10 Jul

12 Productivity Hacks

productivity hacks; habit coaching; jennifer merchant

1. Morning Routine

The most important part of the day is the morning because the way you start your day sets the tone for the entire rest of your day. You don’t have to wake up at 5:00 am to have a successful morning but if you start your day rushing around, stressed out, and consuming negative energy from news and social media, then the rest of your day is most likely going to be about the same (i.e. rushed, stressful, negative). However, if you start your day by filling yourself up with positive energy in a relaxing way, then the rest of your day will most likely be a great one!

My current morning routine looks like this: I wake up, shower, meditate, manifest, read, and then plan my schedule/top priorities for the day. If you’d like to read more about my tips on creating your own morning routine, check out my article (morning routine article).

2. Evening Routine

The second most important part of the day is how you end your day because, in order to have a successful morning routine, you really need to have an evening routine in place. A successful morning starts the night before. An evening routine should consist of relaxing activities that let your body know it is time to wind down and prepare for sleep. You want to make sure that you can get to sleep at a time where you can get your 7-8 hours of sleep before you move into your morning routine.

My current evening routine looks like this: do some light stretches, write in my journal, meditate, and read a book. You can read more about creating your own evening routine in my article (evening routine article).

3. Prioritize To-Do List

A to-do list can actually make you less productive if not done correctly. if you have a long to-do list for the day, you might feel pulled to do the small things that won’t take very long just so that you can start checking off some of the boxes. This might look and feel like you are being productive but it’s actually not the best way to handle your to-do list.

A better way is to take a look at everything you would like to do and chose 3 non-negotiable items, things that you HAVE to do in order to feel like you have had a successful day. You want to focus on these 3 things first and then you can move on to the next 3 things based on the level of importance, not based on how much time they will take.

This process helps with several things. First, it will help you avoid the state of analysis paralysis, where you have so many things that you need to do so instead you chose nothing or take extra time deciding what to do first. If you prioritize your to-do list, then you will know exactly what order to do things in which will save you both time and energy. Second, this process will also make your to-do list look more manageable. Rather than looking at 15 things that you need to do, you only have to look at your top 3. If you would like to read more about prioritizing your to-do list, check out my article (How to conquer any to-do list).

4. Drink Water

Our brains are about 70% water so it makes sense that if we drink more water, then our brains will function better. Most people should be getting about 8 cups of water per day but many of don’t even get close. One of the easiest things you can do to improve your energy and concentration is to drink more water. When you have more energy and concentration, you will also become more productive!

5. Eat Healthy Foods

Our food is our main energy source and if you are eating processed foods that are harder to digest then that is going to have an effect on your energy levels and ultimately your productivity. If you are eating processed food, inflammatory food, or any food that your body is sensitive to, then that is going to cause you to have less energy and also less concentration.

If you want to improve your productivity, you want to eat food that will nourish your body and your brain which are whole foods like vegetables, fruit, and clean meat. The better you eat, the more energy you will have, and the more productive you will become. Try eating nourishing foods for a week straight and see how much your productivity improves!

6. Exercise

The more we take care of our bodies, the better they work! In addition to clean eating, you should also be moving your body in some way every day. Not only will this release serotonin, a chemical that makes you feel happier, exercise also gives you more energy and concentration just like healthy food.

There is no right or wrong way to exercise so you can do whatever works best for you! I like to take short breaks every hour during the day to take a quick walk. When I get back, I always have more energy and concentration. A great goal to set is to try to get a 30-min workout in 3 times a week and 10,000 steps every day. Do this and see how your productivity increases.

7. Take Breaks

If you have heard of the Pomodoro Method, then you know how important it is to take breaks. The Pomodoro Methods suggests breaking your tasks into 25-minute time-blocks. After each time block, you take a 5-10 minute break and then start another one. After about four 25-minute sessions, you can take a longer break for 20-30 minutes. During your breaks, you want to do something unrelated to work and ideally relaxing such as breathing meditation, grabbing water or tea, or going for a quick walk.

This method is a great way to improve your productivity. When you break things into 25-minute blocks, the task becomes more manageable and less intimidating which will help you focus and move forward. If you try this method, you will most likely find that you finish tasks much quicker by eliminating distractions and “racing against the clock” in a way. You can also create your own version of this to make it work for you. Maybe instead of 25-minute blocks, you can do 45-minute blocks with 15-minute breaks.

