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January Habits

January Habits: 2021 Remix

It’s January, so it’s time to pick some habits to follow throughout the year. Some I’ve been doing for a while, some will be new.

Since nobody gave any (sensible) suggestions for a fourth habit, and since I couldn’t think of anything either, I decided that my fourth choice would be a revisiting of my habits from 2021.

Exercise

I’ve already explained that one of my habits for this year is to walk (or run) 10,000 steps every day. I don’t think this needs to be included again.

Waking up early Going to bed early

Rather than waking up early, I’ve decided to change this to going to bed early. I’ve recently found myself going to sleep after 11pm which is too late. I normally sleep for 8 hours, so my aim is to be falling asleep by 10.45pm. This should mean that I wake up around 7am which is a good time to not be in too much of a rush the next morning. There will inevitably be some exceptions to this rule, but I’m making this my first “2021 Remix” habit to try to ensure that I stick to it.

Cold showers

I am back to doing this, but I’m not going to make it a habit that I track this year. I’m doing it because I very much have a love/hate relationship with cold showers.

Journaling Gratitude

Journaling is one that I included last year but struggled to fully integrate into my life. I was debating just keeping this habit the same as last year, but then I watched this video by CGP Grey last week. There were two interesting things he included in his journal. Firstly, his habit tracker has different levels of completion, i.e. habits that meet a lower threshold can still be scored, helping to keep a sense of achievement. The problem I have is that a lot of my items on my tracker are binary: e.g. “have I been running, yes or no?” I’m not sure how to do that so I’m going to put that to one side for the moment.

But the second idea from the video was gratitude, and how thinking of things that you’re grateful for puts you into a better mood. Grey suggested listing one gratitude in the morning and one in the evening. So far I’ve only been doing one in the evening, but I can see how having a positive gratitude mindset can set up for the rest of the day. It still feels very early and despite a lot of thinking, most of my gratitudes are very generic, e.g. grateful for “running” or “friends”, but I’m sure it’ll become easier as I get more used to the process. So that’s why this is the second part of my “2021 Remix” habit.

So that’s my final habit: Going to bed early and Gratitude. I’m sure I could have tried something brand new for my fourth habit of 2022, but sometimes learning from the past and improving on it is one of the best things to do. Come back later in the year (probably July) to see how I get on.

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January Habits

January Habits: Diet

It’s January, so it’s time to pick some habits to follow throughout the year. Some I’ve been doing for a while, some will be new. I’m still short on one more for next week, so let me know me know if you have any suggestions.

My third choice for 2022 is “diet”. I’m not talking about the “I need to lose weight” diet thing, but the more general definition of diet, being the things that I eat (or don’t!). And there’s two things that I want to try changing this year.

Firstly, I want to reduce the amount of meat that I eat. This is always one of those practical things that is suggested when looking at ways of having less impact on climate change. It seems fairly straight-forward so I’m going to try and see it how it goes. I’m not planning to go vegan or anything like that, but I am aiming to have at least one day per week where I don’t eat any meat. I’m thinking it will probably be Mondays (because you know, meat free Mondays) but I’m not too fussy and if I find myself in an all-you-can-eat steakhouse on a Monday I’ll change the day. In fact, I’ve not had a meat-free day yet this week for various reasons so it will probably be Friday or Saturday now. Recipes for good vegetarian/vegan meals are welcome…

The second thing I want to try is trying other milks. I’m a big drinker of cow’s milk (plus on my cereal) and I normally go through a six pint bottle in about a week. Herding cows is also supposed to be bad for climate change and I’m curious to see what other milks are available. My plan is that every month I will try a different type of milk. I currently have a carton of oat milk in the fridge which I will break open in a couple of days once I’ve finished my open bottle of normal milk. There should be plenty of alternative options out there, but would love some recommendations if there’s any I should try (or any I should avoid!). Maybe I’ll find something I really like and replace cow’s milk altogether. (Side note: I am sticking to cow’s milk cheese.)

Come back later in the year to find out how I’m getting on with these two challenges (and for my milk reviews).

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January Habits

January Habits: Mindfulness

It’s January, so it’s time to pick some habits to follow throughout the year. Some I’ve been doing for a while, some will be new. I still have room for a couple more, so let me know me know if you have any suggestions.

