The act of setting goals and making changes is different than it used to be, especially right now. Creating good habits in your present environment may feel super challenging. But even in times of upheaval, it’s still possible to make tiny changes to help you feel better. Here are some ideas on how to test drive lifestyle changes in a digestible way that doesn’t feel overwhelming.
Explore without Commitment
In order to evaluate a habit, you must first become aware of it, and take one habit at a time. Committing to a new or different behavior for 30 days allows you to peek into your default settings and evaluate their effect on how you feel. So the first order of business is to notice what you’re already doing.
Pick a Habit
Here’s how it works: Pick a habit that’s automatic, one you do regularly without making a conscious choice (it could be something like mindlessly scrolling on your phone before bed). Next, give yourself 30 days to explore how you can change your lifestyle by changing the behavior behind the habit. In other words, shine a light on habitual behavior so you become conscious about what you’re doing.
Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC's chief medical correspondent, tried this kind of “just for a month” habit exploration and wrote about it in her book The Self-Care Solution. For her first 30-day project, she chose to abstain from alcohol.
While Ashton had no desire to quit alcohol forever, her “dry” month gave her lots of insight! Here’s what she observed:
- She lost weight.
- She enjoyed her food more.
- She slept better.
- The red blotches on her face disappeared.
- She had more energy.
While Ashton resumed social drinking when the month was over, the experiment changed the way she interacts with alcohol, and made it a more mindful choice. She was able to change her unconscious behavior to a conscious one, and it changed her interaction with it completely.
Do you find yourself stress eating or consuming too much media while you’re stuck at home right now? Resolve to replace your wine with hot herbal tea or late-night news consumption with a good book for 30 days, and track the changes in your body and mind. Observe how you feel, and let those feelings help you make a conscious decision about your future choices, so you can feel better, sleep better, and take control of your body and mind.
Conduct your own habit exploration experiment by taking a 30-day test drive with any kind of new behavior that makes sense in your life. Dr. Ashton did 12 different 30-day experiments in a year, ranging from doing daily push-ups to drinking liters of water. The current stay-at-home order makes this the perfect time to give it a try. We’d love to hear about your experience!