8. Set Social Media Boundaries

One of the biggest distractions that interfere with productivity is social media and e-mail. It is challenging to concentrate on a task when you have notifications coming in from other sources that draw your attention away. One way to deal with this is to set boundaries around your social media usage and when you check your e-mail, text, phone, etc. I personally have 4 times throughout the day that I designate for my check-ins where I give myself 20 minutes. At first, I felt like I was missing important notifications but I got used to the schedule and it works beautifully.

Note: if you work at a job where you do not have the freedom to only check your e-mail and phone a few times per day, you can still do this by creating more times where you check in. For example, you could check in every hour for 10 minutes which might be sufficient and still give you 50 minutes of distraction-free time per hour.

9. Visualize Clear Goals

There is a difference between being busy and being productive. If you don’t have clear, defined goals, then you are most likely just busy. In order to be productive, you need to be doing tasks that are important and will bring you closer to the desired outcome. If you don’t have a clear destination, then it can be easy to get caught up in unimportant, time-consuming tasks that are not effective.

The best way to ensure you are being productive rather than just busy is to sit down and define where you would like to go and the steps that need to occur in order to get there. You can also clearly define tasks that are important and tasks that are unimportant. Once these things are clear, you will be able to choose what tasks to do in a more efficient and effective way.

10. Create The Environment

Your environment has a huge effect on your productivity. The best environment for one person might be completely different from the next person so it is important to understand what conditions you work best in and then adjust your environment based on that. Things to consider are music, lighting, decorations, sitting vs. standing, etc. For me, I work best with no music, bright lighting, a nice-looking area with flowers and other decorations, sitting, and in an area where there are not many people around. Your environment might be completely different.

You should also have a designated space where you do your work. For example, if you have a home office, you should only use it when you are working, not when you are surfing the internet, online shopping, or other unrelated tasks. This will help you train your brain so that when you are in your office, you automatically shift into work mode which will improve your productivity.

Note: if you like to listen to music while working, try listening to music that does not have any lyrics.

11. Self Development Every Day

30 minutes of self-development every day does wonders for productivity. Self-development is learning so it keeps your brain sharp and it also serves as motivation to keep working towards your goals. You can choose to read a book, listen to an audio-book, listen to a podcast, take an online course, or anything else that will stimulate your brain and give you new ideas to think about. I find this practice to both motivate me and keep my mind open to new ideas.

12. Play!

Last but not least, play! Counter to intuitive belief, play is one of the best things you can do to increase your productivity. If you are always working, it is very easy for your brain and your body to become burnt out and lose motivation, creativity, and stamina. However, when you make play a priority in your day, you are stimulating the creative area of your brain to help you come up with new ideas, energize you, and bring back some motivation.

The next time you find it hard to come up with an idea or find motivation, try taking some time to play a game, connect with your kids if you have them, or do anything that inspires and lights you up. When you come back to your work, you should have more energy, motivation, and ideas to help you move forward faster than you ever could without making time for play.

– Jennifer
Mindset & Habit Coach

01 May

How To Improve Your Sleep: The Power Of An Evening Routine

how to improve your sleep; jennifer merchant

Do you find yourself lying awake at night struggling to fall asleep? Do you scroll mindlessly through your social media sites while you lie in bed? Do you find yourself exhausted and frustrated throughout your days due to lack of sleep?

If this sounds like you, I used to be in your exact position.

I could never fall asleep and once I did, I typically didn’t sleep well or feel rested the next morning. I would lie awake thinking about all of the things that I needed to do, replay situations in my head, or stress about how little sleep I was going to get that night.

Once I implemented my evening routine, this all changed for me.

Timing is Everything

Did you know that going to sleep at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning is one of the best ways to improve your sleep?
evening routine; sleeping schedule; jennifer merchant

I used to work a chaotic schedule where some days I would have to be in at 5 am and other days I would have to work until 3 am. Needless to say, I did not have a sleep schedule and I went to sleep at completely different times every night.

This led to me having many sleepless nights and it would typically take me at least an hour or more to fall asleep.

Once I started going to sleep and waking up within 1 hour of the same time every day, my sleep dramatically improved within 1 week!

I always recommend this simple change for anyone who has trouble falling asleep or getting good quality sleep because it is simple and highly effective!

The next thing that I recommend is setting up a “power-down hour” in your evening routine!

My Evening Routine

I spend an hour before I go to sleep each day reading, writing in my journal, meditating, and stretching to calm my mind and body and wind down from the day. I also turn off all electronics and stay off of social media!

These simple changes have dramatically improved my sleeping habits. Now, when I lie down to go to bed, I actually feel tired and fall asleep within 10-15 minutes typically.

