Habits are what you do on a daily basis to achieve your long term goals. Once something is habituated, it’s like it’s on auto-pilot. It requires less thought and effort to execute. It’s not so much a decision you make as much as it’s something you do instinctively.
Given the effect our daily habits have on our lives over the long-term, it’s critical to form good habits. In this article, I share my top 23 daily habits for physical health, mental health, being present and mindful, and becomeing more confident, energized and motivated.
1. Write a Gratitude List
It’s nearly impossible to be grateful and depressed or anxious or afraid at the same time. Whenever I find myself feeling regret, criticizing myself or lacking self-confidence, I express gratitude to remind myself of what I already have.
The practice I’ve adopted to express gratitude is a gratitude list. I write down the big things in my life that I’m grateful for, like my friends and family, but more often, I write down small things like my morning coffee, access to The Internet and my favorite foods.
After expressing gratitude for all the great things in my life and th experiences I’ve had, I feel more confident, energized and motivated, while at the same time not feeling desperate or insufficient.
2. Eat Healthy Food
It’s no secret that healthy foods have a profound effect on the mind and body. It is however a secret to some people that most of what we’ve been taught about nutrition is bogus. Instead of relying on faulty science-based nutrition advice out there, I take a data-driven approach that relies on personal experimentation (biohacking).
Everyone responds differently to different foods. So I encourage you to experiment to find what works for you. I do some combination of Bulletproof and Paleo. Low carb, high fat.
Here are some of my favorite foods that increase my energy, mood and focus:
- Grassfed butter
- Sweet potatoes
- Green vegetables – broccoli, celery, spinach, etc.
Crappy foods provide the short-term thrill of good taste, but healthy foods provide the long term thrill of a long and prosperous life.
3. Be Around People You Love
I’m at my happiest when I’m with people I love. It’s not a complete surprise why personal relationships have such a profound effect on our health and happiness. Think about the evolutionary psychology behind it. In pre-civilized times, you needed a tribe in order to survive and reproduce. Thus, your brain responds positively to being around people you love because it can help you survive and reproduce (which is your most essential goal as a human).
Here are some of the types of people I like to surround myself with:
- People that challenge me
- People that are energized, happy and motivated
- People that think rationally
- People that love me
Their good vibes will rub off on you and inspire you to take action. While you’re at it, tell someone you love that you love them.
I don’t have six pack abs. Nor do I ever want them. I don’t do CrossFit. I can’t lift 500 pounds.
But I do exercise about five times per week. Otherwise, I’d be sitting around all day at my computer.
Moving my body improves my mood and increases my energy. I like lifting weights, but do what works for you. In addition, consider your current level of fitness when getting started. Something is better than nothing. Build up strength slowly over time.
5. Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleeping may seem like a waste of time to my more “type-a” readers. I can assure you it is not.
By getting eight hours of high-quality sleep each day, I ensure that the other 16 hours of my day are focused, energized and productive. If I slept for 6 hours, I would have two more hours in the day, but the combined 18 hours would be less productive than the 16 hours after a good night’s sleep.
To get high-quality sleep, try sleeping with an eye mask to block out light, with earplugs to reduce noise, and in a lower temperature room.
6. Challenge Yourself
Sometimes resting too much leads to boredom. And boredom leads to a lack of energy.
Try working on a project that challenges you. The extra energy it requires might bring you even more energy in return.
This could mean blogging, doing crossword puzzles, learning a musical instrument or learning a new language. Find something that will keep your brain engaged.
Focus slightly longer when you feel the urge to switch tasks. Do one extra rep at the gym. Wake up 5 minutes earlier. You’ll be stronger for it.
7. Have Fun
Are you feeling burnt out?
Working too much without taking a break is like accumulating debt. It adds up, and the more you postpone paying it down, the more you will owe later on.
To avoid burn out, take some time to have fun and wind down. See friends, watch a movie, go see some standup comedy – whatever works for you.
