The 5 Powerful Daily Habits

Sign that reads habits are to be made

Woman waking up in bed as the hero image of the daily habits article

By Sam Makhoul

This article is part of a series in our academy’s four-five-six system – four rituals, five habits and six life-hacks – for daily living.  Systems like this are powerful because they do not rely on motivation.

Whether you wake up feeling like crap or down on something, this daily system will keep you on track. What most of us don’t realise is that everyone on the planet experiences issues, setbacks and disappointments, some are just better equipped at managing them.

Diagram of the daily conscious living module
We have covered the four daily rituals in detail in past articles; see below. Now we swing into the five daily habits that will absolutely revolutionise your life.

If you are new to our community and have not read the rituals it is preferable you do so. Why?

Because it will be difficult for you to instil these new habits without the four daily rituals as your foundation.

Ritual #1Journaling – is the conversation you have to hold yourself accountable.
Ritual #2Movement – gets you out of your head and into your body where the state of pure consciousness lives.
Ritual #3Meditation – teaches you to be mindful and conscious of your thoughts.
Ritual #4Learning – helps you grow so you continuously tweak your habits and life hacks.

We know, we know. That is a lot of reading.

But do you remember how many hours and effort you put at school, learning Shakespeare or trigonometry? Or at university getting your degree?

How much more important are you than what you do? Your identity is not defined by what you do, but who you are.

So please take the time to learn about yourself. The ancient sears instructed us to know thy self. Why is this important?

In our personal experiences, our lives started improving dramatically when we began to learn about ourselves. That process of self-discovery is where you will discover and unleash your talents and skills.

This in turn boosts your performance in all eight areas of your life, including your work or business. Here’s how:

The Power Of 5 Daily Habits:

Image of a dream capture

We live in an era of self-actualisation where everybody has dreams but so few work on their goals. The difference?

Dreams live in the heart. They ignite passion and excitement.

Goals live in the mind. Goals are what you need to work on to achieve your dreams. (Some people describe dreams as ‘end goals’).

A dream may be to finish a degree. But the daily goals are the lectures you need to attend, the texts you have to read, the assignments you need to complete and the exams you need to pass.

A dream may be to have a loving intimate relationship. But the daily goals are the dates you need to schedule, the hours you need to listen and the support you need to give, the tolerance you need to show in times of stress and conflict.

A dream may be to have a fit and sculpted body. But the daily goal is to show up to the gym or park or oval, the waking early or staying up late to train, shopping, preparing and eating an athletic-engineered diet.

We outline this because people confuse goals with dreams. Why is it important for you to know the difference?

Goals are the tough stuff you need to do daily. Everybody gets pumped up on the dream but then lose motivation on the day to day goals they need to achieve.

So, they give up…Enter habits.

Habits are much more powerful than motivation. Habits are what drives the performance of your goals.

Habits are what gets you through the tough stuff. The work. The grind. The setbacks. The rejections. The disappointments. The energy dips. The sore and sick moments.

Why Do Humans Have Daily Habits?

Habits are an automation tool of the subconscious mind. Through the repetition of an act (that yields a reward), humans are wired to delegate tasks from the conscious mind to the subconscious mind so they end up performing a task without really thinking about it.

This delegation frees the conscious mind up to focus on new experiences, new ideas, creativity, and other important functions. You don’t want to use the conscious mind to tie your shoelaces or brush your teeth.

Waste of attention bandwidth, right? But what if we can use habits to automate actions that are tough but good for us? Really good for us.

Habits that will help you power through the toughest of times. They will get you to show up every time, rain hail or shine. Before we reveal the first important habit you must be wondering….

How Do You Cultivate A New Habit?

Through repetition and reward. Neuroscientists tell us that it takes two lunar cycles to cultivate a new habit. Roughly 60-odd days.

So, at first, it is tough but as you repeat an action it gets easier and easier. You need to persist and have willpower at first.

But to make it easier, habits will yield a strong emotional reward and this is a critical element that makes you more inclined to repeat it until you cross what scientists call the line of automaticity. This is the point where this new task goes from the conscious to the subconscious.

From there the task (and life) gets easier, not because you do not experience issues and challenges, but because you will have the toolset to deal with them. The first habit is…..

Why You Needs To Make Smiling A Daily Habit:

Two women laying down smiling

Smile on waking and smile all day. Smile as soon as you open your eyes to greet a new day.