Also, I now have more energy, focus, and enjoyment throughout my days and no longer stress about not being able to get to sleep.

If you would like to create your own evening routine, the most important part is to find activities that relax you and do them for at least 1 hour before you would like to fall asleep. Some ideas would be meditating, writing, drawing, stretching, cleaning, or anything else that would help relax you.

If you would like additional ideas on what to do in your own evening routine, check out my post, 3 Simple Daily Habits That Could Improve Your Life.

Some things that should not be in your evening routine are watching TV, using your phone, computer or any other electronics, and anything else that hypes you up or stresses you out.

Why Can’t I Use Electronics?

One of the things that can interfere the most with sleep is the blue light that comes off of our electronics.

The blue light suppresses the production of melatonin which is the main hormone that signals to your body that it is time to slow down and go to sleep.

There a few ways to deal with this if you want to improve the quality of your sleep.

I prefer to take a break from all screens and electronics for at least 1 hour before I plan to go to sleep. This not only helps with the blue light problem, but it also helps me calm down from a long day and allows me and my brain to simply relax and wind down.

If you don’t think a 1-hour break from screens is manageable in your own life, there are blue light blocking glasses that you can buy on Amazon for about $20 for a decent pair which will do the trick as well.

Since I stopped using screens an hour before bed, my sleep quality has definitely improved! I used to lay in bed for what seemed like hours before finally falling asleep. Now, I can typically fall asleep in 10-15 minutes!

If you do not currently have either of these things in place, I would highly suggest it!

Other Tips To Improve Sleep

After you start going to sleep and waking up around the same time, implement a calming evening routine, and stop using electronic for one hour before you go to bed, you should notice a dramatic increase in your quality of sleep.

However, if you would like to make even more improvements, here a few more things that you could implement as well:

  1. Stop working out 3 hours before you go to sleep.
  2. Stop drinking alcohol at least 2 hours before you go to sleep
  3. Stop eating 2-3 hours before you go to sleep.

I’m sure by now you are going to want to implement some of these things into your own evening routine! Make sure you grab my FREE Goal Setting & Habit Implementation workbook to help you implement these new habits!

– Jennifer
Mindset & Habit Coach

03 Apr

Your Toxic Relationship With Social Media

Social media; social media boundaries; internet boundaries; jennifer merchant

Setting Boundaries

Do you have boundaries set up around social media? If not, this may interest you!

I used to use social media to distract me from literally everything!

If I was bored, I would get on social media.

If I was sad, I would get on social media.

If I was waiting in any type of line, I would get on social media.

If I was busy and had a million things to do but didn’t know what to work on first, I would get on social media. (I think we can all relate to this one!)

Plus, I had all of my notifications turned on so everytime someone commented, liked something, shared something, or did anything on my social media, I would open it up to check instantly! This was really addicting and I never even realized how bad it was until I tried to stop.

I started by turning off all of my notifications but then I just found myself checking constantly to see if there was anything new.

So, I decided to create boundaries for my social media usage.

social media; internet boundaries; jennifer merchant

Now, I have specific times during the day designated to checking social media. If it is not one of those time, then I don’t let myself on to check anything. If I come up with an awesome post, I wait until my social media time to post it.

At first, these changes were excruciating! I felt like I was missing out on something important that would happen and I might miss out. But after a few days, I loved my new boundaries!

I was getting so much more done because the distraction wasn’t an option for me anymore. I literally had nothing else to do other than work on my work. I also found so much more enjoyment in the time that I spent with my friends and family by not being distracted by my phone the whole time!

I won’t lie, I’m not perfect at sticking to my boundaries, but having them in place has helped me find so much more time and energy for myself throughout my days that I never even knew I was lacking before!

Your Signal to Sign Off

Do you ever find yourself comparing your life to the lives everyone else portrays on social media? This used to happen to me all the time! I would spend so much time on social media that I would become jealous of other people’s lives or start to compare myself to them which would make me feel just plain crappy.

Now that I have set boundaries around my social media usage, this doesn’t happen nearly as often and I have become much more in love with my own life! But once in a while, the negative thoughts and comparisons still creep in and I know that I have been on social media for too long.

social media boundaries; jennifer merchant

Once my thoughts start to change from “Wow, that’s such a great picture of her” to “Why can’t I be as pretty as her?” or from “She is crushing her new business!” to “I’ll never be as successful as her”, I know that it’s time to GET OFF!

