Six Simple Habits To Commit To, Right Now
It takes, on average, 66 days for any new behavior to become automatic. So, if you've ever read that in just 21 repetitions, you, too, can form a new habit—keep reading, because that claim is usually followed by a recommendation: then keep that up for 3 months. Don’t fret! Forget about the number of days and think in terms of one, small choice you can commit to making in this moment. Remember, it won’t happen all at once. A caterpillar enters its chrysalis to undergo metamorphosis for up to two weeks—but it only takes it a moment to emerge a butterfly. Here are 6 habits to help you begin within on your journey to self-transformation.
1. Practice Breathing Correctly
Did you know you should think about breathing? Breathing mindfully with purpose can help you slow your heart rate, adapt to your surroundings, and cope with every stressful moment of your day, from sunrise to bedtime. Mindfulness and meditation-based practices have been studied by the U.S. VA Medical Center’s National Center for PTSD with encouraging results both as a natural alternative to other treatments and as an adjunct approach.”1 According to the study, “mindfulness may exert its effects by reducing neuroendocrine dysregulation associated with increased sympathetic activity.”2 In other words, committing to keeping your breath slow and steady, even when life feels chaotic around you, helps a lot and is a skill you can master easily.
Deep breaths are key for managing both physical and mental health. Resisting the urge to overreact to every little thing will make life much easier in the long run. In only one minute, practicing deep breathing first thing in the morning (right when you wake up) can help lower and regulate stress levels throughout the day—helping you establish peace at the start. And if focusing on anything else makes your mind wander off or feel overwhelmed, try reciting a mantra such as “I am enough,” “What if I'm enough?” or, simply, “Remember to breathe” to the tune of Dashboard Confessional—doesn’t matter as long as you do it. This way—even when life gets difficult, you'll know where to find clarity within yourself during times of uncertainty.3
2. Eat and Drink Mindfully
Are you hungry or are you bored? Are you thirsty or do you just need a jolt to your brain chemistry? What should you be eating or drinking? Do we have time to think these questions every single time we want to eat or drink anything? No. “Mindfulness trains individuals to notice distressing thoughts, emotions and sensations. By increasing awareness of these cues, individuals are then able to tolerate their distress and not allow these non-physical cues make them eat more.”4 To break that down, consistency and repetition of small changes adds up to real, transformative physical and psychological adaptation. But where to start? A raisin.
From Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat by Joseph B. Nelson: “Eating mindfully is about bringing full awareness to each plate or bite of food. It begins with the first thought about food and lasts until the final bite is swallowed and the consequence of the episode is experienced.”5 They continue and explain how you can begin to practice mindful consumption for yourself through the experience of eating a single raisin that you can try regardless of whether you like raisins. You don’t even take a bite of the raisin until Step 11 of 14. But if that sounds a bit too intense, remember to start small. Commit to just one healthier choice or alternative. Instead of a morning coffee, what if you intentionally chose to replace that with an ALIVE adaptogenic mushroom tea or SYNERGY Raw Kombucha? Similar benefits, intentionally chosen to be more beneficial to you, your body, and your mind that will add up to increased bodily resiliency. Try the this for that technique every day for one choice to see where mindful consumption leads you. Then, maybe pick up with that raisin later.
3. If It Takes Less Than One Minute, Do It Now
One of the easiest and most powerful ways to maximize the amount of stress-free time in your day is to just do the thing. No one likes having to accomplish 40 separate one-minute tasks all at once at the end of the day. However, 40 one-minute tasks accomplished at 40 separate times, in the moment, spread out throughout the day just might feel a lot more manageable. For example, what do people usually hate most about cooking? Cleaning, of course. But great chefs know there are tricks to avoid the accumulated mess—just clean as you go! When you’re preparing your mise en place before starting to cook, organize your ingredients so they don’t get mixed up with other items and you don’t have to go hunting mid-recipe. Hello, enhanced efficiency! Compost any old food scraps instead of letting them sit around on your countertop. Then, when you’re sauteing vegetables, wash off your cutting board while the vegetables cook. Try these tips out the next time you make dinner, and work your way toward mastering a cleaner kitchen, house, and a tidier life.
4. Complete Tasks With Resilience
For all the times you thought you were multitasking, you’re actually just switching from one task to another (and rarely completing any), according to Paul Atchley, Ph.D., an associate professor of Cognitive Psychology at the University of Kansas. In Harvard Business Review he shared, “We have a brain with billions of neurons and many trillion of connections, but we seem incapable of doing multiple things at the same time.” In other words, there is no such thing as multitasking. So, monotask with purpose! Start something, finish it. Commit to the finishing. The smaller the task the better! “The release of dopamine not only makes you feel good but also motivates you to continue completing tasks and extend that pleasant feeling.”6 The more you do, the more you’ll do!
