that you said off the top of our heads, because that'll be most revealing. 
  Walking. Eating less. Being kind and supportive. Writing my words. Taking time to think.  Really focusing on Jonathan. (You can pick your own person to focus on...) Being aware of the world. Looking at the sky and your garden (whatever it is) every day. Not forgetting to enjoy things.
 I just interviewed a doctor who says there are only three absolute things you need to do to be healthy: Eat less. Exercise more. Don't smoke. 
And sure, goals.  But I do not take vitamins. :-) 

RHYS BOWEN:  Lucy, I love your list. Agree with all of it. John and I walk every evening. His family motto is inter utrumque tene which means steer a middle course. I try to do that. Don't eat too much, don't drink too much. Love fruits. Love salads. Love spending time with my family. Work to keep up with friends. Laugh every day. Take time for a cat nap. Enjoy nature. Be
grateful. Give back...

HALLIE EPHRON: Hold the vitamins -- just eat well.

Lucy with Jerry and Hallie
#1 for me is being kind. I try to make it a habit, when my first inclination is often to sound smart instead. To my husband in particular who is a lovely human being whom I sometimes think I do not deserve. 
#2 Keep moving; try to do some kind of real exercise at least 3 times a week and walk every day. 
#3 Write, yes, my goal is 500 words a day. 
#4 Stop eating when I'm full, nap when I need to. 
#5 Tell my children how much I love them.

DEBORAH CROMBIE:You all have great lists, but I'm laughing about the "no vitamins." I've taken vitamins since I was a teenager, so probably shouldn't stop now...

Being kind is way up on my list these days, not only to family and friends, but making an extra effort to treat everyone with courtesy and respect. 
Eat less. 
Walk more. 
Enjoy my family
Enjoy my friends.
Enjoy my animals.
Enjoy nature. 
NAP. (For me this makes a huge difference in being happy AND productive.)
Read every day.
Oh, and the biggie. WRITE every day.

Red readers, what would you put on your lists?


  1. Many of the important things on my list have already been listed . . . kindness counts, give back, say “I love you” every day to the people I love, do my best, read every day, exercise more, eat less [and eat lots of vegetable and fruit] . . .
    And, one of my greatest pleasures, visit this blog each day . . . .

  2. I think the basics have been pretty well covered. Eating less and better, walking, finding joy in your family and friends. Also, I like to take a few minutes each day, at breakfast, when I say the blessing, to remember those in prayer who are in special need. It's not that I'm such a good person, but remembering others' troubles and pain helps me remember that it's not all about me on any day. Something I've worked on and am doing pretty well with it is to make time for someone when they call. No matter what I'm doing, I stop it and talk to a friend or family member, giving them my attention and focus. Of course, there are times when I have to call someone back, but I learned the hard way that you can regret not taking the time. I know I was young and had much to learn, but I sure do wish I'd given my mother, who has been gone for some time now, my focus more when she called, as we lived 250 miles apart after I married. So, getting in the habit to be present in the moment when someone wants to talk has been important for me. And, of course the habit of reading every day is something that helps to sustain me. Oh, and I certainly agree with you, Joan, about visiting this blog daily.

  3. Lovely. And so many shared habits/goals, which I share too. I would add, "Take time to pause." Whenever I eat with one or more family members, including when guests are present, we hold hands around the table and have a few moments of silent blessing before we eat. I often want that to go on for longer than it can, given that food is hot and people are hungry. I don't have a daily meditation practice, but those few moments make a big difference in my day. Also, remember to breathe deeply.

  4. Instantly adopting John's family motto to go with my own: be a responsible citizen, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Those three things together pretty much take care of it.

  5. That list of 25 habits is a bit overwhelming but I agree with most of them.

    I definitely do the first one: wake up early (before 5 am), even as a retiree! I smile and laugh a lot. I eat healthy most of the time, and I get plenty of rest. And since I do not drive, I aim for 25,000-30,000 steps every other day when I do half the steps with my walking/hiking group and 12,000 steps on my "off days". And I definitely READ...some say probably too much.

    I saw a Tibetan proverb on FB recently that is apt:
    "The secret of living well and longer is: eat half, walk double, laugh triple and love without measure".

  6. Such great additions from all of you--thank you! Thank you Joan and Kathy for listing visiting the Reds:)

    Kathy, such a meaningful point about being present for people in your life. It's simply not that easy when in the middle of raising kids or making a living etc. I bet we all have SOME kind of regrets--but forgiving ourselves, and learning from the past, and moving on is important too, don't you think?

