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25 Tiny Habits That Could Totally Change Your Life

25 Tiny Habits That Could Totally Change Your Life

Research, as well as common sense and personal experience, is showing us that small steps get us to far away places. The key is to consistently take those small steps in the same direction. Building a big, life-changing habit is difficult: it’s hard to keep the willpower going long enough to see change.

But building a tiny habit? That’s doable. BJ Fogg, Director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford, has done extensive research this very topic. The Fogg Method uses the effectiveness of tiny, specific habits to create big changes in behavior.

Here are 25 tiny habits you could add into your life. They don’t seem like much, but if you practice them regularly, they can change your energy level, your fitness, your relationships, your work, your community, and your environment… in big ways.

Tiny Habits for Better Physical Health

1. Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. We often don’t get enough water in our systems, and get so busy throughout the day that we don’t think about stopping to replenish our supply. Or we replenish with soda or coffee or tea but not water. Trigger yourself by leaving a big glass out on the counter or table. Or do what I do, and get a big travel mug with a lid. At night, I fill it up with a lot of ice and a bit of water, and in the morning it’s waiting for me: a nice, cool cup of water. Flush the toxins, kickstart your system, wake yourself up.

2. Park as far away as you can from the door. Fight the effects of a sedentary lifestyle by getting more steps into your day whenever you can. In fact, simple things like a longer stroll from the car to the door might be more effective than a vigorous work-out at counteracting the effects of long hours at a desk.

3. Eat raw fruit or vegetables with every meal. Think: a green side salad, a slice of melon, some berries, a few carrot sticks and cucumber slices. Not only will you get more nutrients in, you will also be getting in more fiber and potentially helping your body lose weight, retain energy, and decrease hunger.

4. Stand up and stretch every hour, on the hour. Trigger yourself with a beep on your phone or watch (do people still wear those?) or computer. Sitting for extended time periods is a bad idea for both your body and your brain. You need a mental and physical break, and it doesn’t have to be a big deal. Just stop, when your on-the-hour beep sounds at you. Stand up where you are, reach over your head, take a deep breath, touch your toes, roll your shoulders.

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    5. Carry a small bag of nuts or beef jerky everywhere you go. Something protein-rich will help stave off hunger as well as keeping you from getting to that ravenous point when you’ll eat anything in sight, no matter what the calorie count is. Getting a little more protein in your diet can help boost your metabolism and build your muscle, as well.

    Tiny Habits for Better Mental Health

    1. Ask open-ended questions. Instead of throwing out questions just so you can insert your own opinion, ask bigger, better questions. Avoid asking questions that can be answered with a simple Yes or No. Try questions that start with “What do you think about…?” and “How would you….?” or “What is your experience with…?” Then listen to the answers with the attitude that you are here to learn. Having an open perspective and initiating deeper conversations will help you to relate with others, cultivate empathy, keep your own problems in perspective, make new friends, and learn new ways of approaching life. Imagine the wisdom you would gain in five or ten years if you just have one of these conversations every week.

    2. Keep a tray of art supplies out on your table/desk/shelf. Don’t force or even expect yourself to clock in a certain number of minutes or productions. Just keep them out, in reach, so that when you feel like doodling around with something artistic, it is effortless. Bonus points: switch the art medium out every week or month (pastels, crayons, watercolors, ink, clay, playdough, carving knife & wood block).

    3. Sit in silence for a few minutes every day. We don’t have to call this meditation, because that might be a little too intimidating. You don’t have to sit cross-legged. You don’t have to close your eyes. You don’t have to be Zen-like in anyway. Your brain can be flying a hundred miles an hour, but don’t say or do anything. Just sit, comfortably, and breathe for a few minutes.

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      4. Jot down everything on your mind for a few minutes at the end of the day. This is a brain dump in the easiest way possible. It’s not a big deal like a daily journal or to-do list or planner might feel. Keep a simple notebook by the bed, and give yourself a few minutes to pour out everything that’s on your mind before you go to sleep. Don’t edit. Let it all out, in any format, in any order. It doesn’t have to make sense, even to you. Studies show that this type of writing can reduce anxiety and depression. Alternative: use a voice recorder and simply talk, in unedited stream-of-consciousness style, for a few minutes into your recorder.

      5. Repeat a personal mantra to yourself when you hit stress points. Make it something simple to remember that calms you and reminds you of the important things in life. This is a simple way to retrain your brain and tell it how to respond to stress. Instead of letting stressful points send you into a panicked mode, you pull out your mantra and tell your brain that it’s going ot be okay. A few of my favorites: This too shall pass. I am stronger than I think. I can learn what I need to learn when I need to learn it. I’ve handled worse than this. I am not alone. There is freedom here. When I take responsibility, I take power.

