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Eight Tips, Tweaks, and Hacks for a Healthier, Happier Life

You’ve probably heard about the standard American diet (SAD) because there’s so much research now showing how detrimental it is to people’s health. But the standard American lifestyle (SAL), which includes SAD, is a more holistic look at the factors contributing to skyrocketing rates of chronic disease – in spite of the popular perception that modern medicine can keep us healthy. None of these habits are limited to Americans, but they are certainly pervasive in our society. Read on for tips, tweaks, and hacks to optimize your health.

1. Standard American Diet

Let’s start with SAD. The proliferation of junk food stores is a pretty good indication of the problem. There’s a lot of money to be made selling people snacks that have little to no nutritional value. Not to be outdone, grocery stores now appear to have more “convenience food” on shelves than real food – aisles and aisles of colorful packages filled with ultra-processed and artificial ingredients, half of which you can’t even pronounce. They are designed to be addictive and they ruin your appetite for real food, they ruin your microbiome (a key component of your immune system), and they ruin your health. This has created an obesity crisis which is leading to all kinds of suffering and illnesses that are causing untold numbers of premature deaths. As SAD spreads around the world, so does disease in its wake.

The solution is simple, but requires new habit formation. Eat real food! You know, the stuff God created to nourish us. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store: produce, meat, dairy, whole grains, etc. Better yet, grow and raise your own because even real food from the grocery store can have many invisible chemical ingredients that are problematic. The challenge with real food is it takes a little bit longer to prepare a meal than popping a package in the microwave. But this is preventative medicine. If you think it’s hard, wait until you see how hard everything is when your health crashes.

2. Drugs

I’m not even talking about the illegal ones. Staggering numbers of Americans are walking around on mind-altering drugs that have been prescribed by a licensed doctor. Not to mention the mini pharmacy that so many people keep in their medicine cabinet and use on a daily basis to treat all their symptoms. These drugs all have side effects!

If your doctor is a drug pusher, the solution is to get a different doctor. Rather than just treating symptoms, you want a doctor that will find the cause of your symptoms. If you solve the root problem, your symptoms will naturally disappear. Many commonly-prescribed drugs become totally unnecessary when you simply change the standard American lifestyle as we’re discussing here.

3. Stress

Even the ancients new that stress is bad for you, but the modern American lifestyle is filled with it! From running the rat race, to relationship problems, to keeping up with the Jones’s, to the bad news media – it sometimes seems there’s always something to worry about. Stress puts your body in a state of emergency that is helpful when you’re in an actual emergency. But in that state a number of important systems in your body are put on standby – systems that are needed for regular maintenance to keep you healthy. Constant anxiety can be a source of disease all by itself and it’s also a leading contributor to many prominent diseases.

The first step to solving this problem is identifying your sources of stress. This can be more difficult than it sounds if it’s become so habitual that it seems normal. For example, if you regularly consume media that focuses on problems without offering real solutions, you may not be conscious of the effect it’s having on you. It can create worry, hopelessness, anxiousness and many unhealthy emotions. Carefully choose the influences you allow into your mind and change your self-talk to become solution oriented. Here’s a Bible quote I “medicate” my mind with on a daily basis:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Here’s another one of my favorite verses that is calming and comforting:

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

4. Sedentary

Is there a trophy for laziness? It seems some people are competing for it. Can we make our lives any easier, cushier, and more convenient? We have electronic servants for just about everything! An average daily routine doesn’t have to vary a lot from rolling out of bed, standing in a shower, getting dressed, eating breakfast out of a package, sitting in a vehicle on the way to work, sitting in front of a screen at work, sitting in a vehicle on the way home, eating dinner out of a package, and sitting in front of a screen before rolling back into bed. I’ve been there! Out of hundreds of muscles in the body, most go unused. This creates sluggishness in all those unused tissues.

Using muscles draws blood and nutrients to them and flushes out toxins and other wastes. This builds strength, endurance, and energy! Variety is important. The way I started working my way out of this slump is with lots of little choices (eg. taking the stairs instead of elevators, parking further from building entrances rather than as close as possible, doing more things manually rather than acquiring more electronic servants). The best way to get more movement in your life is by doing things you enjoy. Maybe you have a friend you can play tennis or basketball with, or maybe you can find a walking buddy, or maybe take a cardio class with some folks. The more the better! If you’re a people person, do it with others. If not, maybe do more task-oriented activities such as gardening or raising animals such as chickens for eggs and/or meat (stacking benefits with producing your own food!).

