Whether you are looking to make small life changes, give yourself more time in a day or achieve a goal that you’ve had in mind for years, developing new habits is fundamental. However, the process of creating new habits from scratch and adopting them into your lifestyle can be difficult, particularly if you have lived in the same rut for a long time.
The good news is that there are lots of simple ways in which you can transform your life without having to step too far out of your comfort zone.
Here are some of my favourites:
Create morning and evening routines.
By establishing a morning routine with structure and purpose, your day can begin with a much more relaxed and positive mindset and it is less likely that you will be forced to rush around to make up for lost time. Start your day with activities that will soothe and calm the mind like meditation or yoga, going for a run, writing your thoughts down in a journal, reviewing and practicing your favourite affirmations or simply taking a few moments to breathe. Have a shower eat a healthy breakfast and drink water or herbal teas.
Similarly, winding down in an evening will help you to get a better night’s sleep. Prepare for the following day: make a list of the major tasks that need to be completed, pack lunches and schoolbags and get items of clothing out ready to wear. Reflect on your day in a gratitude journal. Switch your phone off to avoid checking texts and emails, have a long bath, listen to relaxing music, read a book or do absolutely nothing. Avoid watching anything on a tablet, laptop of phone as the blue light they emit actually may result in you feeling more stimulated.
Avoid procrastinating and tackle the most difficult task first
It is easy to procrastinate when we know that a large task is looming, particularly if it seems to be complicated and will require lots of research. There are a number of reasons why this avoidance happens – fear of failure, unwillingness to step out of a comfort zone or even just because the task itself is inherently boring – but the inevitability of the task unfortunately isn’t going to go away.
Studies have suggested that completing lots of easy tasks first gives a false sense of progress.
Exercise is good for the body, but it is also highly effective when dealing with stress, depression and anxiety and creates a positive sense of wellbeing. When we exercise, our body releases chemicals called endorphins in the brain that not only trigger a positive feeling but reduce the perception of pain. Exercise is also a wonderful way to distract from things that may be causing stress and negativity by helping to relax the muscles, and also contributes to higher energy levels and better sleep patterns.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that we should get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of both, combined with strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week.
However, exercise doesn’t have to take lots of time and any exercise is better than nothing. I always turn to a fabulous quote from Susie Miller when I am feeling overwhelmed at the ideas of exercising: No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everybody on the couch.
Start slow, go for a walk or a short run and build up your exercise routine over time. Swim, take the dog out, cycle, attend an aerobics class… anything that will get you up and moving.
Surround yourself with positive people
Positive people are inspiring and more likely to be motivated and successful. Being around those with a glass-half-full perspective will have an enormously positive impact on your own outlook. Remove those from your life who bring a toxic attitude into the room and try and spend more time with others who know how to lift you up – you’ll feel much better for it!
Remove yourself from social media
Social media has been catapulted into becoming an integral part of our daily lives. Unfortunately, what once served as an interesting way to connect with family, friends and complete strangers from all over the world has now become renowned for having the ability to make time disappear and make a good day suddenly seem very negative. It is generally recognized that social media has the capacity to become addictive and keeping up with the events on social media can actually lead to elevated stress levels and comparisonitis. You don’t have to delete social media completely, but try and switch it off for a few hours a day and connect with the real world surrounding you.
Tips for cultivating new habits
Tackle them one at a time. Throwing yourself into a complete life overhaul will almost certainly become overwhelming.
- Start with just one area of focus – this could be something as simple as going for a 15 minute walk every day – and build from there. Remember, that first step or action is the most difficult.
- Avoid comparisonitis and find yourself an accountability buddy. Comparing yourself to others is always a toxic activity and it is important to remind yourself that these new habits are for the benefit of you and you alone. However, getting an accountability buddy is a positive step – having someone who is working towards the same thing is likely to be more motivating than doing something alone.
- Don’t expect immediate results. Look at your goals over the long term – this is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Keep a tracker or log of your achievements. It is easy to forget just how much we do in a day when there is no visual record of it. Write your achievements down in a notebook, or tick off each day in a calendar – you’ll be surprised at how motivating this is.
- If you slip up or miss something, be kind to yourself. What you are working towards should not be completely set in stone. If your goal is to lose weight and spend a day eating cake (and what a lovely way to spend a day!), start again the next day.
Feeling motivated? Have a go and see if you can transform your life by cultivating some of the above positive habits into your day!