Many of us head into the New Year with big goals and ambitions. We think about everything that seems to be lacking in our lives and imagine ourselves far happier and more fulfilled on the other side of massive change.
There’s no denying that certain accomplishments can amp up our life satisfaction, but I’ve found that our daily habits are the biggest contributor to our happiness.
You can have a job that excites you, the best body of your life, and the perfect partner for you, but none of it will fully satisfy you if you don’t also prioritize the daily habits that nurture your overall well-being.
If you want to feel good about yourself and your life, you need to regularly do the things that make you feel peaceful, joyful, and alive.
With this in mind, I recently asked twelve Tiny Buddha contributors (all involved in our upcoming Best You, Best Life Bundle Sale) to share one habit worth adopting in the New Year. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Start the day with positive intentions.
“The moment I wake up, I do not move. I hold still for several minutes. I contemplate qualities I would like to offer for the day.
Then I silently repeat the following affirmations:
I offer this day peace.
I offer this day joy.
I offer this day enthusiasm.
I offer this day kindness…
(or whatever qualities I would like to offer on that day).
And I keep going until I feel I am done.
Some days are harder than others, especially if I wake up very early, still tired, with the prospect of a long day ahead.
However, this simple, pithy practice sets the right tone. It fills me with gratitude and it firmly places me on the right track.
From that point on, my day goes well, and everything aligns in the best and highest way possible, even if/as and when challenges arise.”
~Personal Growth Teacher Julie Hoyle (juliehoyle.org)
2. Practice mindfulness.
“For someone seeking a change in their life—to stop doing something destructive, to start doing something healthier, to become more confident, to step into the version of themselves they know they really are—the single best habit to cultivate is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the skill of paying attention on purpose to the present moment without judgment. This is the first step to change. It helps you recognize when you are doing the thing you want to change. It helps you understand when you are stuck. It helps you realize what you are really feeling and thinking.
It gives you the starting point of your map. You can recognize what is really happening—’Oh look, I jumped to the worst-case scenario again. That made me feel afraid and uncomfortable. So that’s why I am looking for an excuse not to go to the party.’
From here you are able to step outside those emotions of fear and discomfort and look at the situation objectively. From here, you can create change. You can challenge your thinking. You can reframe the situation. You can remind yourself of where you want to go. You can make a plan.
We so easily live on autopilot. That’s not because we are lazy. It’s simply the more efficient way for our brains to operate.
Create a habit, and you don’t have to think about what to do the next time that situation comes up. That frees up energy for your brain to do other things. But efficiency does not equal excellence. This autopilot way of living leads us to not notice what is really going on. Without mindful awareness, we get stuck in our feelings, we ruminate like a broken record, we keep making the same unhealthy choices over and over again.
It’s a very simple skill—to be aware. But there hasn’t been a strong biological or evolutionary need to cultivate this skill in order to survive which is why most of us do not have this skill naturally. We need to work on it. We need to repeat it over and over until it becomes a habit. But it is so worthwhile.
It’s actually a very subtle shift in your thinking, yet incredibly profound. Like standing under a waterfall, then taking one small step back out of the water and seeing the waterfall in front of you. Small step, big difference.”
~Stress and Anxiety Coach Sandra Wozniki (stressandanxietycoach.com)
3. Adopt a meditation practice.
“You know that feeling when you’ve been away from home for a while and then you finally walk in the door? It feels good, right? It’s hard to put into words, but something in your heart opens.
Home is a place where we can open because we feel safe, warm, and held. It’s a place where we know we can always come back to, no matter how long we’ve been away. There’s a feeling of belonging.
For me, meditation is like this. A returning home. As my mind begins to quiet, there’s an increasing sense of stillness that comes forward, and my heart responds. Stillness brings a sense of peace, clarity, stability, and a deep sense of connection and being held.
As we move through this life, we all crave that feeling of home. A foundation. A sense of belonging somewhere.
We often create a sense of home in the world, in a physical location, to recreate what’s fundamentally accessed through our heart.
Returning to stillness is a returning home at its most essential level.
In a world where we’re constantly bombarded by distractions, stimulation, dramas and conflict, it’s easy to forget what home feels like. Add to this a busy, emotionally reactive, and self-judging mind, and it’s easy to forget that a sense of home, peace, and warmth actually exists inside us.
