How can you improve the quality of your life?
What’s the best way to feel happier, healthier, more organized, and accomplished?
The answer is to adopt some simple daily habits. Because it’s the things that we do every day that have the biggest impact on our life.
Success is the product of daily habits – not once-in-a-lifetime transformations– James Clear, Atomic Habits
Those little things you do every day add up. So make them count.
Here are 7 simple daily habits that will improve your health and wellbeing, boost your mood, and help you to feel more organized and accomplished.
1. Nourish your body
It’s an obvious one but also one of the most overlooked – make sure that you eat nourishing, nutritious food daily and that you stay hydrated.
This could be as simple as adding an extra vegetable or piece of fruit to one meal or replacing one processed snack a day with an item of real food.
And remember to drink plenty of water. When you are properly hydrated you’ll feel more energetic, boost your brainpower and improve your mood.
Keep some water on your desk and take a sip every time you pause in your work or finish a task (or when you find yourself procrastinating!)
Or keep a glass of water on your kitchen counter and take a drink every time you walk past it.
2. Move your body
We all know the importance of getting exercise for both our physical and mental wellbeing, but I’ll be the first to admit, it’s not always easy to do, particularly daily.
I know it can be difficult to get to the gym or go for a run every day, but there are other things you can do to make sure you move your body.
If you sit at a desk all day, get up at least once every hour and move around. Even better, go outside and walk around the block.
You’ll get the benefit of fresh air, as well the exercise, both of which are great mood boosters.
Getting outside for fresh air and exercise can be a tough ask on those horrible weather days, but if you make the effort, even for 5 or 10 minutes, it’s worth it. Even if it’s just from the relief of coming back inside again!
Try setting yourself a goal to reach a certain amount of steps in your day. 10,000 is a popular goal, but depending upon your current level of fitness you could set a lower or higher target.
For example, if 10,000 steps seem completely out of reach for you, start with a smaller amount and work your way up.
Any movement that you incorporate into your day (sometimes known as incidental exercise) will have a positive impact on your wellbeing.
Incidental exercise can include:
- cleaning or tidying the house
- doing some stretches while sitting at your desk
- taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- choosing to walk instead of taking the car
- parking the car further away than usual then walking the rest of the way
3. Breathe well
It seems like such a simple thing.
We can all breathe, right? But knowing how to breathe well will make such a big difference to your wellbeing.
When you breathe mindfully, when you do controlled, deep breathing, you’ll reduce the impact of stress on your body.
In as little as one minute of focused breathing it’s possible to completely clear the bloodstream of the stress hormone cortisol– Tony Schwartz, Harvard Business Review (2012)
Research has shown that breathing well can lower your blood pressure and your heart rate as well as improve your immune system and digestion.
There is even evidence to suggest that breathing well can improve our brain function – it will help you think better.
So what’s the best way to breathe?
- Breathe in and out from the belly
- Breathe in and out through the nose
- Try to breathe out a little more than you breathe in
You can find out more about how breathing well will improve your life in Michael Townsend Williams excellent book Do Breathe: Clear your head. Find focus. Get stuff done.
4. Engage your brain
Keeping your brain active is just as important as keeping your body active when it comes to boosting your health, happiness and wellbeing.
Make time every day to do something creative, challenge yourself, or learn something new.
You could try:
- listening to a podcast or audiobook on your commute
- reading a book every night before bed
- learning a new skill such as knitting or crochet
- spending some time on a craft project
- practising a musical instrument
- doing a crossword or sudoku puzzle
Enjoy the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment you get from learning new skills and making progress on your projects.
5. Plan your day
How often do you get to the end of your busy day, and rather than a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, you feel frustrated and bewildered?
You don’t know where your time went, and you don’t feel like you achieved anything.
Making a realistic written plan for your day is one of the best ways to ensure that the important things get done.
A plan will help you focus your attention, so you can be intentional about how you spend your time.
It will help you feel organized, and it will give a lovely sense of accomplishment when you mark off what you have achieved.
Maybe you already create a plan in your head about what you’d like to achieve during the day?
Trust me, you’ll be much more likely to achieve it if you get your plan out of your head and onto paper!
One of the most effective ways to plan your day is to schedule your tasks and activities hour by hour.
When you can see in black and white how many hours you have, and what you need to achieve in that timeframe it’s easier to have realistic expectations about what can or can’t be done in the time that is available to you.
Maybe some things will need to wait. Maybe some things just aren’t important. Scheduling your tasks will help you to allocate your time with intention.
Of course, life happens, and for sure things will come up that will scuttle your plans for the day.
This doesn’t have to be a disaster.
Make an intentional decision to switch focus to deal with whatever can’t-wait problem presents itself.
Tomorrow is another day, and you can always revisit your plan then.
At the end of each day, make yourself a warm drink and take a few moments to reflect.
What went well in your day? What didn’t go so well?
Maybe when you planned your day you underestimated how long a task would take to complete?
That’s ok. In fact, that’s good information to know for next time. And don’t feel bad about underestimating.
We are all really bad at predicting how long things take. It’s really common to overestimate how much we can get done in short periods of time (like a day or a week).
At the same time, we often underestimate how much we can achieve in longer periods of time (like a month, or a year).
Perhaps you found yourself distracted, or not able to focus?
Or you had lots of interruptions in your day?
Don’t beat yourself up about the things that didn’t get done. Instead, acknowledge what happened. What can you do differently next time? What was out of your control?
Try incorporating a gratitude practice into your daily reflection. It’s one of the best habits you can adopt to improve your mental and physical wellbeing.
Gratitude has been heavily researched and the evidence is clear:
Gratitude [is] one of the most universally effective mindset boosters and happiness enhancers on the planet– Jonathan Fields – How to Live a Good Life
To find out more about developing a gratitude practice, take a look at:
7. Prioritize sleep
Out of all the daily habits, the most important one to prioritise is a good nights sleep.
The science of sleep is fascinating.
In the past, sleep was considered a biological mystery. Today though, the scientific evidence is very clear – good sleep is crucial to our wellbeing.
Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day– Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep
Good quality sleep:
- enhances our ability to learn, memorize and make logical decisions and choices
- boosts our immune system
- regulates our appetite
- lowers blood pressure
Scientists are discovering that there is no part of our body that doesn’t benefit from a good night’s sleep.
When you get enough sleep, everything else falls more easily into place.
It can be easy to forget about the importance of getting a good nights sleep when you’re faced with watching “just one more” episode of your favourite show. Or just a few more minutes scrolling through Facebook or Instagram.
Try creating a set bedtime.
I’ve found my iPhone really useful for this. I’ve set a bedtime (it’s in the clock settings) and half an hour beforehand my phone will remind me that it’s time to get ready for bed.
It seems like such a simple thing, but it really does work.
That little reminder prompts me to pause what I’m doing and make an intentional decision about what to do next. Most of the time I’ll choose to go to bed.
But if I decide to stay up late, it’s a choice made with intention, not the result of losing track of time.
So there we have it – 7 daily habits to adopt that will have a big impact on the quality of your life.
Simple habits that will boost your energy, reduce stress, boost your happiness, health and wellbeing.
In the long run, the quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits– James Clear, Atomic Habits