Habits are one of my favourite topics to learn about. I find them fascinating! They are the choices we make repeatedly without thinking about them, and according to the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg (which I highly recommend! See my review here), habits make up about 40% of the actions we take each day. So I decided to do a whole series of blog posts relating specifically to building and breaking habits. Since today is the first day of a new month, it’s the perfect time to start implementing some changes! We’ll start small with three simple, yet very important habits I think everyone should implement into their lives in order to look and feel their best!
Habit #1: Drink a big glass of water as soon as you wake up
It’s no secret that drinking enough water is one of the best things you can do for your health, yet most of us don’t drink nearly enough water every day. Instead, we opt for caffeinated and sugary drinks like coffee, lattes, tea, pop, and juices. While it’s fine to drink these types of beverages occasionally (I would be a giant hypocrite if I said I didn’t…), it is important not to replace our water intake with these not-so-healthy alternatives.
Ideally, everyone should drink about half their body weight in ounces. So for example, someone who is 150lbs should drink about 75 ounces of water every day. For someone who is 200lbs, that means about 100 ounces of water every day. According to my Google conversions, 75 ounces = almost 9.5 cups, or 2.2 litres. 100 ounces = 12.5 cups or about 3 litres. That might sound like a lot, but I’m all about taking baby steps, and an easy way to get a head start on your water intake is to get in the habit of starting each morning with a tall glass of water.
I started this habit about a year and a half ago. I was doing the Last 90 Days Challenge with Rachel Hollis, and I remember feeling tired, and almost foggy, and thinking that my skin was looking tired and dull. That was enough motivation for me to start drinking more water. If I’m being honest, there were lots of days that I found it difficult to remember to drink all my water, but I almost always remembered to drink my morning water, and I always felt better for it.
There are loads of benefits associated with getting enough water, none of which, I’m sure, are new to you. But just to refresh your memory, some of the major benefits to drinking water include:
- It helps prevent dehydration (obviously), which can improve energy levels, mood and brain function (1, 2)
- It helps to flush out toxins from your body (3)
- It promotes healthy, glowing skin (4)
- It supports weight loss (5)
To help keep things interesting, sometimes I add lemon or apple cider vinegar to my water. There are some additional benefits to each (though careful not to believe everything you read on the internet! Do your research – there are loads of claims about the benefits of each that are simply not true!):
Drinking Water with Apple Cider Vinegar:
- Helps kill many types of bacteria (6)
- Helps lower blood sugar and fight diabetes (7)
- Increases feelings of fullness, which in turn helps with weight loss (8)
Drinking Water with Lemon:
- Is a source of vitamin C, which can help to fight infections and the common cold (9)
- Is a source of antioxidants, which can improve blood circulation and increase metabolism (10, 11)
If you don’t feel like you’re getting enough water, or if you’re finding it difficult to remember to drink water, try adopting this easy habit! As soon as you get up in the morning, pour yourself a nice tall glass of water to kickstart your water intake for the day. At least you’ll have made a dent in your the amount of water you need to drink! THEN go ahead and make yourself that cup of tea, coffee, smoothie, or whatever other beverage you would ordinarily start your day with.
Habit #2: Breathe
My husband got me an Apple Watch for Christmas this year, and it comes with an app called “Breathe”. It is one of my favourite reasons for owning the Apple Watch, because it reminds me to take time every day just to relax, breathe and focus. I have always wanted to meditate, but always find myself using the same old excuses (“I don’t have time!”, “I can’t sit still!” or “There’s no point… my mind just wanders and I can’t focus!”). This app is great because it doesn’t require hardly any time at all (one minute, or you can adjust the time to suit your preferences) and its mesmerizing animation forces me to focus on my breath. It so simply brings me to the present moment, and I always feel more relaxed and focused after my one-minute of breathing.
But you don’t need the Apple Watch to adopt this easy habit. You simply need to remember to take time every day to breathe deeply for one minute. If you’re like me, you’ll get hooked and start peppering your day with more and more “mindful minutes” because they are so easy, and you can do them anytime and anywhere. Perhaps you start by doing your breathing first thing in the morning, or maybe you prefer to breathe right before bedtime. Have a bad memory? There are other apps you can use on your phone, or it may be easiest to simply set an alarm or reminder for a specific time every day when you put everything aside for one minute and just breathe.