Stillness is always there, in the background of our awareness, ready and waiting to support us, but our mind is usually too busy to notice it. And when there’s drama, turbulence or overwhelm in our life, stillness offers a very stable place to rest. But if we don’t train ourselves to know stillness, then when the drama and turbulence comes, stillness will be hard to find.
Meditation helps us remember and build our relationship to stillness by getting us out of our head and into our heart. The more we visit stillness through meditation the more it permeates us, which means it’s more available for us in everyday life.
So, when we’re in a stressful situation it’s a matter of letting stillness hold you.
Does this mean it will work every time? Not necessarily. But with consistent practice you’ll change your relationship to the things that trigger and drain you, because you’ve chosen to cultivate a different, more important relationship. A relationship to stillness.
And your heart is the bridge.”
~Meditation and Mindfulness Instructor Ben Fizell (peacekeeperproject.com)
4. Use mantras as affirmations.
“I’m a big fan of using mantras as affirmations. Sometimes life can feel as though it’s spinning out of control, and our minds can conjure up daunting scenarios that increase our stress levels and add to anxiety. A simple mantra can be super effective in helping to cut through the noise and bring us back to a single focal point.
One of my favorite go-to mantras is ‘I am safe. I am loved. I am good enough.’ I say this at least three times, further affirming the words with each repetition.
I recommend creating your own mantra using words that feel grounding for you. Keep it short—a sentence or two is plenty. Using affirming words (especially out loud) can create a healthy and empowering habit of self-awareness and self-care.”
~Author and Artist Skylar Liberty Rose (skylarlibertyrose.com)
5. Play in nature.
“How you play in nature is up to you. It might mean sitting in your yard, on a balcony, or even next to an open window and allowing yourself to revel in a tree’s stillness or a bird’s melody.
It might mean adventuring to a new neck of the woods, or ambling down a familiar path while taking the time notice all the little things we usually miss in our hurry or preoccupation: the soft, green moss; the startling blue tail of a lizard half-hidden under a rock; or the curious expression of a wren that’s watching you from the bush next to the trail.
Not only does playing in nature reduce stress and anxiety and improve overall health, but it can also help us find our way, both literally and figuratively.
It’s like Rumi says: ‘Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.’
We have so few chances in our everyday life to practice following our hearts, however, that most of us have forgotten how to do it. Wandering freely under the open sky, following our curiosity and desire, we learn how to let go of trying to arrive somewhere and discover the joy of simply taking the next step on our own unique path.
When I began to reconnect with the natural world, I couldn’t help but rediscover my own human nature: my true self, that is; the gifts I have to give the world and where I fit into the ecosystem of life.
Walking through the woods, I began to realize that just like every other living being on this planet, I have an important contribution to make; that when my mind finally grows quiet, I can hear a soft voice of wisdom telling me what that might be; and that if I listen to that voice, I too can—to borrow Mary Oliver’s phrase—take my place in the family of things.”
~Certified Integral Coach Meredith Walters (meredithwalters.com)
6. Try habit stacking.
“I highly recommend a self-care practice I call ‘habit stacking.’ This is taking several small habits and putting them all together in one time slot, i.e. first thing when you wake up.
For instance, you might begin by doing a short meditation, which would lead to drinking a quart of water, followed by ten minutes of stretches, and then maybe preparing a green drink. Habits are motivated by triggers, so each activity stimulates the desire in your body for the next one.
Do these regularly at the same time for a few weeks, and they will become engrained. Your habit stacks can work at any time, day or night, depending on when you want to create your own self-care zone.”
~Author and Speaker Suzanne Falter (suzannefalter.com)
7. Connect with your body daily.
“One habit worth adopting in the New Year is to start taking a few minutes every day to connect with your body. Pay attention to how it feels, to how you feel. Consider how you want to feel and what you can do to bridge the gap between the two if there is any.
This is super powerful because we get so caught up in obsessive thoughts about all the things we think we’re ‘supposed’ to be doing for our bodies (and usually end up not doing) that we never stop to just connect with and listen to what it actually needs.
This also works for mental health. If you wake up feeling down, angry, stressed, overwhelmed, (etc.), ask yourself, what does my head/heart/soul need today? Often, you’ll notice that you really just need a break. Give yourself that. Or maybe you need to find something that feeds your soul and gets you feeling passionate about something in life.
