Watch the top sports stars closely and you will see that they usually do the same things in the same way. That’s unless they’re trying to deceive an opponent, in which case they will change things subtly. So the new way of doing it is unexpected, but the fact that they changed it is a habit.
It could be the way a basketball player dips a shoulder for balance before darting one way or the other. It could be how a baseball pitcher winds himself up to gain maximum power. Or how a soccer player in the stressful situation of taking a penalty measures his run-up and stares briefly at the ground to clear his head.
Habits. They often come with the word “bad” attached, but that’s unfair. Good habits are what make people successful.
And good habits are important for all of us. Looking after ourselves means more than heading to the doctor’s when we feel unwell, and whatever our particular issues, it’s important to start thinking outside that box.
We’ve all got good habits, but the fact that they are habitual means we don’t notice them.
In the universal quest for wellbeing, good habits are vital.
Habits are something I know plenty about. You’ve heard of a drug habit? You’ve heard about habitual drinkers? I was both. Alcoholic and drug addict, that was me. My two habits were first to wake up and second to head for oblivion via alcohol and/or drugs.
Addiction is a terrible but oddly fascinating thing, and it comes in so many forms that I believe it’s something we should all be aware of.
I finally broke those chains nine years ago and I’ve been clean and sober ever since, thanks to the detox program that cleansed my body and the therapy that ensued. Regardless, I had to equip myself with new habits.
Here are my five essential habits, starting with the biggest, best and toughest of all.
- Get into gear
When you wake up in the morning, take control of your feelings immediately and make them positive. Yes, it’s easier said than done, but it can be done. You just need to find what works for you. Such as:
a) Jump in the shower and let your mind be invigorated along with your body.
b) Go for a run and come back fired up and ready to roll.
c) Stare out of the window, look at our wonderful world and be determined to make your little part of it work.
d) Pray (doesn’t work for everyone, but you could say the same about any of these)
e) Meditate (a bit like non-religious praying)
f) Slam on some music that gets you going (might be unpopular with the other occupants of the house)
Whatever your trigger is, get it done and get into gear.
- Set goals
Having got your engine running, make a mental (or physical) list of what you want to achieve today. If there are important things to do and it’s better to do them sooner rather than later, getting them out of the way takes a weight off your mind and allows you to relax a little.
If you don’t have much on the agenda and that’s a good thing, you can enjoy your freedom. If it’s a bad thing, try to do something about it. Just don’t let things slide.
- Eat and drink well
That doesn’t have to mean expensively. Just make sure you get plenty of water into your system, enough carbs for energy but not too many because they will turn to fat, eat fruit and vegetables for vitamins and minerals and don’t forget protein, which the body needs for many things including building healthy muscles and skin.
Almost as important as what you consume is what you don’t. So cut out the garbage: the burgers and hot dogs, the pizza, the cola. And the booze. Anything dominated by fat, sugar or salt.
We need a certain amount of those things, but not in a sizzling, dripping piece of low-grade compressed ground cow or a plate-sized round of refined flour topped with fatty discs loaded with sodium chloride. The only clever things about that sort of fast food are the marketing that sells it to us and the flavorings that make it so misleadingly appealing.
The human body was made for getting things done physically: hunting, hiking, climbing, building and running around after children or away from woolly mammoths. It was not made for slobbing around on a sofa after a hard day straining your eyes at a computer.
Exercise makes us healthier and happier. A run around the park or the block, half an hour of swimming or even doing some aerobics at home – all of these things are good for us.
- Assess your day and relax
So you started the day with good intentions. Some days you eat the bear – some days the bear eats you. So do your best and try not to worry.
Later on, take some time to relax and contemplate. Enjoy your successes and determine to do better with your weaknesses. Anyway, it’s done now. Try to switch off and give yourself some happy time. And get plenty of sleep, because energy and a clear head go a long way towards feeling good.