10 Simple yet Surprisingly Effective Habits for a Better Life

I wrote a previous article about what habits are and how to develop good habits and break bad habits. Now that I have covered that, I want to talk about some of my favorite habits that have contributed largely to my success in life. As a reminder, habits are behaviors that we perform continuously and sometimes without effort. When we develop habits, the consistent actions play a big role in how we live(for better or worse). This is why it is so important to develop good habits. Below, I have included a list of 10 habits that compound over time to make a big difference.

1. Journaling

I didn’t start consistently journaling until this past year and I wish I would have started earlier! It sounds so simple. You just write down what is on your mind. This could include your goals, affirmations, stressors, things you’re grateful for, or even just day-to-day thoughts. But why is this an effective habit? I look at it as a way of organizing the mind. We have countless thoughts and emotions throughout the day. At times, it is hard to process these. When you journal, you increase your mindfulness or mental awareness. This gives you perspective on your life and allows you to better understand/control your emotions.

There are several different ways of journaling so I will just provide my favorite methods:

  • Writing down any thoughts that come to mind – this seems a bit monotonous but it can be surprisingly helpful at times. You can write down anything that is stressing you out before you go to bed which helps you let go of that thought. You could also identify whether you are having positive or negative thoughts. Finally, look at how your thoughts change over time. Basically, you are just slowing down your mind enough to evaluate what is happening.
  • Making a gratitude list – this is helpful anytime you are feeling upset. Listing the people, place, and things that you are grateful for makes you realize how much you have and reminds you of all the great things in your life. These things could be as simple as a warm bed, a good book, or a best friend.
  • Another thing you can journal about is your goals – this could involve breaking down the steps needed to achieve said goals, tracking progress, and making affirmation statements along the way. Goal setting is one of the best things a person can do so if you continuously revisit and journal about your goals, you will be more likely to achieve them.

Again, you can journal about many things. These are just some of my favorites. I believe that if you write things down, it makes everything easier to visualize and develop.

2. To-Do Lists

I did say these were all simple, right? Making a list of everything you need to do in the day just makes things run smoothly. You know exactly what your objectives are, now you just need to execute. You can write down things as simple as brushing your teeth or you can just list the big picture items. Writing To-Do lists takes out all the guesswork and prevents you from forgetting about stuff. I like to make a daily and weekly To-Do list on Sunday and then I add or subtract items as the week goes by. I have also made To-Do lists for the month, every 3 months, 6 months, and over the course of the year. Obviously, the larger the time scale, the more general you have to be.

3. Meditation

Meditation is similar to journaling in the sense that it will help you organize your thoughts. In today’s world, there is a lot of outside noise that can be distracting and detrimental to your success. Meditating helps you reduce some of that noise and clutter. It forces you to be present and focus only on your breath. When you do this, you will notice that thoughts naturally pop into your head. It is your job to acknowledge these thoughts and then let them go. If you need to, you can sit with them for a moment.

There are tons of resources and guides to helpful mediation that I could recommend to you but one of the simplest ways to get started is to get in a comfortable position, take deep breaths in and out, and try to rid yourself of all thoughts. This is easier said than done. You may think that this doesn’t do much for you at first but over time you will wonder how you ever went without it!

4. Water

Almost everyone has heard that water is extremely important for human health so I’ll just cut to the chase. If you drink more water, you will feel better. Water is important for providing essential building material for cells, protecting key body tissues (spinal cord, brain), maintaining normal osmotic pressures, maintaining healthy blood, regulating body temperature, hearing, vision, taste, and other important functions. Up to 60% of our body is water. This is why it is so important for us to continuously replace water especially if we are more physically active.

Depending on the person and how much they sweat, different levels of water consumption are recommended. You will find different ways of calculating how much water to drink and some say to just use thirst as a guide. A general guideline to follow is drinking half an ounce to one ounce of water for every pound of bodyweight that you have. Of course, this is just an estimate and will vary from person to person. Another thing to keep in mind is that you can consume too much water. If you drink too much water you may be at risk of throwing off your electrolyte balance. This lack of sodium in your blood can lead to weakness, confusion, and nausea. Be sure to intake proper amounts of electrolytes and sodium from healthy sources such as pink Himalayan salt!

