A recent article suggested that it takes, on average, 66 days to change a habit (a vast departure from the 21 day number I have heard thrown around in the past). Regardless, what I have found is that we spend so much time focusing on breaking habits: smoking, dieting, etc., that we forget about the integration of new, healthy ones into the old routine. What if instituting a few small tweaks to our regular ritual could create that impact we have been looking for?
Here are five small things you can do right now that will have a big impact on your quality of life:
- Detox (Digital):I recently wrote a post about printing out the articles that are so good you have to see them on paper – and perhaps you should; especially if you read before bedtime. So many of us are on screens all day – laptops, iPhones, Androids – but what you may not know is that the blue light emitted from these screens is interpreted by your brain as sunlight. That “sunlight” then results in your brain suppressing melatonin, a sleep hormone. Kick the screens off at least 2 hours before bedtime or use a program like flux to keep the blue light to a minimum. Your body will thank you as you drift off into a restful sleep thereby giving you the ability to have a more productive tomorrow.
- Exercise: You’ve heard this before – but it’s not just about burning calories and looking great. Even exercising for 20 minutes elevates the core temperature in your body. Subsequently, your body responds by lowering its core temperature at night; resulting in the ideal conditions for promoting a restful sleep. Nothing helps productivity more than a great night’s snooze.
- Create: Some time ago I was interviewed about the daily disciplines that I integrate into my life. One of those was creating something every day whether that is a blog, a facebook post, or a tweet. Some of you might remember a study from 2001 that Time published referred to as the “nun study.” One of the many interesting findings within it showed that the “80% [of nuns] whose writing was measured as lacking in linguistic density went on to develop Alzheimer’s in old age. Meanwhile, of those whose writing was not lacking, only 10% later developed the disease.” The lesson here? Keep on building those neurons with a aplomb – it’s a great way to prevent you from losing your mind. Literally.
- Track accountability: How often do we say “I do that all the time” only to be corrected by our spouse, family, and friends that our perceived habits are not always accurate. I recommend using an app like Way of Life to easily and accurately track what you actually do every day. You can even customize it to fit your goals. Do you want to make sure that you compliment a coworker for a job well done once a day? This is a great way to make that happen!
- Meditate: It seems like you can’t throw a stone without hitting another story about the benefits of meditation these days. I’ll admit I have avoided talking about it, but not because I don’t believe in its efficacy. I will leave it to other publications to extoll the full virtues of meditation, but will leave you with a stat and a suggestion. “(A study published in May 2013) in the medical journal PloS One showed that one session of relaxation-response practice was enough to enhance the expression of genes involved in energy metabolism and insulin secretion and reduce expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress. There was an effect even among novices who had never practiced before.” You don’t need buddhist robes and yoga retreat to make this happen. Just start with a free program and give it 10 minutes of your day every day this week. Headspace.com is one place that can get you started. Let me know how it goes!
Hold yourself to a coming week of healthy habits and you’ll feel great because you did.
 Riley KP, Snowdon DA, Desrosiers MF, Markesbery WR: Early life linguistic ability, late life cognitive function, and neuropathology: Findings from the Nun Study Neurobiology of Aging 26(3):341347, 2005.