Long hours of sitting in front of a computer, coding all day long and sometime all night long, dealing with bugs and deadlines. Being a software engineer is definitely not a very healthy profession.
I’ve been traveling a lot to meet a lot of developers communities around Europe and US. One thing i’ve noticed so frequently is that many developers treat themselves as machines. They totally give up on how they feel physically think that productivity is a function of caffeine, food and specification with your body.
Well I was personally in this case. I’ve had a shitty life hygiene during all my CS studies and developer life. Fast foods pretty much every day, not enough sleeping, sitting the whole day and not exercising at all. I discovered just 6 months ago the benefits of healthier life on my professional and personal life. I lost more than 10 kg, quit smoking, release myself from unneeded stress. I wanted to share with you the 10 tips I follow to be in a healthy mind and body while being a developer.
1 — Cut out sugar
Cut out sugar. Sugar is the devil and it's everywhere. Haven’t you experience yourself being sleepy while debugging your code at 3PM? Congrats you experience the blood glucose roller coaster. Sugar makes you fat, sugar makes you sick, sugar makes you want more sugar. You will be surprised by seeing how sugar is the biggest drug on earth and how sugar has caused a global public health crisis. Focus on low-glycemic foods like vegetables, fresh meats, nuts, eggs etc. and avoid white bread, pastas, sweet snacks. Try to cook your own food at least once a week or go in places that show what they put in your food and avoid fast food. Try new food, you should not be eating the same thing every day. Don’t eat too much and desert are definitely not compulsory.
2 — Eat slowly
It takes 25 min for your brain to have the sensation of fed hunger. So don’t jump on food like an animal when you are hungry. Make sure you take your time by chewing slowly. This is good for your digestion and you will eat only the food you need. Remember eating fast makes you eat more. By slowing down you will be able to really appreciate your meal.
3 — Quit eating lunch at your desk
Watching a Youtube video, reading a tutorial on a new language or caching up on some mails at your desk while eating is the worst. If you happen to work in a skyscraper like I do, go outside and take a leisurely walk on your lunch break. Get some sunlight on your bare skin and reconnect with nature. Quit eating lunch at your desk. Instead, walk to a nearby park and partake of your food. You might end up discovering something, somewhere, or someone new in the process.
4 — Snack better
Try to never be hungry. Being hungry is not a comfortable sensation and I personally hate it. If you want to snack go to the nearest grocery store and buy and apple or a banana. Have a pack of nuts in the front of your desk. Forget about the candies or sweet snack bars that are full of sugar and won’t kill your hunger. I personally prefer having five or six mini meals in a day rather than three big one this is far better for your digestion and energy handling, but needs organisation.
5 — Water your body
Don’t only drink only when you are thirsty, have a bottle with you the whole day, this will encourage you to drink more. (By the way, you should have a sip of water right now, it is free)
All this increase your water intake, and force you to take a break to use the washroom. Basically replace every soda or sweet beverage with water. I personally have a funny macro on my code editor (sublime) : Every twenty times that I save my code, i got popup notification to drink some water.
6 — Get enough sleep
You don’t like to unplug your phone while charging if it is not 100% recharged right? Because you know that it will probably stop working or will need to put it in airplane mode. The problem with our body, is that we don’t really have a real airplane mode. I mean we can’t (socially) go for nap in the middle of meeting just because "we haven’t got enough sleep the night before". Sleep deprivation on a long period has a devastating effect on your ability to think. Sleeping recharges your energy and helps in a lot of aspects: less stressed/tired, productivity, cells regeneration, subconscious exercise…
Get yourself a good sleep routine with 8+ hours of sleep. The next point will help you on that.
7 — Kill screens in your bed
Stop all forms of working or screen time, two hours before going to bed. I know, it is hard, but you will definitely get way more from these two hours in the morning. We always think that we will debug our code better or be more creative at night, but the reality is that this is the period of the day where our brain is the most tired.
Go to bed early enough you wake up naturally when you want to with enough sleep instead of racking up sleep debt with an alarm clock. I started waking up early (naturally) and I can tell you that you wake up with a smile on your face every time and start work with a fresh mind rather than sleeping late and look to a problem with tired mind and face.
8 — Sit correctly
We are living in a sedentary world, and software engineers are the first affected by this. Sit well behind your computer: 90 degree angles, adjusted heights, sit straight. Sitting work is a killer for your body; it is particularly straining for your lower back. You can try to work on standing desk for one or two hours in a day. You will see benefits on your posture quickly.
9 — Take pauses
Make sure you take enough pauses, try to have just a 5min breathe outside every hour. Being inside, has a huge impact on our body and our mind, we just don’t realize it. This will let you think about a problem in a different angle and probably come with an answer at the end of the break.
10 — Stay physically fit
Our body is not made to remain in the front of a desk all day long. Our body need movements.
Join a Gym that is close to you workplace, so that you don’t have excuses not to go. Try to go to the gym before, after or during your workday, we usually think that this will take so much energy and we need this energy for our day. I used to think like that, but actually it is crazy how working out drain your stress. The muscle you develop will help increase your metabolism and doing cardio exercise is the best way to improve your cardiovascular health and will increase your endurance. No one like being breathless after just a few stairs right?
If you don’t want to pay for a gym member ship invest in a bike to commute rather than taking the metro or your car. Understand that it is important to invest (not only financially) in your body.
Fix yourself objectives for instance : this week I am getting out from the metro one station earlier in order to walk to my place. Or this month I will not use any escalator.
I’ve seen so many people worrying more about their expensive car than their body. None of your car, your house, or any expensive material good is really yours. Your car is your second vehicle, your body is your first vehicle, your body is the only thing you actually own that will be with you until the end your life. It won’t come in your mind to put some Diesel instead patrol in your car right? so why are you not treating your body properly? Your health is the foundation of you, it literally determines who you are, what you can and cannot do. You have only one body !
I recommend you to implement these techniques one by one. It takes about 40 days to make something as a habit. So go slowly, but make sure that you keep up on the long-term. Read this post again to make sure you visual recorded these 10 tips.
Treat your body like a temple. You only have one !