5. Delay Reactions Intentionally
In the midst of a stressful situation, whether it’s something happening externally around you or internally, within—our immediate reaction can sometimes too often get the better of us. The moment that should have been a molehill can quickly turn into a mountain if intentional delays aren’t implemented. This phenomenon is common, and we all go through it occasionally, but if we want to continue having stress-free lives when faced with hard moments, we need to exercise control over ourselves by employing various techniques. This has been studied related to chronic pain and how mindful delays can help effect physiological and psychological symptoms. “Studies have shown significant decrease in anxiety, stress and depression and enhanced the quality of life in patients with chronic diseases like cancer, hypertension, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, chronic pain and skin disorders, after MBSR therapy (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction therapy).” 7
Try simply counting to 10 before responding, every time, while focusing on the discomfort instead of pushing it aside8. Be curious. Doing so prevents you from succumbing to reactions which could later lead to panic attacks or breakdowns. Those long exhales really do work wonders for clearing one's head and reminding us that this moment, too, shall pass—even when that moment is uncomfortable. Look; it just did.
6. Jot Down Every Idea
Show yourself you’re important and that you’re paying attention to you. If you don’t, who else can you guarantee will? The best way to do this: write down every idea – no matter how wild, incomplete, or simple. In a notebook, your Notes app, or fired off in an email to yourself, you’ll be surprised at the connections you’ll start to make and the mental flexibility you’ll begin to exhibit. In one study, participants who were asked to write down everything on their minds started to uncover surprising connections, resulting in a new outlook on their potential life paths that they had not previously been able to see.9
The important thing is committing to creating the ideas, then paying attention and capturing them. That little voice that was so used to thinking “Why did you think that?” or “No one will care,” will instead start to say, “I have to write that down.” Because when your thoughts matter to you, your voice will be amplified and, in turn, your impact on others. And science agrees: Reflective writing and journaling appears to be an effective technique for increasing self-compassion and empathy. 10 And if you like images more than words, you’re in luck! Doodling has been shown to achieve similar results!11 Doodle whatever’s in your head, there’s no wrong answer.12 Prove to yourself that’s true in as little as a few scribbled words or a doodled lotus flower with leopard spots sliding up a rainbow.
Choose One, Commit to the Change; Unlock Transformation
Aim to start with one, simple habit from the list above and commit to making that choice consistently. That’s what it means to begin within. Evaluate how the resulting changes impact you, and how you evolve over time. Feel yourself change inside and then let it flow out for others to feel. Remember to be kind to yourself, as your road to holistic wellness is a lifelong journey. A journey that starts with one simple choice. A journey that begins within you.
1 Jayatunge RM, Pokorski M. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: A Review of Therapeutic Role of Meditation Interventions. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2019;1113:53-59. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/publications/rq_docs/V28N2.pdf
2 Bergen-Cico, D., Possemato, K., & Pigeon, W. (2014). Reductions in cortisol associated with primary care brief mindfulness program for veterans with PTSD. Medical Care, 52(12), S25-S31. doi:10.1097/ MLR.0000000000000224
3 Xu J, Jo H, Noorbhai L, Patel A, Li A. Virtual mindfulness interventions to promote well-being in adults: A mixed-methods systematic review. J Affect Disord. 2022 Mar 1;300:571-585.
4 Warren JM, Smith N, Ashwell M. A structured literature review on the role of mindfulness, mindful eating and intuitive eating in changing eating behaviours: effectiveness and associated potential mechanisms. Nutr Res Rev. 2017 Dec;30(2):272-283.
5 Nelson JB. Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat. Diabetes Spectr. 2017;30(3):171-174.
7 Niazi AK, Niazi SK. Mindfulness-based stress reduction: a non-pharmacological approach for chronic illnesses. N Am J Med Sci. 2011;3(1):20-23. doi:10.4297/najms.2011.320
8 Bonde EH, Fjorback LO, Frydenberg M, Juul L. The effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction for school teachers: a cluster-randomized controlled trial. Eur J Public Health. 2022 Apr 1;32(2):246-253.
9 Beck AR, Verticchio H. Effectiveness of a Method for Teaching Self-Compassion to Communication Sciences and Disorders Graduate Students. Am J Speech Lang Pathol. 2018 Feb 6;27(1):192-206. doi: 10.1044/2017_AJSLP-17-0060. PMID: 29383372.
10 Beck AR, Verticchio H. Effectiveness of a Method for Teaching Self-Compassion to Communication Sciences and Disorders Graduate Students. Am J Speech Lang Pathol. 2018 Feb 6;27(1):192-206. doi: 10.1044/2017_AJSLP-17-0060. PMID: 29383372.
11 Online article in PositivePsychology.com by Alicia Nortje, PhD. (Fellow, Univ. Cape Town, South Africa). https://positivepsychology.com/journaling-for-mindfulness/
12 Moore MF, Montgomery L, Cobbs T. Increasing student success through in-class resilience education. Nurse Educ Pract. 2021 Jan;50:102948. doi: 10.1016/j.nepr.2020.102948. Epub 2020 Dec 3. PMID: 33316617.