Are you on autopilot with your snacks?

Review the snacks you keep on hand around the house and at work. Do they help or harm your overall health goals?

I've learned that if there aren't any corn chips or soft drinks in the house and I am limited to lower fat & less sugary snacks – like fresh baby carrots, baked blue corn tortilla chips, apples, and soda water – I am just as happy and have a lot more energy.

Don't torture yourself by keeping a bunch of stuff around that you don't actually want yourself to eat. Make it easy to snack well.

Diversify your habit portfolio

How do you spend most of your day? Are you building some opposites into your free time to keep yourself balanced?

If you're getting where you want to be, your day includes lots of things you enjoy and are good at, so that doesn't mean you should be excluding those activities from your non-work life, but everyone should remember to stretch out into their full spectrum.

Think about your days and what might be under-emphasized in your life.

I'm a software product manager so I spend my workday in email, browsers, instant messenger, one-on-one conversations in my cube explaining software functionality, team meetings, and the occasional presentation to a large group.

What's missing? Being outside. Not sitting. Being away from the Web. Handling physical objects, even paper (other than to-do lists, I mean). Playing. Activities that do not have deadlines. Mental rest. Being aware of my body. Creating something completely under my control. Reading for pleasure. Writing for pleasure.

Right now spend an hour doing something to celebrate your whole self. And listen to your heart, not social norms, when you decide what you most want to do. Play with Legos, break out the crayons and color, start up that D&D campaign, practice some skateboard tricks, launch a kickball league, anything that makes you grin.

Clean paws

Discard those germs you keep picking up.

One of the best things you can do to stay healthy is get in the habit of washing your hands more often. Of course after using the toilet and before eating, but how about also as one of the things you do when you arrive home or at work? (I refer to this as "washing off the Muni").

Want to wash effectively? Start following this advice from my doctors.

Find your fool

Today you should look around for dumb stuff you do that creates chaos in your life. Find your bad habits and build better alternatives.

A few examples:

Foolish trick: regularly getting too busy at work and delaying or skipping lunch.
Antidote: stock some non-refrigeration-requiring healthy snacks and quick meals in your desk.

Foolish trick: pants are all wrinkled after the first wearing because you drop them on the floor.
Antidote: put a clothes butler rack (or a chair) right where you tend to fling things and drape things that get would otherwise get wrinkled neatly over it.

Foolish trick: buying expensive stuff and then regretting it
Antidote: take your credit card out of your wallet and store it at home (or at least seal the damn thing inside a paper onto which you've written pithy questions like "Why are you buying this?" "Will you still be happy about this purchase in a month?")

Drop the pop

Go read the can or bottle of the beverages you're drinking today. Here's a good example of the kind of thing some of you might find:

Carbonated water, caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, potassium benzoate, natural flavors, citric acid, caffeine.

What do those ingredients do to your body? Are you draining yourself or fueling yourself?

Drink more water and start cutting out the sugary (or fake sugary) caffeine bombs. If you're relying on the bump from your drinks to get you through the day, you're masking a bigger problem and making your body pay the price.

Getting Your Move On

Many, many people, myself among them, do not get enough exercise.

Now I'm not going to tell you that I can suddenly turn you into the kind of person who races out the door every day for a 10 mile run, but I think I can help you – and me – get moving more and gain the benefits of that activity.

You do want those benefits, believe me. Exercise strengthens your body, helps control your weight, and, thus, helps you live longer. Not only that but it cures depression.

Unfortunately, when you're depressed, you're also lethargic, but you don't have to go jogging for an hour to shake that off. Just walk down to the end of the block.

Go ahead and do it. Grab the recycling and take it down to the bin and then just keep going. Take a look around at what's happening on your street. Any new neighbors moving in? Flowers blooming in yards or windows? Kids playing? Houses getting painted? Garden gnomes? Trees budding? Animal tracks? Sleeping cats? Barking dogs? What's the exceedingly local news?

When you get to the corner, see how you feel and maybe you'll want to go all the way around the block. If not, don't worry about it. Come on home and do a little stretching inside.

Every day get 10 minutes of walking in. Just 10 minutes. That we can definitely do, you and I.

Electronic Tidy Week: Backdrop to Your Day

Teach your desktop and screen saver the Craftsman philosophy. You hear me harken back to this credo again and again – "Have nothing in your home which is not beautiful or useful or both" – but remember that even for Discardians it applies not only to eliminating those things which don't meet that standard, but also to enhancing your surroundings with beauty and utility.

In 2005 I started actively using the principles of Getting Things Done and found a really great chart that summarized the whole approach. So handy! Did you know that on the Mac you can make your desktop pattern use a pdf file? Yep, that's right. My work desktop on my secondary screen (the laptop when it's plugged into a monitor) is now a constant reminder to keep focused on the right next action. (Turns out it was a good thing I saved that chart when I first saw it – I can't find it anywhere anymore).

Okay, useful. Check. What about beautiful?

I find favorite photos of friends and scenery to be a great way to let go of stress and energize myself and a little variety to be the spice of life, particularly in this regard. Did you know that the Mac allows you to set a desktop pattern that changes randomly every 15 minutes drawing from a folder of images? This is very pleasing on many levels, most notably that my background pattern on my primary screen provides new views out of my windowless cube. Best of all, utility still comes into play because the color changes at the edges of my screens under all my open windows remind me that 15 minutes have gone by and serve as a little nudge to ask myself if I'm focused on the right activities.

Check into the functionality available on your computer and see what you can do to provide small pleasures, especially at work.

If, unlike me, you actually do work at your desk with the computer idling, then your screen savers are another good place to provide yourself with images that give you a positive feeling. Whether it's beautiful vacation vistas or kids making silly faces or handy references, personalizing your virtual space will give you a lift.

Be sweet to yourself

Society has plenty of ideas for what couples should do on Valentine's Day, but how about those of us who don't have a valentine?

Today is a reminder that no one knows what we like best better than we do ourselves and that we deserve that sweetness.

Here are some ideas for things you can do today to treat yourself right:

– If the line isn't long at the flower stand, buy yourself a beautiful bouquet. If the line is long, do it tomorrow or the next day instead. Men, you should do this too; flowers are fantastic things to have in your home.

– Do that thing that no one else will do with you or that's just better alone. Indulge that craving for weird/stinky foods. Play a round of your favorite convoluted solitaire game that takes up the whole dining table. Listen to that music that your friends don't like and sing along to it. Spend two and a half hours in the used record store.

– Go to that movie no one else seems to want to go see with you. Eat as much popcorn as you want.

– Get some of your favorite luxury beverage – premium coffee, exotic teas, gourmet hot cocoa – and enjoy it this evening while reading a book you really enjoy or watching an old favorite movie.

– Bath takers should go all out with the luxuries: scents, bubbles, conditioning oils, candles, whatever fabulousness you like best.

– Book a treat for yourself. Schedule a massage. Reserve a fun, sporty car for a weekend drive. Make a plan with a friend to try out that great restaurant. Plan a little vacation to somewhere you've always wanted to go.