11 small habits to start now – that will slowly change your life for the better
Change, as they say, begins small.
Meaning, if you want to change your life around, be it to live healthier, feel happier, stay more organised, or have more money – you got to start with small changes.
Cultivating better habits start by taking that first step. And soon, you will look back and realise how much your life has changed because of it.
Remember, adding in new habits can seem somewhat daunting at times. What we forget most of the time is that habits don’t need to be a giant life change all the time. There are so many little ways you can improve your life without much disruption to the daily routine.
Want to try? Here are 11 little habits that will – slowly, but surely – change your whole life:
1. Set deadlines for yourself
I am a notorious procrastinator. As in – I have never written an article or an assignment or studied for an exam in my life without there being just hours to go until I HAD to have it done. The looming deadline of an exam or a publishing schedule fuels my fire.
And much as I am not recommending leaving studies until the last minute, I do think setting deadlines for tasks and holding ourselves accountable is a great way to make sure things get done.
I set deadlines for myself all the time, daily ones, weekly ones and even monthly and yearly ones. Every Sunday evening, I sit down and write out my tasks for the week ahead, plot them into the calendar and set deadlines for myself as to when I have to have them done by. For instance, I plot in my work deadlines, and being able to visually see when I need to have things done by helps keep me organised – and helps get everything done in time. I also set deadlines for housework (cleaning, organising, changing bed sheets etc.) and I can only speak for myself, but having these deadlines is a great motivator for getting things done.
2. Eat more plants
More and more studies show the incredible benefits to our health from eating a wholefood, plant-based diet. From reversing heart-disease to preventing strokes, depression, diabetes and even cancer, filling your plate with plants will transform your health in so many ways. As well as this, eating more like this will also benefit the planet and fill you with a feeling of doing something for the greater good – trust me.
And even if going completely plant-based isn't for you, you can still reap so many of the benefits from adding more vegetables, fruits, berries, legumes and whole grains to your diet. Just try and you will see.
3. Take control of your money
Worrying over money is a huge source of stress to many. But by taking control and getting organised with your money, you can eliminate so much of it – and even realise where you can save some money too.
If you don't have it already, start by setting up online banking for yourself and make sure you have at least two or ideally three different accounts – one for bills (mortgage, rent, utilities etc.), one for saving and one for just everyday use – food, entertainment, petrol etc.
Now, set to work streamlining things – set up direct debits for what you can, and start taking note where the money is going in your everyday-use account. Is there stuff you are subscribing to that you are no longer using? Is there money to be saved by switching banks? Switching car insurer? Switching electricity provider? Shop around, start turning the art of finding savings into a game. Start saving for a 'buffer' account – ideally the amount of at least three monthly salaries. This is your back-up – a rainy day fund you can borrow from should the dishwasher break down or your car need a new battery. If you need to, borrow from your buffer account, but pay it back – aim to always have that sum there, it's your safety net.
4. Turn Sunday into Fun Day
Forget about the Sunday Scaries with our new take on Sunday.
When you get up on a Sunday, use an hour or two to get organised for the week ahead. Change your bedsheets, do a fridge clear-out, put on some laundry, fold what is clean etc. Last, write out your plan for the week ahead – including your food shopping list, any appointments, deadlines and similar, and everything and anything you know you have on this following week.
Now – when this is all done – the day is yours to have fun with. Take a hike, catch a yoga class, go visit your local farmer's market, cook a delicious dinner, plan a movie night, have the family over for brunch – whatever you feel like you need from Sunday to feel rested and re-energized for the week ahead, do that. It is amazing how organised and ready to just enjoy your day you will feel once you get all the chores over with first thing.
Personally, we always make sure to get lots of fresh air on a Sunday, either by hiking one of our favourite spots, or hitting up the farmer's market followed by a long walk at the pier – filling up on sea air and vitamin D. Then later, once home, homemade pizzas – and dessert – followed by a family movie night is most often on the Sunday agenda, leaving us feel happy, rested and ready to take on the new week ahead.
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5. Learn to pause before replying
Trust me – it takes some practise, but it will not only get you out of things you don't really want to do, but often feel pressured into saying yes to, but it will also make it so much easier to not overreact to things.
I don't know about you, but I often say yes to things I don't really have the time for – I think so many of us do, especially us women. But learning how to say no, and how to say it in a way that doesn't come across as mean-spirited, but rather from a place of respect for yourself, is an art. And one worth learning.