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5. Screens

It used to be just the television and movie theaters. Then we added computers and now we have cell phones that replace numerous other things such as alarm clocks, books, calculators, calendars, cameras, day planners, games, maps, notepads, photo albums, radios, relationships, yellow pages, etc. The effect of this on movement alone is significant. One can spend hours on their phone, often with poor posture that leads to back pain, moving almost nothing but fingers. Not a lot different than a couch potato with a remote control in hand. But then there’s the popular media that streams through those screens and often promotes the standard American lifestyle we’re discussing the pitfalls of: rat race, junk food, bad news, materialism, selfishness, etc.

How can you reduce your screen time? It may seem difficult, but awareness is the first step. Pay attention to how much time you spend on screens as well as how you spend it, including your posture, and begin prioritizing what’s important. Screens aren’t going away, they’re proliferating! But you can choose what content gets your attention and also replace at least some screen time with more beneficial activities such as real relationships and real food. Spend more time living your own life than living virtually through others’.

6. Social Media

This is a fairly new phenomena but we already have teenagers who’ve never known life without it. The results of this massive social experiment have been showing up for years and are increasingly alarming. So much so that some states are considering legislation banning it for minors just as they’ve done with things like alcohol and pornography because of their horrible consequences. Social media has been designed to be addictive and wastes enormous amounts of time; it ruins attention spans and the brain’s ability to think deeply; it displaces real life relationships, responsibilities, and social skills with fake relationships and feelings of loneliness, depression, and inadequacy (compared to others’ staged postings); it has been blamed for excess suicides (particularly among youth); it has proven to be a tool of bullying, stalking, spying, privacy-invading data selling, devious advertising, mass manipulation, censorship, fake news, election tampering, and more.

Social media obviously leads to more screen time and is responsible for much of the mind-numbing junk that comes through screens. The solution is similar to the screen problem. Ask yourself: What’s really important in life? Then budget your time accordingly. Make a list of your priorities (eg. God, family, country, responsibilities, healthy lifestyle). Then map out a week of your time making sure there’s room for the important things while minimizing or eliminating frivolous time wasters. Follow your time budget/schedule each week and make tweaks as needed.

7. Materialism

It’s mind boggling how much stuff typical Americans accumulate over their lifetime. A lot of that is driven by all the advertising on all the screens that are everywhere. It leads to a lot of clutter, a lot of storage space, and often a lot of mildew and mold. When you have a lot of stuff, it’s hard to keep it all clean – dust free. Mold spores are in the dust and whenever there’s sufficient humidity, it starts growing by feeding on the dust. Dark places with still air – like storage spaces – are especially conducive to mold growth. This contributes to unhealthy indoor air quality, but so does all the stuff people acquire that offgasses VOCs. Not to mention the varieties of common chemical cleaners used inside. And the standard American lifestyle spends inordinate amounts of time indoors in this toxic environment. Long-term exposure to sufficient levels of indoor air pollution is another contributing factor to poor health.

Changing your mindset about what’s worth acquiring and what’s worth keeping around is a good way to start solving this problem. Jesus taught, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15) You may not have considered that toxic air could be a consequence of greed. Maybe it’s time for some serious de-cluttering. Maybe that means having a garage sale or maybe giving your excess to the poor. Tis the season for spring cleaning! While you’re at it let the sun and fresh air in. My wife and I have developed the discipline of not buying much of anything unless we need it. A helpful rule we’ve adopted to help make decisions when considering purchases is: When in doubt, err on the side of minimalism.

8. Sleep

With the crazy American lifestyle we’ve been discussing, who’s got time for sleep? This is another real problem that many people don’t realize is hurting their health. All of the factors we discussed above can contribute to poor sleep, and as they are remedied, it leads to better, more restful, and more healing sleep. Consider the indoor air quality we were just talking about. We spend about one third of our life sleeping – or at least trying to! It’s important to sleep in a healthy environment so your body can perform vital maintenance to keep you healthy.

To improve your sleep quality, eat healthy food at appropriate times (hours before bedtime). Stay away from drugs that can mess up your sleep. Get the stress out of your life and especially avoid anything that will get you wound up before bedtime when you should be winding down. Adequate movement during the day tires your body out and makes sleep more welcoming. Avoid screens an hour or so before bedtime or use a blue light blocker (unnatural blue light signals to your brain that it’s daytime, not sleep time) and don’t allow the stimulation than comes through screens to encroach on your sleep time. Bedtime is not a good time to be scrolling through social media feeds. Bedtime is a good time to shut devices off.


Sadly, the people who need this information the most will probably never see it – unless you help get the word out! If you’ve found these tips helpful, please share generously. We hit on some of the most common problems with the standard American lifestyle. But we didn’t just focus on problems. In every case we shared some possible solutions. What are some problems you’ve noticed with the standard American lifestyle and what are some possible solutions? Please share in the comments below.

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