Are Your Daily Habits Killing You or Keeping You?

My boss, a dentist, often says, “What you do every day will either kill you or keep you.” 

Case in point—one day a college student who worked at a fast food restaurant several nights a week came in for his semi-annual dental checkup. We found 12 cavities. When we quizzed him about his daily habits, he admitted that he often sipped his favorite soft drink, Mountain Dew, to keep awake during his late-night shifts. He was shocked to learn he had so many cavities. 

We weren’t. 

Another patient, an older man who taught at a local private school, was also surprised when I announced he had two cavities. “You must be mistaken,” he said. “I haven’t gotten a cavity in 20 years.” 

Remembering that he’d complained about a dry mouth, I asked about his daily habits. “Do you regularly suck on candy or chew sugared gum?” 

His eyes grew wide. “Now that you mention it,” he said, “I started sucking on peppermints to keep my mouth moist while I lecture.” 

Mystery solved. 

Unfortunately, destructive daily habits aren’t limited to the dental realm. Regular smokers die of cancer and emphysema. Regular drinkers experience liver disease, digestive problems, and heart disease. Chronic couch potatoes are often obese and diabetic. 

More serious than any health problem I’ve mentioned, though, are the destructive results of poor spiritual habits. Studies have shown that those who never miss a Facebook update are more likely to be depressed and discontent. Those who spend every Sunday on the golf course or the beach have great tans but pale spiritual lives. Those who seldom miss a workout but never exercise spiritual discipline are strong on the outside and weak on the inside. 

If you’d like to cultivate daily spiritual habits that will keep you rather than kill you, here are a few suggestions: 

1. Read good books. 

One godly woman I admire has three books going at all times—one spiritual, one practical, and one just for fun. She puts them in strategic places like in her car, on her nightstand, in her purse, and yes, in the bathroom. Even if she only reads a few pages, she’s still reading more than if she hadn’t been intentional about it. 

2. Keep a thankful journal. 

Ann Voskamp began the movement to catalog at least three gifts from God every day in her book, One Thousand Gifts. It is a habit with strong biblical roots. Physically writing down the acts of God in our daily lives helps us remember that he is always working on our behalf. Being thankful protects us against ingratitude, entitlement, and doubt. 

3. Speak blessings. 

We live in a world characterized by negativity. Every day our husbands, children, and friends are pelted with words that hurt their hearts. When we speak blessings over them, we kiss the bruises.

Imagine how your husband would face the day differently if the last words he heard from you as he walked out the door were, “I’ll be praying for you today. You’re going to do great.”? How might your child feel as he climbs onto the school bus after you reminded him of the special ways God has gifted him? How might your coworker feel if you greet her with a smile and tell her one specific thing you appreciate about her? 

 And here’s an interesting observation: In the dyslexia of the divine, God somehow often manages to multiply the blessings we give away so they come back to us. 

I hope these three spiritual habits (and my cavity-ridden patients) have caused you to think about what you do every day. Habits, good or bad, chart the course of our lives. “As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it,” Job 4:8 reminds us. 

The prophet Hosea offers a better way: “Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you” (10:12). 

 Are your daily habits killing you or keeping you? What habits have positively or negatively affected your life? What spiritual habit would you add to my list above? Leave a comment and share your thoughts. I’d love to hear them.

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