It’s time for an update on my January goals! This month I’ve been focusing on personal well-being by getting enough sleep, exercising consistently, nourishing my body, and focusing on spiritual well-being with meditation and journaling. I’ve been doing the best with nourishing my body—I’ve made quite a few healthy, plant-based recipes (see my last post), and I’m taking a nutrition class! I’ve also been keeping up with my one-line-a-day journal.
Although I committed to participating in a 30-day yoga challenge, exercise is definitely the category where I’m falling the most behind. I’ve only done about half of the yoga practices, and I have yet to do any other types of exercise this year, besides walking. And so, it’s time to kick things up a notch.
I decided to hit the books for the best research on successful habit change. I recently read The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg. While I found this book super interesting, the practical application component of it focused more on changing bad habits than on creating new, better habits. Since I am trying to start a new habit (exercise), this book wasn’t as helpful to me as I had hoped.
Next, I turned to Better than Before, by Gretchen Rubin. I read this book years ago, and I still go back to it because it is so practical and well-researched. One of the ideas Rubin discusses is the “broken windows theory.” Within communities, when petty crimes, such as graffiti and broken windows, are tolerated, people are more likely to commit more serious crimes.
This theory may hold on a personal level as well. If you wear pajamas all day, or fail to make your bed in the morning, you might be more likely to fall prey to other bad habits. In my case, I think that having a cluttered home makes me feel overwhelmed, and therefore less likely to complete good habits like exercise. When my alarm goes off and its time for my morning yoga, I see the piles of clothes everywhere that I will have to move out of the way to make room for my yoga mat. This is an overwhelming prospect for my tired brain, and it’s much easier to press snooze, close my eyes, and ignore the both the mess and the commitment I’ve made to doing yoga in the morning.
So even though having a spotless home isn’t always a priority for me when I have a lot going on, if it helps me maintain other good habits, then it’s worth the time and effort. It’s not just about aesthetics here—it’s about creating a space for positive change. I might not go full Marie Kondo on my apartment, but I will at least make an effort to reduce the amount of visual clutter.
Rubin even has a checklist for habit change on her website, which is basically a cheat-sheet for all of the methods of habit change that are known to be effective. Based on this list, I chose a few methods that I think will work for me.
Two of the strategies that I already use are monitoring and scheduling. When I work out, I write it down—that’s monitoring. I also have a designated time to exercise: first thing in the morning. If it’s on my schedule, it’s more likely to happen. I have experimented with exercising at different times of the day, but if I don’t exercise in the morning, other things tend to get in the way.
There are two other strategies that I want to start using: convenience and monitoring. We are more likely to do things that are convenient. If I set out my yoga mat, clothes, weights, water bottle, etc. the night before, then I am more likely to work out in the morning because everything is already ready to go.
The other strategy that I think is crucial for me is accountability. To some extent, I use this blog as a way to keep myself accountable, but I think I need a method of accountability that’s more specific to the habit of exercise. To that end, I downloaded Gretchen Rubin’s app, Better, which is supposed to help people achieve habit change based on their personal tendencies. I haven’t fully road-tested this app yet, but I’m excited to try it out. Get the app here.
To summarize, here is my current to do list:
- Tidy up and reduce visual clutter.
- Prepare workout equipment each evening before bed.
- Start using the Better app
Are there any strategies that you use to get yourself to exercise? How do you maintain other good habits?