Saturday, June 27, 2015

My 54 (and growing?) Habits for a Healthy and Happy Life

I've been thinking a lot about habits lately. Part of this is due to the fact that I am a full six months into my Sea Change program through Zen Habits, which focuses on one area of habit formation every month. It's $10 a month and totally worth it! So far we've focused on meditation, healthy eating, decluttering, getting active, unprocrastination, and learning/studying. July is debt reduction/finances and while I don't have much in the way of debt, I am looking forward to taking control of my finances since this is a weak area for me.

The founder, Leo Babauta focuses on changing one habit each month and starting with just a few minutes a day. This makes it doable for anyone, even for people who say that they "don't have time" to do what they know will make them healthy and happy.

I've been successful in maintaining my good habits and doing something called "habit stacking" where you take a healthy habit and build upon it with other healthy habits. There are a few different resources about habit stacking that I would recommend, including:


One element of successful habit stacking is to look at EVERYTHING you do in a given day, and figure out where you can add a trigger for a new habit you want to incorporate into your life. For example, if you really want to incorporate stretching into your life, you can say, "When I make my coffee in the morning, I will stretch while the coffee is brewing." 

I decided to do an exercise where I look at everything I do in a given day, and then insert some other things that I want to be doing in a logical spot. My list is below- here are a few notes about it:
  • No, I did not include going to the bathroom, but of course it contributes to a healthy life :)
  • This is my normal weekday routine if I don't have anything going on after work. If I have an evening activity, I try to adjust my evening walk/exercise and e-mail checking accordingly.
  • It's just me and my husband and we don't have pets or kids. I realize that your day may look a little different than mine, but this is where I'm at right now!
  • Items in red are habits I am not currently doing, but those which I will add starting immediately.
  • Items that are bolded are those that I think contribute the most to my overall happiness and well-being.
  • A few of these items could have been broken out more into separate habits but they're typically things that I do together in a habit "cluster".
Ready to peek into my wonderful day filled with happiness habits? Here you are!
  1. Alarm goes off at 5:00 AM
  2. Cuddle/snooze for 20 minutes
  3. Brush teeth while making bed
  4. Put in contacts
  5. Put on workout gear (set out the night before)
  6. Walk or run with my husband- usually 1.5-2 miles
  7. Do 10-15 minutes of yoga (YouTube video)
  8. Check e-mail as time allows
  9. Scan documents in Evernote and shred paper once scanned as time allows
  10. Read one chapter from Bible
  11. Shower
  12. Take vitamin
  13. Put on make up, deodorant
  14. Put on clothes and jewelry (set out the night before)
  15. Comb hair
  16. Pray before breakfast- gratitude moment
  17. Eat breakfast and put dishes in dishwasher
  18. Dry hair
  19. Pack workout bag if applicable
  20. Fill up water bottle
  21. Get lunch out of fridge (packed the night before)
  22. Drive to work- pray during drive
  23. Once arriving at work, turn on computer, make tea and put lunch in fridge, fill up water bottle
  24. Log food from breakfast in Evernote
  25. Create Most Important Things (MIT) list (3 things I absolutely want to accomplish that day and will make a priority)
  26. Review calendar to make sure I don’t have a meeting first thing in the morning
  27. If no meeting, complete one of the MIT’s before checking e-mail and voice mail
  28. Check voice mail and make notes in Evernote
  29. Check e-mail and move all e-mails into appropriate action folder, unless they can be responded to within 2 minutes or less
  30. Work on MIT’s and other tasks as time allows
  31. Eat snacks throughout morning and afternoon
  32. Drink at least 3 water bottles worth of water throughout the day
  33. Pray before lunch- gratitude moment
  34. Eat lunch in the lunchroom (not at desk!)
  35. During lunch, chat with friends or read minimalism blogs. Also track food in Evernote.
  36. Work on MIT’s and other tasks as time allows
  37. Workout at end of workday, otherwise drive home (leave by 6:15 PM) and listen to podcasts
  38. Kiss my husband as soon as I see him
  39. Pray before dinner- gratitude moment
  40. Eat dinner with my husband
  41. Take a walk with my husband (usually 1 mile- try to get a total of 10,000 steps a day)
  42. Pack lunch
  43. Check e-mail as needed and complete other projects for volunteer activities
  44. Call a friend/family member for 10 minutes or send an e-mail to them
  45. Enter all receipt information into Moneydance
  46. Send an e-mail report to my accountability buddy about what foods I ate, total number of steps (thanks to FitBit!), time spent meditating, and time spent doing yoga
  47. Lay out workout gear and clothes for the next day
  48. Brush and floss teeth
  49. Unmake bed
  50. Take out contacts
  51. Wash face
  52. Meditate for 5-10 minutes
  53. Set alarm for 5 AM
  54. Lights out between 9:30 and 10:00 latestSLEEP
A few questions you may have: 

Question: How do you do all that in the morning? It seems like a lot.
Answer: I pack my lunch and set out my workout and work clothes the night before, so I'm not wasting time in the morning. This allows me to go on a walk/run and do at least 10 minutes of yoga before I'm out the door at 7:30 AM. 

Question: Where is the TV watching? How about the Netflix marathons?
Answer: I don't watch TV during the week. We got rid of cable and I haven't started watching any new shows. I don't miss it at all. It gives me time to do other things that I think better contribute to my health and happiness.

Question: Where is the time online checking social media and watching YouTube clips?
Answer: I minimize this as much as possible and only if I have time after checking personal e-mails in the morning and evening and taking care of priority projects. 

Question: Why do you go to bed so early?
Answer: I get up at 5 AM and I have found that I need 7-8 hours of sleep to feel fully rested and happy. It may not work for you, but if you have trouble getting to sleep as early as you want to, take this tip from Gretchen Rubin and set an alarm to go to bed. This gives you an audible notification that you should wrap up whatever you are doing and start your bedtime routine (especially since we don't have our parents to do this for us anymore!) More ideas about how to encourage good sleep (like not looking at your smart phone or watching TV right before bed) can be found here

If you want to know more about my habit journey, let me know! I'll keep you updated on the ones I'm adding in red above, including flexing my gratitude muscles and maintaining relationships with my friends and family.