For the longest time, I have thought that this topic was way too talked about, so I really didn't want to write about it and I really didn't think that your habits mattered as much if you were working hard.
Boy was I wrong about this one.
After lack luster results last year, my girlfriend leaving me and months of depression, I figured that maybe it was time to actually take control and start trying to change the horrible habits I had, as I was sitting around all day being sad and not accomplishing anything.
Thank god I realized, or even had the thought, that habits could pull me out of the dreadful place I was at, even though I was making good money from my side hustle and succeeding in school, I was absolutely miserable and cried almost every night.
I was lost with nowhere else to turn, so I did what I should have done years ago, I turned to myself, and started looking inside myself for the answers.
How I Have Been Using Habits
As I touched on above, I was very depressed and probably the most lost I have been in my whole life. I had just gotten back from studying for 3 months in Cape Town, South Africa and had the time of my life, taking trips I never thought I would be taking. Yet, I came back and fell into a deep sadness, and was not happy with any aspect of my life.
That started a long cycle of unproductive months and just horrible habits like using nicotine every night to fall asleep and/ or drinking at least 3-4 days a week.
While I was still going to school and doing well, as well as working and making money on the side, I was pretty much going through the motions of life. I was not seeing any growth and I had no structure to my days, reacting to everything that happened to me, rather than going around with a purpose.
Thank god I started to read and listen to podcasts, a habit that I used to have before these long months, because those as well as the gym started to put structure and meaning into my day.
Slowly but surely, I started to see the results of these habits and was starting to get happier. I loved seeing the results and that lead me to slowly adding more and more habits, such as eating better, taking vitamins to master my cognitive performance, jump roping and even walking every morning to increase my light exposure and become healthier.
Finally, I started to plan out my days, breaking it down to the hour, so that I always had a purpose and a plan no matter what time of the day it was. I was not reacting to life anymore, I was taking control of it and the results have been amazing I must say. I have never been healthier, happier, had a better plan of where I want to go and have never been more mentally clear and sharp (cognitive function has been a huge focus of my habits lately).
While that may sound easy, it really was totally the opposite, I learned and struggled to build habits for a while before slowly grasping them and adding one per week. I had finally found a habit building formula that worked for me and I would love to do the same for you.
Why Most People Fail at Creating New Habits
While finding that formula for myself that worked for building my habits, I quickly found that common practices that people think work for building habits, actually did not work that well and I wanted to share those with you.
The first thing I realized was that if I tried to jump into a habit head on, I was destined to fail from the beginning. I found that slowly easing into a habit was much more effective as it helps to see the results of it changing your life day by day and ensures you are more likely to keep it because you see these results.
What do I mean by this?
Let's take the example of a habit I am working on right now actually, taking cold showers. Yes, it sucks but honestly it makes you feel amazing in the morning when you take them and gives you that wake up you need as well as lasting energy throughout the day. Plus, it helps you become much more mentally strong as you realize nothing during the day will likely suck as much as that cold shower, so it makes you much more confident as well!
Back to building the habit though, at first I tried just jumping into taking a full cold shower, from start to finish. But first day I couldn't last 30 seconds, I needed a new plan if I wanted to build this great habit in my life. So, I started with just 30 seconds of cold at the end of my showers and started to see a few results in energy throughout the day and mental toughness, but I knew I needed to take those full cold showers, so as I started to get used to the cold I would add 30 seconds every few days or every week and I am almost to a full cold shower.
I realized that not all habits are easy, and many people get discouraged when they don't work. So, start building up your habits. That could be starting with reading for a 15 minutes a day without any distractions (yes that means no social media) in order to eventually build the habit of reading for an hour each day.
Gradually build habits as they will stick around longer and be more effective for you. That leads right into the other major thing I noticed people doing while trying to build habits, and quickly realized it didn't work for me.
Most people try to add too many habits all at once and they just get worn out and start taking "days off" which lead to more days off and soon they aren't even working on building the habits anymore.
