Something I did during a transformational time in my life was to keep a journal. It’s now my go-to guide for ‘what to do,’ I used it to write down what was going well, what was working and the successes I was having, and using these reflections and takeaways as a way to learn how to keep improving my life. I didn’t reflect on failures and mistakes, but I focused more on writing the positives that were happening, a way of changing perspective on how I viewed myself, some rebuilding of my self-esteem and confidence helped with that.
This journal helps me look back on times in my life that were pivotal in changing my habits and mindset towards my health and wellbeing. When the small decisions you make and actions you do every day become so ingrained into your routine, it’s easy to forget you didn’t always do them and their impact on improving your life.
Coaching moment: Take a moment to consider a time in your life when you saw improvement in your health and wellbeing: What was different in life than how it is now? What were you doing that perhaps you’re not doing now?
When I look back at my experiences, it was the habits in place that made all the difference in maintaining a healthy weight, quitting refined sugar, stopping binge drinking, reducing my stress levels, and achieving success that lasted the test of time!
My best mate still introduces me as “Heidi, the one that doesn’t eat sugar!”
One factor in this success was finding a process that worked during particularly challenging times rather than the end goal or outcome. My approach was to figure out which habits worked for me, and I could consistently keep doing. I had no desire for a quick fix, I was clear on what I wanted for my health, and that was and still is; longevity, energy, and glowing skin – from the inside out.
I learnt that a habit worth sticking to is one that you can continue to do and helps you stay on track during the tough times when you’re out of routine or in a different environment.
A few times in my life, I have tested my discipline towards these habits; setting up my business, becoming a new mum, and of course – Covid. These times have challenged me to keep the focus on my wellbeing as a priority. There have been sacrifices, upset, and times of complete demotivation. By sticking to my healthy habits, I’ve overcome each of these life-changing experiences. These habits have been the pillars to maintaining my healthy weight, eating minimal sugar, responsible drinking, and managing my stress levels, resulting in a productive approach towards my work.
Even though a habit becomes an automatic routine, part of the success is being aware of what helps you keep it up. You don’t want to rely on willpower alone or to ‘see how it goes.’ Please don’t take it for granted that once you’ve kept the habit up for 21 days, it will automatically stick. It’s down to you to be committed and disciplined with your process – that’s what helps make it stick.
For example, staying off refined sugar: the habit isn’t avoiding sugar (that would just be called deprivation). The healthy habit for having a sugar-free diet is around fueling my body and mind with what it needs not to crave sugary foods, and with that comes planning and preparation. Initially, it’s a challenge, it does feel like hard work, but as you build these habits into your life, it does over time feel a lot easier, more automatic to do.
Often I hear people say, “It shouldn’t be this hard to change, right?” “It should feel easier than this.” and then stop. The way I look at it is, when has anything that has come easy life made a real positive impact?
For so many years, my first drink in the morning was a cup of coffee. I would drag myself out of bed, turn the kettle on, and wait to make my coffee. Introducing more water into my day hasn’t come easy. We all know the benefits of drinking more water: being hydrated keeps us energised, keeps our vital organs functioning, and detoxifies the body. But knowing doesn’t always mean doing. Staying hydrated also means needing to go to the toilet more, drinking less tea and coffee, carrying a water bottle around, but trust me – it will improve your life.
Prep required: In the evening, put a bottle or glass of water by your bed.
Set your alarm with the reminder: drink water!
Take ten sips before you get out of bed.
Repeat every day.
Pressing snooze on your alarm until the very last moment before you have to get up before you are late to work? I’ve been there! Having a morning routine will improve your life. Getting up 1 hour before you need to be out the door allows you the time to start the day the way you mean it to go on. (If you rush out the door, the rest of the morning feels rushed, right?) To feel energised and ready for the day ahead, you need a morning routine that sets you up for that! In the hour before you leave the house, test out some of these routines to start creating a morning routine that works for you:
10 minutes meditation.
15-minute yoga stretch.
15 min HIIT session.
Read a chapter of a book.
Plan out your day.
Revisit your vision, goals, and priorities.
Mindfully eat breakfast or drink your coffee.
Make a healthy breakfast from scratch.
Journal (Early morning pages is a great way to start).
Ten deep belly breaths.
I had no idea the impact planning and scheduling my work, and non-work life would have on my stress levels and peace of mind. When I started, I had Filofax! No fancy journals available like there are today. Today I use iCal for time-blocking the different elements of my week (work, mum-life, me-time, volunteering, training, family time, rest). I also use a business planner to write down every specific task that needs completing during the week, focusing on top priorities. This habit has improved my ability to manage my stress, stay focused and productive, and gives me peace of mind to switch off from work (or other elements of life) to be able to be in the moment. The habit is planning the week. How you do it is a skill to be developed. Be patient with yourself, focus on the process, and find out which methods work for you.
Options to test out:
The Pomodoro technique
The Eisenhower Matrix
The Kanban Method
Eating the frog first
4. Evening reflection (www and ebi)
Getting into the habit of journaling by listing what has gone well during the day and picking one thing to do differently or better the following day helps keep you accountable to focus on the incremental improvements. It also improves your self-confidence and self-esteem. We always remember what we haven’t done well or that bad day we had. We often lose perspective on how well we’re doing. This reflection tool helps you create a habit for adopting a positive mindset and a practice for self-compassion. It’s also a great way to overcome imposter syndrome too!
WWW (What went well today)
EBI (Even better if tomorrow)
Write one small thing you can do differently tomorrow to be better.
5. Treat yourself as you treat your best friend
Creating a habit to shift negative self-talk to positive thoughts from compassion is linked with a range of positive psychological strengths, including; optimism, curiosity, initiative, and emotional intelligence. It also helps us manage our emotions in healthy ways when stressed or going through a challenging time. Part of achieving a healthy lifestyle is to stop punishing your future for the mistakes of your past. Self-compassion helps you forgive yourself and grow from it, and then let it go. Follow the guided steps below to start learning how to adopt this habit – the more you do it, the more natural and automatic it becomes:
Step 1: Think of a time when a close friend has been feeling bad about themselves.
Write down what you typically do, say, and the tone you use when you talk to a friend going through a difficult time.
Step 2: Think of a time when you’ve felt bad about yourself or have gone through a difficult time. How do you typically treat yourself?
Write down what you do, say, and the tone you use.
Is there a difference?
Step 3: Write down how things could be different if you treated yourself as you treated your friends.
These five habits are like the pillars that hold me up when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, there are so many other habits that now make up my day, but these five stay with me no matter what’s going on around me. The best way to get started is to choose and introduce one habit at a time into your daily life. Use the list above as a guide, focus on what resonates most with you today and start there.
For a habit to stick and make a long-lasting impact on your life, you need to be doing it for yourself, not because you think you should or because someone else has told you to do it.
Take pride in doing something to improve your life!
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