My second choice for 2022 is “mindfulness”. For those unaware, mindfulness is described by the NHS as “paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – [which] can improve your mental wellbeing.”

I had heard of mindfulness workshops which had been run at work, but I always thought it was something I wouldn’t be interested in. A bit later, in February 2020, everyone was offered a free account to Headspace, a mindfulness app, which I thought I may as well sign up to.

I’ve done a few sessions in the app since then (the stats part of the app says 24 sessions), but I’ve never got too into it. I feel like the sessions are useful, but I’ve not used it long-term enough to see any actual benefit yet. I have learnt some interesting things about separating thoughts and feelings, and the “get back to sleep” sessions are also quite practical in the middle of the night when I occasionally can’t.

And that’s what this habit is to change. Admittedly we’re twelve days into the year and I have only done one session (which was earlier this afternoon), but my aim is try to become more consistent. I’ve not quite worked out yet how often I should do a session – daily feels like too much, but weekly seems too little. It probably also depends what else I’m doing. It’s much easier to find 10 minutes to meditate on a working from home day than it is on an office day. I’ll see how it goes and will update later this year.

Have you tried mindfulness? How often should I be doing it? Any tips on how to improve my experience (including not napping during sessions…)?

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January Habits

January Habits: 10,000 steps

It’s January, so it’s time to pick some habits to follow throughout the year. Some I’ve been doing for a while, some will be new. I still have room for a couple more, so let me know me know if you have any suggestions.

First off, I chose this as I thought it would be fairly straight forward and easy to measure. Looking into it further, it turns out that 10,000 steps a day is no longer the recommended amount of exercise, instead it’s three brisk 10 minute walks per day. I could change my challenge but we’re already 5 days into January and I probably do enough walking/running to meet or exceed the health target anyway, so this is more just for fun (although I don’t see why extra steps aren’t good exercise anyway).

I’ve previously noted that my normal day is between 6000 and 8000 steps unless I go for a run, so I don’t think 10000 steps is too ridiculous. I also mentioned that my watch sets a different daily target depending on whether the previous day’s goal is met or not, however I’m ignoring that for the purpose of this habit.

The aim is to do the 10,000 steps every day, but there are of course some exclusions such as being ill, having to self-isolate or otherwise being physically incapable of doing the exercise. I could come up with a definitive list of rules but I’d be bound to miss something.

As I said, we’re five days into the year so we can have a look at how I’m doing so far:

1 Jan – 16,733 – I started the new year with a 7 mile run so this one was easy to achieve.

2 Jan – 11,429 – I was planning to do a 10km walk, but shortly after starting it began to rain and I also realised I wouldn’t finish before it got dark so cut my walk very short. Fortunately my planned takeaway choice later was shut so I had to walk further to get to the next one that was open.

3 Jan – 24,499 – A 13 mile bank holiday Monday run ensured that I easily hit the step target.

4 Jan – 10,048 – This was the first day that I almost failed. Despite going out to do some chores and adding a really long diversionary walk to get home, I was only on 9500 at bedtime so I had to walk around my flat for another 500 steps. I can see this being a common occurrence if I’m not too far off the target, but hopefully not too often.

5 Jan – 17,858 – Another 7 mile run sorted it out today.

Come back later in the year to see if I can keep it up.

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January Habits

January Habits: 2021 Conclusion

Apologies for the lack of posts over the last few weeks, this has been primarily due to two reasons:

  1. I’ve been quite busy
  2. After finishing the London marathon back in October, I’ve really not felt bothered to do so

And with that general feeling of not being bothered, it’s time to look at how that’s affected my January Habits for 2021. As a reminder they were:

And unsurprisingly they have generally all dropped off over the last few months. I don’t know whether it’s having finished the marathon and not having any future goals or whether it’s the colder weather and darker days or whether it’s the returning increase in COVID cases and restrictions (or some combination of all of those factors), but I just really haven’t been feeling motivated recently.

Waking up early

This was the first habit to be ditched, disappearing quite early last year as evening events started to open up again. I do occasionally still go to bed early, but I haven’t made a habit of it. One thing that has changed is that I don’t set an alarm clock now (I mentioned this previously) which is quite freeing. I did wake up at 5.30am yesterday, but only because my neighbours were clanging around.

Exercise

I’m not going to go into much detail of my pre-marathon exercise schedule as I’ve already done that, but suffice it to say that I’ve not done as much running since and my belly is feeling it. Thinking about it now, this is probably quite a big part of my general malaise.

