I learned to put more emphasis on habits than on goals – at least when it comes to my wellbeing. We get plenty of messages from all around us to focus on goals and achievements. Too much emphasis because if you put all your focus on where you want to get to someday and link your happiness to that, you forget to live today. To enjoy your life today.
Identify small wins you can do every day
I think focusing on habits is much more effective when it comes to achieving wellbeing goals. One of my aha moments came from reading about Stephen Guise’s “Mini-Habits” approach. You identify the smallest positive behavior that can be an easy win – too small to fail. Once you are going with that behavior, you will likely do more than the easy win. But on the hardest days, you can still push through on building that positive habit. You are going to be more successful than just trying to use willpower to achieve your goals.
“It’s only when you start playing by your brain’s rules and taking your human limitations seriously–as mini habits show you how to do–that you can achieve lasting change.”Stephen Guise – minihabits.com
Shifting to identifying small wins instead of focusing on big goals was a tipping point for me to start creating a happier and healthier life. In addition to this approach, I am a big believer in finding habits that bring you joy and pleasure. We tend to think that a good life is about denying ourselves and that we’re being weak when we focus on pleasure. Especially when it comes to creating healthy habits of moving more or eating healthy, I think we should focus on what makes us feel both nourished and happy in the moment.
When I look for healthy food that I really enjoy and then make it as easy as possible for me to choose that option when I’m hungry. I keep my favorite protein bars on hand as a last resort and love having one of their mini-bars in my bag for unexpectedly finding myself hungry on the run. (Ha! I’ve got a “mini” theme going.)
Discover habits that bring you joy
I’ve taken the mini-habits approach to my exercise and find fitting short movement routines that I can do at home during my day works best for me. My current favorites are qi-gong and dance and some routines are as short as 7-minutes. As I’ve been figuring out what works for me, I group my mini-habits into routines by the time of day. I create a note in Evernote (one of my favorite tools because I have it on all my devices) with quick links to my favorite routines to help make them easy to do. This works great if I’m traveling too.
I’ve started experimenting with creating mini-retreats as a way to take breaks during my busy weeks. In our increasingly busy lives, it’s easy to put off much-needed breaks until someday in the future when you’ll “have time.” I used to fantasize about week-long vacations or retreats at a lovely spa, but decades went by and I either never got around to having the time (or funds) or I wanted to share the experience and was waiting for someone else to be available or interested. In many ways, my sister’s death last year woke me up about my life. I began to really look at what I wanted and what made me happy. It wasn’t easy because I had a lot of practice learning to be happy with what I had and not focus on what I wanted.
Feeling my bare feet in the grass is a quick way to feel grounded, connect with nature, and give myself a moment of simple pleasure.
One of my favorite things about being at the beach is walking barefoot along the water. Feeling the sand beneath my feet and the ocean washing over them. I also remember loving to be barefoot in the grass when I was a kid, so I started looking for good “barefoot retreat” spots nearby my home and coworking space. I found that a great patch of grass with benches in one of my favorite parks. Just a short visit sitting on the bench, enjoying the sun with bare feet in the grass gave me a restorative break with a real impact on my stress levels and happiness. Walking around on the grass would feel leave my feet feeling like they’d had a quick massage too. This year it was especially great to have found a grassy spot for quick retreats by the pond of my apartment complex. There I had lots of birds and dragonflies to help me enjoy being in the moment.
Keep experimenting and be flexible
I’m continuing to try out new habits and moving last year caused me to have to rethink some of them. It really made me realize how our environment has an impact on the success of our habits and how tying habits to what we automatically do really works. For example, I changed how I made coffee in the morning and I started to forget to do my habit of stretching while I made my coffee. It used to take me longer to make it and I’d be standing there waiting so it was the perfect opportunity to stretch while in my sunny kitchen. I’ve been figuring out what works in my new space. I have also been thinking about adjusting my habits with the seasons because some habits don’t work as well when it is cold or getting dark at different times. I already have an indoor mini-retreat spot where I can put my legs up the wall in a restorative yoga pose and do stretches. It’s a sunny spot in the afternoon so I can relax in the sun when it shines through the window. I learned that pleasurable retreat practice from watching my cats look blissful laying in a sunspot during cold weather 😻