48 Tiny Habits That Will Make You Awesome
Go to the profile of Patrik Edblad
Mar 21, 2017
I don’t expect you to follow all of these habits, nor do I do it myself.
But hopefully, you’ll find one or two that will enrich your life.
If you do that, I consider this article a success.
Here we go!
Do the gratitude snooze. The key to happiness is to want what you already have. So, instead of hitting the snooze button and going back to sleep, spend the first few minutes of your day in gratitude (1). Think about all the blessing in your life, big and small, that you tend to take for granted. That simple practice will help rewire your brain for positivity.
Reset your expectations. Begin each day like the Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius: ”When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil.” (2) People aren’t perfect, so you shouldn’t expect them to act perfectly. Set your expectations straight every morning, and you’ll suffer a lot less during the day.
Do a high-intensity interval training. Physical exercise isn’t just important for your health. New research has found that it’s also crucial for mental aspects such as your brain’s ability to learn (3). If you’re a busy person, I highly recommend the 7-minute workout. It’s challenging but effective and extremely time efficient.
Meditate. It’s crazy how many benefits this simple practice has. Among many other things, regular meditators experience less stress and anxiety, better sleep, sharper mental focus, and deeper relationships (4). So, learn how to do basic mindfulness meditation. It’s well worth the time and effort.
Use mindfulness triggers. Decide on a particular set of habits you do every day and let them trigger moments of mindfulness. These could be, for example, doing the dishes, showering, or brushing your teeth. Allow yourself to be fully present during these activities.
Take cold showers. Challenging and uncomfortable to say the least. But the benefits speak for themselves. Cold showers burn fat, strengthens immunity and circulation, increases mood and alertness, and refines your hair and skin (5). Plus, it’s an excellent way to boost your mental toughness.
Eat mindfully. Turn off the TV and radio. Put away newspapers and magazines. Then eat your breakfast slowly and mindfully. Not only will the food taste better, but it also helps you absorb the nutrients better and makes it less likely that you’ll overeat (6).
Breathe deeply. Whenever you’re feeling stressed or anxious, pause for a minute and follow this sequence: Inhale in for 3 seconds → Pause for 1 second → Exhale for 5 seconds. Repeat this cycle five times, and you’ll feel calmer in less than a minute (7).
Relieve stress with cuteness. Watching a video of a cute animal can reduce heart rate and blood pressure in under a minute (8). So, if you’re not a fan of breathing exercises, you can always watch Ichi the Bitchy.
Reinforce your goals. If you’re serious about accomplishing your long-term goals, you can’t state them once a year and then forget about them. You need to remind yourself of the direction you want to go every day. Turn your goals into brain tattoos by writing them down in a journal every single day.
Use the “5-second rule.” Whenever you have an impulse to act on a goal, physically move within five seconds. Introduce yourself, raise your hand, step into the cold shower, or do whatever else you need to do to get closer to your goal. But do it before your brain kills your good intentions with fear (9).
Use the ”Eisenhower Box.” Sort your daily tasks into one of the following possibilities:
• Urgent and important. Do these things immediately.
• Important, but not urgent. Put these things in your schedule.
• Urgent, but not important. Delegate these things to someone else.
• Neither urgent nor important. Eliminate these things.
It will help you prioritize what’s important and make you much more productive.
Decide your 3 ”MIT:s.” Each morning (or the night before), choose three things you must accomplish during the day to consider it a success. Then focus all your energy on these three tasks before doing anything else.
Use the ”2-minute rule.” This is the only exception to the rule above. If something takes less than two minutes, then do it immediately (10).
Say no. A lot of people complain about not having enough time. But it’s not that we don’t have enough time that’s the problem — it’s that we waste so much of it (11). So, be protective of your time. It’s either “HELL YEAH!” or “no.”
Do a weekly review. Set aside a few minutes at the end of each week to reflect on your progress. Celebrate your successes, big or small, and think about what you can improve for next week.
