Returning to Your Best Habits

June 29, 2020 Updated: June 29, 2020

Lockdown restrictions are easing, social interaction is expanding, and the external demands vying for our time are on the rise. The good habits we once relied upon to keep life humming along may have fallen by the wayside while we were “staying home.”

To get back on track, summertime is the perfect season to ease into the habits that allow us to live healthy, productive, and fulfilling lives.

Here are a few tips to return to (or establish anew) your best habits.

Study Habits

I’m not talking about your study habits. I’m recommending that you study habits. A famous quote by writer Will Durant, and commonly misattributed to Aristotle, says, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Indeed, habits are powerful. Understanding how habits form and the significant role they play in our lives can be both motivational and practical.

My favorite books about habits are “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” by James Clear and “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons In Personal Change” by Stephen R. Covey. I’d read the latter first.

Look in the Mirror

Before you decide which habits to work on, a little introspection is in order. Give yourself the time and space—away from distractions and technology—to think and journal about the different aspects of your life.

Consider how you’re doing physically, mentally, and spiritually. How are your relationships, your home, your health, your finances, and your work in the world? Are you nurturing your talents and strengths? Are you acting as a responsible steward of your resources? Do you see a purpose for your life?

Big questions like these can point you toward the habits you’ll want to work on.

Choose One

Once you’re motivated with a firm understanding of the power of habits and a clear direction you want to steer your life in, it may be very tempting to try to make a lot of big changes all at once. Don’t do it.

The key to establishing (or re-establishing) habits is to start small—tiny, even—and work on only one at a time.

Some habits will be more powerful than others. Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business,” defines keystone habits as “small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.” Keystone habits, he says, “start a process that, over time, transforms everything.”

In choosing which habit to start out with, consider which may have the greatest impact across different dimensions of your life. For example, developing a habit of a daily walk for improved fitness, may also increase the energy you have to work productively, improve your confidence and happiness in personal interactions, and may encourage you to reduce the amount of meals you eat outside your home, improving your monthly budget. That would make it a keystone habit.

Be Kind to Yourself

Listen, we’ve all been through a rather traumatic period of time. Be patient with yourself as you take the steps toward increased activity, stimulation, and demands. It may be surprising how challenging you find the adjustment. Take it slow. Pick yourself up every time you fall. Do not give up no matter how long it takes, and be kind to yourself all along the way.

Follow Barbara on Twitter: @barbaradanza