Daily habits are something I have become slightly obsessed with. For a while now, I have consistently added new habits into my routines. Routines are something that make me feel human and accomplished, even when I’m having a hard day or not feeling well. Some of these habits have been successfully implemented and some of them have not.
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My fascination with habits started a few years ago when I went on a self-improvement streak. Wanting to just start being the person I always wanted to be, I thought it would be easy. I set out the new habits that I thought my dream me would embody and I got up every day ready to tackle those habits. Unfortunately, many of them failed and I started on a cycle. I would try out new habits, fail almost immediately in implementing them, feel bad about myself and my inability to do a series of seemingly easy things, then try them again a few weeks later.
After I started freelancing, I realized how much I really needed habits in my life. Having a routine became even more important, especially when I was between jobs or not making any money. It’s easy to spiral in that situation, making your habits be watching t.v. and drinking a beer every day at noon. I knew I had to get serious about the habits in my life so I didn’t spiral.
Changing the way I view daily habits
Admittedly, I am one of those insufferable people who loves self-help books. Growing up in a rural area with little entertainment, I would often go to the library to learn new hobbies. Playing the guitar, painting, knitting were all things I learned via books. Self-improvement is no different. As I got older, I wanted to learn how to be the best version of myself and self-help books were there for me. One of the best self-improvement (and business) books I have read is The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do by Charles Duhigg.
Reading this book helped change my view of habits. I was doing it all wrong. I was listing out 10-15 new habits I wanted to introduce to my routine at a time. Not thinking or knowing about how the brain works at all when forming habits, I would consistently fail and fall back on old (bad) habits. Overloading my system with new habits was too much for me. After reading the book, I learned I needed a keystone habit. This is one small habit that would almost be unnoticeable that I could successfully add to my everyday life.
My chosen small habit was meditation, which was still a pretty big jump. I meditated every day for 3-5 minutes. It was hard at first, then it became an automatic part of my morning. Many other keystone habits can be extremely simple, such as drinking a glass of water every morning after waking. Whatever is something you think you can do every day successfully that won’t overload you with what feels like work.
Simple daily habits to introduce
Here are some daily habits I have added to my routine that were simple to successfully implement:
1. Drinking water every morning
Think about your morning this morning. Did you drink water before leaving the house, or did you wait until you got to work? Many people are so busy in the morning trying to get to work that they don’t take the time to hydrate. Most people wake up dehydrated because they were just asleep for 7-9 hours and not drinking water. Doing your body a favor by hydrating it right from the start is a form of self-care and can set you up for a good day. This one is so easy, too. You can set a glass of water on your nightstand to drink right when you get up, or you can make it part of your leaving-the-house routine, with breakfast or after brushing your teeth.
2. The daily habit of stretching
I don’t know about you, but I’m stiff and sore all the time. Between my arthritis and my day job of being a web developer, my bones and muscles ache a lot. Often times, I find myself clenching my jaw or tensing up my shoulders when I’m working or driving. I’ve never been a yoga person, but that doesn’t mean that stretching has to be difficult and can’t be a new habit. This habit can be done either at home in the morning or at night, or at work. Take 5 minutes every single day (preferably at the same time of day) to stretch your back, arms, and legs – even your wrists! Taking this little bit of time out of your day for you is extremely rewarding.
3. Journaling or reflecting
This particular habit has tripped me up in the past. As a writer, I find that journaling can get away from me a bit. I tend to add a lot of pressure on myself, wanting to write something good or interesting. It turns out, however, that this habit doesn’t have to be difficult or challenging. This can be another under 5-minute habit that’s simply intentional. Even better? You don’t even have to write anything down if you don’t want to. Some people feel good about jotting down something simple about their day, others might benefit more from intentionally setting aside time for quiet reflection on their day.
This one is often lumped with journaling, with good reason. Sometimes, it’s nice to write about your day AND write about things you are thankful for all at once. The pressure to write down a specific amount of things you’re thankful for, however, can discourage a daily habit and can overwhelm. This happened to me. I tried writing 3 things down that I was thankful for a day and failed. It’s not that I’m not thankful for things, but I found the task of writing them down to be unsustainable. Instead, I found that saying it to myself at home or in my car each day is better for me. Whatever works, take a few minutes out of your day to intentionally be thankful.
5. Walking as a daily habit
This is one of my personal favorites. I love a good walk and this habit was one of my very first successful ones. When I started working a desk job, I quickly started feeling it in my body. I felt more sluggish and unwell, suffering from a 3 pm slump that had me reaching for chocolate every single day. Not wanting to become a modern American worker statistic, I decided that I would go on a walk every single day at lunch. At first, this was very hard. Sometimes it was cold or windy outside, or people would honk at me on the busy road by my office. Soon, though, I felt like I had to go for a walk every day.
This is another habit that can be overly-ambitious if not considered properly. The key is to just walk every day, no matter how long. Most people get mentally blocked on walking a specific amount of time, such as 30 minutes or 10,000 steps. Don’t worry yourself with this. Just walk whatever feels doable for you. If that’s just a quick jot around the block, then so be it. It’s all about making one small change. Any change for the better is good, no matter how small it is.
One of my absolute favorite daily habits is self-affirmation. Why? It was one of the easiest habits to add to my routine and has some of the biggest rewards. Every day after I brush my teeth, I look into the mirror and give myself one self-affirmation. The affirmation changes depending on the day, but it’s usually around the theme of saying that I’m a strong amazing badass who can get through anything. It felt really weird at first, but it’s such an amazing way to start my day and to feel ready. I am a strong amazing badass who can get through anything.
7. Take 3 deep breaths
I know this one sounds silly, but it’s another great keystone habit. The point is to intentionally add this to your day, and it’s one that can be added anywhere at any time. Personally, I like to implement this one at work as a transition in my day. Sometimes, when I’m stressed out or when I’m just ready to switch to a new task, I sit and take my 3 deep breaths. To execute, all you have to do is breathe in deeply through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and exhale through your mouth. It’s an extremely calming and centering habit that is so simple for your everyday routine.
8. One self-care task
These habits are all some form of self-care, but I like this one because it has great rewards for little effort. Therefore, it is an extremely easy keystone habit to implement successfully. Take some time out of your day every day for one self-care task. This can be anything, but some that seem to work include taking time to moisturize your cuticles, or putting on a homemade face mask, or taking a relaxing bath. Seriously, it can be anything you want it to be as long as it’s something just for you. I chose to use a jade roller on my face after showering and putting moisturizer on and it’s still a habit I have today, over a year later.
Daily habits are powerful
Daily habits are powerful. What your habits are pretty much define who you are as a person. I’m not saying if you have bad habits, you’re a bad person. We all have bad habits, both big and small. If you’re wanting to change those habits, it’s going to take time and effort and a full understanding of why your habits exist and how to interrupt them.
Embracing one of these 8 habits can make for a simple, small change in your routine for the better. It’s okay if it takes a while to consistently do the one single habit, the goal is to not overwhelm with new habits. It can be so easy to think “oh yeah, I’m going to start doing all these things and be a different person,” but that’s simply not sustainable.
Whatever they are, may you find success and joy in your new habits.