See the big picture. Whenever you’re about to do some demanding work, take a moment to think about how it will make someone’s life easier. It’ll give you a deeper sense of meaning and help you stay motivated. (Note: I found this one very helpful when using this article .)
Put yourself in ”monk mode.” If you want to be highly productive, you need to work for long stretches in deep, undisturbed focus(12). So, close your door, put your phone in ”do not disturb” mode, turn off notifications on your computer, and block distracting websites before diving into your work.
Play the ”email game.” Once you’ve completed your deep work, you can use email as a reward. The email game will help you move quickly and decisively through each message. And it’s fun!
Stand up. Seriously, sitting down all day is terrible for your health (13). So, interrupt your sitting as much as possible. Set an alarm to remind you to get up and move around. If possible, use a standing desk.
Strike a pose. Whenever you’re feeling nervous about a social encounter of some sort, use a powerful posture. Take up space and exude confidence. Doing that for just a couple of minutes will significantly increase your testosterone (”the dominance hormone”) while decreasing your levels of cortisol (”the stress hormone”). That will help you calm down and feel more confident (14).
Run the “doorway drill.” Each time you walk through a door, straighten yourself up, smile, and hold your head high. By doing that, you’ll train yourself to enter rooms with a magnetic confidence (15).
Hug someone. Human beings are wired for social connection and intimacy. Hugging releases hormones like oxytocin and dopamine that makes us calm down and feel connected. So, always choose a hug over a handshake (when appropriate). 🙂
Practice being charismatic. Whenever you engage with other people, remember the three core behaviors of charisma: Presence, Power, and Warmth (16). Be 100% engaged in the conversation, use a powerful body language, and be genuinely concerned with helping the other person.
Don’t be interesting, be interested. In a world where almost everyone is constantly talking about themselves, people appreciate a good listener. If you want people to like you, more often than not, all you have to do is let them talk (17).
Give credit. According to behavioral economists, few things motivate people as much as being given credit for good work (18). And few things feel as good as complementing others for a job well done. So, give credit where credit’s due. If you’ve read a great book, email the author. If you’ve listened to a helpful podcast, send a tweet to the host. It will encourage them to keep doing great work — and it will make you feel great.
Be impeccable with your word. Never say anything about someone that you wouldn’t say straight to their face (19). This is a great way to practice personal integrity.
Take one picture every day. Pictures have the curious effect that they increase in value with time. A picture with your friends today might not seem that special, but 20 years from now, it will be a treasure. So, start building your visual autobiography today. Take one picture every day and store them in an app like Day One. In a couple of years, you’ll be so glad you did. And so will your friends and family.
Enroll in ”Toilet University.” If you spend 15 on the toilet every day reading on your phone, that translates into 90+ hours every year. That’s plenty of time to build your expertise. So, delete time-wasting apps and instead use that time to take online courses or read great book summaries. ”Never throne without something of educational value”! (20)
Savor your experiences. Eating something good? Say mmm. Stretching out in bed? Say aah. Allow yourself to indulge in the small, daily miracles of your life and they’ll become much more pleasurable (21).
Ban ”victim speech.” Your words become your reality, so choose them wisely. Instead of saying “I can’t,” say “I won’t.” Instead of “I have to,” say “I’m going to.” Instead of “I don’t know,” say “I’ll figure it out.” Never speak of yourself as a victim, else you’ll become one (22).
Have an ”end-of-workday routine.” At the end of your workday, take a few minutes to get any lingering tasks out of your head and down on paper. Schedule your most important stuff for the next day. Try to truly finish up so you can be completely present when you get home.
Put your phone away. The average smartphone user checks their phone 221 times a day. That behavior has become a significant problem in modern relationships as people feel neglected by their spouses and friends. Scientists even have a name for it; ”phubbing,” which is a combination of the words ”phone” and ”snubbing.” (23) So, put your phone in another room. Your relationships will benefit from it.
”Stop. Look. Go.” Take the time to soak in the small miracles of life. If you come across a beautiful night sky, a bird singing beautifully, or someone doing an act of kindness, let it touch you. Take a minute, or a couple of seconds if that’s all you have, to experience the moment fully before getting on with your day (24).
