“Our daily decisions and habits have a huge impact upon both our levels of happiness and success.” — Shawn Anchor
If you’re anything like me, then you’re constantly looking for ways to improve your life. We all want to progress in the areas that are important to us – finances, careers, relationships, health, and our overall well-being, just to name a few.
We have goals, hopes, and even wishes that help to move us from one point to the other. And we do things on a daily basis that either help to march us forward or help to hold us back.
Namely, we have a set good habits that reinforces what we want, and a set of bad habits that deters us from realizing our full potential.
But, for one reason or another, more often that not, our good habits seem to be outweighed by our bad habits. While we might say we want certain things in life, when it comes down to it, we don’t seem to follow through. Our bad habits stifle our progress.
Why aren’t we more happy? Why aren’t we more physically fit, or in the perfect relationship? Why do we seem to be ever-frustrated with our finances, unable to realize some of our wildest dreams to live carefree lives, travel the world, and be financially secure?
The reason for it all – why we feel unfulfilled or unhappy with the status quo – is that we fail to realize just how important what we do on a daily basis helps to affect the quality of our lives and our ability to realize our dreams.
Our daily habits dictate just how close we move towards the outcomes we desire. They happen on such a micro level that oftentimes we almost miss them when we’re not paying careful attention. That’s because our habits are second-nature to us; they’re autonomous actions that play on autopilot.
But, by looking back at certain points in our lives, it’s clear to see that when the good habits outweigh the bad habits, we made remarkable progress. Yet, when it’s the other way around, we traveled backwards.
Yet, without reflection, we fail to realize just how much the micro is affecting the macro. That what we do on a daily basis, dictates what we think, feel, and become; what you sow you reap.
However, if you can focus your energy and your efforts on employing a set of core daily habits that will help to serve you rather than hinder you, you’ll notice monumental changes in your life. Little by little, day by day, things will improve.
Transforming Your Life with Good Daily Habits
Habits have a powerful impact on our lives. In fact, according to one study, 45% of our daily actions are considered habit-driven and repetitive in nature (Quinn & Wood, 2005; Wood, Quinn, & Kashy, 2002).
If you take the average waking time of 16.3 hours, 7.335 hours of our awake time is habit-driven. That’s an enormous portion of our day. When those habits are bad habits that hold us back, it’s no wonder most of us tend to get frustrated.
So, if we can transform some of the bad habits that we employ on a daily basis into good habits by making conscious and concerted daily efforts, we can literally revolutionize the quality our lives. And, by focusing on keystone habits, we can take this to another level.
But, keystone habits aside, there are 10 daily habits that, when applied over time, can have an enormous impact on our lives. These habits don’t take much time – around 5 minutes or less. Nor do they take a huge commitment of energy. But they do make a monumental difference.
Employ these 10 daily habits on a regular basis, every single day, and watch as your life transforms before your very eyes.
#1 – Brush & Floss Your Teeth
One of the first and most important daily habits is to brush and floss your teeth. While it may not sound like the world’s most important habit, failing to do this can bring on a world of hurt. What most people don’t realize is just how much of an impact this has on our health.
Brushing and flossing only takes about 5 minutes. But in those 5 minutes, you can considerably alter your physical wellbeing. If you do this in the morning, after every meal, and before bed, you can make a major impact over time.
When you don’t brush and floss your teeth, numerous studies suggest that you run the risk of developing gum disease, tooth loss, bad breath, dementia, pneumonia, erectile dysfunction, a brain abscess, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, pregnancy complications, ulcers, and even cancer.
Considering that our physical health also impacts our emotional and mental wellbeing, the onset of physical conditions such as these can alter and cloud our judgment, veer us far off track, and make us lose our focus towards whatever goals we’re working on.
#2 – Smile in the Mirror
While this might not seem like an important daily habit, smiling at yourself in the mirror can make a remarkable difference in your overall emotional and mental wellbeing. This stems from theory that dates back to over a century ago, and has been validated by scientific studies.
Your facial expressions don’t just represent the visual feelings of your emotions, they also dictate the emotions themselves. So, people who frown all the time actually institute more sadness, while people who smile all the time boost their happiness. Motion creates emotion.
One study, performed by Dr. Robert Zajonc in 1989, proved this by creating two groups of participants. One group produced and held the vowel sound “e,” which forced their facial expressions into a smile, while the other produced the sound “u,” which did the opposite.
The study subjects that made the long “e” sound reported feeling much better afterwards than those that made the “u” sound.
