Try these 6 daily Habits to Change Your Life, by Katherine Pham
We are the sum of our actions, and therefore our habits make all the difference.”
Our habits are repeated behaviours that over time become automatic, so we aren’t always conscious of them. While some habits are very obvious, like our eating or exercise habits, others play out so quickly that we might never become aware of them in our lifetime. For example, habitual thoughts like “I am not good at that”.
Habits are usually deeply ingrained behaviours, practised over our lifetime, which can make them difficult to change but with each successful implementation of a new habit, you can gain confidence to change more habits and a snowball effect begins to happen.
Learning to leverage the science and power of habits single-handedly took me on a completely different tangent in life, so changing habits is something that I personally am a huge advocate of. I went from having bad spending habits with lots of debt, zero savings, a toxic partying lifestyle, procrastinating to the point of feeling hopeless to now owning investments, having my health on track and running a side hustle business.
Turning your life on to a better path is just a matter of changing one habit at a time (or many!) and this is a round-up of my six personal favourite habits, most of them easy to introduce, to help improve your life and wellbeing.
1. Drink lemon water first thing in the morning
This age-old and trending habit is still going strong on my go-to wellness habit list. Lemon water is believed to, among many things, kickstart our digestion.
Our digestion or gut health is linked to our immune system, mood, mental health, autoimmune diseases, endocrine diseases, skin conditions, and cancer among other things. There are exciting new discoveries of the gut-brain connection uncovering the link between having a well-working gut to our mental and cognitive health. The brain has a direct effect on the stomach and intestines, such as the thought of eating can release the stomach’s juices before food gets there. Though, the connection goes both ways. A person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. So it does pay to pay attention to having a well-working gut.
The vitamin C in lemon water helps pull water into the gut and water hydrates the body which is critical for digestion. Drinking lemon water first thing in the morning also helps to break down the food in your gut that has not been completely digested overnight.
Drink half a lemon squeezed into warm water in the morning before food and caffeine. If you can avoid eating for the first hour or two after drinking the lemon water, even better.
2. Don’t use your phone for the first and last hour of the day
Our smartphones are now extensions of our arms and we are more and more reacting to, and becoming addicted to, alerts from our phones. All the giant tech corporations, with their interests in us staying on our phones for longer, have designed them such that we become addicted – and addicted we are, with an estimated 2 out of 3 people addicted to their phones. This means that the majority of people feel like the phone controls them rather than them being in control of their phone use.
Checking our phones first thing in the morning gives us a dopamine rush from the alerts and emails which sets a chain reaction for needing more. Effectively, when we use our phones and get a dopamine hit, we now have a dopamine deficit which has us needing and wanting more, making it hard for us to put the phone down.
By not using our phones for the first hour of the day, we are setting a different tone of being in control, rather than reacting to everyone else’s agenda or your phone. The confidence boost of being in control, as well as a clearer mind, will help you stay focused for the rest of the day.
In the last hour of the day, while you might be tempted to “switch off” (oh, the irony) by using your phone, it will keep your mind active and can affect your sleep. Also, when you wake up you tend to continue whatever thoughts or feelings you finished the day with.
Without our phones overnight, we are in a better position to start the day in control and without stress. If you have any significant others, family or friends you live with, you’ll be more available for conversation and connection, too.
3. Practice gratitude and appreciation
With a whopping 90% of our thoughts repetitive and 70-80% of our thoughts negative, it’s no wonder that we can feel unhappy and unsatisfied in life.
Actually, we instinctively see dangers as a survival mechanism from our caveman days, in order to avoid the same dangers in the future. What that means though, is we always zero in on how we are wrong and what is wrong in life. This habit of thinking runs completely automatic and so there is a generally a low level of stress and unhappiness that runs in our consciousness whether we are aware of it or not. That kicks our nervous system into action and we are constantly releasing cortisol, the stress hormone, at all the perceived dangers and wrongs in our life.
