hab·it: a settled or regular impulse to initiate a behavior, tendency or practice with little or no conscious thought.
We know that the human being is a creature of habit.
We also know creation and adherence to habits have become synonymous with success.
A quick browse down the self-help book section will give you an abundance of fool-proof routines that will make anyone productive/happy/successful…if you just do them.
Simple, right? Wouldn’t it be great if you could wake up and make a habit out of things like healing your knee pain, meditating 30 minutes a day, paying your debt, or running a multi-billion dollar side business?
Unfortunately, habits don’t work that way. Psychologists who study cognition have found that when people try to perform more than one new task at a time, the mind (our intentions) and brain (what controls our actions) do not work on the same wavelengths, which is required for optimal success.
In other words, the more new habits we take on, the less likely are we to successfully implement them into our lifestyles — and the more likely we are to abandon them.
You see, I am a big fan of habits and practicing my routines when it comes to kickstarting my motivation — as is most of the general population. However, when it comes to implementing new ways of life, I will always prioritize microhabits first.
Because instead of biting off more than I can realistically chew, inevitably giving up and facing imminent failure, I’d rather implement a handful of small improvements I can make in my life and that I know (hope) I won’t drop.
Below are 17 of the easiest microhabits that you can implement into your day-to-day life as of today, rewiring your brain towards better habits.
- Scroll intelligently. This initially began as “read more”, but I recognize that most of the reading we do is now online and redirected from social media platforms. Social media is not the devil when used with intelligent purposes. Cater your feeds with respect to this.
- (Or, 1b). If you feel even the slightest negative emotion after browsing social media, unfollow 10 people who contribute to that feeling.
- Put your phone on night mode more often. If this is something you never practice, try it at night first. If your phone is already silent at night, add the morning or some of your work hours. If you already do it all day, maybe throw the phone away?
- If it takes under one minute, do it now. I cannot stress this one enough. Fold the clothes. Pick up the crumbs. Windex the bathroom mirror. Clean the surface of your desk. Answer the text (if it’s urgent).
- Practice sustained attention. If you’re watching a movie, make sure it’s the only thing you are doing. If you’re reading a book, put away distractions. If you’re bored, see how long you can stand on each foot, noticing how long you are able to keep both your balance and focus on one simple task. (Studies show that more screen time is associated with a reduced ability to maintain our focus in real life).
- Make (short) lists. Writing down your tasks is a way for your brain to pre-commit to doing them, increasing the likelihood that you will. Lists also dampen anxiety by creating structure, as long as the list isn’t the length of an epic trilogy.
- Check things off of your lists. Marking a task as completed triggers a rush of dopamine to the brain, the same pleasure signal released during meditation, food consumption, sex, risk-taking, etc. It also encourages you to continue accomplishing tasks, chasing that “rush” over and over.
- If you can walk, bike, skateboard, or run somewhere; do it.
- If you eat fast-food three times a day, start by cutting down to one. If you eat dessert every night, try skipping one day a week. If you eat relatively clean, try adding more local and organic foods. While eating clean appear like a daunting process at first, taking the first baby steps will drastically improve your health.
- Make your bed as soon as you leave it.
- Brush your teeth twice a day. Already do? Do it after every meal — it may reduce your desire to snack.
- Turn the dial to cold water for 30 seconds in your shower. Make your way up from there.
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13. Find one new feel-good tune and save it. Play it, too.
14. Solidify one thing in your morning routine, before focusing on making a whole new one. Maybe it’s the time at which you wake up or have your coffee, maybe it’s the order in which you get ready. Whatever it is, etch it in stone.
15. Hate working out? Perception is a matter of perspective, and you can choose how to perceive your discomfort. Take just a 5-minute jog. Do 10 push-ups. Do one minute of jumping jacks. Build it up and perceive it as easy — there’s no need to rush the gym membership yet.
16. Print a photo of someone you love and leave it near your work station or bedside table. Studies show that we are more likely to accomplish something when we dedicate it to someone else; therefore, the subtle daily photo reminder may serve as that extra push. Making them your wallpaper works, too.
17. Wiggle the muscles of your face to relax any jaw and shoulder tension. Do it now. You’re welcome.
18. Drink one more glass of water per day.
In life, you reap what you sow.
If you want to make better things happen, you have to begin carving minutes for it. Over time, each consistent microhabit will have the potential to form an actual habit. And eventually, each habit has the power to become an embedded routine.
Maybe this isn’t the right time to start hitting the gym 6x/week for an hour each day. But maybe it is the right time to commit to a walk around the block. Starting today.
And remember: we walk before we fly.