Whenever our lives become stressful and overwhelming, we like to find an escape route. We start dreaming about our next holiday, warm sandy beaches and green gardens. We forget to live in the moment and to appreciate what’s right in front of us.
What about if there was a way of finding calm and serenity in our lives and preventing stress before it gets a chance to set in? Habits can be a good way of establishing healthy routines and thereby making our lives more mindful and happier.
Before we start talking about how we can make healthy routines part of our lives, we want to consider what makes something routine and what makes it a habit.
When we think about habits, we mainly think of bad habits: eating too many sweets, the time we spend sitting at our desk or on the sofa procrastinating instead of actually doing something. We all have these kinds of habits, without having deliberately chosen them or trained ourselves to do them. They are just things we do without thinking about it.
But what about good habits? Wouldn’t it be better if we thought about how we read a book, mediate or do sport, instead of how we indulge in our bad habits?
Habits are therefore activities that we carry out automatically because they are so deeply ingrained that we no longer have to put much thought into doing them.
And if we succeed in turning healthy routines into habits, we suddenly start going regularly to yoga without having to wrangle over it and leave it in doubt every time.
To make your routines become habits, use the following 5 steps as your guide:
Studies show that it takes just three to four weeks for a routine to become a habit. If you want to practise yoga regularly, for example, it takes about a month of going to yoga (almost) every day. After this time, you will find that you hardly need to use any willpower before you are rolling out your yoga mat automatically every evening. After 30 days, you can then consider just going to yoga two to three times a week – and the habit will still remain.
During the first 30 days, it's important to stick to your routine every day – if you only do it three to four times a week, it will be much harder for you to establish your routine. You will be able to get into the habit more quickly if you practise it at about the same time every day.
Don’t try to change your entire life in a day. You can quickly get overambitious and set yourself unrealistically high goals. Instead, give yourself time and start small: if you want to read for two hours a day, for example, start with half an hour and increase it gradually as you go along.
Once your resolution is a couple of weeks old, you might well forget now and again. To prevent this from happening, it can be helpful to set reminders, which will tell you every day what you had set yourself to do. These could be visual reminders, for example, such as a post-it note on the bathroom mirror, or an audio reminder such as an alarm, which reminds you at the same time every day to put on your running shoes or to concentrate on your breathing for ten minutes. If you neglect your routine too often at the beginning, it will become harder to stick to your habit.
Find someone with the same goal as yours and motivate each other when one of you feels like giving up.
It doesn’t matter what you have set yourself to do – mediate regularly, do sport or cook from scratch – if you turn it into a habit, you can easily make healthy and mindful routines part of your life and make yourself less susceptible to stress.
If you would like to read more about routines and how they can help us to relax in our daily lives, take a look at our article on Morning routines – our tips for a healthy start to the day.