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Admit it, we are all obsessed with our habits. Making good habits and shaking off the bad, attempting to move seamlessly from one positive life choice to the next. Habits are our go-to because secretly we are all serial quitters and thus, are trying to outwit ourselves, and artfully sidestep our fallibility. The beauty of true habits is that it’s almost like outsourcing the problem. They establish an action so entrenched, so second nature, that we slip into autopilot rather than relying on our fluctuating willpower.
Atomic Habits by James Clear now comfortably resides on the majority of the world’s optimistic bookshelves. His 1% improvement theory shows that miniscule, incremental habit changing is the route to long-term betterment. Then once you’ve got a few solid good habits in place, you start ‘habit stacking’ more dainty ones on top. “Changing our behaviour and well-entrenched norms is never easy but, rather than aiming at one monumental transformation, choose a small habitual shift," agrees Dr Elena Touroni, Consultant Psychologist and Clinical Director of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic. “Something with a low-level impact but which cumulatively and consistently improves your life. The keyword here is small, the smaller the aim and the less effort it takes, the more chance you have of upholding it."
So small is the unanimous answer but how long it takes to form habits continues to be debated because many previous theories have been widely disproved. However, consistency firmly remains the crux of all successful habits. As well as being an excellent Fleetwood Mac song, ‘The Chain’ has become a robustly endorsed technique for how to maintain the reliable upkeep of healthy habits. Somewhat unpredictably, as Clear tells us, it originated from the comedian Jerry Seinfeld advising an emerging comedian to write every day without fail and for each day he completed that task of writing, to put a big red ‘X’ over that day. Then after a few days he’d have a chain that grew longer and his only job was to not break the chain. The chain approach works by playing on our innate want for pattern and aversion to breaking a rhythm, (so not dissimilar to playing ‘keepy uppies’, then?). Momentum, STREAKS and Don’t Break The Chain are all wearable tech apps based on this, whereby habits can be set, tracked and you can build the chain day by day.
There’s no downside to making new resolutions for the New Year or indeed, embarking on new habits at any time. Some might not adhere to our busy lifestyles as easily as others but the fact we keep endeavoring to take on new habits is positive in itself. The famed American historical author, Will Durant wrote on habits, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” And there you have it; rinse and repeat until you reach excellence. Sound advice for us all moving into the New Year and throughout life.
TRE (Time Restricted Eating), is even less effort than intermittent fasting because you eat every day as usual but fit all meals between 9am and 7pm, allowing a 14-hour break. Clinically proven to improve body composition, heart health, immune system function, mental focus and productivity, whilst simultaneously reducing blood sugar levels and inflammation throughout the body. It works.
If you’re a caffeine fiend, it might not be a realistic aim to quit cold turkey. A gentler switch is to green tea after 2pm. Green tea contains even more caffeine than coffee with none of the dehydration drawbacks and boasts a heck of a lot of antioxidant benefits too.
The most successful people on the planet have the clearest boundaries. Setting a strict time frame for answering emails at the start and end of the working day carves out space for productivity. Make it easier by adding an auto-reply promising a reply within 24 hours to reduce the guilt and prevent being chased.
If you’re consistently turning to the internet or surveying those around you for guidance, you’ll keep on making bad choices. On your own, close your eyes, remain silent for a few moments and listen to what your intuition is telling you. Your gut is your innate navigation system warding you against bad decisions, you only need listen to what it’s telling you.
Don’t sign up to the gym if you’re that person who quits it a few months into every year. Make it manageable with a set end date and build in accountability. A six-week yoga course, 3 golf lessons, a team sport with friends who’ll make sure you show up.
Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro method is great for all tasks you’ve been putting off. Set a timer for 25 minutes and all you have to do is focus on that single task until the buzzer goes. If nothing comes, so be it but the likelihood is that you’ll stick to it for far longer.
Daylight exposure dictates the ancient circadian rhythms that govern our sleep. First thing in the morning, go outside in direct sunlight for 30 minutes. This signals to the brain that it’s daytime and in 16-17 hours it will be night, therefore setting the body’s ancient circadian rhythms right on track for bedtime.
No need to quit Deliveroo, but if you’re going to consume processed food, put in some damage limitation. A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar beforehand levels your insulin; taking two activated charcoal tablets will help your body to mop up the sugars and breakdown MSG. Finish with a detox tea to help your body digest what you’ve eaten.
A complete wardrobe overhaul is costly and somewhat dramatic. Instead, make a pact to dress smarter than you need to be. Better to be overdressed and appear confident, then underdressed and feel apologetic in any situation.
The more sugar you have, the more your body craves it but denying yourself rarely works. Stop the spiral and create balance by eating one square of dark chocolate every single day. Liquorice tea after dinner is also excellent for quelling late night sugar cravings.