I was trying to find a list of habits like this to inspire my New Year’s resolutions, but the ones I found online weren’t super helpful. (The only one that I found that I might adopt is to set a short timer in the morning for cleaning up.) So I decided to write a list of my somewhat easily adoptable habits that may inspire others.
- Having a consistent sleep schedule!! This has probably been the biggest game changer for me. Right now I’m sleeping 12:30-8:30. Since I usually don’t have anything until 11am most days, I get to indulge in a relaxed/relaxing morning routine that can help set the tone for the rest of my day. I hate the feeling of having to rush! Before adopting this habit, my sleep schedule was super irregular, and I would frequently stay up late and/or sleep for 10-12 hours. Some tips on how to get started:
- It may be helpful to start a new sleep schedule during a phase where you’re already transitioning anyways. For instance, after a vacation when you’re trying to get over jet lag or during a week where you have to get up earlier than usual.
- Melatonin in the evenings + caffeine in the mornings!
- Have an alarm clock that isn’t your phone, and get out of bed immediately after waking up. You can play music to motivate yourself to get out of bed.
- Have a yummy and easily prepared breakfast available that you will look forward to eating in the mornings. Eating breakfast is also a habit that I adopted this past year (after over 5 years of not eating breakfast), and I think it’s helped me a lot in terms of my overall health and well-being. I make congee overnight in a slow cooker, and eat that basically every morning with rousong and xiancai (pickled vegetables).
- Developing TAPs (Trigger-Action Plans) to help yourself not get stuck/get unstuck. This is helpful for both work and personal problems. Some things that I do when I feel stuck are
- Writing things down – forcing myself to explicitize what I’m having trouble with in a visual and tactile way. This is way more effective and easily implemented for me than traditional rubber ducking and provides an easy transition into working out the rest of the problem on paper either through words or diagrams.
- Journaling/video journaling – I like doing this even outside of feeling stuck, but I think this is super helpful in allowing you to work through latent thoughts, feelings, memories, etc. to better understand yourself. I also have been really enjoying watching my video journals after the fact.
- Taking walks – I also like doing this outside of feeling stuck. Sometimes it’s just most helpful to just get a change in context, and taking walks is also a good motivation for me to get outside (particularly when the weather isn’t great). Having a designated time where I don’t have to be thinking about anything at all creates a mental space where things that are on my subconscious mind can emerge, and when I return, I’m usually in a more positive mental space.
- Staring at the ceiling/sky – I have to admit that sometimes I can get addicted to my phone. In response to that, I made a New Year’s resolution to stare at the ceiling/sky/ground for at least 5 minutes a day, and I’ve done it every day so far. This is really helpful because I think part of the reason that phones are so addicting is because they rewire your response to doing nothing from just being bored to checking social media/etc. Forcing myself to stare at the ceiling at some point during the day gives the other option (of being bored) back to me. I think it’s also a great opportunity to rest your eyes.
- Pomodoros – pomodoros have been so helpful whenever I need to get work done, and they allow me to easily plan and set goals for how much work I want/need to get done. I already wrote a blog post about pomodoros that goes more in depth, but I want to add here that getting up/away from your work station during breaks is crucial.
- Regular self-expression – I just feel better when my internal state can be externalized. For me, this entails picking out an outfit and putting on makeup that captures my mood. Even if I’m just planning on being in my room most of the day, I still think doing this is important. I seriously don’t know what I’ll do when I have to work in an office environment!
- Taking nootropics – I don’t know a ton about this, but it’s been helpful for me to be aware that sometimes my internal state has to do with biological (?) factors. For instance, I have a vitamin D deficiency, so I take supplements of that (which I feel helps with my mood and overall health), and when I’m tired, I’ll drink a caffeinated beverage alongside a pill of L-theanine.
With all that being said, one of the most effective ways I’ve found to change my mental state (or get out of a rut) has been to break my routine in some way. For instance, going a day without my phone, working from a different location, listening to new music, or (inadvertently) being super tired and drinking caffeine.