The difference is that now I am much more aware of my thoughts when they start to become negative and I get off rather than allowing myself to continue down that path.

The truth is, I love my life and I wouldn’t change it for anything but sometimes I forget that when I see all the awesome things everyone else is doing and I have to refocus myself!

When you find yourself heading towards the negative thoughts and comparisons, I would encourage you to take a break and think about all the awesome things you love about your own life!

If you would like some suggestions on how you can spend your downtime other than social media, check out my post 3 Simple Daily Habits That Could Improve Your Life to get some suggestions!

Is this something that you struggle with?

I would encourage you to go on a social media “cleanse” or set some boundaries for yourself and see how it feels once you give it a few days!

Do you let your social media boss you around or do you have boundaries set in place?

Mindset & Habit Coach

06 Mar

How Meal Prepping Can Save You Time and Energy

meal prep, jennifer merchant, mindset and habit coach

One habit that helps me tremendously in my personal life and my business is meal prepping! I try to stick to a healthy diet and eat whole, unprocessed foods as often as possible. The only problem with this is that in order to stick to this diet, it requires being able to cook all of my meals. Gone are the days of frozen pizza and quick microwave dinners!

While my health is important to me, my time is precious as well. This is why I love meal prepping so much. Meal prepping for the week cuts down on the time that I have to prepare and cook dinner when I come home from work which gives me more time to relax with my family and work on my business. Before I started meal prepping, I would have to spend at least one hour getting dinner together every night if I wanted to keep it healthy.

Here are some reasons why I love meal prepping:

  1. My health is a priority in my life and meal prepping allows me to have healthy options available.

I used to have terrible digestion issues, stomach cramps, and reactions to food that I ate ALL THE TIME! This was because of all of the processed foods, sugar, dairy, and gluten that I was consuming on a daily basis. Meal prepping allows me to have healthy meals on hand so I don’t have to fall back into my old bad habits of heating up a pizza or microwaving a frozen dinner that I know would cause me to have a bad reaction.

Health is one of the most important things in your life. If you don’t have your health, it will make everything in your life more difficult. When I was having bad reactions to food, it would put me in a bad mood which would affect my relationships and I also just felt sick all the time which put a damper on my productivity levels. Meal prepping makes sure that I always have healthy options available so that when I don’t have time to cook, I do not have to choose an unhealthy option.

2.  I can dedicate more time to things that matter most

Meal prepping saves me from having to spend time cooking dinner every night so that I can instead use that time to enjoy relaxing and connecting with my family, working on my business, and exercising. I like to go the gym after work so by the time I get home, it is typically close to 7pm. When I have to spend an hour or more cooking dinner, I am left with no time for myself. However, when I prep my meals for the week, I have that additional hour to spend on things that matter most to me without jeopardizing my health.

Meal prepping is super simple because I just make larger portions of what I would already make anyways so it doesn’t really add that much time on the days that I prep either. Since I would already have to gather the ingredients and clean up anyways, it does not add a significant amount of time on the days I like to prep my meals, which is typically Sunday afternoons for me.

Tips for meal prepping:

  1. Prepare the basics

I personally do not prep entire meals. I prefer to make basic items that typically take longer to cook during my meal prep sessions and then supplement other ingredients throughout the week to make meals. For example, I typically make up a large batch of brown rice, beans, and chicken on Sundays because I can use those as the base for my meals throughout the week. Then, when it is time to cook, I just have to saute up whatever veggie I am in the mood for that night and I am able to make a meal that would typically take an hour or more to make into a 10-15 minute thing. I prefer this method because I am able to mix up my meals throughout the week based on what I am in the mood for.

2. Have easy to cook veggies on hand

Vegetables are one thing I do not like to cook ahead of time because they do not taste the same to me as leftovers. I like to have easy to cook vegetable in the fridge at all times like broccoli, spinach, kale, or green beans that I can saute or steam quickly to add to my prepped ingredients. I also like to have celery, carrots, and fruit on hand for those times when I need an extra snack so that I cannot be tempted with sweets or other unhealthy choices.

3.  Make a soup or a stew

One thing that I love to make ahead is a soup or a stew. They stay good all week and I can make enough to last 2-3 meals easily. I like to make crock-pot dinners because I can make larger amounts that I can take for lunch or use for dinner. This is one of the easiest things to prep because there is not much effort needed after the preparation stage. I also like to make soup or stew midweek because I can let it cook while I am at work and I’ll have dinner ready for me when I get home and leftovers for the rest of the week as well!

