8 healthy habits that can help you stay focused, productive and happy
Aim for 8 hours
With everything that we fit into a standard day, finding those 8 precious hours every night can be incredibly challenging. I mean, while we’re at it, how about we ask for a partner that doesn’t snore, a bed that stays at a constant temperature, and a dog that understands his bed is the one that’s empty and doesn’t currently have me in it.
Furry bed mates aside, the obligations of both work and family have me averaging 5-6 hours of sleep per night these days. The body and mind both require sleep to restore themselves and keeping our brains “well-placticized” definitely helps us perform, adapt, and improve. Working to get to bed at 10pm each night and avoiding that snooze button at 6am can be a challenge but you’ll learn to love (and crave) that quiet time in the morning before the kids get up for school to get a jump on work or start on your morning routine for the household.
Get a little ‘Green Time’
What you’ve heard about the Pacific Northwest’s rainy weather is true. Those heavy rains make for some particularly beautiful environments. It seems silly that I need to add this to my to-do list, but I often forget how beneficial it is to spend time away from my desk and out in the beautiful world. Even a few minutes of walking the dog, looking at the trees, or just finding peace and relaxation in the backyard can be enough to reset my sanity levels. I try to time this to get a boost of Vitamin D as well.
Food & Mood Journal
When a 9pm stomach-ache rises up, trying to remember what you had eaten throughout any given day was a lesson in futility (food-tility?). After suffering through a similar incident, I was inspired to create my “Food & Mood tracker” to pinpoint how food and water intake plus other daily habits affect me. After tracking my habits over two weeks I was able to find my “sweet spot” for what I needed to eat in order to keep myself energized and hydrated which then helped transition into intermittent fasting which wasn’t even something I’d have ever considered with my blood sugar levels in the past.
All bodies are different, and what worked for me might not for you. Also, I’m not a doctor so if you are considering drastic dietary changes, please consult your physician before undertaking anything like an extended fast. That said, if you’ve ever considered journaling your food intake and how what you’re consuming impacts your focus and productivity, this printable journal can help track those items for when you’re ready to make some big changes (including eating habits, amount of sleep, medications, etc.)
For those that have started going to the gym or have just run their first mile, you know how much better you can feel after working out. Exercise is so important for giving you a boost of energy and motivation but convincing myself that it is time to put the drawing tablet down and pick up that gym bag is like me telling a five year old that it was time to give me back my iPhone. “I JUST DON’T WANNA!”
To change my perspective on the idea of exercise, I’ve begun scheduling workouts on my calendar for a whole week in advance, treating those events like a medical retreat. Like the whole “Green Time” idea, a little tweak in how we present these options to ourselves can have giant ripples on our actions which can boost energy, focus, and overall feeling of positivity.
After all that I’ve shared about exercise and going outside this is going to sound a bit silly but I really do love eating healthy. Maybe it’s the fact I can create a meal plan each week and do a weekly big shop that makes it more like a project and less like a pain. Our family usually cycles through the same basic meals each week, but every now and then I like to shake things up with something new.
For me personally, my daily eating schedule of eating from 12pm-8pm (in fasting forums they call this 16:8 I believe) has helped me tremendously with food cravings and calorie restriction. More than that it has decreased my blood sugar swings and I feel even-keeled and focused all day.
My husband and I generally limit junk food being brought into the house, but from Halloween through New Years the kids are walking through a minefield of sugar-filled holidays and there’s no stopping them from getting their hands on the stuff. I began prepping healthy snacks ahead of time and found that the kids will grab those for a quick snack instead of less nutritious things. When we have containers of rinsed and prepped snap peas, berries and other good things, they go for those every time.
Water! I mean plenty o’ WA-TER!
Drink water throughout the day (around 6-8 glasses). Spend a little money on a nice water bottle (I prefer the stainless steel kind) and refill that rather than a water glass. You’ll drink more and find yourself carrying it from room to room during the day (especially if you are working out) so having something you like looking at (and isn’t breakable) will be key.
If you are eating a lower-carb diet than usual, you’ll find that you often need more sodium. This is something I talked with my primary care physician about. After having my blood drawn in the spring, I found that my sodium levels were low. We don’t eat much salt in our regular diet so my doctor suggested adding some sea salt to a bit of warm water if I felt like I had low energy. That suggestion has really helped with my energy as has adding some Young Living trace mineral drops to my water every day daily (you can also add lemon or lemon essential oil drops to your water as well).
This is a hard one for me as I’m driven to see projects and tasks completed. Once I’m in the middle of ‘flow’ where I am getting some big project accomplished, it’s really hard for me to stop. My husband has always been suggesting I slow down and smell some of them thar roses, which is undoubtedly what prompted him to give me a book entitledThe Art of Doing Nothing: Simple Ways to Make Time for Yourself by Veronique Vienne and Erica Lennard. The gesture was appreciated but, in reality, I have to admit it’s hard to truly embrace the whole art of taking breaks. I’m still a work in progress on this one but I’ve found that focusing on rituals such as making coffee, waiting for the kettle, reading and just being conscious of how I am sitting has really helped me start to understand the power of the ‘time out’.
While it may sound silly, it’s entirely possible you aren’t breathing correctly right now. If you’ve ever caught yourself holding your breath while you are at the computer or reading emails on your phone, that is a phenomena sometimes referred to as “Email Apnea”. Once I became aware of this, I’ve seen it with employees in meetings and even with myself when reading through pressing emails. I’ve even seen some stop breathing when they were looking at regular news articles and even facebook. @_@
Now that I’ve become attuned to that little malady, I’ve placed little post-it notes on my computer and on the first pages of my notebooks that remind me to breathe. Upon seeing one these notes to myself, I’ll immediately start taking a breath low in the belly to fill my lungs which ALWAYS makes me feel immediately better.
Oh, one quick tip on breathing, if you are taking deep breaths primarily in your chest and not your diaphragm, you might be triggering your fight, flight and freeze response and contributing to anxiety and stress.
With these 8 habits, and working to keep them in my daily routines, I’ve felt so much more balanced and in control of my life. If you had experience with any of these techniques I’ve shared here, I’d welcome hearing how they worked for you. Feel free to leave a comment below.