They key to Better Living is habits – breaking the unhealthy patterns and adopting the good ones.
You already know that quitting smoking, reducing your alcohol intake, giving yourself a bedtime, and moving your body will help you live you live your best life.
But once you’ve got those basics down… what next?
Psychologist and wellness expert Dr Audrey Tang reckons there are six habits everyone should adopt that will help them thrive in the realms of work, health, and happiness.
‘Living is not about spending every day getting by, that’s survival,’ she tells Metro.co.uk. ‘Life is not just about being okay, but flourishing past ordinary.
‘So, here are six habits to not just embrace your “new normal”, but to thrive beyond it.’
Ready to hit upgrade? Try these on for size.
Cherish the positive influences around you
Gratitude is proven to boost your mental wellbeing, but it’s not just about feeling it – show people you appreciate them, too.
‘Good friends, supportive colleagues, opportunities… it’s not just about writing them in a gratitude journal, but actively appreciating their efforts with some in return,’ says Audrey.
She suggests arranging a date night (with no distractions), learning to be a better listener, and making time to tell people how much they mean to us.
Think of self-care as a way to restore balance
‘You may hear “self-care” and think of spa days and meditation,’ Audrey explains. ‘But when we talk about restoring a healthy balance, we sometimes need energising, or we may need relaxing.
‘Be aware of whatever energises or relaxes you best (and then recognise what you need in the moment.) This approach to self care and wellness is going to be the most effective for you.’
Each time you’re doing something you enjoy, work out if it’s energising you or relaxing you. Then, make a list of energising and relaxing activities that you can draw on when you need each ‘vibe’.
Respond, don’t react
Audrey says: ‘Recognise that your emotions are instinctive, and at any time we may choose our response
‘Emotions evolved to keep humans safe. Feeling them – especially negative ones – are simply a ‘warning light’ (like the petrol indicator) that something needs to be dealt with, but it is a feeling.
‘What you do and when you do it is a conscious, chosen response.’
In times when emotions become overwhelming, Audrey recommends trying this exercise:
- Recognise your trigger situations or events and note your emotional reaction.
- Write down a statement, or an activity that will help you regain balance when a negative emotion throws you off kilter, for example, listen to a positive TED talk, or repeat the affirmation ‘Even if I cannot control anything else, I can control my breathing’ or have a cup of tea.
- Use that list to enable you to choose an effective behaviour rather than let an emotional reaction run away with you. This keeps you empowered and in control of your actions.
Create a social network you actually want to be a part of
Get real: are you surrounding yourself with people who enable you to be the best version of yourself?
Or is your social circle one that encourages negativity? Are you around a load of energy vampires? Do you feel like there’s non-stop drama?
Reflect on these questions and work out how you can create a network that helps you thrive.
That doesn’t mean always mean cutting off friends or ditching people for new pals, but instead working out if you have unhealthy patterns together – and putting in the effort to change them.
Lead by example
We all have plenty of opinions about other people – what they’re doing wrong, why they’re not as great as we’d like them to be – but often we forget to turn that inwards and ask ourselves if we’re being the type of people we’d like to have more of in the world.
Audrey suggests this exercise to get you thinking more deeply about the values you admire:
- Write down the names of three to five people you love in your life
- Write down the things you value about them
- Work every day to demonstrate those values yourself: we often, albeit unconsciously, teach people how to treat us and if you are surrounded by takers, you might need to ask why you are giving so much. While you may recognise that generosity is a trait you love – perhaps what is of value in the person you admire is that they are discerning with their gifts.
- Opt to spend more time with the people whose names you mentioned, and you might find that the more exhausting people are squeezed out (or you have a little more energy to manage them)
Look after your physical health for the sake of your mental health
You don’t need to bother yourself with looking a certain way or getting absolutely ripped in the gym (unless you want to). But what is essential is recognising that caring for your body is an essential pillar for better mental wellbeing.
‘Eat, sleep and exercise,’ says Audrey. ‘Getting out daily (whatever the weather) can help you get more Vitamin D, increasing feelings of happiness and counter things such as Seasonal Affective Disorder.
‘If you are struggling with sleep, try a bedtime wind down routine, in the same way as we might prepare to exercise with a warm up, we best prepare to sleep with a wind down… come off devices, perhaps prepare items for the next day (looking out for the future you), avoid caffeinated drinks before going to bed, consider blackout curtains or an eye mask; and if you are still not sleepy, get up and go to a different room to read or engage in something gentle, so that you don’t associate the bedroom with difficulty in sleeping.’
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist, mental health and wellness expert, and author of The Leader’s Guide to Resilience.
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