8. Consume Some Caffeine
I love “Bulletproof Coffee.” It’s coffee with grass fed butter and MCT Oil (or coconut oil). I often add some cinnamon for flavor, as well.
Grab 2.5 tablespoons of grass fed butter (Kerry Gold), 1.5 tablespoons of MCT Oil (I use Brain Octane Oil by Bulletproof), and 12 ounces of hot coffee. Put it into a big mason jar. Blend it together using a hand blender.
I have it every morning for breakfast. The caffeine gives you a boost of energy. The fat helps you sustain the energy and gives your mind and body fuel as well.
Recently, I’ve reduced my caffeine intake to just one cup of green tea per day. I’ve been less stressed and more consistently energized throughout the day. But everyone is different, so do what works for you.
In order to get healthy fats in the morning (and partially to avoid digesting whole foods), I make my tea the same way I described above – with grass fed butter and MCT Oil.
9. Write Down Affirmations to Increase Confidence
Without self-confidence, you’ll be more stressed and tentative to take action. With self-confidence, you’ll feel energized and motivated to take action. So trust in your ability to handle adversity and succeed. Love yourself.
Having confidence and trusting yourself doesn’t come as a result of just thinking about it, nor does it have to come only after you’ve achieved some arbitrary goal. You have to actively participate in the process.
Write down your strengths and skills. Remind yourself of a time when you overcame adversity. Think about the improvements you’ve made over time.
10. Focus on What’s in Your Control
So many aspects of our lives are completely out of our control. What decisions our partners, bosses and clients will make. What the economy will look like five years from now. Traffic on your morning commute.
Focusing on the factors outside of your control, wishing they were different, or trying to control them, will only keep you from performing your best on what is in your control.
The way you react to your circumstances is within your control. The actions you take on what’s in your control will impact your future. Stay focused on those things instead.
11. Have a Bias Towards Optimism
I like to determine reality before making a decision or taking action. For example, I’d like to know how well this article will be received…and how much money I will be making five years from now.
But you can’t always know with 100% certainty what’s true and what’s not. In addition, it’s more productive to be optimistic than pessimistic. So I always have a bias towards optimism. Instead of just thinking about what could go wrong, I think about what could go right. Instead of just worrying about failing I think about what it will be like to succeed.
12. Go for a Walk Outside
I live in New York City and work inside an office for most of the day most days. In the winter especially, I don’t get much sunlight. Sometimes going outside and being in nature relieves stress and increases my creativity.
Water, sky, sun, grass, trees. These are beautiful things. They energize me — mentally and physically
Going outside doesn’t have to mean a week long camping trip. It can be a ten-minute stroll when you’re in between meetings.
13. Do Something New
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our daily habits and goals that we fail to account for changes in our physical or mental health. Getting stuck in a routine can become a bore.
Don’t forget to mix things up every once in a while. Go someplace new. Change your routine. Take a different route home from work. Try a new restaurant. Travel. Learn a new skill. Give yourself time to run experiments and explore new opportunities.
Reading books is definitely the creme de la creme of learning. However, I don’t want to understate the benefits I’ve received from reading good blog posts and listening to podcasts.
Books are a good way to get engrossed in a topic you want to master. Articles, podcasts and YouTube videos are a great way to get specific information on a skill you need to learn quickly or to get a specific question you have answered. This is key to not falling victim to the content consumption and never taking action.
Making money is not a goal within itself for me. It’s not and “ends goal”. But it is a means to achieving my other goals and living by my values.
Without money, I could not afford to be mentally or physically healthy or helpful to anyone around me. With money, I feel safer and more secure in spite of any potential economic downturn or bad turn of events in my career. And I can enjoy more of what life has to offer.
16. Take Personal Responsibility
Accepting that our lives are our own responsibilities is the first step to making positive changes. Instead of blaming others or expecting someone or something else to take responsibility for you, take responsibility for yourself and your thoughts and actions.
