Please don’t hate me for pointing these bad habits out to you. I do it without judgement whatsoever. I sincerely wish you the best life, which is why I write these articles. I always come from a place of love and if you decide to take action I know it will make a BIG difference in your life as it has in mine.
I don’t believe there is a secret to life nor do I believe in waiting for inspiration or motivation before doing something. I do believe however in a number of incremental changes that you can make to your habits that compound over time to build a great life, brick-by-brick, day-by-day.
BAD Habit #1: Snacking on food all day
Your body has an intelligence where it naturally heals itself and constantly regenerates and repairs, not just when you are sleeping but also when you go hungry. If you are constantly snacking, you never allow your body to enter this state. Scientists are now discovering that our bodies are not genetically designed to continuously eat. We need to go hungry and this has been our way of life for thousands of years. We ate, we rested and then we hunted and gathered, but in between we went hungry, often. Today we call that ‘fasting’.
We have a primal switch to consume food when it is available. The problem is that food is available everywhere at any time. Look, don’t get me wrong, I love my food experiences. I am not saying abstain from food but allow yourself to go hungry by not eating between meals. You should allow 3-5 hours between each meal depending on how large the previous meal was. Instead of setting a time period, it’s best to not eat until you actually feel the hunger in your stomach.
BAD Habit #2: Snacking on Technology/Social Media
Having your phone on you the whole time, checking texts, emails, posts and getting constantly distracted by other notifications is an extremely poor habit that you MUST break. It has dire consequences on your cognitive performance and your relationships, especially if you have children. I have been talking about the harmful impact of pop-up notifications since 2010 but now the impact is a lot worse because it is overlaid by the highs and lows of social media ‘likes’ and the inevitable social comparisons people make. It is very damaging to your physical, mental and emotional health on so many levels. I recommend the highly acclaimed work of Georgetown University Professor Cal Newport called Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distrated World.
· To do deep work you need to do a digital detox twice a day not once a year. Leave your phone behind whenever you get the chance. I do this when I am jogging, in the gym, shopping for groceries, attending meetings, cooking and in the bedroom. You need to make a point of detoxing for 20 mins twice a day, every day. And switch off your phone after 9pm at home.
· Disable your email notifications on your laptop. In her research paper titled Why is it so hard to do my work?, Professor Leroy from University of Minnesota, found that people are less productive when they are constantly moving from one task to another instead of focusing on one thing at a time. She called it ‘attention residue’ and it is a real problem if you are trying to be effective and efficient. Otherwise you are wasting a lot of precious time trying to re-focus after the interruption and this reduces your ability to finish the task quickly and effectively. Which means you need to work longer hours for a sub-optimal result. This is time that could be spent socialising with family and friends.
BAD Habit #3: Shallow Breathing
Why is this a bad habit? Shallow breathing triggers your sympathetic nervous system because it tricks your body into thinking that you are under attack, i.e. fight or flight response. The problem with this state is that you cannot digest your food, sleep or do good work. The other problem with shallow breathing is that it builds up toxins in your body. How? Next time your naturopath talks you into a detox program of herbal tonics and juice fasts, you may want to remind them that 70% of the toxins in our body are expelled by the lungs during proper exhalation. The other 30% through sweating and elimination (number 1’s and 2’s). Breathing deeply is easy and its free!
These are the usual triggers for shallow breathing:
· driving in traffic
· at your laptop or pc
· on your iPad or iPhone
· sitting for long periods especially in meetings
· when you are doing things in a hurry
· when you are focusing on external things
· whenever you are stressed
· watching dramatic movies
The solution: It can be very difficult to catch yourself shallow breathing because you will usually do it when you are deep in thought. The next best thing is to set an alarm reminder every hour to stop, revive, survive. Revive by breathing in through the nose for 4 seconds, holding it for 5, and breathing out for 6 through your mouth. Do these 4 times every hour. It only takes 60 seconds every hour and is a whole lot cheaper than buying detox programs.