MY HABITS HISTORY
Having been a personal growth/development/organization/productivity nerd for as long as I can remember, I’ve always been enthusiastic about new goals and healthy habits, but I’ve struggled to keep them going over time.
Beyond the basics of brushing and flossing my teeth, preventive medical care, drinking water, getting enough sleep, a fairly nutritious diet, and generally keeping active due to a love of dancing, walking, hiking, and bicycle riding, I have had a hard time maintaining my annual-or-so declarations of good intention.
I learned to track my habits while training with Accomplishment Coaching, and accountability helped, but it has taken the intervening years and a lot of experimentation for me to discover what it really takes for me to practice consistently. That’s been a breakthrough in the last few years, actually, starting with my daily yoga habit and then stacking that with journaling, gratitude, and meditation, very minimally at first!
Once those first few new habits were getting established and automatic, I added other daily habits, like a language learning habit that helps me integrate into life in Germany, my Physical Therapy exercises for my knee (which I’ve narrowed down to a minimum of two, twice per week), a minimal full-body workout (more on that below), reading, tracking Moon cycles, interpreting tarot cards, playing the Harmonica, reading the entire Bible for the first time this year, and even Wim Hof Method cold showers.
Each of these have been worthy pursuits and I’m happy to share more about what I’ve learned from any or all of them. What interests you the most?
Today I’m sharing my current habit support system, sources of inspiration, and thoughts on what helps me, personally, to build consistency with the healthy habits that support my goals. I am far from perfect, but have come a long way in all of these areas.
BEGAN WITH YOGA PRACTICE
I really enjoy the Yoga with Adriene YouTube channel, having tried my first of her videos about four years ago. 3 years ago I did one of her New Year’s “daily” yoga challenges over the course of a few months and it made me feel great, so the next year I participated in the January daily challenge and continued to loosely follow her monthly plans to keep on track, in addition to the classes I attended in-person at my local studio. This yielded nearly-daily yoga practice all year, which became even more consistent when I most needed it the year of my second divorce, and still yet more this last year while I was working on my YTT200.
What I noticed is that I am most successful at practicing consistently at least 5-15 minutes a day, focusing on specific areas of the body or themes that are relevant to me that particular day (quick wins, reinforcing the practice with how great it could make me feel in minimal time), and that once I was doing so regularly, it became easier to add in more.
MEDITATION CAME NEXT
Yoga is ideally followed by meditation, and sometimes meditation practice is even included in a yoga session. I will certainly elaborate in another blog/podcast (or many!), as my meditation practice is continually evolving.
The Calm App really helped me start practicing on a regular basis back in 2018, with it’s short daily guided meditations and lovely background sounds. The Headspace App is also great, and there are also nice free guided meditations available on YouTube, such as this one from Dandapani: “The Meditation You Need Every Morning For A Better Day.”
CROSS-TRAINING + OVERALL FITNESS
In 2020, I added a little cardio/full-body workout to the habits, inspired by reading The Minimalists’ book Essential**, of which Joshua Fields Millburn’s essay “18-Minute Minimalist Exercises” was a part. I appreciated his applying a minimalist and enjoyable philosophy to fitness, and the example of committing to only 18 minutes daily of exercises he enjoys, in the park, to get great results! I really got jazzed by their podcast “Ep 174 Minimalist Fitness.(with Ben Greenfield),” and Ben Greenfield’s “10-Minute Workout” is featured in this article, “Study Finds 10 Minutes of Exercise is All You Need.”
I decided to try it out, and have recorded videos for each element of the “10-Minute Workout,” with a variety of fun modifications if you’d like to give them a try, and they can each be found in my “Micro-Workout” YouTube Playlist:
I’ve benefited greatly from reading the book Atomic Habits** last year (I liked the audio book here, since that’s how I read it, though of course there’s also printed and electronic versions available. The Clear Habit Journal** looks really beautiful, too, and would be a lovely alternative as a treat or gift version of the free templates from Atiliay.com that I talk about below).
I found the book valuable throughout, but a couple particularly applicable takeaways for me were to make the habits truly manageable and small (“Atomic”), and to make sure they are relevant to your very identity, or that which you are wanting to manifest.
LINKED TO IDENTITY
For example, by practicing yoga daily, I am a yogi (or at least “real” yoga practitioner), and that has led to me finally getting my yoga teacher certification and confidently instruct yoga classes. By meditating daily, I am a meditator and move forward on my path towards spiritual enlightenment through mindfulness practice (however slowly!).
Playing the harmonica daily, a new habit this year, is fun and entertaining (and good for the brain and lungs!), but it also teaches me about music and is making me more of a musician. Daily journaling, morning pages, and weekly check-ins are part of my identity as artist and writer and they help keep me clear and focused on what is important, able to sort and funnel my creativity into exciting projects.
My habits don’t function well in a vacuum, or that I would carry them out consistently if there were no clear connection to the big picture of who I want to be and what I want to do in the world.
