People often think of habits in a negative way. Ask someone to name a few of their habits, and they will probably report what they believe to be ‘bad’ habits such as smoking or eating too much. In fact, almost everything we do – the good, the bad and the ugly – is driven by habits.
Some habits are very positive and developing them will greatly benefit you. In fact, cultivating these habits will almost certainly have the effect of causing some of the more negative ones to drop away.
Here are some of the most constructive and beneficial habits you can try to develop.
1. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes
The importance of empathy cannot be overstated. It is so easy to think we are right, and yet our own mental habits or beliefs are, just like everyone elses, provisional and do not correspond to reality. The map is not the territory. We are not ‘right’ and other people ‘wrong.’ Genuinely trying to see the other person’s perspective can be liberating and mind opening.
2. Embracing change
People sometimes say that we live in a time of unprecedented change. It is true that change is happening quickly and that the world is complex and interconnected. But it is probably true to say that this has always been the case. The future is inherently uncertain, and the ability to adapt to it by being open to new ways of doing things will keep you relevant and engaged.
3. Embracing technology
One of the obvious theatres of change is technology. It’s changing the world and, if we don’t move with it, we will become deskilled and irrelevant. Some people try to resist technology – this seems like a very unwise move to me, like king Cnut trying to hold back the tide – it cannot be done and you will only get into trouble.
4. Taking time for yourself
It’s important to spend a little time each day just for you. Spend a bit of time on your own to o what you want to do. Read, write, meditate, play music, dance, sing – do what makes you feel happy.
5. Exercising (almost) daily
The benefits of just 20 minutes of exercise per day are well documented. Even 10-15 minutes of vigorous exercise per day can be enormously beneficial. It will keep your metabolism high and build muscle tone, both helping you to burn more calories; it will help you sleep better and make you less prone to illness.
6. Eating healthily
No complicated diets or spending hours at the market or in the kitchen are required. Just make some simple changes to the way you do things – eat a piece of fruit at breakfast; buy a salad for lunch or dinner; take some nuts of fruit to work as a snack; have a couple of ‘sugar free’ days per week; stop taking sugar in your tea. Simple, little changes can have a huge impact on your health.
People who meditate regularly experience tangible benefits. Studies have shown that physical and mental health improves as a result of meditation. Nothing difficult is required – no training or special equipment and no religious beliefs. Just sit quietly for 10 minutes and watch your breathing, trying to focus only on the breath and nothing else. That’s it. It is hard to focus only on one thing for any length of time but, with practice, you will get better and reap the benefits.
Reading can be one of the greatest and simplest pleasures. It can open up new worlds. It can truly change your life. With the advent of kindle and iPad, you can carry a whole library around with you. Even without the technology, just slipping a book into your bag for that commute for the ‘dead time’ we inevitably experience is a simple way of building the reading habit.
9. Keeping in touch with friends and family
People with strong social networks are happier, healthier and live longer. It is so easy to stay in touch these days, even if you live a long way from home. A short phone call once a week, just to ‘touch base.’ Technology makes it easy to stay in touch – Facebook, love it or loathe it, is actually a remarkably effective way of keeping in contact.
10. Positive Thinking
And finally, the most important one … developing positive ways of thinking will make an enormous difference to your experience of life. Your mind is where everything starts. The way you think is the key to everything. What you focus on persists and grows.
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By keeping your mind on building these positive habits, the more negative ones will start to drop away. Try it and see.
Photo by Joseph Gray