      Tiny Habits for Better Productivity and Work

      1. Pretend to be your hero. When you’re faced with a challenging situation, an intimidating project, a new career leap, an important meeting, think about a hero in your industry or career. Then ask yourself what this person would do in your situation. How would she handle it? Would he be intimidated? Fearful? Or confident and calm? Now imagine yourself doing exactly what you think your would do. This helps to clarify what the right actions are for you by removing the self-doubt and negative self-talk that can bog you down in uncertainty.

      2. Do a 5-minute daily review at your desk at the end of the day. Before you leave work, or from your desk at home before you wrap things up for the day (or night!), take five minutes. Write down what you accomplished in a quick, bulleted list. Write down what you didn’t accomplish that you had hoped to, and what stopped you. Don’t beat yourself up for your failures, just notice, if you can, what caused you to get off track. And notice how much you did accomplish. This type of review is a way to help your brain focus on the positive (I did accomplish something today) and will help you to become more aware of the things that tend to derail you or distract you from productive work.

      3. Turn off all notifications for at least one long block of work time every day. Our brains are not adept at switching from one task to another. The single ding of an email notification or text, even if it’s about something completely unimportant, can cause you to lose up to 40% of your work time. Is it really worth it? Maybe if you have infinite time at your disposal… But we all know that you don’t. So do yourself and your career a favor, and silence all the dings and chirps for at least one long block of time (2 – 4 hours).

      4. Respond to all invitations and opportunities with “I’ll check my calendar.” Stop the knee-jerk response that you give, whether it is negative or positive. Maybe you’re too quick to say no (I am). Or maybe you’re a people-pleaser and you’re too quick to say yes, and find yourself over-booked and overwhelmed. Give yourself time to evaluate each opportunity by simply making it your practice not to answer right away. Instead, say, “I’ll check my calendar and let you know.” Then, when you have a little time, check your calendar, your priorities, and determine what you can fit it in.

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      5. Spend 5 minutes a day thinking about the process you will take that will get you to your career goals. This is the right kind of positive visualization. Visualizing the end result doesn’t usually help you get there. But visualizing yourself doing the steps you will take to reach your end goal can help you to actually follow-through on those steps when it is time.

      Tiny Habits for Better Relationships

      1. Call, text, or email one friend or family member a day. Staying in touch has never been easier, but it’s all too easy to only connect with the people we see at work or the ones who just won’t stop showing up in our Facebook feed. Reach out a little further than that to stay connected with the friends and family members you value. It only takes a few minutes to invest in a relationship, with the result that you have a strong network of people around you, both near and far.

      2. Write a thank you note every week. This can be an exercise solely for you: write a thank-you note to someone who’s passed on but impacted your life, and tell them all the things you wish you could say in person. Or write a note of thanks to someone who is or was part of your life and send it to that person. Cultivating gratitude helps to lessen the fear in your life. How much better would your life be if you had trained yourself to be appreciative instead of afraid?

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        3. End your night with a word of thanks or encouragement. This is the kind of simple habit that can make or break a lifelong relationship. Before you roll over and go to sleep, let your significant other know you accept and value him or her. You don’t have to be elaborate: “I love being with you,” or “Thanks for being there for me,” sends the right message. If you’re not in a relationship, give yourself a word of thanks or encouragement. Sounds silly? Maybe. But it can help build your confidence and keep you from letting one bad day spiral into depression.

        4. Pause before you answer or respond to people. Train yourself to listen well, by giving yourself time to think up your response in that pause, not while the other person is talking. This not only shows that you value what the other person is saying (which communicates acceptance and respect) but it also gives you time to weigh your attitude and words. In a high-tension situation or stressful conversation, a simple five-second pause might be what keeps you from blowing up and ruining a relationship you value.

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        5. Give yourself a time out. Life happens. You’re going to hit points when you feel stressed, frustrated, angry, or impatient. That’s okay, because if you can give yourself a time-out then you can keep things in perspective. You can’t expect yourself to be a non-emotional robot, but you can train yourself to take a five-minute break from humanity when things are getting to you. Walk around the block, lock yourself in the bathroom, take a quick drive with the windows down and the music blaring. Find the “time-out chair” that works for you, and use it.

        Tiny Habits for a Better Community and Environment

        1. Take a short walk around the block with a trash bag and pick up litter. This weekly or daily ritual will help you to be more aware of how you treat your daily environment, and you never know the effect it can have on others. Sometimes just one person taking the time to make something better can spark others to take better care of things, as well.

