We all want to live a healthier life, be it in terms of physical, mental, or emotional well-being. The best way to do it is to integrate healthy habits into your daily routine. By healthy habits, I mean routines that will help you feel better and/or simplify your life. I have listed eight habits that I find very helpful and can be fitted into almost any routine.
1. Plan your day
A healthy habit to fit into your morning routine is to take time (at least 5 minutes) to figure out what your day will look like. An efficient way of doing this is to make a list of what you want/need to accomplish and assign a block of time to each task. This will help you prioritize your to-do list and set realistic goals. Also, by consciously planning your day, you will be less prone to forget any appointments and activities such as returning books to the library or a doctor’s appointment you made months ago.
2. Set intentions
Another tip that I find very helpful is to pause to set intentions before starting a new activity. You can do this for any time block on your schedule. At work, it could be: “I will take no more than 30 minutes to read my e-mails and then I will work on that report for an hour”; or before you start cleaning the house, you could decide how much time you are going to spend and which rooms you want to clean in this timeframe. These intentions can also be related to how you want a specific activity to happen. E.g., before starting the bedtime routine with your children, you could set an intention to be more relaxed and listen to your kids because you rushed through bedtime the night before.
Setting intentions will help you figure out your expectations, focus on what you really want, and have the right mindset.
3. Get up before your kids
If you are like me, i.e. not a morning person, you might cringe at the idea of getting up even earlier than you already do. And I must admit that I’m still struggling with it. However, this healthy habit has many benefits. First, it will have a positive impact on your mood: obviously, you will feel much better if you had the time to wake up at your own rhythm without having to take care of somebody else. Which leads to the second advantage: you can start the day with a quiet time to meditate, read, or plan your day (see tip #1). Another enjoyable side effect is that you can get ready before the kids and have a relatively unrushed morning with them.
4. Get physical
There are so many possibilities to add physical activity to your day. Even small changes, such as walking while on the phone or getting a stand-up desk, can already make a difference. Take any opportunity you can to move your body. It doesn’t need to be a one-hour intensive workout. If time permits it, why not walk or cycle instead of taking the car?
And don’t think you need to be alone to exercise, there are many activities that you can practice with your kids. I have written a whole article about this if you want to know more (5 Effective Strategies to Exercise as a Parent).
5. Be mindful
In today’s hectic society, where we are almost constantly solicited or distracted by something, mindfulness is an invaluable tool that will help you re-center and calm down. Luckily, and despite what one might think, mindfulness is one of the healthy habits that can be easily built into our daily schedule. There are many exercises of all types and durations that you can practice: ranging from simple mindful breathing or observation to body scan. You will find more details on how to apply these techniques in my article 7 Easy Ways to Practice Mindfulness as a Parent.
6. Read every day
If like me, you wish you had more time to read, this technique might be what you are looking for. It consists not only of including reading to your daily routine but also to set a number of pages you want to read every day. I like the idea of defining a minimum number of pages I’m going to read. Even if you decide to read at least 10 pages a day, it is always better than not reading at all and chances are you will read more once you start.
Another way of reading more is to work on your reading skills so as to take in information faster and retain more of it. There are various methods such as focusing on word chunks (instead of individual words), stop sub-vocalizing (pronouncing the words in your head) when you read and eliminate distractions to make sure you focus on reading only.
Not only will reading help you improve your knowledge, vocabulary, and memory, but it’s also a great way to reduce stress and entertain yourself.
7. Plan in offline time
Ok, this is a tough one – and I’m so guilty of this. We all know how much of a distraction our devices are. Not only are we constantly interrupted by notifications, but anytime we have (or don’t have) a few spare minutes, we pull out our smartphones.
Here are a few techniques to apply to help you get some time offline:
- Switch off your phone or filter out calls for tasks that need your full attention
- Read on your e-reader instead of using your tablet (this will also help children differentiate when you are actually reading)
- Establish when devices should be turned off and stick to it: e.g. meals, one-on-one time with the children, bedtime routine, meetings, etc.
- Set a timer on your devices so they turn themselves off when you are supposed to go to sleep
8. Tweak your habits
Now you might think: How can changing my habits be a habit? Let me explain. While it’s healthy and helpful to set up and follow routines, it’s just as important to stay flexible. When I’m talking about change, I mean small changes – but these small changes can have surprising effects on your life. There are so many ways to tweak your routine: why not do your yoga session outdoors instead of inside, try out a new restaurant, walk or drive a different route, discover a new author, cook something new, and the list goes on and on. Of course, this is not something you can or need to do every day, but just keep it in a corner of your mind and introduce a small change from time to time. You might meet new people, find a new perspective, change your mindset, or optimize a routine.
Healthy habits might be difficult to develop at first but you will quickly see that they are worth adopting. You might want to start with the ones that you find easier to introduce into your daily routine and add more over time. Another benefit is that, by seeing you, your children will be able to learn these healthy habits from an early age – which will make it much easier for them.
I’d love to hear which of these healthy habits resonated with you and if you have further habits that had a positive impact on your life.