Everything in our life thrives on routine.
Things we do best have a foundation of routine at their core. Think of any area of your life where you have established a habit – good or bad – and all you’ve really done is train your body and your brain to do the same thing over and over again. We call that routine.
Inasmuch as routine can be a good thing, it can also be a very bad one. Smoking is a bad routine. Minimal exercise. Eating lots of empty calories. Poor sleep habits. Driving too fast. J-Walking. The list is endless.
But here we want to talk about two easy to establish routines that have a fantastic benefits – and their “cost” can be minimal. These can have a huge impact on your life, and convenience is often the only thing getting in the way.
The First Routine – Sleeping
Sleeping, at its core, absolutely relies on routine. The problem is, we often don’t know what routine it is that we’re teaching ourselves. It happens while we’re asleep.
The most significant impact you can have on your sleep is simple willfulness. Being aware of what you’re doing. Stop training your brain to expect randomness at night.
One of the largest contributors to insomnia today is actually scheduling time to get sufficient sleep. Make this your first priority. Block out time at night (eight hours?), at the same time every night, where you do nothing but sleep.
If you take a pill today to help you sleep, you’re training your mind to rely on that help to get to sleep. It’s more or less a band-aid on a wound that never heals. And you teach your mind a bad habit in the process.
Instead, practice Sleep Hygiene. These are a core set of “habits” or “routines” to do every time you get ready for bed. Often the process will go something like this:
- Turn down lights after dinner.
- Turn off TV and computer an hour before bedtime.
- Take a warm bath.
- Get into PJ’s and brush teeth.
- Read for half an hour before physically going to bed.
- Read for another fifteen minutes while in bed.
- Get up at 7am every morning – weekends included.
It doesn’t really matter what your specific routine is, just ensure it happens every night. Bouncing in and out of bed at all times of the day (ie: bed between 9am and 2am, depending on the night – and awake from 5am to 11am, depending on the day) teaches your body nothing. Only confusion.
Teach your body a new routine around your sleep.
The Second Routine – Eating
Since “you are what you eat”, the focus here is to make a small change that will cause you to be more diligent about what goes into your mouth.
This is a simple step, but if you can do it. will have gigantic consequences.
FOR THE NEXT MONTH, DON’T EAT ANYTHING OUT OF A BOX.
Easy? Well – easy enough to say. Maybe not so easy to do.
Once you eliminate the box, you’ve eliminated a huge portion of processed food. And processed food, generally, isn’t good for us. Just think about the foods that you’ll be avoiding with this simple technique:
- Breakfast cereal (mostly sugar or easily digestible carbohydrates)
- Pasta (easily converted to sugar by your body)
- Ice Cream (dairy and sugar)
- Snack Foods (nothing good here at all)
Again, the list here goes on and on. And to make up for all those box calories, your body will start to crave more fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and whole grains.
You might start to lose a lot of weight during the month, which might cause you to continue this experiment for another month.
If you can keep it up for two months, then you’ve likely established a new habit, and you can go longer and longer. You might give up eating from a box forever.
And if you actually reach that plateau, then there’s nothing to hold you back from excluding anything processed at all. If you eliminate processed food, most of the sugar and salt gets eliminated as well.
The Thing About Routine Is
Once you’ve been able to tackle one (or both) of these for a month or more you have crossed a significant threshold.
That barrier is the one between discipline and habit. Routine is the common thread that ties the two together.
You will find it difficult in the beginning for either managing your sleep, or managing your diet, but after a short while it gets easier and easier. So for the first month it will require discipline.
But after that is when your routine has formed a new habit.
Written by Doug at BuildBetterSleep