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When’s the best time to quit smoking or start a new exercise routine? Strangely enough, on vacation. Why? Because to change, you must interrupt your patterns. A vacation takes you out of a familiar environment and jumbles up your routines, making it easier for you to break existing habits. What else has interrupted our patterns lately? Oh, right, the 7-billion-person lockdown experiment we’re just emerging from. Sure, this pandemic has brought a great deal of sacrifice and hardship, but it’s also come with major silver linings. For many of us, this has been the pattern-interrupting kick in the behind that we didn’t know we needed. Now it’s time to watch your actions carefully to avoid backsliding into the habits that were holding you back before lockdown. This week I want to share my fabulous 5 Habits to Embrace and preventing yourself from backsliding into your old habits will improve your life drastically. Here are five categories of habits that can fill the vacuum once you’ve kicked out the bad apples.
1. Sanity Activities – Call this self-care, leisure or living life to the fullest. To operate at our peak of creativity and productivity, all while being happy (which is the point of life, right?) we need to support our own mental-emotional equilibrium. These are excellent ways to stay sane in an insane world: Take a real lunch away from your desk. “He’d wolf down a sad sandwich while typing with one hand” is not what you want on your tombstone. Take regular baths. Heat and Epsom salts rejuvenates your body and spirit. Twenty minutes of peace and quiet in a place you can’t use your phone does wonders for your mind. Music. Create it or consume it. Just make time for it in your life because a song can change your whole mood, perspective and energy in a moment. Play. Arguably, every living creature plays. It’s natural, and it helps us grow. It keeps life from turning gray and boring.
2. Relationship Boosters – You should never look to a romantic partner to “complete” you or fill a void, but a loving relationship can be a bright flame of joy. You get out of a romance only what you give. Here’s how to invest: Date night. Time together does not equal quality time. Protect at least one night a week for just you two, without outside distractions or everyday concerns. Never stop dating your partner and you’ll never drift apart. Massage. Without physical touch, you’re roommates, not lovers. Massage is just one way to reconnect with your partner. Eat at the table. True conversation happens across the dinner table. No TV and no devices, please. Walk together. Closeness is built by sharing a journey. Every walk can be a daily journey and a chance to talk while your energy is high.
3. Physical Activity – To paraphrase Tony Robbins, a healthy person has 100 dreams; an unhealthy person has only one. All the money and time in the world is useless without your health. And without physical activity, you will inevitably lose your health. Make time each day for at least some movement: Daily reps: As soon as you roll out of bed, do 10 pushups or squats. It will wake up your nervous system. Stretch: Being flexible is an antidote to aches and pains, moves your lymph, and in the long run, will help you avoid injury. Walk or run: No matter how fast you go, you’re lapping everyone who’s on the couch. Skip: You can buy an excellent jump rope for under $20. Skipping is far more efficient cardio than running or biking, and you don’t need to leave your house to do it.
4. Friendships – Our happiness is tightly linked to the quality of our relationships. You can’t take your money or accomplishments with you. You can only leave behind people who will remember you either fondly or not. Make time for this: Pick up the phone. Texting is utilitarian. Hearing a friend’s voice brings you closer. You don’t need to schedule it, just dial. Start a tradition. Pick one night every week. Start a book club, a happy hour or a gaming session. It will become a habit you love. Porch visits. Sure, hugs are off the table for now, but a conversation across six feet can be exactly what you need to lift your spirits. Go camping. Parks are opening all over the place, and north of the equator, the weather is mighty fine. Sitting around the campfire is the perfect social distance bonding activity right now.
5. Spontaneous Adventure – Thank you, COVID, for messing up our routines and breaking our patterns. This is the perfect time to fall in love with acting on a whim. Drive without destination. Pick a direction, and go. Ditch your schedule. Healthy routines and being organized are commendable—but scrap all that once in a while to go to the beach. Explore a new podcast. You don’t need to leave your house to investigate the world. The quality of podcasts in 2020 is ridiculously good. Move the furniture. When you change your physical environment, your perspective changes. Put the couch on the other wall and see what happens to your brain. Jump on Board Opportunities are like buses—they come along every 10 minutes, but if you don’t take ‘em, you don’t go anywhere.
I know I can’t be the only one who has been, for a long time, secretly hoping for some external event to come and shake up my life. We all wish that the opportunity wasn’t packaged as a horrible virus, but in any crisis, we have a choice: use it to grow, or let it destroy you. Our negative patterns have been interrupted bigtime, and that’s a huge gift. Do not waste it, get on the bus.
Strength and courage,