March 25, 2014
"The state of our health affects every facet of our life." —Barbara B. Smith
I laid my textbook in front of me and rubbed my eyes. Because I worked while I was a full-time student, I had very specific hours set aside each day to study and work on my assignments. But lately, it seemed like every time I sat down to read I became unbearably sleepy. My already-busy schedule didn’t have room for naps to accommodate my late nights, visits to the gym were becoming more and more infrequent, and my criteria for food preparation was quick and easy — not exactly a nutritious diet. I realized that I wasn’t taking care of myself physically. If I didn’t change my habits, more than just my grades would suffer the consequences.
The Importance of Healthy Living
Barbara B. Smith, the tenth general president of the Relief Society said, “The state of our health affects every facet of our life — our feeling of personal well-being, our approach to work, our social interactions — even our service to the Lord.”1 I have found that a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and regular exercise does have a dramatic influence on my ability to stay focused and energized throughout my day.
Although we can’t always control the condition of our physical health, there is a lot we can do to stay as fit and energized as possible. The Missionary Handbook says, “Maintain your health so that you can serve with all your heart, might, mind, and strength.”2 Our health doesn’t just affect us, but it also has an influence on our ability to serve others, and, as Sister Smith stated, it affects our ability to serve the Lord.
Get Enough Sleep, But Not Too Much
The Lord commanded, “Cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:124). The Sleep Health Foundation has found that a person gets higher-quality rest if they sleep when their circadian rhythm is at its lowest points. This is usually from 10:00 p.m. – 5:00 a.m. The old saying, “Early to bed, early to rise” is a good rule to live by. Oversleeping can have the same consequences as not getting enough sleep — it leaves us feeling groggy and fatigued. Going to bed a few hours before midnight and waking up early may be tough at first, but it provides more energy in the long run.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Sometimes a busy schedule makes it hard to keep a balanced diet. However, eating healthy has a direct effect on being a successful student. The Chicago Tribune published a study of children in elementary school. “Students who ate an adequate amount of fruit, vegetables, protein, and fiber, with less calorie intake from fat, did better on their literacy test than those eating foods high in salt and saturated fat.”3
Starting each day with a well-rounded breakfast is crucial to maintaining energy throughout the day. Eating food without considering its health benefits could deprive us of receiving the nutrients we need to keep us feeling alert.
While sugary foods tend to trigger rapid energy surges, they affect your blood sugar and cause you to crash more quickly. In her article, “What Foods Make You Feel Energized,” August McLaughlin gives examples of foods that stimulate lasting energy levels. Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and fatty fish have the antioxidants, healthy fats, and nutritious carbohydrates to give you that extra boost you need to make it through your day.4 Processed foods may seem more convenient, but you can accomplish much more when you feel energized and alert.
A healthy meal or snack doesn’t have to be elaborate. Instead of a bag of chips, try a handful of almonds. Instead of a pre-packaged processed dinner thrown together, try a sweet potato and a colorful salad that can be whipped up just as quickly. Getting creative and preparing meals ahead of time can make it so healthy eating is fun and convenient.
Dehydration can make you feel sleepy, so it’s important to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Keeping water with you is a good reminder to drink up. While drinking at least eight glasses of water a day is fairly standard, a person may need to drink more depending on their level of activity.
Moving more and vigorous exercise are great ways to increase energy. Research shows that college students who regularly exercise have higher GPAs than students who don’t.5 Many people feel their schedules are already full and that there just isn’t enough time in the day for exercise. However, setting time aside specifically for working out makes it possible, even if it’s brief. Wake up thirty minutes earlier, jog during your lunch break, or follow a quick twenty-minute exercise video from home after dinner. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Once a routine is established, endurance will increase.
Although establishing a healthy routine may seem difficult, running on empty is a lot harder. Your BYU-Pathway Worldwide experience will be more enjoyable when you are well-rested and when you get the nutrients you need. Not only will your grades improve, but you will find that you are energized, healthy, and happy.
^ Barbara B. Smith, “Good Health—A Key To Joyous Living,” Ensign or Liahona, Oct. 1978
^ Missionary Handbook (2006), 43
^ Joanne Capano, “Nutritious Meals Make Better Grades,” Chicago Tribune Business, 15 Oct. 2009
^ August McLaughlin, “What Foods Make You Feel Energized?” 2014
^ Tara Parker-Pope, “Vigorous Exercise Linked With Better Grades,” New York Times, 3 Jun. 2010