Becoming healthier—which includes getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating well—will make you mentally healthier, which in turn will make you a better writer and help you produce quality work faster. Here are three ways you can be healthier, and how those ways will improve your writing.
Get Enough Sleep
The National Sleep Foundation advises young adults and adults to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night, and older adults to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Not getting enough sleep will, of course, result in drowsiness when you’re trying to write, and can lead to anxiety, depression, irritability, mood swings, and trouble concentrating. Lack of sleep impacts your creativity and problem-solving skills. You don’t want to be experiencing these negative effects when you’re trying to write! Even if you’re on a writing deadline, you may find that getting the sleep you need rather that getting up earlier to write will result in you being productive enough during the day to make up those hours you lost while sleeping. Of course, we understand needing to get up early and losing out on sleep every once in a while, but once it becomes a habit, your creativity and productivity will pay the price.
If you’re having trouble getting enough sleep, check out this blog post.
On the other hand, getting too much sleep is also a problem, beyond the extra hours you lose sleeping when you could be writing. Sleeping too much can increase risk of diabetes, contribute to obesity, and cause headaches and back pain. (Ever tried being creative when you have a headache? Not fun!) Oversleeping is also often a sign of other serious issues, such as depression, heart disease, obstructive sleep apnea, and vitamin D deficiency. If you are consistently sleeping too much, you may want to talk with your doctor to find out why.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise a week, or an “equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity” a week. Additionally, adults should do muscle-strengthening activities of at least moderate intensity that involve all major muscle groups at least 2 days a week. That may seem a bit overwhelming, but even a little bit of exercise is better than none. You could make exercise time doubly productive by taking a voice recorder on a walk with you and using it to record story ideas. Or you can use exercise time as a time to unplug and recharge by watching TV or reading a book while on the treadmill.
Exercise makes it easier to sleep and improves sleep quality, decreases anxiety, improves cognition, and reduces risk of dementia, all of which will make your writing flow better. Of course, there are physical benefits as well: lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer; stronger bones; better weight management; and a longer life.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends the following amounts of each food group per day (for details on what “cup- or ounce-equivalent” means, health.gov has several examples here): 2½ cup-equivalents of vegetables, 2 cup-equivalents of fruit, 6 ounce-equivalents of grains, 3 cup-equivalents of dairy, and 5½ ounce-equivalents of protein foods.
One easy way to start eating healthier is to be sure to have a fruit or vegetable with every meal, and replace one of your snacks with a fruit or vegetable. And if you don’t usually snack during the day, make yourself a healthy snack (fruit, vegetable, whole grain, yogurt, etc.), so that you’re not starving when you do get around to eating a meal. If you want to go further, you can also start buying and eating whole grains (bread, rice, flour, etc.) to replace the refined grains you may usually eat. Another way to eat healthy is to avoid packaged foods, which often contain preservatives and artificial flavor or coloring, as well as high levels of sugar, trans fat, and refined grains. Planning meals for the week, prepping vegetables and fruit in advance, and not keeping a lot of junk food around can help you make healthy food choices.
Eating well gives you a lot of the same physical benefits that exercising does: lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer; stronger bones; and better weight management. It also decreases fatigue and the risk for depression and improves memory. In other words, it helps sharpen your mind, which will help you write better.
Has being healthy helped you become a better writer? Do you have any tips for getting and staying healthy? Let us know in the comments below!