I’ve just finished reading ‘Better Than Before’ by Gretchen Rubin so I thought I’d share a few of the things that I’ve taken from this book.
The essential seven
Gretchen observes that most people want to foster these seven habits:
- Eat and drink more healthily e.g. eat more fruit and veg
- Exercise regularly
- Save, spend and earn wisely e.g. stick to a budget, pay of debt
- Rest, relax and enjoy e.g. get enough sleep, less screen-time, spend more time in nature
- Accomplish more and stop procrastinating
- Simplify, clear, clean and organize
- Engage more deeply in relationships
I’m an obliger
Gretchen identifies four personality types; upholders, obligers, questioners and rebels. When cultivating a new habit, the strategies that work for you will vary depending on which category you fall into.
As an obliger, I’m motivated by external accountability which is why I run as part of a group – I go even if I don’t feel like it because I don’t want to let others down. While losing weight I saw a nutritionist who have me an eating plan. I managed to follow the eating plan as I knew I’d have to go back and show the nutritionist my food diary and that she’d weight me.
I exercise regularly because it feels like a commitment to my depression – I need to do it to stay well and my very expensive psychiatrist has told me to.
Before committing to new habits, Gretchen suggests exploring the following three areas to understand ourselves better. Here’s what I know about me:
1. How I like to spend my time
- I feel energized in the morning and tired after 3pm
- I don’t like to feel hurried
- I sometimes spend too much time on my phone or watching TV shows that don’t enrich me
- I’d like to spend more time engaging in activities that make me happy, feel meaningful and bring me closer to the life I want to lead
- I need to have things to look forward in the short and long-term
- I can read for hours without feeling bored
- When I was 10 years old I could spend hours drawing and colouring
2. What I value
- Saving time is more important than saving money or effort as it frees up timing for things I want to do and that are good for me
- I enjoy being different to other people
- I spend too much time worrying about work
- I like to listen to experts and then put things in practice for myself
- Spending money on something makes me feel more committed to it
- I’d like my future children to be more confident and self-assured
3. My current habits
- I’m more likely to indulge in a bad habit when I’m alone
- If I could magically change one habit, it would be to get up earlier and make the most of the time before I go to work in the morning
- If the people around me could change one thing about me, it would probably for me to be kinder to myself and appreciate myself more
- I’d like to see my future children adopt my love of self-exploration and creative expression
Where to start?
There are four areas that do the most to boost our feelings of self-control and strengthen the foundation for all our habits: Sleep, nutrition, exercise and de-clutter. The following strategies can help:
If it’s in the diary, it happens. For me as an obliger, having something in the diary is a form of accountability. When scheduling a new habit, it helps to tie it to an existing habit e.g. meditating for 10 minutes after I clean my teeth in the morning. Then there’s no negotiation about when to do it. Consistency, repetition and no-decision making is the best way to cultivate a new habit. Gretchen says “the habit of the habit is more important that the habit itself.”
- BE ACCOUNTABLE
I feel accountable to my therapist, meditation teacher, psychiatrist, the ladies I run with.
- THE BEST TIME TO BEGIN IS NOW
I think a lot of people fall into the trap of waiting for the right time to start something but there is no better time than now.
- MAKE IT AS EASY AND CONVENIENT AS POSSIBLE
For example I pay more to go to a gym that I have to drive past on my way too and from work which makes it harder not to go. I go food shopping at a more expensive supermarket because it’s smaller and I’m less likely to give in to temptation. I keep a gratitude journal and pen next to my bed so I don’t have to remember to get it out and write in it each day.
- MAKE BAD HABITS MORE DIFFICULT AND INCONVENIENT
You can do this by increasing the amount of energy required, remove visual ques, delay it, engage in something meaningful, raise the cost or block it altogether. This works for me when I keep my phone in the kitchen over night and not next to my bed, I got rid of excess medication in my home so I couldn’t be temped to take it and found I fantasized about it less, I also find reading a good distraction, I don’t buy chocolate when I go shopping so if I really want it I have to leave the house and not just eat it because it’s there.
Having reflected on this, what habits do I want to foster?
- To get out of bed when my alarm goes off – putting my alarm clock on the other side of the room is helpful! This will make me feel less hurried in the mornings and give me more time to get breakfast, make lunch and tidy-up.
- To start meal planning and keeping a food diary again. This worked really well for me before but my weight is starting to creep back up so I can’t be complacent.
- To exercise five times a week. Again I was doing this before and now it’s three to four times a week. I know that I get a lot of benefits from five times a week though and my doctor told me to!
- To clean and tidy as I go – if something only takes a few minutes then do it straight away.