Building better habits
I’ve been listening to a great book by James Clear, called Atomic Habits. It’s all about how to effectively form new habits and break old ones, with ease. It provides a lot of great, practical advice on strategies to implement based on neuroscience and behavior change research.
Consistency is key
Today, after I dropped Sydney off at preschool, he was talking about the simple task of tracking habits. He said something that really resonated with me about how it’s more important to show up consistently and perform the habit each day, even if that means not doing the habit at 100%. For many of us (recovering) perfectionists, this can be a hard concept to put into practice. It’s difficult to break the mentality of something only being worth doing if you can do it well.
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this, but something about it struck me in a different way. Maybe it was the examples he used. Like Jerry Seinfeld writing jokes each day, whether they’re his best or not, just to keep the creation process flowing.
It got me thinking about some of my goals that I’ve been struggling with and daily actions I could gradually start taking to make them a reality. For example, writing this blog post. The key is not trying to take on too much at once.
Ditch the all-or-nothing attitude
Then it got me thinking about the all-or-nothing attitude that I hear so many people take when it comes to improving their health. Often trying to do way too much and be way too perfect, way too fast.
From there, the ideas started flowing. So here you have it…
Simple daily actions you can take to improve your health.
Daily actions for eating better:
When it comes to eating better, you might commit to:
Putting your fork down between bites during one meal each day.
Stopping eating at satisfied instead of stuffed during one meal each day.
Adding a daily super smoothie that includes fruit, veggie, protein, and healthy fat.
Start your day with a palm-sized serving of protein (like eggs, sausage or greek yogurt) during breakfast.
Adding a cup of vegetables to one meal a day.
Swapping your morning mocha for an americano with a bit of cream and one sugar most days of the week.
Packing your lunch each night, for work the following day.
Daily actions to increase your activity level:
When it comes to getting more active, you could commit to:
Performing 10 squats each morning after you get out of bed. Or each night, before you get into bed.
Taking a 10-minute walk before or after lunch.
Packing your gym bag the previous night so it’s ready to go the next day.
Heading to the gym right after work, rather than going home first.
Opting for the stairs instead of the elevator, at least once each day.
Waking up 10 minutes earlier to get a quick stretching session in each day.
Daily actions for general health:
Some ideas for other health promoting behaviors that don’t fit nicely into a specific category, you could commit to:
Taking a multivitamin after breakfast (or any other meal) each day.
Downing a glass of water just before brushing your teeth each morning.
Turning off the TV at 10pm each night so you go to bed at a reasonable hour.
Closing your eyes and practicing deep breathing for 1 minute in your car, before going into work.
Making habits stick
A few things to keep in mind as you select an action to start with:
Simple is better. On an implementation scale of 1-10, you want to be at an 8 or above in terms of confidence that you can make it happen each day. As you build confidence, you can always add on. For example, a 10-minute walk becomes 15 minutes or a goal for 1 meal a day becomes 2.
Track it. You don’t need some elaborate tracking system. You can simply mark your calendar with an x on the days you complete it. Or seek out some of the basic habit tracking apps out there like….
Attach your new daily action to something you already do. This is a strategy called habit stacking that James talks about in the book. I’ve found it to be really helpful. For example, before I eat lunch, I’ll go for a 10-minute walk. Or, one that I’ve recently found success with is while I eat my breakfast, I’ll download my financial transactions from the previous day.
Be gentle with yourself. If you miss a day, or didn’t do the action as well as you liked, let it go and focus on what you can do tomorrow.
Give it time. Pick one action and do it for at least 1-2 weeks, or until it feels like a part of your routine, before moving on to the next.
Inspired by some of the ideas here? Or have your own? I’d love to hear about the small changes you’re making to build healthy habits - comment below.