Happily Hack Your Habits
There’s two types of people in this world: people who feel excited and hopeful about the many small changes they need to make in order reach their goals - and people who feel overwhelmed and defeated by them. And in my personal opinion, the latter folks just haven't seen able to find the joy in the process yet - so I've got some advice.
A few years ago, an old friend of mine posted a fantastic article about habits – little, everyday things that really do add up to complete life changes – that really hit home. Small incremental changes (that compound over time) are the only way I find that my clients can hold on to healthy behaviours without sliding back into bad habits. They help people fall in love with the process and the satisfaction of consistency, without feeling overwhelmed by the end goal.
Here are six tips I love the most from her list, with my commentary:
Drink a glass of water every morning when you wake up. Guys, the ONE thing that each and every one of my clients gets on their meal programs is the admonition to drink 3 liters (100 ounces) of water per day. It matters.
Eat raw fruit or vegetables with every meal. With nutrition, think about adding more produce and protein before you think about taking things away. It works, not only from a weight loss perspective but for your mental game as well (our brains work better on incentive bonuses rather than punishments).
Sit in silence for a few minutes every day. I downloaded Buddhify this year and haven’t looked back – almost every day, I make time for a 5-20 minute meditation session. It reenergises and focuses me as much as a nap or a coffee might otherwise have done (though truth be told, I still love my naps and coffees when poss!).
Respond to all invitations and opportunities with, “I’ll check my calendar.” Too many times my default response is “sure!” simply because I want to come off agreeable and helpful – only to find that I’ve painted myself into a corner in terms of my schedule. Take a beat before you find yourself plugging in time-sucks (or events that you know are going to tempt you off track) that don't align with your long-term goals.
Write a thank-you note every week. I am decent about writing handwritten notes for gifts, but not so good about writing them for abstract gratitude (of which I have plenty!). Step one is buying cute cards you’re proud to give; step two is leaving them directly in your line of sight so you have no choice but to pen ’em up.
Get on two wheels. I used to own a bike but it wasn’t really a “commuting” type bike (think triathlon geometry). Now, all over Singapore they have these bike-sharing programs where you can literally just pick up a bike off the street, scan it with your phone, and pay a nominal fee ($1 per half hour) to ride it where you need to go - we love to just grab one when we're out with the kids, or strategise how we can cycle to our errands/lunch date/yoga class when possible.
There are so many small ways to improve your overall health (and yes - I am always talking mental as well as physical), and most of them are manageable, stackable, fairly low-risk to start, and dare I say...even fun. So if you're feeling crushed under the weight of a BFG (big f*cking goal), try breaking down the pieces into habits you can execute and enjoy - now.