Who has time to spare for 10 new habits? I’m not what I would call “time-rich”, but I am an early-riser with a lot of flexibility. So how can I get more out of every day? Surely, there are opportunities to learn and progress while simultaneously juggling responsibilities.
Feeling the need for a change?
I’ve been curious about neuroplasticity with regards to breaking bad habits and creating new ones. The popular psychology take on building new habits is that it takes 21 days. That’s a rather sweeping claim (in my humble opinion as a layperson) given that a habit is defined as “an automatic reaction to a specific situation”. But for the purposes of aiming for more of a happy-and-motivated-inclination-towards-doing-something-fun-or-positive type of habit I’m talking about, 21 days seems an easy number.
Build new habits
The thing is, it’s up to you why, whether, what, how and when you add those new habits into your day. My own incentive is having a ridiculous number of lists of activities that I would love to turn into habits. Lists of enjoyable things I’ve gradually stopped doing. Lists of things I want to do but I perceive them to be too overwhelming or time-consuming. Lists of nutritional/primal/psychological/physiological “hacks” that together might just improve my wellbeing. Lists of things that I don’t do, but should, and ultimately make me feel guilty or that I’m wasting time. And those lists? I’ve wasted a lot of time on them. They add up, but are never ticked off, and nothing changes or progresses.
The lists aren’t exhaustive, and they will keep coming. So, I’ve cherry-picked a mixture of activities, some new, others that were previous habits that petered out despite being beneficial. Some will hopefully have a positive impact on me psychologically (goodbye longterm guilt, you won’t be missed). Others are a stab at learning a new skill, improving work productivity, and hopefully, snowballing confidence. They key here is that all of these activities will be bitesize, maximum 15 minutes with the exception of one. And after the 21 days, they will be continued, removed or replaced based on whether I truly get anything out of them.
My desired habits, in no particular order:
- Playing the keyboard: 10 minutes per day, back to learning the basics – After a year of losing interest in listening to music thanks to health issues, I’m finally loving it again. And I’m now acutely aware of the benefits of music, so I’m being proactive here. And not just listening. A post-Christmas 6-day learning-to-play-keyboard obsession 3 years ago faded along with the taking down of the tree. I’ve always meant to get back to it. Time to tickle (more like clumsily bash) the ivories again.
- Embrace boredom: 5 minutes per day, literally staring at the wall – To be honest, I’ve been embracing boredom A LOT this year, no choice. But by still indulging in some “starey-eye” time regularly, thanks to brain fog and fatigue, I’m amazed at some of ideas that come when you stop trying.
- Meditate: 10 minutes per day, (this really is more like embracing boredom. Yawn!) – I’ve had periods of regular meditation. It helps, but it somehow doesn’t stick as a habit. But I just can’t argue with the science behind it, so let’s see what 21 days bring.
- Play time: 30 minutes per day, time for the dogs – Working from home has it’s perks, one of them being having dogs for company all day. The downside: two pairs of guilt-tripping big brown eyes reminding you that you’re the source of all fun, and damn you for choosing the computer over fun with them.
- Positive visualisation: 5 minutes per day, creating a future – I’m not a big goal-setter. I’m not motivated by wanting to be able to run a marathon, or make a lot of money. But I want to feel good. I want to feel satisfaction, pride and contentment. And working out what will bring that, and visualising the process will be a start.
- Yoga: 30 minutes per day, restoring flexibility – Any plans I have for getting back to running in the hills won’t come to fruition without starting somewhere, fitness-wise. Recent longer walks have revealed creaks and groans that I didn’t have before!
- Language: 15 minutes per day, challenging the grey matter – Hating French at school, together with an unsuccessful stab at Scottish Gaelic, left me believing I couldn’t possibly grasp another language. Until, I came across Duolingo http://www.duolingo.com and lost 2 hours to obsessively trying to get my head around basic Spanish. Love it, and it’s a great way to create new neural connections. Who knows? Fluent Gaelic one day.
- Juggling: 5 minutes per day, a grey matter/play/meditation combo? – I’d forgotten just how good it is to have a good old fashioned faff with something. Bouncing a ball, doodling, flicking rubber bands at a target, etc (yes, I’m really THAT exciting). I just can’t justify proactively practicing faffing (although the Keyboard and Embracing Boredom activities could be interpreted as such). So juggling, it’s a skill acquired through lots of faffing.
- Active yawning: 5 minutes per day, not sure about this one but bear with me – This is me wandering into the slightly more experimental primal/human physiology (hence Diary of a Cavewoman) territory that has captured my interest during my mundane year-long malady. I’m thinking of it as a bitesize take on deep breathing, but interspersed throughout the day, as and when required. But I’m not sure how measurable it will be. Check it out here: http://www.mindfullyalive.com/blog/2016/6/16/yawning-is-the-fastest-way-to-hack-mental-stress-and-focus
- Weights: 5 minutes per day, regaining some strength – The daily walks and yoga are all very well, but I’m ready to rebuild some of what I had. Again, this is a paradigm shift for me, away from thinking in terms of miles accrued to functional strength and fitness based on our design. There will be more on this in the future in Diary of a Cavewoman.
Will I be a chilled, ripped, bendy, juggling, linguistically competent pianist after 21 days? I’ll be posting regular updates x
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