    Yes Karen, be a responsible citizen--so key!

    And Grace, I doubt that everyone can morph into an early bird...sounds like you've adopted a lot of healthy habits and love the Tibetan proverb.

  7. I forgot to mention that the Isleib family motto, which is not as healthy as Rhys's John's family motto:


    1. Fabulous! Exercise,Animals, The Ocean, Sunshine, Reading, and Love
      I eat and drink whatever I want. (Just not as much as I want)

  8. Wake up early? No… Cannot do it. Grace, any tips for this? Or did you just start waking up? When do you go to bed early too? I can't do that either :-)

  9. So when I do wake up early, for an event or a flight, I am always so thrilled that I have so much extra time!

  10. Hank: I think it's just natural for me. I used to go to work at 7:00-7:30 for most of my jobs. And when you add a 1.5 hour commute each way...then you just have to get up at 4:30 or 5:00! But even in retirement, I rise with the dawn (and without an alarm clock). But I must admit, I am usually asleep by 10:30. It's rare that I stay up past midnight or 1:00 am...and I pay the price since my eyes still snap open at 5:00!

  11. Start the day with quiet time, to pray, reflect, enjoy your first cup of coffee or tea. Always treat and love your family better than you do your co- workers. Enjoy and be satisfied what you have. Find a passion, something you really enjoy doing..writing, crafting, sewing. Look for beauty.

    1. Love finding your passion, and looking for beauty. Great additions!

  12. Getting up early is natural for me, too. Even in college I couldn't stay up all night to finish a paper. I did better when I went to bed at midnight and then woke up at 3 or 4 to finish. But like Grace, I am rarely up even until 11 pm.

    1. Everyone knows I'm a dud at night LOL! And I don't get up as early as you and Grace either. But sleep is crucial and not everybody needs the same amount.

  13. Look for beauty and goodness around you. Little "life savors" are a joy of life.

  14. Get lots of sleep, eat well, enjoy good cocktails in moderation, spend time with the people I love, exercise, get outdoors, eat chocolate, pay strangers compliments, and read, read, read.

    I'm with Hank on the waking up early piece: I don't like it! I think I'm a teenager at heart and could sleep the day away if given the chance!

  15. Grace, love the Tibetan proverb.

    For me, waking early is six. I'd love it if I could stay in bed until 7:30 every morning, but alas -- day job.

    Vitamins? I only take vitamin D and that's on the advice of my neurologist.

    I can walk more these days, but not nearly as long as I'd like (and what I'd really like to do is hike in the woods). I've stared reading/listening to a daily meditation for Advent. It's nice. I wonder if I can keep it up after the season. I need daily meditations for busy women (I think that exists).

    My list? Get 8 hours of sleep. Kiss your family and tell them you love them. Read. Write for at least an hour a day. Go easy on the sweets - but eat the damn brownie/truffle/goodie if you REALLY want it!

  16. No rules. Do we need rules to tell us to do the right thing? How can we be flexible as needed if we are constrained by a formula?

    Mottos, though, like the kind on your school crest, can inspire healthy identity and behavior. My two are "Cor ad cor loquitur" (oh no is the spelling right?) which is a reminder to speak heart to heart, and "Veritas," a reminder that learning is a search for truth.

    I'm forgetting one from UCR. How annoying, but now I recall not enjoying myself there. It was boring, back then, at least. One of my friends from graduate school is a professor there now, and she tells me it's okay now that she is there with her fly-away hair and – yes, really – jungle red lipstick, which she has worn since the day I met her, when she called out to me from her third floor dorm room window yelling, "Hey! Wanna see a picture of my mother?" as she pointed at the back cover of a book she was holding. Who could resist an introduction like that?

    The only thing I didn't like about school at all levels was having to prove I hadn't cheated on exams. This usually involved an invitation to chat with teaching fellow or professor where an oral exam was disguised as a chat about the course material. I think I must have looked like the "different" police recruit in Louise Penny's books who can't possibly be smart. Look at her behavior. She never studies, and on, and on.

    I have never been inclined to promote myself. Take me or leave me. I can't be bothered to prove myself except in those things that require a standard for public trust. Yet, I find myself today planning for a visit in January with one of my graduate psychology professors who wants to come say hello to Steve and me before he moves back to Japan. He was one who gave me one of those oral exams disguised as chatty talks. I'm going to ask him why he did that. He'll tell me. The three of us have been good friends for years now. I'm inclined to watch him think about how to answer but suspect he will be straightforward.

