At the beginning of 2015 I asked myself what habits I wanted to create this year.
In the first nine months–or 2/3– of 2015, I’ve created 10 new habits. I honestly believe that adopting these habits has made me a stronger, happier, and better person. That is, I’m now better than I was when the clock struck twelve on December 31st, 2014.
The ten habits that I have to thank for helping me to move up a notch–or two–on the ladder of life in the past nine months are the following:
1. Following a Morning Routine. By creating the habit of following a morning routine I’ve been starting my days off right. My morning routine consists of the following:
- As soon as I wake up I give thanks for the day that’s about to begin.
- I make my bed.
- I brush my teeth and scrape my tongue.
- I have a glass of warm lemon water.
- I eat a healthy breakfast.
- I follow a ten minute routine which is very similar to Yoga – it’s called the Five Tibetan Rights.
- I meditate for ten minutes.
Once I’m done with my morning routine I shower, brush my hair, and get dressed, and I’m ready to go out the door.
2. Weight Lifting. Although I’ve been exercising on a regular basis for years—I’m an avid runner—, weight lifting was not part of my exercise regime. However, after reading about the myriad of benefits of weight lifting, I decided to reduce the amount of cardio that I was doing and start hitting the gym three days a week.
Since mid-April, I’ve been doing the following:
- I run outside three days a week, for roughly an hour each time.
- I lift weights at the gym for about 50 minutes, three days a week.
As a result of creating the habit of weight lifting I’ve lost weight, and I look—and feel—more fit and toned. In addition, I’ve grown stronger.
3. Reading. When I was growing up, and all through college, I read voraciously. I’ve always loved reading. However, once I got into law school I lost the habit of reading for pleasure (I had more than enough reading to do for school).
I never really picked up the habit again, until about four months ago. That’s when I started setting aside one-hour-a-day to read quality fiction, every day. In fact, I started a “be well-read project”. So far, I’ve read the following:
- Macbeth (1611) by William Shakespeare – A story about ambition, greed, and betrayal.
- Leaf Storm (1955) by Gabriel García Márquez – A colonel does what is right, even though it will incur the wrath of the town.
- No One Writes to the Colonel (1961) by Gabriel García Márquez – A colonel spends his life waiting for a pension that never comes.
- Big Mama’s Funeral (1962) by Gabriel García Márquez – A collection of short stories.
- In Evil Hour (1962) by Gabriel García Márquez – Someone in the village keeps leaving pamphlets all over town exposing the locals’ shameful secrets.
- One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) by Gabriel García Márquez – The masterpiece of this Nobel literature laureate.
- The Oedipus Cycle (approximately 420 BC) by Sophocles –A trilogy about the life of Oedipus, King of Thebes, and his children.
- The House of Bernarda Alba (1936) by Federico García Lorca – A tragedy written by the most important Spanish playwright of the 20th century.
4. Writing 1000 Words a Day. This year I’ve created the habit of writing 1,000 words a day (at least), whether I’m inspired to do so, or not. I either write an article for this blog, or I add another section to whatever eBook I happen to be working on at the moment. Here’s why this is an important habit to adopt:
- The more you write, the more you prime your brain to come up with writing ideas quickly.
- Creating a habit of writing strengthens your writing muscles, so it becomes easier to transform thoughts and ideas into sentences and paragraphs. That is, you become a better writer.
- The small goal of “write 1000 words today”, turns into a 60,000 word eBook in just two months.
Why did I adopt this habit? Because I’m a writer, and writers write.
5. Drinking Water Throughout the Day. Panama is hot all year-round –it often feels like a furnace. In addition, as I’ve already pointed out in this post, I exercise a lot. However, I’ve never been very good about drinking the amount of water that my body needs to stay hydrated.
This year, that has changed. I got myself a Lifefactory glass water bottle—which I highly recommend (mine is red)—and I created the habit of carrying it around with me all day long and drinking from it regularly.