Counting our blessings is not our default state of thinking but it can be, with a little practice. It is without question that people who are more grateful will be generally be happier in life. Oxytocin, the love hormone, is released when we practice gratitude, the antidote to cortisol. When you focus more on things that you are grateful for, there is less room to focus on what is wrong in your life and that brings about more happiness and wellness into your life.
My favourite way to practice gratitude is to write down the things that I appreciate in my life while enjoying my morning coffee. This helps to keep the practice part of my everyday routines without having to carve out more time.
Do you know why meditation is perhaps one of the hardest habits for anyone to keep practising? The busyness of our minds makes sitting quietly with ourselves near unbearable, and ironically it’s the very thing that meditation is aimed at disciplining. In fact, a recent study showed how, for many people, they would prefer to give themselves a mild electric shock rather than just sit with themselves doing nothing.
When meditation is practised, the first few weeks and months are a battle to tame the monkey mind that wants to take you to every corner and crevice of our lives, dwelling on things and projecting possibilities.
Our minds typically ruminate and are largely negative. With meditation, however, we can train our minds to be more focused. With focus, we have the ability to drop thoughts that don’t serve us and we start to lessen the hold of those negative thoughts on us.
It’s the reason why meditation has been proven to create more happiness, but other benefits of meditation include better focus, less stress and anxiety, enhanced self-awareness, improved sleeping, memory and blood pressure amongst many more benefits.
My favourite way to incorporate this habit is to wake up and immediately, before absolutely anything else, sit up in bed and spend 15 minutes in meditation. If you are new to it, try using guided meditation recordings or use mindfulness techniques.
Elite athletes have long known the mind-hacking benefits of visualisation. On top of physical training, they mentally visualise their best game and different play strategies which studies show improve motivation, coordination and concentration. Visualisation can be used for achieving specific outcomes but also we can visualise ourselves with better behaviours or characteristics. For example, being a confident speaker, or more focused and productive.
In visualising, your brain responds as though you are performing the action. This creates a new neural pathway that primes or trains our body to act in a way consistent with what we imagined. All of this occurs without actually performing the physical activity, yet it achieves a similar result.
Visualisation also works on a subconscious level. When you continually see yourself achieving your goals, then your mind and body start to act like it were already true, therefore, bringing what might seem like impossible goals into a reality faster.
Visualise yourself in the end result, successfully and confidently completing your goals across every aspect of your life from health, home, love, career and family. I like to complete this after my meditation.
People usually can tell you all the ways in which they’ve done something wrong but not in the ways they’ve done something right. As suggested earlier, we are in tune more with what is wrong in life. That’s definitely not great for our confidence or stress levels. By celebrating, we not only get into a practice of recognising what we’ve done right, the endorphin hit we get creates a positive association that our efforts result in a positive reward, helping us to stay the course.
You can also tie in celebration practices with your habit-forming practices. Psychologist, BJ Fogg, the founder and director of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University and has coached over 40,000 people in his behaviour change methods called the Tiny Habits method. In working with thousands of people, Fogg has found one thing that really helps habits to stick: celebrating them.
He explains that when we celebrate, we allow a moment of the day in which to feel good and that, ultimately, emotions create habits. Fogg discovered that by celebrating, the positive feelings helps to wire in new habits.
Celebrating should be for achievements of any size, from completing a daily habit to finishing a big project. Make it as easy as giving yourself a high-five, doing a celebration dance or going all-out and treating yourself to a nice dinner. The ceremony-like action of the celebration counts to really emphasise it in the mind, if not just for the fun of it.
In my quest to become a better person, I all too often think ‘I need to do more (insert new life-changing habit).’ What I’ve learned over the years is that one successfully implemented habit can snowball into another, so if I am feeling like I need to improve some habits and behaviours, I will focus on one or two main habits. This creates less overwhelm and less time commitment which allows for a more sustainable change.
The act of successfully introducing a habit, though, sends a positive message to yourself that you can improve yourself and that counts for a lot more even than the benefits of each habit alone, in my humble opinion.
Which of the above habits do you think you would benefit from introducing into your life?