“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle
Habits have the power to completely transform your life. I have found that little tweaks here and there in my habits makes it easier for me to reach my goals. For instance, last year I wanted to get more sleep and realized I wasn't getting to bed before 11pm (even though I would start winding down for the day at least 2 hours earlier). After having dinner, tidying up, and prepping lunch for the next day, I still had to wash myself up before I could hop into bed. So I decided I would take my shower in the evenings as soon as I got home, before dinner, and then I had less to squeeze in after. That tiny act completely transformed my evenings, and the time where I would then take showers was no longer filled with idling time online "winding down" from the workday.
I have similar ripple effects with adding a morning coffee routine, I get a slower start to the day and feel better prepared for it. So, as I mentioned a couple of days ago, I figure 2018 would be a great year to intentionally ramp up my habit formation efforts!
Water in the Morning
I have heard a number of times that you should drink water as soon as you wake-up. But it didn't click for me until someone bluntly told me when you wake up you've been without water for 8 hours, your body is desperately thirsty! So one of my new habits is to keep my water bottle full of water at my bedside and drink the entire thing as soon as I rise. I have already noticed that when I do this, I also tend to drink more water through out the day, too. Win, win!
This habit is actually from last year (oops!). In 2017 I started the year off strong with Lesley Fightmaster's 30 days of Yoga for beginners. And I sporadically I went back to it. The days when I got on the mat I felt lighter, my body obviously loved me for it, and my mind felt clearer for that day. I have also been incredibly inspired by the lovely ladies at Makeshift, Cordelia and Maddie. They have a series called "Off the Mat" where they share lessons from their yoga practice that translate into their lives. I definitely could use a few of these lessons. So here we go again, aiming high at a daily yoga practice but ready to be gentle with myself if I don't quite live up to that.
Coffee & Breakfast at Home
This is a habit muscle that I have already built. Almost every single morning I make coffee and a light breakfast. And on the very rare occasion that I don't I feel the difference. Those mornings are rushed and incomplete. I don't get the joy of catching up with my partner, enjoying my little home, or gathering my thoughts as I ease into the day. That's why this one is on the list. Habits are not one and done, easy to check off a list. They must be maintained, you have to be intentional. So I hope you don't mind many more coffee posts on my Instagram feed!
Last year's "100 days of Mindfulness" challenge proved to me how much value there is in the practice for mindfulness and meditation (read more here about a few of the things I learned). But after my 100 days I was irregular with the meditation portion of the challenge. That is something I want to improve on this year. Meditation has taught me so much about myself and made more more aware of my body and who I want to be in this world, so in 2018 I know these realizations will only open my life up wider!
Gratitude walks are a new thing I am trying out after years of hearing about them and dismissing them as not for me. Since moving to Los Angeles last month I have been envisioning in what direction I want my life to grow and I have found going to walks are excellent in helping me think through that. Gratitude walks are a step beyond that where I get to promote positivity and get familiar my new neighborhood at the same time!
My freshman year of college, 17 years old and living in NYC all alone, I began my first gratitude journal. I was incredibly homesick and after sharing sadness with my doctor he recommended and anti-depressant. After realizing that medication was not for me I began researching other ways to deal with my mindset and stay focused on my studies. Gratitude journaling was a huge part of the solution for me. To be clear, I am not saying this would work for everyone, everyone's mental heath journey is different. I was just fortunate in that instance that I was able to manage my depression without medication. Just want to make that clear. That journal was very simple, just me writing down 3 or more things I was grateful for every day. It forced me to focus on the positive and whenever I felt homesick, lost, or just inexplicably sad I would return to it for a read. It ended up being an incredible treasure and I truly believe it was a turning point in my personality. I chose to be grateful and appreciative instead of cynical and bitter. This year I want to keep developing that mindset. I am not sure if it is age, the political times we live in, or living so many years in NYC, but I have definitely become slightly more cynical. I was so inspired by President Obama's New Year's tweets about all of the positive stores if 2017, and I was reminded of this practice of looking for the good in life as my teenage gratitude journal helped me do. That's why I am trying it again. This time with the 5 Minute Journal.
As we count down to the new year, we get to reflect and prepare for what’s ahead. For all the bad news that seemed to dominate our collective consciousness, there are countless stories from this year that remind us what's best about America.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) December 29, 2017
Last year I really focused on self-care, and one thing I created because of this was a skincare regimen. This regimine was not only to have more beautiful skin (obviously, who doesn't want that), but also to create time in the evening just for me to be with myself and love myself. No rushing allowed, no skipping steps. Just 10 minutes to pamper and enjoy. Amazingly I had never done this before and I honestly still have a hard time not rushing through it or skipping it altogether. So this year it will be a nightly habit, no excuses, I owe it to myself.
Read before bed
How many times have you heard "I want to read more books this year," in the past week. A lot, right? Well I have (kind of) avoided saying that by instead telling you how I am going to do it. Every night I want to get into the habit of reading a bit before falling asleep. This not only dedicates reading time each day, but it also eliminates that screens just before I go to shut my eyes. On nights when I drift off mid paragraph I sleep much better than those when I reluctantly have to stop scrolling through Instagram. Even if i just read a single page a day, one page is more than no pages and eventually I will get through that book!
So those are the 8 habits and routines I am working on. In order to stay on top of them I am also reading/listening to The Power of Habit, which I have mixed feelings about and will likely be dropping a book review about in the coming months.
What habits or routines do you have and how have they benefited you? Or are there any negative ones you are trying to break (like my anxious nail biting!)? And if you have any tips for habit creation let me know in the comments below!