Instead, try adding just one habit per week, or every few weeks would be even better, so that you can build a solid foundation of that habit and start seeing the results it is bringing to your life before starting that next habit.
When you are seeing those results, you are going to be more likely to keep that habit around as you know what it does for your life rather than having a million habits in the first week and not sure which ones are improving your life and in which ways.
How To Actually Create and Keep Habits
The most powerful way I have found so far to keep habits is by using the strategy that I described above for slowly building habits bit by bit, rather than just jumping all in on them.
This is because you start to see the results and exactly how it impacts your life, say you notice it making you happier or giving you more energy. You will keep this habit around longer then because you know it is giving you more energy and making you happy, so why would you sacrifice that!
The other thing that I found works wonders for sticking to a habit is putting a reason or emotion behind the habit. What do I mean by this?
Well, starting a habit is the easy part, anybody can do that, but if you really wat to see life changing results you have to stick with that habit for years which can be hard for a lot of people.
I found this especially hard when I was first starting because I was trying to build habits but I didn't know why I was doing so. For example I was eating certain foods in the morning because they were "good for you" but I could never stick to that habit because I didn't know why they were good for me. So, instead I started to research foods that could improve my cognitive function and started to eat those in the morning instead because I knew why I was eating them.
Putting emotion behind the habit might be even more powerful than having a reason behind the habit. Why? Because it helps you feel that habit changing you and makes you never want to go back to feeling the way you did before the habit was formed in your life.
A great example from my life for this is when I was struggling with depression and started to go to the gym consistently again. I started going once a day and forcing myself to go and then it turned almost into a sanctuary for me as I was feeling so much more happy after I left the gym each day. That feeling of happiness, when I was at my lowest point was the thing that keeps me going back to the gym each and every day, still to this day.
Some of the Best Habits You Can Create
This is just going to be a quick section here on the habits that have helped and changed my life the most, from energy building habits to physical habits and even ones that have helped my happiness.
To start off, as I have talked about above, the gym has been a huge part of my life and that habit has had me feeling more happy and in better shape than I have been in my whole life. It is definitely one of the first habits I would recommend building because it is not always easy and that will make other habits that you try to build much easier.
Next, carving some time out of the day to read and listen to podcasts has helped me learn so much and just build my curiosity through a variety if different topics. Learning doesn't just help improve what you know, it also helps you formulate more ideas of your own as you can use the ideas you listen to or read about to start deciding what you agree with and what you don't agree with to start formulating your own opinions. You can even start with reading just 30 minutes a day and listening to podcasts in the car, in the gym or in the shower.
If you are looking to listen to more podcasts, but just don't have the time, try listening to them at 1.5x to 2x the speed. There is an option in the bottom left hand corner of the podcast app on iPhones that allows you to change the speed you listen at. Start by listening to them at 1.5x speed for a few weeks and then once that starts to sound normal, bump it up to 2x speed!
The two morning habits that have changed my energy the most were cold showers and morning walks. I already talked about cold showers above and the confidence, resilience and energy they give you, so I will focus on morning walks here.
During your morning walk you can listen to a podcast, also get your body moving and increase your light exposure to the UV rays of the sun. This is important for your cognitive function as Dave Asprey explains in his book, Head Strong.
I highly recommend this book if you are looking or some great habits, foods and techniques to improve your mental performance.
Finally, meditation has also greatly improved my happiness and has helped me formulate my ideas better. Most importantly, it has improved my sleep allowing me to get deeper and better sleep in less time than I was before. I have also noticed that I am dreaming more clearly after meditation.
BONUS: Try This
As I mentioned above, meditation every night has been one of the most powerful habits I have created over the past few months and I can't wait to see what it can do for me in the future.
I am already starting to see my happiness increase as well as being able to work through situations more objectively and make decisions more effectively. It has also done wonders for things that I was holding onto from my past and bad habits that were holding me back, just to name a handful of things here!
I wanted to give you a link of one of the first meditations I did (free on YouTube) so you can get started as well! It is all about building habits and helping you let go of bad habits, fitting right?
Click this link to check out that free meditation on YouTube >>
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