The world of health, wellness and fitness is inundated with people telling those looking for inspiration that their way is THE way. That if you follow their regime, you will be a better person and be closer to some goal that they have set you. Listening to people speak from that position can be both annoying and degrading, and doesn’t engage us individually, so I will do my best to avoid it as I invite you to think differently.
This article is simply an outline of a couple of things that I have found to be incredibly helpful, particularly during this unprecedented COVID-19 era. Those two things are closely linked, but nonetheless separate. As you may have guessed from the title, one is cultivating productive and positive habits; the second is building these habits into a sustaining routine.
Let’s start with habits. Ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, famously placed huge importance on habits, suggesting that ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit’. Slightly cringe philosophical reference – sorry! – however, the point is pertinent. When we do something repeatedly, for an extended period of time, it becomes a part of who we are. If we do something often enough, it becomes engrained in us, and has an outward effect on what we do, say, think and feel. Meditation is a good example. Generic, I know. However, making a habit of meditating – that is, meditating every day for a long period of time, will impact your life. Just like, say, smoking every day and making a habit out of that will also impact your life.
Now, just imagine your overall happiness is on a measurable scale of, say, 1 to 10. Every day you start at your baseline level, wherever that may be. Things you do can either increase or decrease your number on the scale. Obviously, we would want to do things that increase our number. The more we increase our number, the better we feel. It follows, then, that if we do things that make us feel good, often, it is likely our overall ‘happiness number’ will go up. That is to say, if we make a habit out of doing things that make us feel good, we will probably start to feel better in general. Seems obvious, right?! Truthfully, maintaining positive habits is harder than it would seem, and requires some conscientious effort – and a bit of initial discipline. This is where building a routine comes in.
Some people live and die by a routine. Others choose to live more freely and let each day dictate itself. Neither is wrong – and it’s important to do what works best for you. However, I have found that if you build a routine based around positive habits, it’s noticeably easier to maintain said habits, and thus increase your overallwellbeing. Here’s why: once you have a clear, daily routine sorted, it takes the thought process out of it. There is no longer the question of: ‘How do I make time for this?’, which is the hardest part of keeping up a habit! A solid routine is the framework for maintaining habits and, I promise you, it makes them so much easier to keep up.
To build a routine, I used a habit tracker. These are an amazingly simple way to hold yourself accountable for habits, and thus build a routine of them. You can find a good explanation and example of one here*, and I will include a picture of another (right).
I start each day with three things that I know make me feel good. Yoga, journalling and the Wim Hof Method (see below). They are in my habit tracker. I do not think about doing them anymore, as they are simply my morning routine. Whilst they are still in process, they are on their way to becoming deeply engrained habits in my life. Simply put, doing things that make you feel good, more often, makes you feel good – more often – and therefore better overall. Please note that these things do not work for everybody. I would wholeheartedly recommend anybody try them, but we are all built differently and so what makes me feel good may not do the same for you; its a case of trial and error until you find what works!
In the current situation, where all of us are on lockdown for the foreseeable future, now is a better time than ever to identify your positive habits, prioritise them and base your daily routine around them. Spending time working on my habits and working them into a routine has noticeably improved my own wellbeing and mental attitude. These things are very personal to each individual. However, I think everyone can benefit from developing their own positive habits by putting them into a routine, and I urge you to give it a go for – just a week – and see how you feel.
By Gabriel Godfrey-Janni