Likewise when it comes to speaking from a place of anger. Even in the throes of an argument or discussion, where you feel yourself getting angrier and more frustrated by the second, learning how to pause before you reply will save you from saying something you didn't really mean, or something you meant, but wish you hadn't, but can never take back. Pause, breathe, then speak. Always.
6. Start taking vitamin D
Experts are only beginning to understand just how important vitamin D is to our overall health, from our immune systems to our bone health and muscle function. Known as the ‘Sunshine Vitamin’, vitamin D3 is made by the skin through a reaction with sunlight. Meaning, to most of us in the northern part of the world, we don't get enough of this important vitamin during the darker months, and should be taking a supplement of it.
I have been taking this oral Vitamin D3 Max spray from One Nutrition these past few months, and love it. Not only does it taste great (the kids take it too, willingly!), but taking it in this form ensures that it absorbs quicker and I love that it is completely vegan too.
Start taking your vitamin D every morning, and you'll soon notice a difference.
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7. Get some fresh air and sunshine for 10 minutes every morning
Here's the thing – we need sunlight and air to live. And the best thing you can do for your mood and health, is to start your day off by getting it.
Open your window first thing when you wake up and take a deep inhale of fresh air. Alternatively, go all the way outside and go for a walk or run, if that is what you are used to or craving. The important thing is that you are providing your body with a lot of fresh oxygen.
Ayurveda, the ancient Indian wellness- and healing philosophy, calls for getting a jump-start on the day by focusing on morning rituals that work to align the body with nature's rhythms. And sunrise means it is time to get some fresh air – and get moving. By waking up early and exposing ourselves to natural light, we kick-start our natural circadian rhythm, making us feel awake and energised for the day, and ensuring that when it gets to the appropriate time at night, we start to feel sleepy and ready for bed.
Get out into your garden, or on your terrace, and do some stretches – or even better, a couple of rounds of sun salutations.
8. Tidy up your space before bed
Look, I know – it's the last thing you want to do at the end of a long day is clean. But dishes in the sink or laundry piled on the chair (or floor) can prevent us from feeling fully relaxed while going to bed at night or might make us more stressed starting the next day.
Clutter in your space can easily translate into clutter in your mind, so dedicate five extra minutes before bed to run the dishwasher, wipe off kitchen counters, and declutter any papers or laundry that has piled up in the bedroom. Remember this: A less cluttered bedroom will help you sleep at night, while a clean kitchen will make you happier the next morning.
9. Always take the stairs
A physiotherapist friend of mine once called lifts 'stair stealers' – meaning we are depriving ourselves of the benefits of taking the stairs whenever we take the lift. And it stuck with me.
We are living in a time where most of us are far too sedentary, and it is having a major negative impact on our health. So try to find movement wherever you can in your day. And always take the stairs.
10. Create a sleep routine – and stick to it
Feeling like you always wake up just as tired as you felt when going to bed?
You are definitively not alone. But the good news is you can improve your sleep – and it's not actually very hard to make some effective changes.
Sleep is a major problem for so many of us, apparently. In fact; so severe is our collective sleep issues that experts are now talking about a 'sleep crisis' happening. An entire generation (and beyond) that are not getting enough shuteye at night – and the knock-on effects are many and pretty dire too.
A healthy sleep routine will go a long way to help, and here are what to try: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day – it will help keep your circadian rhythm balanced, making it both easier to go to sleep and wake up in the morning.
Get more light during the day and less light at night – meaning ditch the screens at least two hours before bedtime. This is critical for healthy sleep patterns because it helps to calibrate the body’s internal “circadian” clock.
Stop eating for the day at least two to three hours before bed, meaning your body will get to actually relax during the night, and not be busy digesting foods.
Finally, upgrade your bedlinens. Sleeping in natural fabrics like organic cotton or linen will be more comfortable, leading to better sleep.
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11. Choose happiness
This one is so beautifully simple, yet often the hardest one: Be happy. Just change your frame of mind and opt to see the good in things, situations or people. And be ruthless enough in your pursuit of this happiness to realise that when things leave you unhappy, be it your job or a person or a situation, have the courage to walk away.
Stop worrying so much about little things – it takes some practice, but it is worth it. Adapt the idea that if it won't matter in five years, don't bother spending more than five minutes worrying about it now.
Get better at enjoying and indulging in the little things that bring you joy. Sit in the sun on your lunch break, buy yourself flowers, start a book club, opt out of the night out (if you don't feel like it) and stay in and enjoy a bubble bath instead. Life is short, and it should be enjoyed every day.
Remember, happiness comes in sips – not always gulps, so learn to enjoy the little things – you will soon come to realise they are what matter most anyway.
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