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.

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.

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.

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!

January Habits

January Habits: Cold showers

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.

Until November I had only had a cold shower maybe two or three times: when I was 15 and staying in a 1960s scout hut, and a few years ago when my boiler stopped working. However, since November I have had a cold shower every day. But why?

I measured the water temperature at 10 degrees (Celcius), but I think it does fluctuate slightly

A few months before I came across a YouTuber saying that cold showers had changed their life. I did some more internet research and found loads more people saying how they had started having cold showers and it had improved their lives. According to people on the internet, it’s better for your skin/hair, helps weight loss, improves testosterone and loads of other stuff whereas some people just claim it’s all pseudoscience. I’m not sure if any of those are true, but they’re not the reason I’m doing this anyway.

I still secretly hope the water will be warm when I stick my toes in and I’m slightly disappointed when it isn’t. The first few seconds are horrible, but after that, and once the whole body is under the water, it feels absolutely fine. In fact, it feels better than just fine. Rather than just “having a shower” every day, I now feel like I’ve achieved something each day. And that small win first thing in the morning is definitely something that’s needed in these hard times…

January Habits

January Habits: Exercise

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.

One of the hardest parts of being in self-isolation was not being able to go outside to exercise. I’ve occasionally gone for a run first thing, but along with waking up earlier, I wanted to make this into more of routine. I’ve noticed previously that days that have started with a run have generally felt much better. Even I’ve mentally forgotten by the time I’ve gotten into the office that I started the day with a run, the psychological benefits last throughout the whole day.

And so I decided that every day should start with a run. Nothing complicated, generally just a simple run around my block (which is just over 2km). You may recall that I ran 5km every day back in September, so I knew it wasn’t impossible. I wasn’t going to run on weekends as I like to do my longer runs then, but even after only a couple of weeks, it already feels very odd to have breakfast without having been for a run first.

There is however a big challenge. Now we’re back in lockdown, exercise outdoors is only allowed once per day. A 2km run first thing in the morning is fine if I’m heading into the office afterwards, but if I’m working from home and only allowed out once per day, do I really want it to just be for a 2km run around the block? And what about days when I want to do a longer run anyway?

And that’s partly why this new habit is “exercise” rather than “running”. Whilst a 2km run first thing is nice (mainly for the smugness of being up and about before everyone else is up), sometimes it’s not going to be the best option for that day. And so if that means my daily exercise is staying in with a Joe Wicks workout video, or meeting a friend for a long walk, that’s fine too. Just as long as I try to do something every day.

January Habits

January Habits: Waking up early

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.

For a long time I’ve been thinking that I should wake up earlier as that’s what they say super-successful people do, you know “early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”. It’s not that I’m particularly lazy or sleep in late – I normally wake up between 6.30 and 7.15 and out of bed sometime between 6.45 and 7.30. But from that, it might be obvious that I’ve never had a particularly consistent routine.

The main drivers behind this have been having more time for exercise (more on this next week) and for reading the Bible/reflecting on it. I’ve previously been able to do one or the other occasionally, but it’s always felt rushed before I go to work and I really wanted to have more time to focus. Additionally, I’ve often felt like my evenings are unproductive with a lot of wasted time on Netflix/YouTube/general internet browsing. So hopefully this shift of time to the morning will reduce that.

I’ve always been a firm believer in getting a good 7.5-8 hours of sleep every night, so the hardest part with this new habit is actually going to bed earlier, not the waking up earlier. Related to this, I’ve also started charging my phone in the other room so this should give me more reason to not just lie in bed and browse the internet (either in the evening or in the morning). At some point I’ll need to become stricter and specify an actual time that I won’t use my phone before/after as it’s still a bit flexible at the moment.

I trialled this habit back in December with a 6.15am wake-up, but self-isolation and then Christmas disrupted that. I’m back on it again now, with a 6.05am wake-up, but I think I still need to move it forward a bit more. I’m just still trying to get used to idea of having to go to bed at 9.30pm…

Anyway, what do you think? Is deliberately waking up early something you’ve tried? Any suggestions for other habits I should try?