5. Reading

I’ve talked about reading self-development books in one of my previous articles but any type of reading will sharpen your mind. Reading provides an opportunity to exercise your mind, build your imagination, and learn new things. You will expand your vocabulary, prevent cognitive decline, reduce stress, aid in sleep, and increase overall lifespan. I think most people know that reading is good for them but they just don’t make the time for it. I understand that everyone gets busy and it is hard to pick up a book at the end of the day when you’ve already been using your mind all day. So here’s what I recommend:

  • Make a reading goal: 10 minutes a day, 10 pages a day, 1 chapter a week, etc. This will give you a goal to aim for.
  • Read just one page every day: On the days where you really aren’t feeling it, force yourself to read just one page. This way, you’re still moving in the right direction and more often than not – by the time you finish one page you will most likely continue reading. This has worked well for me and sometimes I end up reading for 30 minutes when I originally didn’t want too read at all
  • Read books you enjoy: It is a lot easier to read books that actually interest you. Once you find your favorite genre, you will notice yourself wanting to read more and more. Personally, I enjoy self-development, history, autobiographies, and fiction(when I just want to be entertained).
  • Highlight: If you find something in a book that resonates with you and you think it is important, highlight it! Once you finish the book, you can revisit all the sections you’ve highlighted in order to really digest that information.
  • Don’t JUST read: Sometimes I catch myself just going over the words and not really comprehending what the author is trying to say. If you catch yourself doing this, either take a break or start re-reading. Otherwise, it defeats the purpose of reading in the first place!

6. Make Your Bed

There is a great speech by William McRaven, US Navy Admiral, that describes why it is so important to make your bed. In the speech, McRaven says that making your bed in the morning will give you pride and the motivation to complete other tasks throughout the day. He says that making your bed reinforces the fact that the little things in life matter. This reminds me of the saying “How you do anything is how you do everything.” This is about having respect for yourself and holding yourself to a high standard. Although simple, making your bed each day will teach you the discipline needed to conquer the day. And as McRaven says, “And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made – that you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better”. I highly recommend watching the rest of the speech for more important life lessons.

7. Cold Showers

I believe there are two types of benefits to cold showers – mental and physical. The physical benefits include an improvement in endorphins, metabolism, circulation, immune system, and potentially recovery. While all these benefits are great, I believe the mental benefits may be even more profound. Taking a cold shower or bath is not easy. It’s very painful and uncomfortable at first and it takes a lot of grit to get through that. By making this a habit, you are building an extreme amount of self-discipline. If you have the discipline to take a cold shower, it makes many other things in life seem a lot easier. It is a very simple way of developing grit.

8. Stretching

I have only recently started placing more emphasis on stretching but I am already feeling so much better. Most people don’t realize how tight their muscles are and when you rarely ever stretch them out, you are walking around with a lot of tension and pain. You are also at a higher risk for injury.

I have started implementing yoga into my weekly routine. Having this dedicated time for stretching really relaxes me and I always come out of it feeling much better. Another way I like to get in stretching is by doing a short routine in the morning and at night. You can look up stretching complexes or develop a routine that feels good for you. It generally only takes me 5-10 minutes and I feel like I start my day better! When I stretch out before bed, I feel better in the morning(particularly in the back). If you really want to challenge yourself, try out some hot yoga or do your stretching in the sauna!

9. Snoozing…

One bad habit that I have picked up since I’ve been in college is snoozing my alarm. I never used to do this and am trying to break this habit right now because I really do believe it’s one of the worst behaviors. Not only does snoozing often make you more groggy but it also throws off your internal sleep clock. Similar to how making your bed in the morning gives you momentum, hitting snooze in the morning can get you off to a slow start which can snowball into worse decisions throughout the day.

For example, let’s say you hit snooze in the morning and by the time you get up you’re still a little groggy. You might be in a rush because you slept in and since you’re already feeling groggy, you skip breakfast and go straight for the coffee. Sure, the coffee wakes you up at first but eventually you get dehydrated from not drinking water all night and first thing in the morning. On top of this, you had no breakfast so you’re starving all day. Maybe you grab an unhealthy snack from the vending machine and that makes you feel even worse. The point is, this will lead to a less productive day as opposed to if you got out of bed right away, ate healthy, and maybe even worked out. So, DO NOT HIT SNOOZE!

10. Diet & Exercise

I’m sure you saw this one coming. Obviously, I think diet and exercise are huge components to our lives and I truly believe that people who prioritize them are more successful. We only get one body and it is our vehicle for the rest of our lives. How we take care of that vehicle will determine how far we go and how good we feel. The better your diet is and the more you exercise – the better you will feel. You will have more energy and mental focus to take on the rest of your day!

So, the question is “Where do I start?” Maybe you already workout or maybe you don’t. Maybe you already eat healthy or maybe you don’t. If you are just getting started I have one recommendation. Start small and be consistent. You can’t start working out like an Olympic athlete and expect to be able to maintain that. The same goes for dieting. Over 95% of diets fail and within 3 years, people put back on all the weight. So, instead of doing some extreme diet where you completely limit yourself to one food group, I suggest developing good eating habits that are sustainable FOR YOU. You want to develop a healthy relationship with food and still be able to indulge in your favorite foods every so often. Start making small changes and see if you can stick with those. Once you can maintain that, build up from there.

These are just some of the habits that I have found helpful to my overall success. They are not easy to develop but if you can, I believe you will benefit greatly from them!

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