        2. Stop and say hi to your neighbors. Make it a habit to do a little more than a nod or smile. It takes just a moment, whenever you see them out, to walk over and say hello. Create a friendlier community and help the people around you get plugged in, too. Some of my best friends are neighbors who were willing to lean over the fence and chat for a minute. Now they’re the ones calling to see if I need anything when they run to the store, or offering to babysit my kids if I’m not feeling well.

        3. Borrow before you buy for big purchases. It’s not always possible, but why not try it? Save money and help the environment. Make it a habit to borrow first, try it out, and see if it’s what you really need/want/must have. Then try to buy used before you buy new. Obviously this won’t apply to every big purchase… but it will apply to a lot.

        4. Set aside money for giving. It can be a small amount. Really. Five dollars can make a big difference to somebody. Out of every paycheck, or every month’s total income, put aside a small bit for giving. It has to be no-strings-attached, and anonymous is the way to go whenever possible. Help out your neighbors. Donate to a charity. Buy that homeless guy a meal. We are all part of the same human family.

        5. Keep your bike out where you can see it. No, you don’t have to use it… Just put it out there, in front of you, where you can eyeball it. Every day, when you run to the car and hop in. Wait, you don’t have a bike? Hmmm. Maybe call up a neighbor and see if you can borrow one.

        Featured photo credit: somegeekintn via flickr.com

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        Last Updated on December 2, 2019

        How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

        How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

        Are you the kind of person who wants to achieve massive success in your life? Do you have the mental toughness to make that happen?

        I think we can all agree that no matter your ambitions, achieving success can be difficult; and over time, the daily grind can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional energy.

        Achievers and high performers from all walks of life face ups and downs along the path to success—they face failure, burnout, discouragement, fatigue, self-limiting beliefs, stress, and so much more.

        How do some people continually strive towards their personal goals year after year while others give up on them? How do those people stay strong and persevere when there is so much stacked against them?

        Studies now show that mental strength is a critical key to success. If you haven’t read Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, you should. In it, she shows that “the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls ‘grit.’” In other words, mental toughness plays a significant role when it comes to achieving goals.

        Sometimes, our goals wear us down and leave us feeling exhausted. Other times, our goals get difficult, and success seems impossible, so we lose hope, become discouraged, and want to quit.

        At its core, mental toughness is simply the ability to stick to something when the going gets tough. People with high levels of mental toughness can push beyond these obstacles and forge a path towards success while those with lower levels of mental toughness may abandon their dreams.

        Want to know the good news?

        No matter who you are, what you’ve been told, or what you currently believe, you can develop the mental toughness you need to be successful.

        All you need to do is learn to develop a positive mindset, focus on your why, and utilize the people around you for support.

        1. Develop a Positive Mindset

        If you’re going to increase your mental toughness, the first thing you have to do is focus on building a strong, positive mindset.

        According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 95% of those thoughts repeat each day and, on average, 80% of repeated ideas are negative.[1]

        That’s roughly 45,600 negative thoughts per day!

        Carrying around these negative thoughts is like going on a hike in the mountains with a backpack full of rocks. The hike is hard enough on its own, but having extra junk weighing you down is a recipe for failure.

        Sometimes, building mental toughness isn’t as much about building new strength as it is about saving your strength for the right tasks. Wouldn’t it be easier to dump the rocks out of the backpack instead of trying to get strong enough to carry the extra weight?

        Absolutely!

        But how can we learn to spot those 45,600 negative thoughts and get rid of them? How can we empty our metaphorical backpack?

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        Well, it gets a whole lot easier if you know what you’re looking for. Some of the most prominent types of negative thoughts are self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, and dwelling.

        Let Go of Self-Limiting Beliefs

        It’s pretty hard to be mentally tough when you’re constantly beating yourself up. Self-limiting beliefs are any beliefs that hold you back in some way. Here are some examples:

        “I’m not smart enough to…”

        “I don’t have enough experience to…”

        “I’ve tried that before, and it didn’t go well, so I must just be bad at…”

        When we allow these self-limiting beliefs to flood our minds, negative self-talk runs rampant, and we crowd out our ability to think positively. We’re effectively working against ourselves.

        If you want to keep your mind strong on your path to success, you have to overcome the self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back by realizing one key truth: self-limiting beliefs are thoughts, not facts.

