I created super small habits that I could practice every day that take just a little time, help my brain focus better, create an environment for me to be productive, and also make me feel good.
Here are some small habits that can add more positivity to your day too:
Get excited about making a change. To create extra time in your day, consider creating a morning routine that is customized to your needs, your work schedule, and your personal goals. I recommend listening to a podcast called Achieve Your Goals which is hosted by Hal Elrod, the author of a book called The Miracle Morning. It is a useful guide to structuring your mornings so that you can accomplish things early, feel more productive, and work consistently towards your personal goals.
Say thank you. As soon as you wake up, take a notebook and write 3 things you are grateful for today: it can be something as simple as a roof over your head, food in the fridge, a warm bed, running water; a positive relationship with people you love the most; an education that allows you to read, write, etc. Practicing gratitude about what we have going for us can restructure our brain to focus on the “haves” instead of steering to the negativity of the “have nots.” This exercise should take only 5 minutes.
Try meditating. This small practice doesn’t require a lot of time, it’s simple to follow, and it has many benefits, including better focus throughout the day, more concentration, and a greater sense of calm. Meditating early in the day can clean your brain of any cluttered thoughts and prepare it for the day ahead. To get you started with just 10 minutes, try the Headspace app. It’s fun and easy to use.
Get moving. Pick any activity that requires your body to move. It can be a visit to the gym for an hour if you have the time, but it can also be a shorter activity: a morning yoga routine, a set of hindu pushups or sun salutation poses, a 20-minute power walk or a brisk run before hitting the shower. The goal is to be consistent, so even a 30 minute workout will energize you and prepare you for the day.
Have breakfast. And never skip it. It’s your fuel for starting the day and it helps you to feel alert, energized, and motivated. Choose something that is balanced, light, yet filling, such as a combination of protein, healthy fats, fresh fruit. Some breakfasts ideas are:
- Overnight oats (no cooking needed): mix a few spoonfuls of oats, 1 teaspoon each of chia seeds and flax seeds, some walnuts, almonds, raisins; add a bit of almond milk or water to blend; leave in fridge overnight and top it off in the morning with some fresh fruit.
- Parfait: layer Greek yogurt with granola, walnuts/almonds/cashews, and fresh fruit (papaya, banana, strawberries, oranges, grapefruit, apples, pears, mango).
- Oatmeal with chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, almonds, dates, shredded coconut, raisins or cranberries; blend with a spoon of peanut butter and add fresh fruit on top.
Do your deep work FIRST, i.e. early in the day. Deep work is what your analytical brain does to perform the most complex tasks (reading, comprehension, application, problem-solving). Some scientists call this time of day the brain’s peak performance time, and it’s roughly 2-4 hours after we wake up (if you wake up at 6, your peak times are between 8 and 10 a.m.). Block this time off to work, then set your phone to Airplane mode so you won’t be interrupted; have a coffee or tea ritual to make the experience more enjoyable; put on your headphones and listen to music that gives you energy or that is calming (such as classical music).
Flex your happiness muscle. Do you want to be happier? Who doesn’t?! To make a positive change or two in your life, treat happiness like a habit and actively look for what you can do to become happier every day. One of Harvard University’s most popular lecturers, Tal Ben-Shahar, wrote a book called Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Happiness. He focuses on positive psychology and how to apply the concept of happiness to daily life, for example in school, the workplace, and in our personal relationships.