6 Tips to Stay Healthy as a Software Developer
Your health should come before your work
Extended periods of sitting increases your risk of chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. It can also be bad for your mental health.
It’s essential to develop healthy habits as early as you can to counter these risks. I’ll share six crucial tips that helped me improve my health as a software developer.
1. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is underrated. It’s the foundation of your health. So why do we need it so badly? There are various reasons — these are a few found by scientists:
- All kinds of tasks appear to be more challenging when you’re deprived of sleep
- The ability to recall and use newly learned information relies on sleep, studies have found
- Scientists also discovered that sleep helps your immune system function best. While sleeping, immune cells, known as T cells, spend that time racing around our bodies.
- Sleep loss triggers the same brain mechanisms that make us sensitive to anxiety. In one study where the participants were sleep-deprived for just one night, their anxiety levels increased by 30% the next day.
So how can you improve your sleep? It differs for everyone. What worked for me was going to bed earlier, so I could sleep 7-8 hours each night.
2. Eat and Drink Healthy
The average American eats roughly 17 tablespoons of added sugar every day, with almost half coming from soda. Soda is easy to take in, and it doesn’t make you feel satiated that much, while it still contains lots of calories. Stop drinking soda!
Another one:Switch your snacks to fruit. I’ll admit that often I’m just too lazy to prepare the fruit, even though I love eating it. It’s simply too hard to resist other easy-to-grab alternatives.
I solved my lack of fruit eating by making it part of my daily routine. When I leave for work, I take two pieces of fruit with me. Because fruit has become an easy option — I put it right in front of me on my desk — I eat fruit instead of getting an unhealthy snack.
3. Watch Your Posture
Here are some basics regarding a proper workplace:
- Use a decent desk — it should be height-adjustable
- Use a good chair that’s highly adjustable
- Position your monitor, mouse, and keyboard correctly
Properly set up your desk, chair, and monitor height and distance. How to do this correctly is beyond the scope here; consult a professional or google around for tips and tricks. There are plenty.
4. Don’t Get Cold
Even when it’s hot outside, we often feel cold. There are two major reasons for this:
- You’re sitting inside an air-conditioned office most of the time
- You’re not moving
The big problem here is we often ignore this slightly cold feeling. However, if you’re cold, your body tenses. A tense body is no good for your posture, your muscles, and so on. Luckily, the solution is simple.
Always bring a vest, jacket, sweater, or whatever works for you to keep yourself warm and comfortable behind that desk.
Move that body — it’s super important. Sitting still all day has some serious downsides:
- It increases your risk of chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers
- It can lead to problems with your hip joints
- It can cause problems with your back, especially if you consistently sit with poor posture
- It can also be bad for your mental health — the risk of both anxiety and depression is higher in people that sit more
- It causes stiffness in your neck and shoulders
You don’t have to join a gym — I know, I hate them, too. Simple changes in your routines and habits will already reduce the risks involved with sitting too much:
- Walk or cycle to work
- Take a walk during lunchtime
- Use software like Stretchly or Workrave to remind yourself to take regular breaks
The big trick is to make your workout part of your daily routine
It doesn’t matter too much what you do: walking, running, cycling, going to the gym, or doing a workout at home using an app. Find out what works for you, and don’t give up on it.
Don’t forget your mind. Mindfulness meditation is a simple way to start taking care of it.
Anybody can meditate. There’s no magic to it, and it’s not difficult. But it does require practice. You can’t become mindful by just reading about it for the same reasons you can’t become a guitar virtuoso by just reading about it.
This is how it works. While trying to be present and focusing on one thing, usually your breathing, your brain will wander off:
- Thoughts will pop into your head
- Sounds may distract you
- You will feel an itch somewhere in your body — or maybe some pain or discomfort
You will continuously lose focus! And that’s a good thing; it’s exactly what mindfulness is about. It’s about noticing these distractions, becoming aware of them, and then letting them go, only to regain focus again. What you’re training is attention to your body and mind.
Thoughts and feelings you’d previously have ignored, not noticed at all, or, perhaps, freaked out about, will now be met with a gentle, nonjudgemental, observing, and curious mind. You learn to create space between a thought or feeling and your response to it. You’ll choose your response wisely, instead of instinctively.
I try to meditate daily, just for ten minutes. Meditation is easy; making it a routine is hard. But once it’s a routine, you’ll reap the benefits.
If you don’t want to spend money on a mindfulness course, just start with one of the excellent apps out there — Headspace and Calm are two I often hear about. They do a great job of easing you into mindfulness and meditation.
The Bottom Line
The most sustainable way to get healthy and stay healthy is to adjust your daily routines and habits. Making changes that have a positive effect each and every day outweighs all the other options in the long run.