I would recommend making your new habit as small as possible at first. Like, ridiculously low commitment tiny, so that you can find no excuse to wiggle out of doing it, and once you’re doing it, you actually crave more.
By way of example, you could commit to three minutes of meditation daily, five minutes of yoga, one Duolingo lesson, write a one-line journal entry, read one page of a book…so that it’s downright silly to skip it no matter how busy you are,, and you just might get carried away and want to do more!
But use restraint, better to want to do more and continue to practice day after day, building consistency and the strength of the habit, rather than over-promising out of the gate, doing too much for a short time, burning out and quitting because it wasn’t sustainable.
That said, I have found accountability methods to also be extremely important to my success. When I fail, these are good places to look: is it connected to my very identity? Do I understand it’s connection to my major goals? Is it in small enough increments where I can find no good excuse to skip it? What structures of support and accountability do I have in place to make it irresistible?
For me, it is important to give myself “credit,” preferably colorful, playful, celebratory credit, to track the new habit(s) visually and with analytics over time. It is so satisfying to color in squares or check off boxes, or even use stickers, it makes me want to leave no empty boxes in the row!
HABIT TRACKING SHEETS
In 2019 I started using the Atiliay.com Monthly Mindset + Goals Sheet and monthly Habit Tracker and found that they make very pretty templates and I found that an aesthetically pleasing format entices me to engage with it daily. Olivia Lin has a whole PDF library of free stylish-looking templates for annual and weekly planning, seasonal celebrations, gratitude, craft projects, and more.
When I did The Artist’s Way** last summer, I embraced my inner Artist Child more than ever, and discovered what sorts of tracking and accountability make keeping tabs APPEALING and motivating as well as what sorts of rewards encourage me to keep going. I used my beloved colored pencils, which I keep in a Beatrix Potter tin my Aunt Colleen gave me, to color in squares and also color-themed my monthly goals and reflection sheets.
Now instead of separate sheets, I am moving my tracking to a notebook as a quasi bullet journal, and as much as possible onto apps like the Today Habit Tracker App and the Gratitude App which live in my “Morning” folder of apps on my phone’s home screen along with other habits from my morning routine. I also keep some analog tracking for physical therapy, weekly reviews, monthly reviews, and so forth. The system is always evolving!
The tracking sheets above can also be self-reproduced in a journal, and you can even implement a bullet journal system if that fuels your productivity. My system has elements of bullet journaling to it (though others are digital or take other forms), and I plan to increase my bullet journaling this year. If you want to check that out, I recommend Ryder Carroll’s Bulletjournal.com and videos on YouTube, such as “How to Bullet Journal,” or Kalyn Nicholson and her “How to Use a Bullet Journal.”
I really like Matt D’Avella’s “The Two Day Rule” rule of not skipping more than one day of a habit. This way it’s not perfectionistic 100-percent-ism or failure, rather you can take breaks when needed, but it still creates that consistency and results that will keep you going.
SOUL + WIT
In the Soul + Wit Podcast “Episode 51 Habits: How to make them and break them for a healthier, happier life,” they talked about Challenges (such as Whole 30, or a month of daily yoga, etc.) and what they find effective for lasting habit change, with Courtney’s equation being one habit at a time (yes, definitely!), starting with small steps (absolutely! More on that in a minute), and acknowledging/celebrating effort along the way = lasting change. Definitely to all of that.
I think it’s also powerful, as is stressed in Atomic Habits, that the habits be connected to much bigger goals and our sense of personal identity. In that way they become a part of who we are, not just something we have to do, and we can see how we are progressing toward important objectives.
And another tip is to start right now, today, as soon as possible and then continue practicing the habit as early as you can in the day, so you can continue through your day, week, and month with that sense of motivation and momentum to accomplish all that you are after.
Because it’s important to just add one at a time, some of the habits I worked on this year began in the spring, or even in the summer or fall. There is no time like NOW to get started, you can get a jump on your new year’s resolutions today!
2021 MEDITATION CHALLENGE
You’re invited to join my 2021 Meditation Challenge! Or, take on daily yoga or another challenge of your choosing, decide on a minimal daily practice starting point (I recommend 3-5 minutes to start with), then increasing by one minute each month. My goal is to get from my current 12 minutes of meditation to about 20-25 minutes/day by the end of the year.
What habit have you been contemplating adding to your daily routine? What structures of support do you need to make it a consistent reality and see results in your life?
Send me a message, or hop over to the A Blythe Coach Facebook Page and let me know!
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A Blythe Coach:
Dance Education & Coaching to move through life with balance, grace, & power
** This blog is not sponsored. Amazon Affiliate links potentially give me a percentage of the purchase price if you buy the book.
DISCLAIMER: A Blythe Coach recommends that you consult your physician regarding the applicability of any recommendations and follow all safety instructions before beginning any exercise program. When participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this exercise or exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself.
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