The last 2 months have been months of change for me. Having moved countries, settled in a new house, kids in a new school, setting up a new working space, and by the way leaving all else behind, is no easy feat. Part of the ramp-up to it required I cut out stuff from my day. All I did was working, prepping and coping. And I did terribly at the latter. I stopped most of my daily habits. I gave myself permission to do so for a month, not to judge, not to have to do it. There was no space for that in July. And, as I got to the first of August, I missed having those. Some people miss the adventure. And believe me, I like going with the flow sometimes. But for me, I missed that space where only I was happening. It was time to create new habits again.
If you have been around for a while, you now I believe in the power of habit. In fact, small tiny changes I have done to my daily routine have really help me transition my physical and mental health into a new state. Daily yoga, weekly writing and gratitudes. Since 2017, I had been pretty steady on all of them, with the belief that
“If you break a habit twice, you are making a habit of breaking a habit”
A bit obsessive, no doubt, but it worked for me. It avoided the daily choice of “will I do yoga today” or the weekly challenge “am I inspired to write today”. Rain or shine, I showed up. In time, I settled in yoga 5 days a week, I do daily gratitudes but I may not write them every day and catch up with them as I go along. And I write my blog and my newsletter weekly. Whilst I tried to introduce new habits along the way, they were likely to have been less aligned with my priorities, so they failed. The ones that have truly helped me move forward and be more intentional about my time and health, persevered. That Is rule #1 of creating a habit. It needs to make sense for you.
New old habits
As I got to the beginning of August, I wondered how I’d go about it. Did I have these habits to be “in control”. So I could have a set of daily things I knew would always happen even if the world was falling around me? Did I “need” these habits? I took a hard look at it.
Gratitude needed no convincing. Science is there to prove it and I actually enjoy the fact I can journal in the format of gratitudes and with that keep track of what my days look like. Yes, I fear loss of memory a lot.
Yoga needed time but it did not need much convincing. I had survived my back pain through June and July only through medication and it was time I started weaning that off. Yoga was key to get there, even if I was not always eager to get up at 6am to do it.
And finally writing. How I missed writing. That was definitely the habit that was harder to get to, but also the first to start failing. Maybe because it was not daily, maybe because I did not set-it up right anymore. But no matter what. I missed it.
New new habits
However, there were other things I decided I could no longer get by without. Sleep and Exercise.
I figured I had to do more about my sleep time and just be stricter about it. That was also the only way I was going to wake up and do yoga before sitting at my home desk at 7.00am. I could no longer go on 6 hours of sleep. In fact, I did not want to anymore. I could now recognise in me how different I felt now that I had spent 1 month sleeping almost consistently 8 hours a night.
So I changed the sleep time on my phone, I reduced my expectations on what I get to do every evening once the kids go to bed. And I did not wait for tomorrow, I just started it. And whilst I still make exceptions (like today as I started writing this article at 22.00 after recording a podcast), they now need to be really the exception and not the rule. I often don’t even go back down to the living room after dinner. And whilst I have the bad habit of sitting in bed in my laptop, just by being there I ended up turning lights off much earlier. Until the habit is embedded in me, I will do what it takes!
Well that is a longer story. My relationship with exercise has been trickier over the years. I have loved different sports in the past, but for the last 5 years, I have done exercise as someone takes medication. With reluctance and, in fact, in pain. And always feeling like I would rather be doing something else. However, I knew that to be able to get it going this time, it could not be a nice to have, it had to be a habit.
So for the first 2 weeks of August, I committed to do some sport every day, no matter what. Because I was on holiday, that varied between HIIT (in air-con), paddle surfing, cycling to the beach, beach rackets, whatever it got me moving. Whilst I knew I could not stay at that level, nor would I be able to practice beach rackets every day, it got me the right level of energy to enjoy it. So when I started working, the goal was the same – to do something every day, even if it was short. And to make space and time for it in my life. With a cross-trainer behind me facing the sea, it is hard to have much of an excuse to stay away from it at the moment.
I participated in this workshop recently that talked about 10 daily habits that I shared in my weekly newsletter. I wrote them down and evaluated which others I could be missing in my life. Let’s face it, I don’t need a habit just because it looks good on paper or it Is interesting to write about it. But truly, I wondered what might actually make me enjoy my days more, be healthier or just be more. So the following are on my list of small inroads that I am making. I thought they would be fun to share.
I have trouble looking at this as a habit. But there is probably no other routine more regular than eating right? We do so every day, multiple times a day. But I have consciously avoided big diet limitations in the past and rather have introduced small changes that allow me to feel comfortable we are eating well. We have a monthly menu, and the weeks have a good mix of white meat, fish or vegetarian. Also, we have introduced an extra veggie meal a week by trying different dishes that the kids like (other than Pasta with Pesto). We have doubled on the fish. And left the red meat for our BBQs or steak dinners. I still have a hard time seeing that as a habit but recognise I probably don’t see it right.
I failed a fair amount of this over the last 18 months. The pandemic has brought about home working and, in the times where home-schooling was in place, I did not even set a foot outside the door. Whilst I was good at ensuring the kids schedule ensured time outside, I was not as good at doing so. Moving to Lisbon, that is now a given. On most days, I have been having lunch in the balcony. On Fridays, I go meet the children at the beach at the end of the day. The windows are open through most of the day. Fresh air is severely under-rated. It is my new habit.
The pandemic has brought the introvert in me to the surface. Which is weird, because I have always been so fond of meeting friends and going out. However, I found something I like even more in the last few years. Hanging out with people I really like in small groups so I can have a proper conversation that does not include the weather or the meal. But in a post pandemic environment, there are so many people just wanting to go out there and see everyone, that I feel I am sometimes disconnected of it all. However, I did start connecting with my friends in Portugal and it has felt heart-warming. Just as being social should feel.
As I look to the list of 10 habits of the workshop, there is one that I am studying. Evening rituals. I have mine, but they are not good. They involve laptops, digital and rushing to bed to make it on time to get proper hours of sleep. Reading rarely does it for me because if I like a book I will find myself not stopping. Journaling has not stuck for me, though I may give it another go. And often I get Headspace going but I must say I don’t know if I ever make it past the first 5 minutes. I feel like a bath would be awesome, but I don’t have a bathtub. And whilst a warm shower has helped me this holiday, it does not always make sense as I am going to bed.
I am definitely looking for recommendations on this one. Not because I should, but because I look forward to more peace at night.