Meal prepping is one habit that I use in my life to create more time and freedom for myself during the week to spend on things like my family, hobbies, and business. It typically does not take too much additional time and I save more time than I spend doing it! I like to prep the basics so that I am still able to have variety in my meals throughout the week and that works the best for me.

If you’re interested in meal prepping, you can create your own system that works for you and your schedule. Some people like to prep entire meals and have them ready to grab and go each day for lunch and dinner and that is a great option as well!

Do you use meal prepping so that you can dedicate more of your precious time towards your family, hobbies, or business?

Mindset & Habit Coach

06 Feb

One Habit to Help You Conquer Your To-Do List

how to accomplish a to-do list; conquering a to-do list; to do list and task manager; best to do list manager; jennifer merchant; mindset and habit coach; task organization

Do you ever get overwhelmed by your to do list? You might have 15 items on your list but you only have time to get to 8 of them. So, how do you chose which ones get done and which ones do not?

Luckily, there is a simple habit that you can implement in your life to help you deal with this. Each morning when I plan my day, I choose the top three most important things that need to be done on my to-do list and make them my first priority. This way, I know exactly where to focus my attention and I can make sure that the things that really matter will get accomplished and not rushed.

I find it helpful to finish my most important tasks first thing because then I will not be stressed out for the rest of the day and can tackle the lesser important items on my to-do list. If I have a really long to-do list for the day, I might even go through and prioritize the rest of the items on the list. This ensures that if I do not finish everything, I can just push the other items to the next day since they were the least important.

The habit of prioritizing your top three to-do’s is helpful for everyone and is one tool that can help you conquer a long, stressful to-do list. When you finish the most important tasks of the day, you will be encouraged to continue your progress and less stressed throughout the day. Once I started prioritizing my tasks, I become much more productive. I used to spend time between each task thinking about what I should do next, but now I already know!

Your challenge for the next few weeks is to choose the top 2 priorities you need to accomplish that day and make sure you accomplish them! I think you will find this simple habit very helpful, I know I did!

Mindset & Habit Coach

P.S. – Make sure to subscribe and receive your FREE Habit Implementation workbook and updates sent directly to your e-mail!

30 Jan

5 Habits to Build Your Confidence

How to build confidence; How to become more confident; 5 habits to build confidence;

One thing that I used to struggle with the most (and still do at times) is my confidence. I was the person who preferred to sit alone because I was so shy and didn’t want to have to interact with others. But then I realized how much I actually love making genuine connections with other people! Over time, I have implemented habits in my life that have helped me grow my confidence and feel much more comfortable with myself and interacting with others!

Here are the 5 habits that have effected me the most:

1. Expressing Gratitude Towards the World and Myself.
Finding three things to be grateful for each morning is a very common practice and one that many people do but I put a little twist on mine. Each morning when I wake up, not only do I find three things that I am thankful for, I also find one thing about myself that I love too! This has helped build my confidence on so many levels! Most of the time, we criticize ourselves and focus on what we could have done differently or better but the practice of finding one thing I like about myself each morning has made me much happier with the person that I am.

For example, this morning I was proud of myself for going to a yoga class for the first time by myself (a big accomplishment for me!). Other days, it may be as simple as “I like my hair.” The important part is to see yourself in a positive way each day to start building your own confidence.

2. Self-Care and Pampering
Another habit that has improved my confidence levels is actually taking the time to take care of myself each day. The main way I do this is through my morning routine. My morning routine is full of self-care activities including journaling, reading, sitting in front of my light therapy lamp (especially in the winter), and a series of ayurveda rituals (including dry brushing, tongue scraping, and oil-massaging). This morning ritual ensures that I spend each morning taking care of myself so I can be in a good mood for the rest of the day.

I also love painting my nails and doing my make-up occasionally as well. When my nails looks all fancy, it makes me happy, so I try to have them painted as much as possible. I’ve also noticed that as much as I love doing my make-up, it is now more of a treat rather than a chore. I used to be self-conscious without make-up but now I typically do not wear it on an everyday basis because I’ve grown to like how I look naturally. Now, I wear make-up when I feel like being “fancy” but not to hide myself.

3. Exercise
Exercising also increases my confidence levels for many different reasons. The first and obvious one is that the more you exercise, typically the more in shape you are, but there is so much more to it than that. When I exercise, the endorphins that are released put me in a better mood throughout the day which raises my overall vibration and my confidence. I notice that the happier I am, the easier it is to be confident and also connect with other people.