Set up your own ”smile therapy.” We all know that when we feel happy, we smile. But did you know that it works the other way around, too? When you smile, you tell your nervous system that you’re happy, and that makes you feel good (25). So, create your own daily smile therapy.
Do the ”misery dance.” This habit is closely related to the smile therapy. You can use it whenever life throws it’s minor annoyances at you. Did the paper get stuck in the printer? Do a silly misery dance for a couple of seconds (26). That can be enough to interrupt a negative thinking pattern and instantly make you feel better. Fair warning: People may think you’re a nut.
Adopt the ”Walk in the door rule.” No matter what your day has been like, always tell your family/friends/cat about the best thing that happened that day as soon as you walk in the door (27). That is a powerful little habit that can transform the way you communicate with your loved ones.
Use ”temptation bundling.” I used to loath housekeeping chores until I found this simple strategy (28). What you do is couple something you need to do with something you want to do. These days, I actually look forward to doing laundry (something I need to do) because it means I get to listen to an awesome audiobook (something I want to do). Combine your chores with a reward, and they’ll become much easier to do.
Do a 5-minute declutter. Spend just a couple of minutes a day getting rid of some clutter. That could be physical clutter like clothes and stuff you never use or digital clutter like icons and apps that are filling your screens. Delete, throw it out, or give it away.
Practice ”voluntary discomfort.” Do something every day that makes you uncomfortable. Underdress for cold weather, go without a meal, sleep without a pillow, or something that brings discomfort (29). You’ll get better at doing things you don’t want to do and that, as it happens, is the key to success.
Help someone. The late, great Zig Ziglar used to say “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want.” (30) I’ve found this to be very true in my life. The more people I help, the more opportunities come my way. Reach out and help someone every day. Lend a hand, send an email, answer a Quora question. The good intentions you put out will come back to you.
Set an evening alarm clock. Have it go off one hour before bed. When it rings, turn off all your screens and read a couple of pages in a fiction book. It will help you sleep better.
Take the ”view from above.” Whenever you’re struggling or feel overwhelmed, look up at the sky. Zoom out from your problems and widen your perspective to cosmic dimensions. Ponder the infinite universe and that the light from the stars that is hitting your eyes is so old that some of them don’t exist anymore. It will make your personal problems seem a lot less important (31).
Create a ”Jar of Awesome.” Whenever something awesome happens to you, big or small, write it down on a piece of paper and put in your jar. Then, whenever you’re feeling down, open the jar and read the notes. You’ll feel much better (32).
Practice ”negative visualization.” Take some time every day to imagine what your life would have been like without the blessings you tend to take for granted. What would your situation look like if you lost your health, your home, or your friend? Contemplating these things from time to time makes you appreciate them much more (33).
Use ”mini-actions” to break bad habits. Pre-commit to a particular behavior to engage in every time you start craving your bad habit. For example, each time you feel like smoking a cigarette, play Tetris for five minutes instead. Cravings usually only last a few minutes, so a ”mini-action” can be all you need to overcome them (34).
Create a ”token economy” to motivate yourself. Each time you’ve completed some daily goal, reward yourself with a token (such as a gold star, a coin, or a poker chip). Then allow yourself to trade your accumulated tokens for rewards related to the goal (35).If you, for example, are a runner, your rewards could look something like this:
• Water bottle — 5 tokens.
• Running socks — 10 tokens.
• Portable music player — 15 tokens.
• Pedometer — 20 tokens.
• Running shoes — 100 tokens.
• Entry to a Marathon — 500 tokens.
Practice self-compassion. Finally, whenever you mess up, know that stacking guilt on top of it won’t make things better. It will only make you feel even worse and make it harder to bounce back (36). So, whenever you’ve had a setback, treat yourself like you would a good friend — with compassion and reassurance
I write about timeless ideas and science-backed strategies to feel great and perform at your very best. Get more from me at http://www.selfication.com/medium/
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Patrik Edblad (author)