Cold showers

I’ve been away for a few weeks recently and I never kept up the cold showers when I was away (this was allowed within my unwritten rules). But then when I’ve been back at home I’ve just stuck with the warm showers. I have recently tried getting back into the cold showers but I’m not quite feeling it again yet.

Journaling

My only proper “brand new” habit that I introduced in 2021 and it didn’t really stick. I feel like I could have done if I put more effort into it and properly integrated it into my routine. Since the marathon I’ve only planned my weekly schedule three times. I’m not sure if that says more about the habit or just generally how I’ve been feeling. I’m not willing to write off this habit just yet and will probably give it another go in the new year.

And speaking of next year, what January Habits should I go for in 2022? Reading more books? Blogging every day (probably not that one)? Should I revisit any of them from this year? Let me know your suggestions in the comments.

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January Habits

January Habits Update: Journaling

We’re just over halfway through the year, so I’m going to review my January Habits and see how I’m getting on. This week, the final week, is Journaling.

This is another habit which I’ve (generally) kept going fairly steadily over the last few months, although to be honest I probably have slipped a bit and don’t always spend as much time on it as I could do. There has been the odd week when I’ve not felt like putting the time in on a Sunday evening to plan for the next week, but I have generally caught up. I have missed one or two weeks, including two weeks ago when I missed my weekly Wednesday evening blog post, so maybe I do need to keep at it.

In terms of content and layout, these have remained broadly similar (if you compare the below image to the one back in January). At the moment a lot of my entries are reminders of what runs I need to do in my marathon training plan, but it is quite handy to be able to see at a glance what I need to be doing that week and plan around it.

This week’s log pages (at time of writing)

The only thing that’s really changed (apart from the styling of the month in the top corner) is adding a couple more items to the tracker and modifying the colour requirements. It’s now more colourful, but I’m not sure I’m making the most of going back and comparing one week to the next.

Some weeks are better than others

I do intend to keep going with my journaling habit (such as it is), but I don’t think it’s completely embedded into my life yet. It may be that I need to tweak it slightly to make it more relevant day to day, but I’m fairly happy with it at the moment so will likely just keep going as I am.


And that’s it for my mid-year review of my January habits. Assuming I’m still blogging at that point, I’ll revisit them again in December to see if they’ve made it through a whole year (although I’ll probably combine them all into one post for a briefer overview).

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January Habits

January Habits Update: Cold showers

I know I didn’t post anything lost week. I’m sorry. Absence makes the heart grow fonder or something. Anyway, back to this week’s post…

We’re just over halfway through the year, so I’m going to review my January Habits and see how I’m getting on. This week, cold showers.

I’ve very much had a love-hate relationship with cold showers, but surprisingly this is the most consistent habit that I’ve developed. Apart from when I’ve been away staying with friends or family (such as last week, hence the lack of blog post), almost all my showers have involved cold water.

I’m probably not embracing the cold shower thing completely, but I’ve settled on a few different levels of cold shower. The coldest shower is the icy cold shower which I tend to have after I’ve been out for a run. At the warmest end is a cold-to-lukewarm shower for an after breakfast shower (an icy cold shower straight after eating isn’t so comfortable). And then all my other showers fit somewhere in between those temperatures. Even if I start with a “warmer” shower, I’ll still often turn down the temperature for the last few moments of the shower.

There’s not really much to say other than that I’ll keep going with this habit. It is surprisingly enjoyable to have a cold shower and I would recommend it to anyone (although it probably needs to be tested in the long term, rather than just a one off). I would also recommend showering in the dark. My bathroom light switch broke this week and not being able to see anything adds a whole other dimension to the shower experience.

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January Habits

January Habits Update: Exercise

We’re just over halfway through the year, so I’m going to review my January Habits and see how I’m getting on. This week, exercise.

Back in January, things were very different. Although “guidance” rather than “the law”, due to lockdown it was only allowed to do one outdoor exercise per day. Back then I was fine with only going for a short run every day as it helped keep my mental health on track for a day of working from home.