  17. No habits here. I'm pretty much flying by the seat of my pants most of the time which is exactly how I like it.
    I do try to live in the moment, laugh with my people as much as I can, and let all the work and chores just
    fit themselves around the fun. Life it too short for drudgery.

  18. I'm with Hank and Ingrid on the waking up early. I think that stipulation for being happy and successful is a little unfair! I usually wake by about 7:30--if not, the dogs will get me up pretty soon after--but I seldom get to bed before midnight. In my defense, I do some of my best work in the late afternoon, when you early, early birds are done for the day.

    I like Ingrid's "enjoy good cocktails" too:-)

    You are all inspiring, and I am in awe of Grace's steps!!!

  19. Debs: Although I do wake up very early, I do not think this is required to be happy and successful, so I was surprised to see it listed as habit #1. There are early birds (larks) and night owls for a reason...whatever works for you is the key.

    And to clarify, I managed to reach 10,000 a day while working, and have only ramped up my step goal only since I am retired. You do realize that it takes me @4.5-5 hours of walking time to do this, right?

  20. Wonderful comments, everyone!

    Lucy, another great post! I would say all of the above on your list. I want to add that I read the comics in the morning paper. I try to listen to a book on tape for auditory training. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables! That's how I lost 25 pounds in one year. And walking at least a mile daily helped too!

    And I agree about everything in moderation.

    Grace, I get what you mean about getting up early. Now I am in the habit of getting up early. I try to get up an hour earlier than everyone else so I can spend that hour listening to books on tape for auditory training.


    1. Thanks Diana. You made losing 25 pounds sound easy. And love your comment about the comics. I recently stayed two nights with Hallie and her lovely husband Jerry. Sunday morning, you better not be reaching for those comics!!

  21. Kathy Reel, thank you for affirming a choice I made this morning. While not a call, a text from a dear friend for which I stopped everything, thought about her words and the words with which I needed to respond. (What I wanted to do was put on my Wonder Woman outfit and fly to her rescue. Not the right thing to do.) And texting was the comfortable thing to do as that is our primary way to talk to each other because of time a distance.
    And thank you, Jungle Reds, for this blog which lets "strangers" support each other.

  22. Two rules:

    Walk the dogs every single day if the chill factor is above zero

    Stay off Facebook.

  23. Lucy, you made such a good point about it being hard to be present for all those important to you when you're raising children or working full-time. I was raising children when I didn't talk on the phone to my mother long enough, and I should forgive myself for that. I'm happy that I now have that time to be present, and that I learned its essential place in my life. Elisabeth, how wonderful that you were there for your friend, and there are people I text with, who seem to prefer that method of communication.

    Grace, I'm with Hank and Debs on the rising early. In fact, I'm sure I go beyond their aversion to it. I am the true night owl, staying up until at least 3 a.m. Occasionally, I will go to be a bit before or a bit after that. I think it was 4:00 this morning, but I'm reading Darktown by Thomas Mullen, and what else could I do. Of course, I am able to sleep late the next morning, so it's a pattern that still lets me function. There was a time when I had to be at school by 7:30, and those days of working wouldn't allow my natural night owl to exist. I do admire those who rise early, but I just don't think I'll ever get there again.

    Oh, and I certainly agree that laughter is essential to having a healthy lifestyle. One of the best compliments (whether it was meant that way or not, hahaha) was someone coming up to me in a group and saying that she knew I was there because she heard my laugh. Of course, on the other hand, I have been told I cackle often. Hahaha

  24. Kathy: Yes, we are opposites on the daily rise and sleep cycle but we interact well here at JRW just fine. And I think we both greeted Dru Ann on her daily FB post today at 4:00 am... but you were going off to sleep, and I had just gotten up to start my day lol!!

  25. I agree with Mary about taking Vitamin D. Only after a family member came down with Crohn's disease did we learn there is a direct link between low Vitamin D levels and gastrointestinal diseases - colitis, Crohn's, and colon cancer. If you really hate vitamins, your doctor can test your Vitamin D level at your annual physical. I don't think there is any way to get enough Vitamin D from food.

  26. I would like to say that just reading "25 things" stressed me out! Be Generous is up there. Take care of ourselves is important too (and while it's self-centered, I've found I'm much better support to others when I'm in a good mental & physical place myself).

  27. Do work that is meaningful to you. Be kind. Be active. Read. Write. Be aware of nature and get out into nature.