I’m a follower of health and wellbeing articles, eager to embrace behaviors that will help me age well. As part of my regular diet I include olive oil, dark  leafy greens and salmon. I aim for at least 30 minutes of daily exercise and limit substances that are known to cause harm, such as sugar – well, most of the time. So this week I eagerly devoured an article in The New York Times, which listed five habits likely to add fourteen years to my life (twelve if I were a man).

They are: eating a healthy diet, not smoking, getting regular physical activity, moderate alcohol consumption and maintaining a normal weight. I felt pretty good, knowing that on most days I hit four out of five. And yet, how hard to do all five consistently! Then I wondered, if these five simple habits are so important to physical health, what five spiritual habits might likewise keep one’s spirit healthy?

Based on my personal observations and experiences, here are those I came up with:

  1. Read the Bible daily. Pick a translation you understand. Read along with a commentary, devotional or a group of friends. Underline promises and words of encouragement and write them down so you can remember what they say (Psalm 119:105).
  2. Avoid wallowing in negative words, thoughts or actions. When you feel defeated, ask God to help you see things from his perspective. Rather than dwelling on the negative, dwell on God’s love for you (John 3:16).
  3. Regularly get together with other believers. We weren’t designed to make it through life alone. Share your needs and gifts with others. Church is where it happens (Hebrews 10:25).
  4. Moderate media. Many forms of modern entertainment fill our lives with fear, sarcasm, envy, lust, greed and unhealthy ideas and desires. Be aware of what you are watching, reading or listening to and choose what will encourage you, not make it harder for you to suceed (Philippians 4:8).
  5. Maintain an active prayer life. What physical exercise is to the body, spiritual exercise is to the soul. Rather than trying to empty your mind, use it to connect to God. Pray about everything. Pray everywhere. There is no concern too little or too big for God (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Healthy physical habits are good, but healthy spiritual habits are superior. As the apostle Paul wrote to his young friend, Timothy, “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come,” I Timothy 4:8 (NLT).

So take that daily walk. Eat your leafy greens. But remember that this life – as well as you may care for it – is only temporary. The most important life is the one that comes after. No matter what you are facing, these five spiritual habits will help you maintain the best spiritual shape. I encourage you to look up the above Scriptures and try them out for yourself.

Meadow Rue Merrill, the award-winning author of Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. Her children’s picture-book series, Lantern Hill Farm, releases in the fall of 2018