But now, things are returning to normal and I’m back in the office most days and generally just out and about more. I’m also now following a training plan for running the London Marathon in October. Suffice it to say that my short 2km run per day is no longer suitable. Today, for example, my training plan had me run 5 miles (about 8km) and yesterday was 6 miles (just under 10km). Tomorrow is another 5 miles…

I can just about fit a 50 minute (5 mile) run into my schedule before work, assuming I wake up early enough, but anything longer than that and it has to be on the way home or in the evening. And as the training plan goes on, the distances get longer too, so it becomes less likely that I’ll be able to do the exercise before work.

There’s something nice about not even having got to work and already having met the step count target for the day, but I think I am going to have to move my runs to the evening. The good news though is that I’m currently running five days a week as part of my training plan. It’s not the every day that I mentioned in my original January Habits plan, but rest days are important too. I would say I’m still on schedule with this habit. And I’m fine with that.

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January Habits

January Habits Update: Waking up early

We’re just over halfway through the year, so I’m going to review my January Habits and see how I’m getting on. First off, waking up early.

I actually quite liked waking up early, but I never quite fully got into the routine of it. I would just about get used to waking up early and then something would disrupt my pattern and I would be back to waking up later again.

I think the main problem was that I didn’t have any incentive to wake up early. Yes, some days I would go for a run (more on that next week), but on the other days I didn’t really have anything productive to do. I did have a few ideas of things to do, but being sat in front on the computer first thing in the morning isn’t what I want to do (I realise I could do other things but that’s what most of ideas revolved around).

The other problem is that real life started to occur. Back in January, everything was locked down and my bedtimes/waketimes weren’t impacted by anything else. Since then though, things like seeing friends, going to the pub, going to the running club, are all things that are done in the evening. And if I stay up later for these things, I don’t want to be waking up early in the morning too.

I have however taken away some things from this experiment. I do still go to bed earlier and wake up earlier than I used to, but not *as* early as I was back in January. And I do still get my 7.5-8 hours sleep every night (I also don’t set an alarm clock now, but maybe that’s a different story). But it feels like a good balance to me.

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January Habits

January Habits: Journaling

It’s January, and whilst I don’t particularly do New Year’s Resolutions, I thought this month I would share some habits I’ve recently started and want to continue with.

I first came across bullet journaling in a BBC News article in August 2019 about someone who had used it to save enough money to buy a house. Essentially the premise of bullet journaling is making quick journal entries (aka “bullets”) for tasks/events/notes and managing these between a series of “collections” and logs. It sounds quite complex (and it is a bit), but supposedly once in the flow you can use it to organise everything (including finances, hence the house saving). You can read the full how it works here.

I liked the idea of this, so I started in September 2019 following the official bullet journal rules with a ‘future log’, a ‘monthly log’ and some collections. It all started off quite well, but I soon dropped the longer term elements and just did the ‘daily logs’.

My first ‘Monthly log’ and my ‘tracker’ which only got to day 4…
My daily log pages from September 2019, back when we could go places…

However, I missed out a lot of days and rather than being a forward planning tool, it ended up being a record of what I’d done (or what I could remember I’d done) and I gave up in February. Fast forward to August and I decided to try again. At first I just kept the daily log format similar to how I had been, but then in October last year after researching other people’s BuJo layouts online, I settled on a new weekly format. And with a couple of tweaks it’s what I’ve been using ever since.

This week’s log pages (at time of writing)

My new setup uses a double page for each week which I set up on the Sunday evening beforehand. It takes about 10-15 mins each week to draw the lines and do the initial filling in, but I’m actually quite enjoying doing it. I still use my phone calendar for longer term events, but being able to see one week ahead just seems to work for me. It’s also quite nice to spend five minutes at the end of each day to reflect on how that day was and what I’ve done (or not!). Although not wanting to when I’m tired and wanting to go to bed is probably one of the hardest things about this, although I am trying to do it everyday.

At the moment, most of the items are basic household tasks such as “buy bread/milk” (tomorrow’s only task!), but ticking off items is also quite cathartic and I often add mundane items just so I can mark them as done. Hopefully one day soon I’ll be able to go back to putting in exciting events that are happening and places I’m going to. I’ve also thought that I should use it to track emotions/mood, but that’s one I’ve still to work out. At least I can now tick off “write blog post” for this week.


So that’s it for January habits for 2021. Has anything interested you that you might want to try? Anything else I should be doing? Let me know in the comments. I’ll revisit these later in the year (probably July or December) to let you know if I’ve kept them up!