Build Good Habits

Why is it important to build good habits?

Because they are the foundation for how you live your life.

From the moment you wake up, your mind controls your body based on the conscious and subconscious habits you have formed over time. These can be beneficial, like brushing your teeth every morning, or they can be detrimental, such as chewing your nails when you get anxious.

Building good habits has two critically important effects:

1. It makes it easier to do the things that are hard.

When a behavior becomes a habit, not doing an action causes a bit of pain. By building habits around actions that require significant effort, you can reduce the associated perceived effort.

Things that many consider to be good habits, like exercising regularly and eating well, can be difficult to accomplish because of the amount of effort required to do them. However, when you build a habit of running every morning and eating 30 grams of protein within 30 minute of waking up, your body will actually experience a feeling of distress when you don’t do this.

Charles Duhigg explains in The Power of Habit habits have a distinct structure: they start with a cue, that leads to a routine, and gets capped by a reward . By understanding how this loop works, you can teach your brain to crave behaviors that require immense amounts of effort.

2. It frees your conscious brain from having to make decisions.

When something becomes a habit, by definition, that action becomes almost involuntary.

We also know that willpower is a finite resource, which helps explain why it’s harder to maintain discipline at the end of the day than at the beginning.

As you build habits, particularly around things that are hard and require significant willpower, your conscious brain no longer has to use the precious willpower muscle to accomplish those tasks. They become automatic. This frees your mind to focus on the important decisions you face during the day, making you more effective in everything you do.

Habits explain why Barack Obama only wears a navy or gray suit and Warren Buffet spends 80 percent of his day reading. They can’t not act in these ways.

And they’re better off for it, because by mastering your habits, you master yourself.

Meditation and Acceptance

For the last two months, I’ve been meditating every day.

I was motivated in part by my roommate who regularly meditates for hours at a time and from watching the documentary “Free the Mind: Can You Rewire the Brain Just by Taking a Breath?”, and was curious to see whether or not I would experience any of the health benefits so regularly touted. Research shows that your brain chemistry actually changes when you meditate, so I carved out a time in my morning routine for a few minutes of meditation.

There are plenty of benefits that can come from meditation, but for me, the biggest improvement I’ve experienced has been an ability to achieve a much deeper level of acceptance in my life.

The past year has brought a number of big life changes for me, including graduating from college, starting my first full time job, moving, and breaking up with a girl I had been with for almost two years. This transition has been anything but easy. One of the biggest challenges has been learning to live in the moment and accepting that my life going forward is going to be much different than it was in the past.

Meditation has helped me a great deal in achieving this acceptance. I know I am happier in my life in part because of the 10 minutes I spend each morning sitting and focusing on my breath. With each breath in, I accept the world as it is, and with each breath out I release the tension and regret that fills my head. I feel deeply relaxed at the end of each meditation and I start the day feeling calm and energized.

It can be difficult to find time in our busy lives to simply sit and be in the moment, but if you can, you won’t be disappointed.