A Trick to Start Good Habits

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Some things that are good for us aren’t particularly fun. I don’t love taking vitamins or flossing my teeth, and even though I enjoy yoga and walking, many days I don’t feel like it. But I almost always feel better afterwards.

It takes work to maintain health and peaceful surroundings, but once the work is done, there are generous rewards to those who put in the effort.

Associating New Habits with Old Habits

One strategy I am working on to help me remember to do certain things that I have decided are good for me is associating the new habit with something else that I do almost on autopilot. For example, I try to make the bed and take my morning vitamins everyday before I get in the shower. Taking vitamins first thing in the early morning honestly makes me feel gross, so although that seemed like the conventionally obvious time to take morning vitamins, it wasn’t a good fit for me personally. Since I don’t take a shower first thing in the morning, and by the time I do I have usually at least eaten or drank something, this is a time that makes sense to me. Having an unmade bed makes the whole room feel messy and out of order to me, so that was one of those small things I wanted to get a grip on.

As I have been working on developing the habit of taking evening vitamins and flossing my teeth at night, I have noticed a trend that I tend to skip these habits on the weekends, particularly when I have stayed up or stayed out late. Therefore, I am thinking that it might be a good idea to do these things when getting ready before going out or just in general in the late afternoon or early evening during the weekend days to try to increase the likelihood that I will actually do them on those days.

I am also working on developing the habit of going for a walk everyday, and then getting the mail on the way back home. I am pretty bad about going to the mailbox everyday, so that is something I am trying to get better at. I am also working on doing a load of dishes and a load of laundry after I get back from my walk, because just keeping up with these household chores along the way each day makes a huge difference not only each day but also each weekend. I love starting the weekend off with a clean kitchen and having all my favorite clothes washed and ready to wear.

To maintain my paperless surroundings, I am trying to hit the scan button on my scanner every time I walk by it, so I am processing my items to be scanned as they come in each day, rather than collecting them in a pile to be scanned later, that will just stare at me.  I am also working on associating processing the actual paper mail with one of my afternoon email process times, so I am going through that on a daily basis rather than accumulating a pile of mail to deal with later.

Short and Long-Term Benefits of Sticking to Good Habits

Just within a day, I notice a major difference between how I feel on days when I do yoga and meditate first thing in the morning and when I don’t. These seem like such simple activities and missing doesn’t seem like such a big deal, which is what I tell myself on days when I feel like I don’t have the time or don’t feel like it. But almost every single time I miss, particularly yoga, I can immediately identify differences between the days I do and the days I skip.

I feel the short-term benefits of sticking to these habits physically and mentally. If I haven’t given myself the chance to stretch, I feel stiff, as compared to how good I feel the whole day after just 20 minutes of yoga. I am so much more aware of my legs and spine on the days that I do yoga in the morning, and find myself correcting my posture or stretching throughout the day to prevent muscle tension. Mentally, I have a much more positive outlook on the day and I am better equipped to deal with the little unexpected things that happen. I am not saying that the days I do yoga are perfect, but I can tell that I have a much better attitude all day on a yoga day. On a non-yoga day, I am more likely to go off the deep-end over something inconsequential.

When it comes to the long-term, I am certain that a regular yoga and meditation practice works wonders for the cells. There is plenty of information out there to support this, but I honestly don’t even need that to know that I am doing what just makes me feel healthy. As for walking, every time I read something about the long-term health benefits of walking, I am not surprised in the least.

When it comes to the little things of flossing and taking vitamins, it is more of a mental boost than anything in the short-term. Just like with yoga, meditation, and walking, I simply feel good about myself for having done these things. In the long-term, I want to look back and be able to say I did everything I could to make myself as healthy as possible. I missed getting calcium a lot in my 20s, even though I knew better, and you can’t get the calcium back into those years. And I would love to actually go to the dentist and tell the hygienist that I floss everyday and feel good about being truthful!

I have most of these habits listed on my “Rituals” list, as I am working on getting better at doing the things on there by using the trick of grouping tasks together in a way that makes sense to me. I try to remind myself of the long-term benefits of doing these things, and I think having an idea of the short-term benefits sometimes can be even more motivating, especially in a particularly lazy moment.

What trick works for you to keep on track when you are not feeling the good habit vibe? Share your thoughts!

image credit: La Melodie

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