        When you recognize a self-limiting belief cropping up in your mind, quickly silence it by telling yourself that it’s not true and then back that up with some positive affirmations:

        • “I am smart enough; I may just need to do some more research first.”
        • “I may not have as much experience as someone else, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. I have enough experience to get started. I’ll figure the rest out on the way.”
        • “Just because I failed at this last time doesn’t mean I’m going to fail this time. My past does not dictate my future.”

        Get Rid of the All-or-Nothing Thinking

        Another form of negative thinking that could be preventing you from building mental toughness is all-or-nothing thinking.

        All-or-nothing thinking is the concept of thinking in extremes. You are either a success or a failure. Your performance was totally good or totally awful. If you’re not perfect, then you’re a failure.

        But this isn’t true!

        If you’re trying to lose 30 pounds and only lost 28, isn’t that still better than not losing any weight at all? I’d say so!

        If you allow all-or-nothing thinking to rule your mind, you’ll be on cloud nine when you succeed, but you’ll beat yourself up when you “fail.” Acknowledging the shades of gray in between will allow you to see success more often and it will help you celebrate your smaller wins.

        When you recognize an all-or-nothing thought, remember to look for the positive in the situation. What did you gain by trying? What would you have missed out on had you not tried? Could you do better if you were to try again?

        Ditch the Dwelling

        Self-Limiting Beliefs and All-or-Nothing Thinking can lead to a bad case of dwelling on the negative. If you want to build some mental toughness and keep your mind strong, you have to ditch the dwelling.

        Every day, bad things happen to each of us, and while there’s nothing we can do to prevent that, we can control how we react to these situations.

        When we dwell on our misfortunes, we waste massive amounts of energy that we could be using to achieve our goals. When this happens, we’re more likely to quit altogether.

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        But that doesn’t mean you’re not mentally tough; it just means you’re misusing your energy.

        The next time something bad happens, it’s important to allow yourself to feel the disappointment and frustration, but work on reducing the amount of time you dwell on the situation.

        Easier said than done, right? Try these:

        1. Call a friend or mentor and talk it through with them. Get some outside perspective on your situation.
        2. Time block your dwelling by allowing yourself to dwell for no more than one hour.
        3. Then, tell yourself to move on, that you’re human, and you’re allowed to make mistakes or experience setbacks.
        4. If all else fails, find a good way to distract yourself until you can calm down and reexamine things with a clear mind.

        The faster you can focus on the positives and move past the problem, the quicker you can get back to achieving success in your life.

        Be Patient about the Process

        No matter which negative thoughts tend to run around your mind, working to replace them with positive thoughts can take time.

        Learning to spot self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, or dwelling is one thing, but learning to quiet those thoughts is another thing entirely.

        If at first you don’t succeed, don’t fret. Instead, take a deep breath and try again. As you work towards improving your mindfulness and your mental toughness, remember that you’re going to get better with time.

        To make things a little easier, it helps to connect with your purpose.

        2. Connect with Your Purpose

        One of the most critical elements to building mental toughness and keeping a strong and focused mind is having a strong ‘why’ for everything you want to do.

        If you set out to achieve a huge goal that you don’t have a ‘why’ for, you’re going to find yourself distracted, discouraged, or disengaged as soon as you experience your first setback.

        Think about the last time you were working on a goal or resolution and things weren’t going well, maybe you even wanted to quit. Perhaps you thought you didn’t have enough willpower. Maybe you told yourself that you didn’t have enough discipline.

        Here’s the truth: you just didn’t have a strong enough why.

        Simon Sinek has been spreading his message “Start with Why” across the globe.[2] In short, he says that:

        “Your ‘why’ is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you.”

        One of the biggest drains on your mental energy is pursuing a goal or a task that you don’t have a ‘why’ for. This is when we tend to look for external motivation or question our willpower, but those aren’t the issues.

        Often, we set goals because we like the idea of the goal, not the reality of the goal. Without connecting to our why, we can’t intrinsically motivate ourselves to achieve our most challenging goals.

        Find Intrinsic Motivation

        Intrinsic motivation is our innate desire to do something and it comes when we work towards something that satisfies ourselves above all else—not our parents or our bosses or our teachers.

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        Let’s say you think you want to quit smoking because you know it’s bad for you, but you really enjoy smoking. If you don’t truly want to quit smoking, it’s going to be nearly impossible, regardless of your willpower or mental toughness.

        But if you want to quit smoking because you just had a baby, and you don’t want your baby growing up around smoke, then that ‘why’ is going to give you intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is far more powerful than sheer stubborn willpower, and it’s far easier to maintain over the long haul.