Another study conducted by Robert Soussignan (Mar 2002), used a pencil in the teeth of the participants, held to create a Duchenne smile, a genuine smile, while others held it in their lips, causing the opposite effect.
Smiling in the mirror for 5 minutes doesn’t take up a large part of your day, but this important daily habit can have an enormous impact on your life.
And, by constantly smiling, you can also impact your physical health by boosting your body’s immune system, alleviating stress, lowering blood pressure, and releasing endorphins and serotonin into your system, which act as natural pain relievers and mood boosters.
#3 -Practice Daily Gratitude
It’s easy to worry and stress over things that we don’t have. That victim mentality tends to run most of our lives and acts as the prevailing thought in our subconscious. But, by practicing daily gratitude for just 5 minutes, a remarkable shift can occur.
To do this, grab a notepad and write out all the things that you’re grateful for in your life. Even if you have many problems, count your blessings. What are the gifts bestowed upon you right now? Can you speak? Can you walk? Are you 6 feet above ground?
What about your family? What about friends? What are all the good things you have going on? No matter how small it might seem to you, write it down. Do this every single morning for 5 minutes and keep a journal of it all. If you have problems, be thankful for your problems.
One study conducted by Dr. Robert A. Emmons, and revealed in his book Thanks!, indicated that by practicing daily gratitude, you can actually increase your happiness. Participants in the 10-week study were split into three separate groups.
The first group was instructed to write down 5 things they were grateful for in the last week. The second group was instructed to write down 5 hassles they experienced in the last week. And the final (control) group was instructed to write down 5 random events from the last week.
The people in the gratitude group expressed 25% greater happiness than the other groups, were more optimistic about their future, and ended up doing 1.5 hours more exercise than the participants in the other two groups.
#4 – Find Your Frogs
In a book that I wrote entitled, Chasing the Frog – How to Achieve Success in Life by Building an Empowering Morning Routine, I highlighted the importance of the morning ritual. What you do in the morning has an enormous impact on the balance of your day.
But, more importantly, finding your frog will only take you 5 minutes or less. Some people call this identifying their most important tasks of the day, or MITs. Your MITs are integral to the progression of your goals, and should be done before anything else on your to-do list is checked off.
By finding the frogs, you’re simply identifying what your most important tasks are. If you have a solid set of goals, then this should be far easier. However, if you don’t have written goals, or even a plan for their attainment, you should go back and do this first.
When you identify your frogs, you set yourself up for daily success. As long as you follow through with “eating the frog,” then you’ll move closer and closer to your goals. In time management, this is also called the quadrant 2 activities, or the important but not urgent quadrant.
Get organized and spend 5 minutes each day on this very important habit. Identify the frogs and ensure that you eat those frogs before you do anything else. Do it in the morning when you first start working, or at a free point in your day if these are related to goals outside your regular job.
#5 – Park in the Farthest Corner of the Lot
By parking your car in the farthest corner of the parking lot, you’re forcing yourself to walk further. While it might not seem like much (5 minutes extra or so of walking), that small change can add up to big differences.
Many people, myself included, talk about the importance of the 10,000-step habit. By walking 10,000 steps in a given day, even if we’re not engaging in strenuous exercise, we can make noticeable strides in our health, mood, and overall weight.
While parking in the furthest corner of the parking lot wherever you go might not seem like a big deal at first, those steps add up. And, considering that most Americans take an average of only 5,117 steps per day (study), those extra steps really count.
Other countries far outpace us such as Japan, whose citizens average 7,168 steps per day, Switzerland, whose citizens are averaging 9,650 steps per day, and Australia, whose citizens are averaging a whopping 9,695 steps per day.
Since we’re such a car-oriented culture, we have to find daily hacks that we can employ in order to achieve better overall results. That’s why this is an important daily habit to institute. Grab a pedometer or install an application and track your steps using your smartphone.
Do you know how many steps you’re walking per day? If you’re less than the average, then you most certainly need to employ this important daily habit. Find ways to walk more in general, but most certainly institute this habit as often as possible.
#6 – Review Your Goals
Sometimes, we forget what we’re fighting for. When life gets in the way and frustrations set in, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. Take the time, every day, to review your goals. You can do this in the morning to gain perspective on the day ahead.
This will only take you 5 minutes or less. But, it will help to reinforce and remind you of why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you set goals the right way, then you have some powerful reasons behind them. Those reasons will help to push you past your plateaus.
Its easy to get distracted and sidetracked as we race towards our goals. But, by instituting this important daily habit for 5 minutes each day, we can gain far better clarity on what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and when we need to do it by.