Exercise also gives me more energy and helps me to not feel bloated or groggy. When I feel good physically, I feel good mentally and have more confidence! Plus, I get to be proud of myself for sticking to my routine and make new friends in the process by going to classes or the gym!

4. Accepting Compliments
This habit is probably one of the most difficult but important ones. We, especially as females, are conditioned to downplay our achievements and block compliments. For example, when someone compliments my work on a project and I come back with “oh, it was simple” even though I worked really hard on it, or when someone says I look pretty and I reply with “no way, I just rolled out of bed!” By deflecting compliments, you minimize your own achievements.

Now, I try my best to accept any compliment that someone gives me and just say “thank you.” It sounds simple, but when I do not deflect compliments, I am actually able to agree with what the other person said and soak it in a little more. It actually is okay to feel proud of something you worked hard on and it is okay to feel pretty whether you put work into it or not! Once I started fully accepting my compliments, I was able to become way more confident with myself!

5. Celebrating My Accomplishments
This habit is similar to accepting compliments but a little different because it doesn’t have to involve anyone else. I don’t know about you, but I’m the type of person that once I accomplish something I am already focusing on the next big goal or task at hand. We often focus on all of the things we need to do or didn’t get to yet, but seldom focus on everything we have accomplished so far. It’s important to celebrate wins just as much as it is important to plan for more wins!

For example, at the end of 2017, I went through and listed everything that I accomplished throughout the year, and that list was long! But before I made the list, I had forgotten all about those things and was only thinking about things I wish I had accomplished. Before I made that list, I was worried that I wasn’t as far as I should be or I didn’t do as much as other people but after I made the list, I was astonished at how far I had come in just one year and encouraged to keep going! Now, I have an accomplishment board to put big things on which encourages me to keep doing things that will add to it.

All five of these habits have made me happier, healthier, and more confident in myself and how I interact with other people. Of course, I still have work to do but like I said, it’s important to celebrate how far you have come! I hope these habits and tips can help you grow your own confidence and love for yourself!

Mindset & Habit Coach

16 Jan

How to Use Habits to Accomplish Your Goals

using habits to accomplish goals; daily habit forming; how to form daily habits; how to create routines; how to accomplish a goal

So, you have this big goal that you set for yourself and you have tons of motivation and drive to accomplish it, but a week later you are so busy with other things that come up and you haven’t made any progress or taken any steps towards your goal. Now, what?

The problem is that most of our goals are set for the future, but sometimes we get caught up in the now because it seems so pressing that we forget to work towards our goals in the future. The momentum that we had when we first set those goals starts to fizzle out and we don’t get any closer to accomplishing them than we were before we set them.

However, there is something we can do to stop this momentum from leaving us. Every time I set a goal, I set up and implement daily or weekly habits that I can do that will bring me closer to accomplishing that goal every day. By creating daily habits that support my goals, it takes the guesswork out of what I need to do in order to accomplish it and it also makes sure that I am taking small steps each and every day.

So, how do you create habits in your life that support your goals?

  1. Define you goal. For example, my goal is to live a healthy lifestyle.
  2. Find someone who has accomplished your desired results and see what they do on daily basis. For example, since my goal is to live a healthy lifestyle, I will look at people who I think live a healthy lifestyle and see what they do.
  3. Based on your findings, chose three habits from that person or lifestyle that you will implement into you routines. For example, since my goals is to live a healthy lifestyle and I see healthy people eating whole foods, exercising, and getting good sleep, then I will chose to incorporate those three things into my daily habits and routine as well.
  4. Schedule your habits into your life. For example, I will eat a whole foods diet and allow myself two cheat meals a week, I will go to the gym three times a week, and I will get eight hours of sleep every night.
  5. Track your habits. For example, now that I have defined and scheduled my habits, I will keep track of how many cheat meals I have per week, how many times I go to the gym, and how many times I get eight hours of sleep.

Tracking your habits is important so you know whether you are staying on track or not. I find this process extremely helpful in making sure that I am taking steps towards my future goals. By implementing habits that support my goals into my schedule, I no longer have to think about what I need to do, it is already decided and set up for me.

Once you have this system in place, you will be able to accomplish your goals even after the motivation that you had when you first set them has disappeared.

02 Jan

Meditation and How it Can Help You

what is meditation; how to meditate; benefits of meditation; meditation and stability

One of the best ways to find mental clarity is to use meditation. I used to not be a fan of meditation. When I was younger I thought it was boring and there was no point to it. However, recently I’ve been trying out different methods of meditation to see what works best for me. Now, I find meditating very soothing and beneficial. I do both guided and unguided meditation but I prefer the guided meditation that talks you through it. The background sounds give me something to focus on to stop my mind from racing. However, I also practice unguided meditation occasionally, I just have to focus more which is also beneficial.