        If you’re trying to develop mental toughness, connecting a why to everything you want to achieve will reduce the effort and energy it will take to achieve those things. Once you’ve found a strong why for all of your goals, you’ll find that you’ll have significantly more energy to pursue your more difficult challenges.

        3. Find Strength in Unity

        The final aspect of developing mental toughness is embracing the idea that you’re not in this alone. It’s a fact, anyone who’s ever achieved success in anything didn’t do so alone.

        Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft alone. Oprah didn’t build her network by herself. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone without a team. Michelle Obama didn’t implement the “Let’s Move” campaign on her own.

        Behind all of these successful people were countless other people who were there offering support, mentorship, guidance, and encouragement.

        If you want to develop unmatched mental toughness, you need to understand that you don’t have to go it alone. Even the toughest Navy Seals have a team backing them up.

        If you want to stay strong in your endeavors, you need to build a team of supporters who will step in and back you up when it counts.

        Find a Mentor or Committee of Mentors

        The benefits of having a great mentor are far too many to list, but to boil it down to the basics, a mentor is someone who will help show you the path to success.

        A good mentor will help you discover your greatest strengths, spot and overcome your blind spots, and work through your weaknesses.

        If you’re struggling to deal with your internal negativity or with finding your purpose, talk it through with a mentor. Sometimes we lose the forest for the trees, and a mentor can help us take a step back and see the bigger picture.

        Here’s how to find the right mentor for yourself: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

        Recruit Some Cheerleaders

        If you want to stay strong, it never hurts to have a group of personal cheerleaders. Unlike mentors who are going to jump in and help you address your problems, a group of cheerleaders will help keep your spirits up.

        Even if you have a strong ‘why’ and a positive mindset, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a positive attitude 100% of the time. It doesn’t make you weak to need some help from time to time. Having a group of people cheering you on will make all the difference in the world.

        As you work towards your goals, tell a few close friends about what you’re doing, and when things get tough, tell them about it. And when they give you the pep talk you need, don’t resist their positivity or counter it with your self-limiting beliefs or your all-or-nothing attitude.

        Allow their optimism to refill your energy and use that energy to press on.

        Form an Accountability Group

        Cheerleaders are great, but sometimes we need someone to give us the kick we need to keep going. You might have a strong ‘why’ for running a marathon or losing 30 pounds, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy; and trying to force yourself to follow through is a sure way to tax your mental energy.

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        Why not save some of your mental energy by forming an accountability group?

        Find a person or a few people who have similar goals, or at the very least, the need for an accountability partner. Then, form an agreement within the group to push each other every day.

        Even if your goals aren’t the same, accountability partners are great for giving us the push we need when we need it most.

        Regardless of which relationships you choose, sometimes we have to be able to work through things on our own. Mentors, cheerleaders, and accountability partners are a great way for us to combat our naturally negative mindsets, but occasionally we have to be able to pick ourselves back up.

        4. Learn to Pick Yourself Back Up After Setbacks

        Building a strong mindset and developing mental toughness isn’t easy! Anyone who’s ever achieved massive success knows that obstacles, setbacks, and failure are inevitable, and you’re no different.

        As you work on your goals, you’re going to face many ups and downs, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have mental toughness, willpower, or discipline.

        We all struggle. We all fail. It’s what we decide to do after we fail that truly counts.

        When you find yourself in a low spot, ask yourself these questions:

        • “Am I being too hard on myself?”
        • “Are negative thoughts such as Self-Limiting Beliefs or All-or-Nothing Thinking distorting my view?”
        • “What’s the positive side of this setback/obstacle/failure?”
        • “Why was this goal important to me? What was my purpose?”
        • “Is this goal still important to me? Do I still have a ‘why’?”
        • “Who can I ask for help? Who can mentor me or cheer me on? Who can help hold me accountable?”

        Asking yourself these questions is a great way to check in on your mindset. When we get lost in negative thinking or lose connection to our purpose, it’s far too easy to become discouraged. When we feel discouraged, we start feeling weak, maybe even a little hopeless.

        Also, this article provides some useful tips to help you get back on track: How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

        Tying it All Together

        Are you still with me? I know I’ve thrown a lot at you, from developing a positive mindset and combatting your internal voice to connecting with purpose and building a committee of mentors. It’s a lot to take it!

        But here’s the bottom line:

        A crucial part of developing mental toughness is learning to recognize these tendencies and taking action to correct them early on. Developing mental toughness is not about eliminating weakness, but learning how to deal with it and overcome it.

        No one is perfect, but when we focus on the right things, we can develop a mental toughness worthy of life’s biggest challenges.

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        Featured photo credit: Zulmaury Saavedra via unsplash.com

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