A good time to do this is also when you’re finding your frogs. By reviewing your goals, you can get a better sense of the most important things that need to be done in a given day to get you closer to realizing those goals.
Keep your goals nearby. On a notepad. On your laptop. On a smartphone. Anywhere. As long as you can reach for them and read through them at a moment’s notice. Don’t hide them somewhere you won’t find them.
#7 – Plan Your Day
In 5 minutes, this daily habit can revolutionize your life. Now that you’ve identified the MITs of your day by finding your frogs, you should plan the rest of the day out. How can you best maximize your time and be an efficient and productive person?
The average person wastes a lot of time in the day. They get distracted by a number of things. They get interrupted. Their minds wander. They check social media. And, generally, they lack focus and clarity in their daily pursuits.
In one study, it was determined that 89% of average American workers are wasting some time in the day. And, more importantly, 61% actually admitted to wasting up to half of their day on non-work-related activities such as social media, personal emails, and text messaging.
Even if you’re working a 9-to-5 job that you absolutely hate, wasting any part of the day is inexcusable. If you want to get ahead in life and exit the rat race, then you have to be an efficient time manager and ensure that you’re adding value rather than taking it away from the world.
Take 5 minutes to plan out your day. What are your projects that need to be done? What other tasks need to be handled? Strategize, organize, and create a list so that you have a plan of attack rather than living in defensive mode.
#8 – Make Healthy Choices
What we choose to put into our body, dictates not only how we see ourselves, but also how we feel and how others feel about us. By putting in an excess amount of fats, sugars, and enriched carbohydrates, you’re doing a lot of damage in a lot of areas to your body, mind, and wellbeing.
One study also suggests that by eating foods that are bad for us, such as fast foods, we make poorer food choices throughout the day. This affects our energy levels, which in turn affects our motivational levels to achieve our goals.
Food is fuel. But, most people don’t look at food as fuel. They look at food as pleasure. They indulge. They have cravings and they allow those cravings to run their lives. Then, they feel remorse, guilt, and sluggishness as a result.
But it only takes 5 minutes to make healthy choices. Plan your meals. If you know that you always head to the fast food drive-through after work, prepare a healthy snack that you can have on the way home. A little bit of planning with healthy choices can go a long way.
You can also spend 5 minutes researching healthy recipes, ordering healthy snacks online, or preparing and packing your meal for the next day.
#9 – Listen to a TED Talk
One of my favorite things to do is to listen to TED Talks. You can do this in 5 minutes, literally. You can find talks that inspire you, motivate you, or help you see things from a different perspective. It’s one of the Web’s greatest resources.
You can find something that you’re interested in, whatever it might be, and allow it to help inspire and motivate you towards the goals you’re reaching for. Inspiration is a big part of life, and without it, sometimes it’s harder to keep pushing and pushing.
But this isn’t just merely rooted in hopes, wishes, and good feelings, studies have suggested that exposure to inspiration has a tremendous impact on our well-being, which in turn has an impact on our ability to achieve our goals and realize our dreams.
You can create a playlist of TED Talks that you can keep coming back to, or you can even opt to find inspirational or motivational videos on YouTube. It might also help you draw some unique insights on things that you might not have thought about earlier.
Inspiration allows us to transcend our personal abilities, experiences, and even limitations. It helps to open doors and pathways that might not have existed before. And research has proven that inspiration has an enormous impact on our ability to succeed in any endeavor.
Another daily habit that will take you 5 minutes or less, don’t overlook the necessity for getting and staying inspired. Seek out the right material that you can reference back to. Create a core inspirational construct and framework that will help support you in the pursuit of your goals.
#10 – Write in a Journal or Blog
Journaling, blogging, or just writing in general, is a cathartic release of some bent-up energy. It’s a way to express the subconscious thoughts into the conscious realm. It’s a way to realize and visualize what’s inside our minds.
The importance of writing dates back many millennia. We’ve always written to express our feelings. And studies have suggested that even for traumatic situations, writing helps to ease some of the tensions in our mind, resulting in psychological and physiological improvements.
It only takes 5 minutes to employ this important daily habit. What’s on your mind? Why not write it out? Why not start a blog? Express your feelings and put it out there in the world. It can be done anonymously, or you can let the world know that it’s you.
We all suffer through difficult situations and we all make mistakes. And it’s okay to fail and not be perfect. Write down your feelings and express it to the world. How do you feel? Are you frustrated? Angry? Upset?
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never written before, employ this important daily habit and watch as your life transforms before your very eyes. Write about your goals, your feelings, your passions, or whatever it is that you want to express to the world.