In addition, I tie eight rubber bands around the bottle’s handle. Every time I finish all of the water in the bottle, I take a rubber band off, and refill the bottle. My goal is to have taken all eight rubber bands off by the end of each day.
As a result of creating this habit I don’t get drowsy while I’m working like I used to, I have more energy, and my skin looks fantastic.
6. Dwelling on Positive Experiences. Whenever something positive happens to me throughout the day—I get an email from someone saying one of my eBooks changed their life, a friend compliments me, or I move one of my goals forward—I stop and let it sink in for at least thirty seconds.
I adopted this habit in order to combat the negativity bias – the brain’s tendency to pay more attention to, and remember more vividly, negative input from the environment. By dwelling on the good I’m rewiring my brain for happiness.
That is, my new habit is counteracting the negativity bias and has made me a happier person.
7. Reading the News. A lot of people feel that reading the news is a waste of time –after all, they’re reading about things that are outside their circle of influence. If there’s nothing they can do to influence world events, why bother knowing what’s going on?
Well, I’m not one of those people. I think it’s important to be informed. That being said, I don’t spend a lot of time reading the news: I spend just enough time to be aware of the most important issues and news of the day. Here’s what I read:
- Every morning I get “The Ten Things You Need to Know Today” from The Week delivered to my inbox.
- Every morning I get “The Brief” from Time Magazine delivered to my inbox.
- I skim the two most important Panamanian newspapers: La Prensa and El Panamá Amèrica.
Creating this habit has helped me to ensure that whenever I’m with a group of people and they start discussing current events, I can jump right in and make a smart contribution to the conversation. In addition, I believe that knowing what’s going on in my country–and abroad–makes me a better citizen.
8. Performing Random Act of Kindness. Every day I’m consciously on the lookout for something positive that I can do for someone else that day. It’s usually something small, like the following:
- Holding the elevator door for someone.
- Racing little kids when I go out for a jog – my jogging route is a promenade that’s always full of families hanging out in the evenings, and little kids will often start running beside me as I jog by.
- Getting a cup of coffee, a chocolate, or some cookies for the guard downstairs.
There’s a lot of research out there done by positive psychologists that shows that being kind to others raises your levels of happiness. Therefore, just like dwelling on the good things that happen to me each day, this is a habit that I’ve adopted in order to increase my happiness levels.
9. Applying the 20-20-20 Rule. Near the beginning of the year I noticed that my eye sight was getting blurry. I concluded that this was because of all the time that I spend staring at a computer screen, and I decided to research how to fix the problem. That’s how I found the 20-20-20 rule.
The rule is as follows: every 20 minutes, take a break for 20 seconds, and look at an object that’s at least 20 feet away. I’ve been doing this for about two months now. As a result of adopting this habit, my vision has become a lot less blurry.
10. Following a Night Routine. Just as creating the habit of following a morning routine has helped me to start the day off right, creating the habit of following a night routine has helped me to end the day the right way. My night routine consists of the following:
- I get everything ready for the next day – I prepare breakfast, set out my clothes, pack my bag, and so on.
- I dissolve half a tablespoon of Natural Calm plus Magnesium-Calcium Drink in a glass of water and drink it.
- I review my day and write down ten things I’m grateful for.
- I plan for the next day.
- I do a ten minute session of Spring Forest Qigong to unwind.
When I’m done with my night routine I brush and floss my teeth, wash my face, put on my pj’s, and I’m ready for bed.
There’s only one-third of the year left to adopt the habit, or habits, which you promised yourself you would create at the beginning of the year. Be a better person by the end of 2015 by creating at least one new habit. Live your best life by adopting positive habits, such as the ten I outline above.
- How to Develop Your Character – Benjamin Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues
- How to Make Decisions Like Benjamin Franklin
- What a Special Agent Can Teach You About Achieving Your Goals
- What A 16th Century Priest Can Teach You About Self-Improvement