Did you know that people who walk around with a ready-smile:

  • Are more attractive and charismatic.
  • Have more confidence.
  • Are more trusted by customers or clients.
  • Are less likely to have arguments and conflicts.
  • Are more persuasive and influential.
  • Make better leaders.
  • Have happier children and families.
  • Are more productive at work.
  • Are much less likely to suffer from seriousness, anxiety and depression.
  • Have lower blood pressure.
  • Live longer!

Smiling even boosts your immune system! The science of how our physiology impacts our thoughts and feelings has been established by many researchers.

And there is countless research specifically on the benefits of smiling (even forced smiling). But the most interesting is recent research by the University of Cardiff that showed even people who could not frown due to botox injections were happier on average than those who could frown.

Why Is Smiling On Waking Important?

The simple act of smiling on waking will set the tone for the next 16 waking hours. Science tells us that the first few seconds after we wake and the feeling we wake with stays with us all day.

How Can You Reward This Habit – So It Gets Repeated?

The benefits of smiling listed above will be reward enough. But to make it even easier here are some powerful tips.

  • Watch or listen to comedy before you go to bed – preferably before the last hour.
  • Hang out with people that are fun or funny. There is a tonne of research on the law of attraction and human mimicking behaviour. There is a tonne more showing that the majority of women prefer to marry or live with a partner who has a great sense of humour.
  • Do more fun things in your day. For a detailed list of how to have fun, read my blog, Yes but are you having fun?

How Do I Smile Without Appearing Creepy?

Image of Mr Bean

It comes down to time and place. There is a time to be serious and a time for humour.

There is a difference between child-like and childish. There is a difference between wit and just plain inappropriate conduct.

And just like any other habit you create, the more you practice smiling, the more natural it will start to feel. And then you will find yourself smiling out of pure joy. It’s not about faking it until you make it, it is about faking it until you start to become it.

Want to read the rest of this series? You can find them here:

2 More BAD Habits You MUST Break

By Sam Makhoul

Today we will cover the remaining two bad habits you need to replace. I share these with you without judgement.

We all drift in the direction of our bad habits, but by having a system for behavioural change, you can replace these habits with better ones. And so, I humbly share this content with you in the hope it will make a BIG difference in your life as it has in mine.

Bad Habit #1 – Doing Things With Haste For No Apparent Reason

In a fast world, people are now addicted to speed. This is a destructive habit that will destroy your health and relationships.

Eating, driving, working, making love, scrolling, reading, texting….everything done in haste for no apparent reason puts a lot of pressure on you and ironically makes you slow, sick and stupid. I say this with the utmost respect.

The science clearly shows that when you do things with haste the stress you put on your mind and body ironically slows you down and makes you ineffective. And the stress hormones (especially adrenalin and cortisol) surging through your system make you physically sick over time.

It will impair your digestion, you will not absorb what you eat, you will have trouble sleeping, and it’s a downhill spiral from there. A lot of people use exercise as a therapy to neutralise the effects of speed-induced-stress but the better method is to SLOW DOWN!

There is usually no reason to speed up. Almost everything we do day-to-day can wait or be done in a slower, methodical manner.

There is not one piece of research showing any benefit whatsoever from doing things quickly. As the godfather of the slow movement, Carl Honore says, “I am not anti-speed but there is a time for doing things quickly and time for slow living.”

How Do You Know You Are Addicted To Speed?

  • You get a rush from meeting self-imposed deadlines.
  • You find it difficult to sit and do nothing for more than 10 minutes.
  • You find it difficult to focus and listen to what the other person is saying.
  • You need alcohol to relax and constantly crave carbs/sweets.
  • You find it difficult to notice the beauty around you. Or you are numb to it.

The Solution:

Speed is an addiction. If you’re used to running on adrenalin, you will feel strange without it.

Here Are Some Tips To Wean Yourself Off Speed:

  • Don’t do more than one thing at a time.
  • Don’t take call waiting – in fact, you should disable this feature.
  • Don’t schedule too many meetings in a day.
  • Take at least 2 renewal breaks throughout the day to stretch, breath and meditate for 5 – 15 minutes.
  • Don’t take on too much work. Learn to say ‘no’.
  • Take a walk after work, preferably in nature. Go alone.

Bad Habit #2 – Watching TV till late for no apparent reason

A surprisingly high percentage of adults get too comfortable in front of the television and mindlessly surf channels or binge. They use this to wind down and induce sleep.

