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Triggers for Automated Habits

I've had a few friends who've gone through quitting smoking. The hard part, they say, is that certain things trigger wanting to smoke. Stressful situation? Time to smoke. Driving a car? Time to smoke. Drinking at a bar? Time to smoke. The reason that bad habits are so hard to quit is that we have these many triggers that start us down that path almost automatically. A compulsive eater might get into a stressful situation and have a hamburger halfway into their face before they even consciously think about whether or not they should be eating.

The silver lining of this nuance of human nature is that we can also harness triggers to create positive habits. Just as bad habits are so hard to break because of our triggers, good habits can be made resilient using the same mechanism. And just as bad habits are built slowly and incrementally, so are good habits.

I meditate for five minutes every day. As soon as I wake up, I grab my phone and press the start button on a five minute meditation timer. Waking up is my trigger. At first I had to remind myself to do the meditation every morning, but now I do it almost automatically. It would feel strange not to meditate. Just as a veteran smoker is likely to have a harder time quitting than a new smoker, the longer I keep my meditation habit, the easier it becomes to maintain.

There are two main types of triggers: contextual triggers and constant triggers. Waking up is a constant trigger, since I do it every single day and want to meditate every day. A contextual trigger is something that happens at an inconsistent frequency. For me, feeling tired during the day is a contextual trigger. Whenever that happens, I drink a glass of water, because I've found that sometimes I'm just dehydrated and not actually tired.

Take Your Smartphone to Bed with You

On No Status Quo

Along with exercise and nutrition, sleep is one of the primary determinants of your happiness and wellbeing. If you don't get good sleep, you will not only be tired, but also pessimistic, unmotivated, lazy or even depressed.

Research has shown that self control is a limited resource that is greatly diminished when you're exhausted. If you don't get good sleep, you are less likely to be productive and stick to your good habits (such as exercise). You are also more likely to do things that you know are bad for you (such as eating sweets).

Good REM sleep plays a critical role in the development of long term memories. If you're trying to learn anything at all, you better make sure you get enough high quality sleep.

Proper sleep is also essential for maintaining a robust immune system. If you want to be happy, healthy, smart and productive, you have must make sure you get good sleep.

Do you think that your physical health and emotional wellbeing can be considered in isolation? Think again. They both come from the same body, and they both require that you sleep well.

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