It’s no mystery that building daily habits is difficult. We create lists of all the things we “should” be making a priority and never seem to find the time to get around to them. We make excuses. We let fear take over. We blame busyness. The truth is, often the anticipation of creating a new habit or the act of thinking about instilling a new habit can be far worse than actually doing it.
Habits become easier through repetition and through patience. It’s about pushing through the “this is difficult” phase and making them a part of your routine. Studies show that it can take on average 66 days to build a new habit. From my experience, this can vary, and the number of days doesn’t really matter. Ultimately, there’s a reason you’re reading this and it’s likely because you want to do something about your current behavior. These five daily habits are small improvements that overtime have the power to change your life.
Habit #1: Reading a Book
If you’re reading this article, you’re on the right track. How many times have you been asked, “What was the last book you read?” Most people would say, “I can’t remember.” We have information at our fingertips all the time between blogs, tweets, Facebook rants, but reading a book is different. It takes time and patience. It is essential to support our brain health.
The best way I’ve found to create a habit of reading is to have it take the place of the “mindless scrolling” time. That could look like bringing a book with you so it’s handy during waiting times. When you’re waiting in line at the grocery store or the dentist, you could pull out your book. When you’re on the subway, instead of mindlessly scrolling, pick up your book. Anywhere you’d mindlessly check your phone, pick up your book instead. Over time, reading will become an escape and something you love to do.
Habit #2: Waking Up Early
If you’re not a morning person, you’re properly reading this one and thinking “no way.” Of all the habits we “should” do, this one is on most people’s list. As a life coach, I’m constantly talking about the importance of routines to my clients. Many people go wrong in the “waking up early” habit when they set their alarm for 5am, but still go to bed at midnight. 5am rolls around and your bed is warm and your inner voice says, “absolutely not.”
When working to instill this daily habit, people think it’s all about waking up early. It’s actually about going to bed earlier. Waking up early truly starts the night before. Set a routine that allows you to wind down. Give yourself the permission to slow yourself down. Read a book instead of scrolling, meditate or take a shower. Do the things that are intended to relax and move you into sleep so you can wake up fresh the next morning. Over time, waking up early will be something you “just do.”
Habit #3: Setting 3 Daily Priorities
Focus brings us closer to achieving our goals. The problem is our days are filled with endless distractions. This habit is more about productivity than anything else. Limiting our options is how we focus in a world full of distractions. Each morning, ask yourself what you want to achieve. Then commit to 3 essential tasks. Take everything above and beyond that list as a bonus.
In creating the Daily Priority habit, start the day before. Write down the 3 essential tasks for tomorrow. This can be a particularly effective way to close the day and transition from work to home. From there, make sure this list is visible the next day. By limiting our focus to 3 priorities, we increase our chances of success.
Habit #4: Walking for 30 minutes
Walking is good for you and keeps your body moving. As an avid walker, I’ve found it breaks up the monotony of daily life. There’s nothing wrong with the daily monotony but getting outside forces you to engage with the outer world. It heightens your senses. You feel the air in your lungs, you start to notice the cyclical pattern of the seasons.
Many people find walking first thing in the morning to be the best because they don’t procrastinate or skip it as they might later in the day. Others find it helpful to incorporate walking into their workday by taking calls on the go or leveraging their lunch break for this time. Some find it is helpful to walk in the afternoon or evening to clear their minds after their day. Go alone or with a friend, but either way get out and enjoy. It will soon become a refreshing daily habit.
Habit #5: Practice Presence
So many of us are focused on the future that we forget to enjoy the present moment. We say, “I’ll be happy when….” Don’t get me wrong. As coaches, we live in the future possibilities. At the same time, the future can bring up anxiety and isn’t always guaranteed. Studies show that an individual’s disposition to staying present is linked to numerous health benefits including lower levels of perceived stress, anxiety and depression, improved mood, and a sense of improved well-being.
Because we are so focused on “what’s next,” we forget to enjoy the present moment. A tip I offer my clients in practicing presence is finding a trigger that brings you back to the present moment when you feel yourself being stuck in the future. This could be a quick check in with your five senses and naming what you see, hear, feel, taste and smell. Once you start to think of being in the present moment as a conscious practice, your approach will start to change. The moments when you are frustrated become opportunities to react mindfully.
You can change your life, starting now.
Daily habits don’t change overnight. Who you are and the way you react to situations both play a part in the way new habits are put into practice. The key to building these life changing habits is to see them as a practice. Be patient with yourself. Stick with it and continue to challenge yourself to take a step back and reflect on your progress. Life coaches can also be extremely helpful keeping you accountable for building your daily habits. You can start today. Are you ready?