LOSING HABITS

“Enthusiasm is the electricity of life. How do you get it? You act enthusiastic until you make it a habit.”

Gordon Parks

When I went back to work in September, I knew that the added stress and limited time would impact my ability to maintain some of my most foundational habits. I wanted a way to track my habits and reflect on how I felt based on my level of consistency. I used the app Habit Loop (formerly called Rewire) to track four of my most crucial daily habits: meditation, quality sleep, PT exercises, and reading for pleasure.

Let’s see how the month of September sized up:

Meditation

I’ve written about the role meditation plays in my life. Like most of my daily habits, meditation is a crucial part of my routine that contributes to my overall wellness… And I meditated only 15 days in September.

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Sleep

Recently, I’ve been fascinated by incorporating sleep hacks into my routine. I’ve been using Twilight on my phone and f.lux on my laptop to reduce my blue light exposure. I cut off my screen time an hour before bed, and I read paper books with low light before falling asleep. (If you’re interested in learning more about blue light, you can read an article from Harvard Medical Publication that breaks down the deleterious effects of blue light exposure at night. Alexx Stuart of The Low Tox Life Podcast conducted an eye-opening interview about the same topic.)

I doubt I’ll receive much pushback by stating that quality and duration of sleep are wholly important. Everyone’s circadian rhythm and chronotype will be slightly different, but I’ve found that a minimum of seven to seven-and-a-half hours of sleep is a sweet spot for me… And I accomplished this only 17 days in September.

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PT Exercises

Stretching and strengthening my lower back is crucial to my overall health. It’s one of those habits that, if I miss it once, I don’t notice the impact right away. If I mistreat my body over several days, the impact compounds and can manifest as physical pain. Luckily, I got in 20 PT days in September!

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Reading for pleasure

Reading for pleasure typically falls by the wayside when I’m under stress, especially when I’m teaching. When I get home from work, I am often so drained that I’d rather collapse into bed than read… But I’m incredibly proud that I was able to maintain this habit without fail!

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Review of the app

I installed several apps to test drive before deciding to use Habit Loop. I like the simple visual display of Habit Loop. It did not take me extended time to use this app to track my habits. I either completed the habit or I didn’t. Check or X? There are numerous apps available for more complex record-keeping, but I wanted to keep it simple. My only criticism is that if I didn’t check “done” I had to check “fail.” If I miss a day of meditation, I don’t want to immediately think, “fail.” I’m not a failure, and it took a few days to convince myself to ignore the negative connotation of that word.

Review of my progress

In reflection of my habits each week, I was able to notice that, during the week I missed multiple meditations, I met my sleep goal. Maybe that was a good thing. I didn’t notice a significant shift without those meditations. But when I missed my sleep goal for three consecutive days, I began to feel the compounded impact. That was, by far, my worst week of work. Lack of sleep had the most significant impact on me though, and it’s in the forefront for October.

Takeaways

  • When you anticipate a stressful period of time in your life, do what you can to maintain your most basic priorities.
  • If you have difficulty consistently maintaining a habit, don’t consider yourself a failure. Negative self-talk only makes it harder to practice your habits.
  • If you do feel like a failure, look at a longer stretch of time holistically rather than one or two days that didn’t work out.
  • If you’re trying to explain your sudden shift in mood or energy level, tracking your basic habits may help shed light onto what’s happening and offer a simple solution.

Where do I go from here?

I plan to continue tracking these four habits through the month of October. In addition, I will be incorporating a new daily habit of gratitude.

What are your daily habits? Do you track them? How does it impact you if you break your habit?

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