Too often we end up going through the motions of life living in survival mode simply because we’re so busy staying busy that we don’t stop long enough to figure out what we need to feel vibrant, joyful, and fulfilled.
If you struggle with healthy eating, take this one step farther by applying it to food. Take a second before you eat to ask yourself, how is it going to make me feel if I eat this? Do I want to feel that way? Why? This is a super powerful tool because it provides space between an auto-pilot impulse and the action that follows, to make a conscious choice based on what’s best for your body in that moment.
The other reason it’s super powerful is because it helps you to start noticing if/when you’re purposely punishing yourself with food.
If you go through those few quick questions and decide to purposefully eat something knowing it’s going to make you sick or to continue eating when you’re already full and know that eating more will make you sick, (and you don’t care), you’re punishing yourself with food. Beginning to recognize when that’s happening is the first step to learning how to change it.”
~Cognitive Behavior Coach Roni Davis (ronidavis.com)
8. Practice breathwork.
“One habit that I think could benefit many people is to incorporate some form of breathwork into their routine. That could be simple mindfulness meditation, box breathing, or some of the more advanced pranayama work in yoga—whatever works for you. From my experience, just a few minutes a day can have a profound impact on stress levels and your quality of life.
Whether you’re looking to be a stronger athlete, to support your mental health, to be a more present partner or friend, or be more productive at work, I can’t really think of any areas in life that aren’t improved by adopting a regular breathwork practice.”
~Movement Coach Luke Jones (heromovement.net)
9. Be selective about the news sources you tune into.
“It’s admirable to want to stay informed about current affairs, especially in an election year, but carefully choose news sources you trust and even then, limit your exposure. There’s no value in feeling indignant for half your day, having arguments on social media that you can never win, or getting angry over events or with people you have no control over. All that achieves is that you hand over your personal power to others who are more than happy to take it.”
~Certified Life Coach and NLP Master Practitioner Tim Brownson (adaringadventure.com)
10. Add gratitude to your “sorry’s.”
“I don’t just say, ‘I’m sorry.’ I also say, ‘Thank you.’ For example, instead of only saying, ‘I’m sorry I was late,’ I also say, ‘Thank you for waiting for me.’ And instead of merely saying, ‘I’m sorry I was sort of out of it the other day,’ I also say, ‘Thank you for being there for me both during good times—and my not so good times.’
This subtle shift helps me to feel better about my human glitches. Plus, it also winds up improving my relationships—because I’m sharing my appreciation with people, and gratitude is a good heart connector.”
~Bestselling Author and Award-Winning Designer Karen Salmansohn (notsalmon.com)
11. Talk to strangers.
“One habit worth adopting in 2020 is talking to strangers. This is a habit I started picking up in 2010, and it has been the best change I’ve ever made in my life.
Our relationships are probably the second most important determinant of our well-being, trailing only behind our health. All relationships and interactions—including the ones with strangers—play a massive impact on how much you enjoy each moment.
By talking to strangers, you’ll improve your social skills, get better at connecting with people, and you’ll learn how to enjoy any moment with random people. When you’re able to go to a book club, a bar, or a work conference by yourself and have a good time, your life improves drastically.”
~Blogger Rob Riker (thesocialwinner.com)
12. Get more and better sleep.
“I have come to learn that the quality of our sleep dictates almost everything in our lives! It has an effect on our mental state, our physical health, our attitudes toward things, our relationships, and ultimately our success in each area of life.
Sleep has taken a back seat in the world of healthy living with exercise and nutrition being in the spotlight. But all the evidence points to sleep being the foundation of our overall health.
Science has shown that if we sleep poorly, we eat poorly and exercise poorly too. If we sleep well, we make better decisions, choose better foods, can exercise more effectively, and we can ultimately live a more rewarding, impact, and successful life. It has a domino effect.”
~Life and Performance Coach Brendan Baker (startofhappiness.com)
Do you already practice any of these habits? And are there any habits you’d add to the list?
About Lori Deschene
Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha. She’s also the author of Tiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal, Tiny Buddha's Worry Journal, and Tiny Buddha's Inner Strength Journal and co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. For daily wisdom, join the Tiny Buddha list here. You can also follow Tiny Buddha on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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