Habits, some are good and some are bad. In this crazy, thrill-a-minute carnival ride of a world, good habits are rarer than raw beef steak. So how exactly do we cultivate good habits? How do we rise above our compulsions to wallow in the bad habit bog? How do we even identify good habits?
Consider us your guiding light, because today we’re going to talk about The Five Habits Mentally Fit People Practice.
1. No More Multitasking
Here’s a scenario:
You’re on an important conference call, somebody says something about checks and you remember “Oh, I have to balance my checkbook,” so you make a note to do that on your phone. That’s right when you get an urgent email about project deadlines, so you quickly shift over to that, pen a reply and hit send. A second after you hit send, you realize you forgot an important attachment, so you dig through your files for that. As this is happening, somebody on the call asks you a question that you didn’t hear properly. You do what anyone would do in that scenario and just agree, regardless of the consequences. You’ve unknowingly consented to take on another project workload. It’s right then that you remember that you’re currently driving and almost rear-ended the person in front of you. Maybe you spill coffee all over your lap.
Wow! It’s hot! It’s very unpleasant!
What’s the lesson of this story? Well, for one, don’t hold hot coffee in your lap. Your lap is not a safe place for hot beverages. But more importantly, don’t multitask. In your working life, you’re going to meet many people who pride themselves on their ability to multitask. Don’t believe them for a second!
Miller, a Picower professor of neuroscience at MIT, says that for the most part, we simply can’t focus on more than one thing at a time…”People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves,” said neuroscientist Earl Miller. And, he said, “The brain is very good at deluding itself.”
What we identify most commonly as “multitasking” is actually just our capacity to switch our attention from thing to thing very quickly. While this might be an impressive skill, it overworks our poor brains. We thrive when we can slow down and focus on one thing at a time, giving it our full attention. Next time you’re in a meeting, put your phone on silent. Hold that impulse to check your email. Do yourself this solid and you’ll be feelin’ fit and fine in no time.
2. Eat Breakfast
How many times have you heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? How much must we beg and plead with you to eat a healthy and balanced breakfast before you march onwards, to businessville? Breakfast is so important.
Eating within 2 hours of waking can make a difference in the way you metabolize glucose, or blood sugar, all day. Your glucose level rises every time you eat, and your pancreas produces insulin to shuttle the glucose into your cells, where it’s used for energy. Research is finding that keeping glucose and insulin in the right balance has important effects on metabolism and health.
A lot of us rush out of the house without so much as a piece of toast – which later causes us to eat worse in general, and also to eat more calories later on in the day. It can also make you hangry (hungry plus angry) or frumpy (famished plus grumpy) or even stagruntled (starving plus disgruntled).
Get in the habit of eating breakfast lest we warn you again of its importance! We’re not kidding!
3. Sit Up Straight
It sounds like total nonsense, but we swear it’s true: your posture can directly affect your mood. Turns out your teachers, parents, and scoutmasters were right all along. According to a posture study done by New Zealand researchers –
The upright participants reported feeling more enthusiastic, excited, and strong, while the slumped participants reported feeling more fearful, hostile, nervous, quiet, still, passive, dull, sleepy, and sluggish,” study authors write. Good posture was also associated with higher self-esteem, less social fear and fewer negative emotions. That’s not all: they also had stronger pulse responses than their slumped friends.”
You heard it from the mouths of New Zealander babes, sitting up straight makes you feel like a million bucks. Next time you slump down at your desk, remember the acronym ATSTFSF!*
*Align The Spine To Feel So Fine
4. Keep a consistent schedule
Variety is the spice of life, so they say. They also say “consistency is the fiber of life.” Please don’t google that. Just trust us.
It should come as no surprise then that the most mentally limber among us are routine-aholics who thrive on a regimented schedule. There are a million reasons why: Routines foster stability, reduce our need to make decisions, help us build momentum towards a goal, and increase and optimize our free time. The list goes on.
The thing about “living our best lives” that we tend to forget is that living is hard work.
Routines help us grind, for lack of a better word. Getting better at anything, whether it be an organization or fostering emotional intelligence or budgeting, requires lots of hard work over long periods of time. You don’t get to be good at anything without grinding away at it first. Routines are by far the best framework within which we can better develop as people.
5. Embrace Change
It feels a little hypocritical for us to espouse the beauty of routine, only to immediately follow it up with a call to embrace change. But hear us out! Some of us cling to our routines due to an aversion to change. We get too comfortable, we let fear keep us down. We stagnate like old, thick soup, or stale lobster bisque. While routine allows us to grind away at the skills we wish to enhance, change allows us to grow as people.
There’s nothing better for the mind than change. Whether that change manifests as a permanent physical move to a different city, a career change, a promise to travel further and more often, to expose yourself to a more diverse array of experiences and voices, it’s all fulfilling, it’s all integral to who you are and the quality of your life’s journey.
Habits don’t change overnight, but anything difficult is usually worth doing. If you put in the work, you’ll see it pay off in dividends soon enough.