If you follow this blog you know I have a fascination with healthy habits. I wonder about that research that says if you do something for 21 or 66 or however many days in a row that it will finally sink in and become a habit. In my experience, that just hasn’t been the case.
For me, its easier to assume it’s never going to be a habit and instead focus on how I can make sure that I do it anyway. If by some miracle it becomes automatic, that’s fantastic, if not, it doesn’t matter because I’m getting the benefit I want. Before I get into the “how” though, you need to identify your core healthy habits and why they are important to you.
To give you an example, I’ll share my recent experience with sleep. I just got back from a week in Costa Rica and for the first two days I slept like I hadn’t slept in a year. It didn’t matter that it was gorgeous outside and we had the perfect spot overlooking the ocean. I just wanted to pull the covers over my head and rest. By the third day, I had shaken off the exhaustion and mild sense of anxiousness I arrived with. The chest cold that had lingered for 4 weeks had cleared up and my irritability was gone. By the fourth day my internal clock had reset and I was going to bed at 9pm and waking up at 5am feeling refreshed. I was pulling out my yoga mat or going for a run because I felt it.
I realized how different I am when I get high quality sleep. It wasn’t just sleeping for 8 hours but also going to bed with no worries and waking up with no agenda. That is something I can not maintain all the time but I relished it while I had it.
My experience in Costa Rica reflected back at me that the number one core habit I need to focus on is sleep. If I get enough quality sleep the next habit is much easier. The next core habit is exercise. When I get enough sleep, I naturally want to be active, when I am active I feel better, I look better, and I make better choices. The combination of those two things in an ideal world is probably enough to set me up for a near perfect day.
But I do not live my life on vacation with no demands and very little stress. I have to have a way to manage stress, anxiety, and mind chatter which brings me to my third core habit, meditation. My meditation practice started out as a spiritual practice, which of course it is, but it is also my best defense again the noise of my hectic and very modern lifestyle.
The reason I’m sharing this is not because I think I have dialed in the greatest habits but it’s because it’s a useful exercise to identify your core habits. It’s freeing to identify just a few things that you can do on a daily or weekly basis that make the most impact on your health and wellbeing.
So this brings me to the “how” I alluded to earlier. The healthy habits spreadsheet is how I’m making sure that I keep working to make these habits a part of my daily life. It is a form of accountability when you have to check a box or record a number. Plus it provides you with real data. Your mind can play tricks on you and tell you that you aren’t doing enough or it can also tell you are doing okay when really you aren’t being honest about how bad it’s gotten. When you can see in black and white where you are at with the habits you’ve defined as most important to your health and wellbeing it allows you to react faster.
I got this idea from a client who has been tracking her habits for years. I watched her use her tracking sheet as a learning device and it was so inspiring to me that I started doing it myself. I realize that the tracking itself is a habit too. So for me that means I have 4 habits altogether. Remember to think of that when you create your spreadsheet and to make it as easy as possible to fill it out. Good luck, have fun, and be kind to yourself, it’s a process.
Update: For those of you that want to see the spreadsheet I am using (it’s super simple) or use it as a baseline to make your own – click here.