I bet you’ve read many personal developments, health and wellbeing, fitness, and self-improvement articles.
You are reading this — so I’ll admit it’s an easy bet to make.
I read lots of them too.
But, there are three problems I find with many of them.
Firstly the tips they suggest involve a lot of commitment. I understand that to change your life requires effort, but many of us don’t have an abundance of spare time — or the willingness to wake up at 4 am for the perfect morning routine.
Secondly, the same habits get repeated over and over.
It gets kind of boring to see “drink more water” as the supreme life hack that will change your life. Of course, drinking water is good — but we’ve heard it before. We don’t need to constantly be told like a four-year-old child.
And lastly, there are a lot of tips that are based on myths. Someone posts a tip on social media, and suddenly it becomes gospel, and people blindly follow them.
So what I wanted to do in this article is offer an alternative. Some micro habits that can be easily implemented that haven’t been on auto-repeat for years.
Why micro habits — because size does matter
We seem to be trained to focus on big goals which require big resolutions.
Lose 50 pounds.
Climb Mount Everest
Write a best-selling trilogy.
When the end goal is so big, it can be overwhelming and easy to abandon when motivation wanes. Instead, setting smaller habits that can be done over long periods will deliver better results.
‘Consider where you are, fitness-wise, and let that be your starting point. Ask yourself: “Is this habit so simple, I’ll still be doing it in three weeks, three months, three years?” While a New Year’s resolution typically outlines an end goal, a micro-resolution is a building block towards it.’ Jonny Kibble, Head of Exercise and Physical Activity at Vitality.
Putting a series of micro habits in place that can lead to a bigger goal is a better strategy than setting one massive life-changing activity.
I’ve employed micro habits to improve my physical and mental health, and I have listed nine I employ in the hope you’ll see something new that you can also utilize.
1. Smile at a stranger
How many people do you walk past each day? No doubt it’s a lot. But how many do you acknowledge in some form?
Probably very few. We shuffle along in life, absorbed in our world. Facedown in our phones, eyes averting any human contact. Whether that be walking our dog or catching the subway, we just want to get from A to B with as little human interaction as possible.
Next time you’re walking somewhere, look at people and smile as you pass them. Say hello, and offer a polite nod.
I guarantee that the recipient will smile back nine times out of ten, and you will both feel better.
2. Try a workout you’ve never done
Before COVID, I used to travel a lot for work. During those travels, I would stay at a lot of cheap hotels. Many of those would promote their “fitness centre” on their website, which in reality was an old treadmill and a dusty rowing machine.
The treadmill was in use on one occasion, so I forced myself to use the rowing machine. I immediately became addicted.
I became a rowing machine enthusiast joining a rowing studio and even buying a water rower to use at home.
Rowing became my saviour during COVID. The machine I had always ignored became my constant companion.
Try a new workout and see if you like it. You may not — I once did Bikram yoga which I hated, but you might find something that you fall in love with.
3. Bare your sole
In summer, I like to ditch footwear when possible.
Now, living in Australia means the sidewalks and paths are hot, but I build up immunity, and I feel the connection between my sole and the earth. One study found that walking barefoot — also known as “earthing” or “grounding” can have significant health benefits such as better sleep, improved mood, and reduced pain sensitivity.
I can vouch for that last point, as a few weeks into summer; my feet can walk across the hot Aussie roads.
It can also improve your biomechanics and strengthen the muscles in your feet — a concept looked at in detail in the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.
“Shoes do no more for the foot than a hat does for the brain.” Dr Mercer Rang, orthopaedic surgeon, and researcher in pediatric development.
4. Take a golden shower
A recent study found that 52 per cent of Americans like to urinate in the shower. This saves time as well as helps the environment.
“Go with the Flow” is a campaign that encourages students at the University of East Anglia to go in the shower. “We’ve done the math, and this project stands to have a phenomenal impact. With 15,000 students at UEA, over a year, we would save enough water to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool 26 times over.”
Saving the environment will make you feel better. Just make sure it’s number one and not number two.
5. One random thing a day
A way to break free of routines is to do one random thing a day.
Be unpredictable, try something new, or perhaps select the most random cover image for the next article you write.
It can be visiting a new cafe, trying a new meal, or walking through a different neighbourhood.
“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It’s lethal.” — Paulo Coehlo
6. Be a baby
Working from home offered me the opportunity to perfect the afternoon nap.
A mid-afternoon nap is not just for babies — some of the world’s great leaders, such as Margaret Thatcher and John F Kennedy, loved their naps.
Studies show there are immense benefits of taking a nap. The Harvard School of Public Health researched napping. They found that for the research participants, naps of any duration or frequency were associated with a 34% lower risk of dying from heart disease.
Harvard also shows that studies of shift workers, airline flight crews, medical interns, and highway drivers have all reported that naps as short as 20–30 minutes decrease fatigue and improve psychomotor performance, mood, and alertness. This is crucial not only for their work performance but for the safety of their clients and passengers.
Taking a nap has been found to deliver the same benefits as consuming caffeine — so save your money and sleep instead of buying an extra coffee.
7. Shake like a polaroid picture
As I write this article, I’m standing and tapping my feet along with the music playing on my Airpods. I find it helps my creativity, gives me more energy, and helps my health.
A 2016 study compared people who tapped their feet while sitting with others who sat still. Those who moved had significantly higher blood flow and stimulation and burned an extra 350 calories a day than those who didn’t.
You can be active even while you’re at a desk working.
Every night as I go to bed, my dog Rocky joins me. He takes pole position between my partner and me.
A 2017 study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found contrary to popular belief, a dog sleeping in your bed doesn’t negatively affect your sleep.
On the contrary, a dog in bed is associated with comfort and security, even more so than sleeping with another person or a cat.
Yet another reason to be a dog person.
9. Do nothing
I’ll admit this was the hardest for me to do.
But even doing nothing can be good for you. Research suggests that doing nothing is essential for creativity and innovation because it provides the mental space to develop new insights.
From a physical point of view, it also allows the body to rest and recover. Don’t put pressure on yourself to always be doing something.
So make sure you schedule some time for Netflix and chill.
Especially the chill part.