Elevate Your Inmate Game: Building Habits to Help You Seize the Day

By Leo Cardez

From PHN Issue 45, Winter 2021

There’s a note on my planner that I update each year on my birthday with annual increasing numbers. On my 40th birthday, eight. On my 41st birthday, nine. And so forth. That number is how many healthy habits I live by. I add one new habit each year. This goal I set each year is a gift I give to myself. I might be getting older, but I am doing something that can help me live longer and makes me a better and happier person overall. My good habits have increased each year, often replacing old, bad habits. I love the idea of becoming a better version of myself. There may come a day when I won’t be able to adopt a new healthy habit. That felt all the more real this year with the COVID-19 pandemic. But I try to take this in
stride, realize it is about the journey, take a deep breath and try again… and then again. Sticking with new habits can be difficult, but it is all about taking one small step at a time and understanding that it is okay to fail, as long as you try again.

I have done a lot of research about healthy living and tried all the recommendations that I could. Below you will find a list of my top tips—those that have worked best for me. I wholeheartedly recommend them all, but remember to start small, and try one at a time. I’m living proof that small steps work towards arriving at a better destination. It’s never too early—or too late—to adopt a new healthy habit into your life, but you have to choose them every day. Over and over and over until they become automatic.

  1. Start your day with a cup of ice-cold water. This fights overnight dehydration and jump starts your immune system. Drink at least eight more cups of water throughout the day.
  2. Eat the right food as much as you can: like protein, veggies, and fruits. Avoid sweet or salty processed foods.
  3. Read at least 30 minutes everyday. Fiction or nonfiction. To learn something, or just for fun.
  4. Do mentally challenging puzzles (sudoku or crosswords, etc.) at least 30 minutes a day. Or challenge yourself to learn a new language or study a new topic.
  5. Connect with others at least 30 minutes a day. Play games, walk and talk, call home—the key is to avoid self-isolating.
  6. Listen to music at least 30 minutes a day, especially when exercising.
  7. Be grateful. Find five things to be grateful for every morning and evening—even if they are small things. Start a gratitude journal by writing these things down every day. Positive thinking can literally rewire your brain.
  8. Do something physical for at least 20 minutes every day. Exercising, cleaning your cell, or walking to chow—the point is to move.
  9. Limit TV watching to no more than three hours a day, and try to watch educational programming when possible.
  10. Clean and organize. There are whole books dedicated to the benefits of organizing—even just making your bed every day can have a positive effect.
  11. Find ways to connect with nature as much as possible (yard, watching nature shows, reading travel/nature zines). As humans we have a deep, instinctual connection with nature.
  12. Sleep 7-9 hours a night. The benefits of getting enough sleep are endless.
  13. Care about yourself by taking care of yourself. All of you: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
  14. Give yourself time to create and stick to your new habits. Research shows creating and sticking to new habits takes at least 90 days.
  15. Start now

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