Here are some of my tips for practicing meditation:

  • Try meditating for at least 10 minutes – the first five minutes for beginners is typically just getting your mind cleared
  • Find a quiet place where you know you can be uninterrupted for those 10 minutes – or longer if you choose so
  • Sit up in a comfortable but solid position with a straight back – if you are too comfortable during your meditation exercise, you may be tempted to fall asleep.
  • Repeat a relaxing word, such as “calm”, over and over in your head slowly or focus solely on your breathing
  • Use a guided meditation app

Guided Meditation
I recently discovered an app called Calm that I use for my meditations. This app allows you to choose a theme for your meditation from finding happiness, managing stress, calming anxiety, or several other options. It also gives a certain number of days for each program set which encourages me to participate every day like working towards a goal. Even if you are not a fan of guided meditation, you can still use this app to time and track your meditation exercises.

At first, meditation felt like it takes too long and the time went by very slow, but once I was able to successfully quiet my mind, I didn’t even realize those 10 minutes had passed. I typically meditate at night for at least 10 minutes and once I finish, I almost always have a sense of peace and relaxation for the rest of the evening. I have also noticed several other benefits from meditating.

Benefits of meditation:

  • I feel very relaxed afterwards
  • If I meditate before I go to sleep, I fall asleep much faster and easier
  • I became more aware of how much my mind wanders away from the present throughout my days
  • I was able to control my thought digressions better when I noticed I was becoming distracted
  • I am able to focus on positive thinking more frequently

While I was able to notice the first three benefits within the first few days of meditating, the last two took a little longer to notice the effects. After you meditate daily for a couple weeks you will begin to notice when your mind is drifting off to a place other than your present activity and be able to rein it back in. This will allow you to enjoy the present reality more. You may also find that your thoughts become more positive because you are able to enjoy the present rather than stressing out about something in the past, in the future, or something you cannot control. By meditating and paying attention to your thought patterns, you will be much more equipped to keep a positive mindset throughout your days.

I would encourage you to try meditating once a day for at least 10 minutes for a month and see how you feel. The biggest struggle with this will be fully participating in the exercise rather than just going through the motions. I found that I enjoy meditating at night but you can choose any time of day that works best for you. Try to pay attention to your thoughts throughout the day when you are not meditating and gear them more towards positive thinking rather than negative thinking.

12 Dec

Using Routines to Add Structure to Your Life

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One of my favorite habits that I have are my routines! The thing I love the most about routines is that they create structure and stability in this crazy thing called life. I have many different routines throughout my day but the most important two are my morning routine and my bedtime routine. I find that the way I start and end my days has a huge influence over how the rest of my day will go. I try to make sure I have beneficial activities in my routines that make me feel energized, positive, and motivated.

My morning routine:

The most important part of a morning routine is the time you decide to wake up. If you wake up at the same time every day, you will have more energy and get better sleep. For these reasons, I choose to wake up at 6am every day. After I wake up, I meditate and read in front of my blue light. My blue light, also considered a happy light, is a UV light that is designed for you to use within the first hour that you wake up. The UV rays act like the sun and help you wake up naturally but it also releases serotonin which can raise your energy levels and help with seasonal depression. I try to keep my light on for 20-30 minutes each morning. Typically, I will do a 12-15 minute meditation and then read for another 15 minutes. After I read, I take my shower, get ready for my day, and take my vitamins. I also try to eat a light, easy to digest breakfast such as a shake or oatmeal.

My morning routine has changed over time and that is okay. Routines can be changed as long as you still have a routine. I love knowing exactly how my mornings will go each day. Having that solid foundation creates a great start to my day and I have found that my energy levels are raised all day long. My routine is especially important for me during the winter months when I find my energy levels are depleted and I could stay in bed all day if I let myself.

My bedtime routine:

My bedtime routine is also extremely important to me. I like to fill the hour before I go to sleep with relaxing activities that slow down my body and my mind. This helps me fall asleep so much easier when I finally decide to lay down. Similar to the morning routine, it is very beneficial to go to sleep at the same time every night. This type of schedule lets your body know exactly when it should start the recovering process each day. I choose to go to sleep at 10pm. I also make sure to stop using all my devices for one hour before I go to sleep. This helps with the damaging blue light that can interfere with your sleep and it also allows me to detach myself from the outside problems.

