Habits are a tricky thing. I often write about habits I want to break, but rarely look back at those that were once working for me and wish I’d never stopped doing. Habits for me are more a ritual than anything else—they give my life structure and provide fulfillment in mundane actions. I work well with a set routine and when I lose control of that and stop doing things that make me feel confident and capable, I lose a little bit of myself as well. Below are 4 habits that create the ultimate life I want to live and I wish I maintained throughout the past few years.
Running 3 Days A Week
Back when I was in university, and a little bit after, I made it a point to run at least three times a week. It was the best activity I could do for my anxiety and it helped me maintain a healthy lifestyle that seamlessly incorporated a workout that I genuinely enjoyed. But, once I started working in a 9-5 office job I couldn’t quite maintain the fitness schedule that felt right for me. My ideal time for a run is a few hours after breakfast, right before lunch, when I’m not starving, but also not incredibly full. Needless to say, I couldn’t quite do this when in an office for eight hours a day so I stopped. I also had access to a treadmill in my parents’ basement which was incredibly convenient and made the habit that much easier to stick to.
Unfortunately, I don’t have that convenience now and the lack of running has really taken a toll on my mental and physical health. I suffer from severe ear pain when it’s windy (most likely from all the ear infections I had as a child) and that makes it incredibly hard to run outside for long periods of time. So, I’m trying to figure out the best in-between alternative that will allow me to start up this habit again while still feeling comfortable and capable of maintaining it.
Waking Up Earlier
Again, in university I had a strict sleep and wake-up schedule that was ideal for my classes as well as my mental health. I would be in bed by 10 pm and awake at 6 am. While this was hard to stick to at first, my body got used to it and was happy to function effectively as I went to my morning classes and then worked on essays for the rest of the day before curling up in bed at a reasonable time to do it all over again. However, life often gets in the way of strict sleep schedules, especially once you leave university. Earning a disposable income from a high-paying office job made it more tempting to go out often or spend the nights after a long day of work just binge watching TV shows. It wasn’t the healthiest schedule and it really affected the relationship with my mind and body that I’d spent years cultivating. Seeing as I work from home again, I’m hoping to slowly inch my way back to waking up early enough to feel productive while still rested before I get my day started.
This is a tough one for me because I often don’t have the best relationship with food and my body. I tend to use delicious (yet unhealthy) food as comfort or a hit of dopamine during times of stress and high anxiety. This then leads to a bad body image which then makes me eat even more unhealthy foods as even more comfort. It’s a vicious cycle that I had kind of figured out a few years ago, but lost hold of recently. Mindful eating does not mean dieting, but it does mean taking notice of your diet and what works or doesn’t for you and your body. Ignoring the signs my body gives me about my physical and mental well-being is usually a response to my stress levels and leads to a lot of confusion about what makes me feel the best that I can.
Back in my heyday I limited how much sugar I ate and tried my best to always incorporate some sort of greens into every meal, whether that just be a big salad to accompany whatever I was eating after my workouts. Now, I’ve lost touch with what goes into my body and how it actually makes me feel. But, hopefully I can get back in tune with the mindful eating habits that work best for me.
Regular Therapy Sessions
In April of 2018 I started therapy and it is, hands down, the best thing I’ve ever done for my mental well-being. Much like running, it is a workout of sorts, except you are working out your emotions and targeting certain coping mechanisms that might not be allowing you to live the best life you can. I always left my sessions feeling like I did when finishing up a good 30 minute run. However, after moving to the UK it was incredibly difficult to find a new therapist at an affordable price and that left me with a few months of built up anxiety that I couldn’t work through on my own. Luckily, I was able to reconnect with my previous therapist in February of 2019 and we were able to pick up right where we left off. Although, not having that support and guidance in one of the most stressful times of my life took a real toll on me. Moving forward, therapy is a habit that I want to keep in regular practice throughout my everyday life.
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