Here’s what the whole exercise looks like:
- Put one hand on your abdomen – feel the rise and fall your stomach as you breathe.
- Focus on your breath – feel the air going in and out of your nostrils and listen to the slow whooshing sound as you take each breath.
- Inhale and exhale slowly – try inhaling for a count of 5 and exhaling for a count of 5. Really feel your belly expand as you breathe.
- Be amazed at how quickly one-minute goes by and notice how relaxed you feel when it’s over!
Taking time to breathe can be tremendously beneficial in helping to reduce stress and anxiety. And if you’re like me and want to start meditating but feel that there just isn’t enough time in the day, or that there are always other things to do, this is an easy way to clear your head, become more mindful, reduce stress, and feel more relaxed and focused throughout the day.
Habit #3: Fix your posture
About a year ago, I probably would have said I had finally fixed my posture after many years of trying. But then I got pregnant with baby #2 and all that work fell apart. If you’ve ever carried a baby for 9 months, you know that it takes a toll on your body, and it can sometimes be hard just to stand up, let alone stand up with good posture! But I digress…
The thing that helped me finally fix my posture was so so simple, it almost seems silly. I was watching a local morning show (The Marilyn Denis Show) and they had Dr. Liza Egboga, the “Celebrity Posture Expert” (did you know that was a thing?), come on the show to share three stretches that would help fix your posture. The stretches probably take about 15 seconds each, and you can easily incorporate them into your day. What I love about them is that they force you to quickly and easily align your body properly, then you can carry on about your business. I started doing these stretches every day until my good posture ultimately became a habit.
I’ve explained the stretches below, but if you need further instructions, feel free to click here to watch the clip for yourself!
Stretch #1: This one is my favourite one because it’s so easy. It’s probably the main reason I fixed my posture. All you have to do is interlock your fingers behind your back, squeeze your shoulder blades together and imagine someone is pushing down on your hands. Hold the position for 5 seconds, then slowly release your hands down to your sides. This helps to strengthen the right muscles to reinforce good posture, lengthen your spine and open up your shoulders. And the stretch just feels so good!
Stretch #2: This one was my next favourite. It also involves interlocking your fingers, but this time you interlock them behind your head. Again, squeeze your shoulder blades together to strengthen those important “good posture” muscles, and hold the position for 5 seconds. Then slowly release your hands down to your sides while keeping your shoulders and chest in the same position. (Tip: this one is especially helpful for big chested women!)
Stretch #3: This one didn’t really appeal to me as much, but I’ll include it anyway as it is still very useful. Imagine there is a wall or a hand behind your back and push your lower back into that wall/hand (or you could actually stand against a wall if it makes it easier). Then, while engaging your core, tilt your pelvis back. This helps to release and lengthen tight hip flexers and to flatten your stomach.
One more tip that someone taught me years ago was to have some sort of cue that prompts you to check and correct your posture. According to research on habit-building, cues are an important step in implementing a new habit. For example, the one they suggested was every time you see the colour yellow, check your posture. You might not do it every time you see the colour yellow, but once you get into the habit of noticing the colour yellow (or whatever your cue might be) the routine of checking and correcting your posture will become automatic.
These stretches were so helpful for me that, no joke, when I went for my annual doctor’s check up and they measured my height, I was half an inch taller. I am serious! I grew from 5’9 to 5’9.5. I didn’t think that was actually possible, but apparently it is! (So for everyone who wishes they were taller, there is still hope!) That was the moment when I really knew that I had finally fixed my posture.
Improving your posture will not only make you look taller (or in my case, actually GROW!), you will likely notice several other benefits as well. These may include: reduced lower back pain, fewer headaches (this was a big one for me), less tension in your neck and shoulders, improved circulation and digestion, increased lung capacity, increased energy, and increased self-confidence. Why wouldn’t you want to make good posture a habit?
I am going to spend the month of March mastering these new habits! Will you join me? What other habits are you trying to build? Share in the comments below!
With love and gratitude,