The problem with this is two-fold. Firstly, it delays your optimal going-to-bed sleep time, which depending on your chrono-type is between 9:30 pm -11 pm.

(Don’t know your chronotype? Refer to my articles on sleep starting with: How To Get The Best Sleep). Secondly, the artificial light from the TV may lull your eyes to get tired but it ironically delays the release of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin; because the light tricks your body-clock into thinking it is still daytime.

You need melatonin not only to get to sleep but to get deeper sleep; deep sleep is the most important part of your sleep cycle which detoxes your mind, body and emotions. It is the single most potent factor for you to look younger and live longer.

The Simple Solution:

We set an alarm to wake up, why not set an alarm for sleep. My meditation app Headspace has a feature which prompts you with a notification to go to bed and listen to a sleep cast, which is the equivalent of a bedtime story.

Don’t laugh, it works! Plugin your earphones in bed and I guarantee you will nod off in record time!

5 BAD Habits You MUST Break

I’d like to first bring your attention to the top BAD HABITS you need to be aware of. Today I will cover three of them.

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 – 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 consuming 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 three to five 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 – Snacking On Technology Or 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 Distracted World.

The Solution: 

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 9 pm at home. Disable your email notifications on your laptop.

In a research paper titled Why is it so hard to do my work? Professor Leroy from the 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 – 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 it’s 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 four seconds, holding it for five, and breathing out for six through your mouth. Do these four times every hour. It only takes 60 seconds every hour and is a whole lot cheaper than buying detox programs.

For All The Kale In The World

By Sam Makhoul

Notwithstanding the various juggling acts we perform, nor the sensory overload we experience day-to-day, we are living in a time that both demands and expects us to be energised. It is no wonder that we seek to nurture and maintain our wellbeing – not only for the sake of our own health and happiness but to keep up, thrive and prosper.

Suicide takes the highest percentage of male lives under 45 globally, while women in single digits are suffering body-body-image and eating disorders. Stress is attributed to over 90% of health issues, decreasing our vitality and immunity while increasing our anxiety.

It seems that in our busy, hurried world, where looks trade like currency and priorities can easily become out of alignment with our real, heart-felt values, we are feeling more frayed, tired and alone than ever before. We are all well accustomed to conversations about wellbeing taking standard trajectories; what we eat, how we move our bodies; how we sleep.

While our diets, exercise regimes and sleep patterns are extremely important parts of our personal wellness picture, we are being invited to shift our thoughts and language around wellbeing now. We are being called to partake in higher conversations around kindness, gratitude, joy, inspiration, grace and stillness.

We are being asked to practise the arts of these higher ideals, nurturing not only our personal but our collective wellness. To tend to our own needs with care and respect, and to use the important and meaningful energy we cultivate within ourselves to support, comfort and inspire each another.

Wellbeing is an integrative, all-encompassing experience. We can eat all the kale in the world, but if we are ungrateful, unkind and ungenerous people, we will not find the sparkle of wellness that we seek.

We can exercise to a perfect, personalised program week to week, yet if we aren’t present in our present moments, feel perpetually anxious, or are endlessly critical of ourselves and others, we will feel inflamed and depleted. We can get eight hours of deep sleep a night, but ignore opportunities to be of loving, meaningful service to others in our waking lives.

We might then wonder why we feel empty – for it is in giving that we receive. Buddhist Monk Trich That Hanh reminds us that the way we do one thing is the way we do all things.

All parts of our lives deserve our loving compassion, creativity and attention. If we are experiencing disharmony in any way, we are being asked to carefully revisit each note that we are playing in the chord of our lives.

The key to regaining our harmony is attending to these notes honestly and respectfully, without guilt, shame or blame, and without diminishing all the parts of ourselves and our lives that we are indeed mastering. All the separate but inextricably connected parts of our lives are born of our thoughts, which inform our choices and shape our worlds.

Just as we have chosen so many things in our lives, we can choose to be kinder, more patient, more giving human beings. We can choose joy over suffering, gratitude overtaking things for granted.

We can choose compassionate listening and full presence over quick judgement and distraction. We can choose to support and elevate one another rather than compare and compete with one another.

There is no positive act too small or simple when it comes to our wellness. We can begin with one grateful thought a day.

One random act of kindness. One deep breath. In this very way, we begin.

Each human being has a profound capacity for inner peace, happiness, and wellness. When we tend to ourselves, each other and our lives with love and care, we come to know and share true health and happiness.  We see at last that true wellness isn’t ‘out there’ it is within us, right now.