It’s not a stretch to say that most of our lives are pretty crazy. We often feel out of control and unable to maintain a functional level of sanity. We get overwhelmed and exhausted. Our brains are so busy and scattered that we can’t slow our thoughts down enough to figure out what to do about any of it.
We all know we need to make changes in our lives; we just don’t know how. Let me suggest one simple approach that’s helped me.
The concept of tiny habits isn’t new, but it’s still revolutionary to nearly anybody who hasn’t tried it. The idea is to decide on a new habit you want try, and then start really, really small and simple. When I say ‘small’ I mean literally one minute a day to begin with. This works for habits that don’t involve time, too. Just do one of whatever it is to start with.
Here are some examples:
- Meditate, pray, or just sit and take slow, even breaths for one minute a day.
- Do one or two very basic yoga poses for one minute a day.
- Focus and allow yourself to really enjoy one bite of food.
- Pick up one piece of paper cluttering a surface and recycle it.
- Pick up one item on the floor that isn’t where it should be and put it in its right place.
- Floss one tooth.
- Write a one-sentence message to a friend (text, Facebook, e-mail, whatever) and encourage them and let them know you are thinking about them.
- Say one nice thing to someone you know who you see in person today.
- Compliment a stranger or just say one positive thing to them.
You may choose to keep going and do more than one minute or one thing. It’s OK if you do or if you don’t. One day you may decide you want to do more, the next day you may do the one minute or one thing. It’s all fine. This isn’t a contest. Keep it really simple. Do something that nurtures you. If it feels like work, you’re overdoing it. No overachieving allowed!
You may wonder, well, what good does this do? How does doing something for one minute or doing one thing make any difference? Stay with me, and I’ll explain.
In a week or two, move up to two minutes or two things. Again, keep it simple and low key. Remember, the idea is that none of this should feel like work. We keep these habits tiny and simple to introduce them into our lives without triggering all of our overwhelm and stress. We already have enough of that. This technique is about relieving that stress and feeling better.
In another week or two, try moving up to three or four minutes or things. Again, if it feels like work, go back to something simpler. Never judge yourself about what you accomplish. You are still establishing a habit. One minute or thing a day amounts to seven in a week. Two a day equals almost 15. Four gets you almost to 30. And any way you slice it, that’s a whole lot more than the zero you were doing to start with.
The goal is to get to one month of doing a tiny habit consistently. For many people this is the magic tipping point at which a habit establishes itself into your daily routine for the long haul. You can keep increasing the time you spend on a habit as you feel comfortable doing so. But never overdo it. You’ll continue working toward a consistent daily habit that makes a lasting difference in your life.
This is not a contest. There is no standard to reach or measure up to. You don’t get any awards. No one will evaluate you. The only thing that matters is making small changes that improve the quality of your life.
Pick one or two tiny habits and start today. Stay with it for a month, increasing little by little. This is the way to begin the process of taking better care of yourself, something each of us desperately needs.