The first thing I like to do during my bedtime routine is to journal. I find that putting everything that I am thinking about down in my notebook allows me to process my emotions and start to calm my racing mind. After journaling, I like to do some stretches before I go to bed. I stretch for about 5-10 minutes and just do simple things to relax my muscles and de-stress from my day. Then I like to read again for about 15-30 minutes. By this time, I am usually calm and relaxed and can fall right asleep once I lay down in my bed.

By implementing morning and bedtime routines, I found that I fall asleep and wake up easier, I get better sleep, and I have more energy throughout my days. My body thrives on routines and even though some mornings I wake up and the last thing I want to do is get out of bed, I know how beneficial it is to keep my structure.

If you are someone who wants to start a new morning or bedtime routine, I would suggest starting to implement one habit at a time. If you want to eventually stretch, read, and journal each night, then start with just stretching for a few days and then add on reading. This makes it easier to eventually create a whole routine rather than not being able to commit to a full hour. And the best part is, you can have whatever you want in your own routine! Find what will give you energy throughout the day or relax you at night and then implement it to your daily routines!

What are some routines you have and how do they benefit you?

28 Nov

Eliminate Sugar From Your Diet

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One of the most crucial steps in creating a healthier lifestyle is to eliminate sugar from your diet. Sugar can effect your health in so many ways but here are just a few.  When you eat sugar, it spikes your blood sugar quickly and then just at quickly, it falls back down to below the original level that it was before you ate the sugar.  This creates hypoglycemic effects which can cause you to become tired, dizzy, get a headache, and many other negative side effects that are unwanted.  Another strike against sugar has to do with your gut bacteria.  There are good gut bacteria and bad gut bacteria and the bad gut bacteria feed off of sugar.  This means that every time you eat sugar, you are giving the bad bacteria in your gut more food to thrive on.  Your gut is the primary basis for you overall health and lacking good gut bacteria can lead to a myriad of problems such as digestion problems, stomach aches, headaches, and more long-term effects such as autoimmune diseases, weak immune systems, and many other health problems.  These are only a couple of examples of how sugar can deteriorate your health but they are more than enough to convince me to stay away!

Where is sugar in your diet?

  • candy and baked goods
  • sugar added to coffee and tea
  • juices
  • lactose in milk
  • most processed foods
  • processed grains

As you can see, sugar is highly prevalent in many of the foods that we typically eat on a daily basis.  This is why it is so difficult to cut sugar out of our diets, not to mention the fact that it is extremely addicting as well.  I know my diet used to be made up almost completely of foods that contained sugar.  Now that I have made an effort to change my eating habits, I have noticed such a difference in my overall health, energy, and mindset.  I know that it can be very challenging to stop eating sugar but I have a few suggestions that may help.

What food should you eat instead:

  • whole fruits and vegetables
  • unprocessed food

I know that it can be difficult to refrain from buying sugary foods at the grocery store, especially in the first couple weeks of cutting it out because you will have cravings, but one tip for shopping is to try your best to stick to the outside rim of the store and the produce section.  The food in the center isles is mostly processed food that will contain sugar.  By sticking to the outside isles, you will avoid most of the processed foods and you won’t get sidetracked either. This is a helpful technique but there are still certain items that you should stay away from such as milk, fruit juices high in sugar, and highly processed meats.

For the times when you need a little sweetness in your life, there are some great natural sweeteners that you can use in place of sugar.  Raw honey and maple syrup make great replacements and are just as sweet as sugar and artificial sweeteners.  You can also use Stevia as a replacement if you chose to do so.  If you make sure you have honey and maple syrup on hand, it will be much easier to stop your sugar cravings when you get them.

Here are some other simple techniques that can aid against sugar cravings:

  • Drink a large glass of water
  • Eat some veggies
  • Eat fruit
  • Eat enough throughout the day to avoid getting too hungry
  • Use one of the replacements from above (honey, maple syrup)

Cutting sugar from your diet can be a very tedious but rewarding task.  After a few weeks without sugar, you may notice an increase in energy, an increase in mood, and even a decrease in your weight!  Most people do not even realize how addicted to sugar they are until they try cutting it out of their diet because of the fact that it is so prevalent in modern food.  My best suggestion is to stick to a whole foods diet as much as possible.  Once you break your sugar addiction, it is okay to eat it once in a while, but make it a treat not an everyday part of your life.

I hope this helps you in your sugar elimination quest! Leave a comment about your thoughts or if you have any more tips for eliminating sugar!