17. Lower Expectations
Happiness can be grossly oversimplified to being a simple function of expectations less reality.
Happiness = expectations – reality.
All else being equal, if your reality gets better (you make more money, get a fancier job title, etc.), you will become happier. But being dependent on outcomes that aren’t completely within your control in order to be happy is a slippery slope to never being satisfied.
Counterintuitively, by lowering expectations, I find myself improving my reality. I achieve a calm that gives me the energy and clear thinking to hunt for my goals.
18. Be Mindful
Mindfulness and meditation are like the beanie babies of the personal development world these days. The gurus out there might lead you to believe that if you just meditate every day that all your problems will go away and you will become rich. That’s most definitely not the case.
However, I have received tremendous benefits from gaining self-awareness and being mindful of my thinking. In order to do so, I take inventory of my thoughts throughout the day. Being mindful of my thoughts is not just something I do for 15 minutes when I wake up in the morning. It’s something I strive to do all day everyday.
When you’re feeling stressed, observe your thoughts. Many of them will full of falsities and insecurities with no basis in reality. Accept that you are thinking those thoughts but don’t blindly accept them as gospel or take action on them. Hold on to the thoughts that are true and/or productive.
19. Be Helpful
Let’s face it, there are a lot of problems in the world. Nothing worth having crippling anxiety over. But there are definitely a few things that I hope will improve in my lifetime.
In order to be helpful, I see three strategies: lead, follow or get out of the way. Neither of those three are bad options — including getting out of the way. The only bad options is getting in the way or being counterproductive.
Some of the biggest problems in the world can not be solved by you alone, nor do you have any obligation to solve them. But I always try to find small ways to help without screwing myself over. Today, it’s writing this article. Knowing that I’ve done something to help someone keeps me motivated.
A writing habit is a great system to have in place because it can help you achieve multiple goals. It has benefits to mental healthy by helping you get your thoughts out of your mind and onto the page. It can have financial benefits as you can sell your writing or using it to market your other products or services. It can help your career and a more subjective fashion by building your brand and displaying your expertise. Writing is also a good skill to have as it can be applied to many professions (writing emails, proposals, presentations, etc.).
To make writing a good habit that you stick to, find a time in your day or week where you typically have the time and energy to write. Having a recurring time slot reduces the cognitive load (and therefore willpower) required to stick to the habit. My time slot is the morning. I’m writing this at 6:53 am on a Saturday. It’s still dark out and no one is emailing or texting me so I feel incredibly focused.
21. Take a Breath
Take a deep breathe. Slowly.
Do it again.
Focus your attention on your breath. Become aware of your brain and body. Notice the stresses and sensations. Observe them. Don’t be a slave to them. It’s just a chemical reaction.
Be grateful that you are breathing.
Should you implement one of the good habits in this article, make sure it’s working for you. Is it delivering results? Is the cost of executing on it more trouble than it’s worth?
Sometimes what we expect is different than what plays out in reality. Measuring helps us determine what’s real, and, this context, beneficial.
Some of the things I measure include how many hours I sleep, how much time I spend working, how much time I spend with people I love, and how many books I read.
23. Be Present
I often times find myself worrying about the future. Most times, my worries are as a result of trying to forecast the future. However, I (like most humans) am not great at predicting the future.
Predicting the future is almost impossible. So my worries about the future usually have almost no basis in reality.
Save your energy. Just take the best action. Take it one step at a time. Accept life as it comes. Have a bias towards optimism. Have confidence that things will work out in your favor. Furthermore, have confidence in your ability to adapt to whatever comes your way. Even if things don’t go perfectly to plan, you will have learned from the experience and be stronger for it.
Start Small to Maintain Good Habits
To go from sitting on the couch all day to running a marathon in one day is impossible. It will either be too intimidating to start or you’ll be demoralized once you try and fail. Plan for failure. Aim for sustainability to get results over the long-term. Start small.