Good habits for 2021: a list of “feelings”, exercise snacks and a health partner can make life a little better

What great things have you done for yourself in 2021?

This year on Well we have suggested a number of little habits that can make life a little better. It’s not too late to try them out and pick a few that you would like to continue. Here are eight of our favorites.

Claim the best hours of your day
What time of day do you feel best? For some people, we may feel more energetic during the early hours of the morning. For night owls, the evening may be our best time of the day. Now ask yourself, “Who gets those hours?” Are you spending your best hours checking emails, catching up on work or doing chores for your family? Instead, try to give yourself this time. Use it to focus on your priorities rather than someone else’s. You can use that hour or two for whatever you want – it could be for a hobby, a project you’re passionate about, time with your kids, or even volunteering and helping others. Setting aside your best hours to focus on personal goals and values ​​is the ultimate form of self-care.

Enjoy exercise snacks
Too often we think of exercise as a formal activity that we have to do for an hour at the gym every day. But a number of studies show that short periods of exercise multiple times a day lead to significant gains in fitness and overall health. Just as you might grab a handful of crisps or nuts to break up the monotony of your day, an exercise “snack” is a break from quick movement. Get up and walk forward when you’re on the phone. Do show jumps, lunges or sit on the wall, or climb the stairs for 20 seconds. My favorite exercise snack is 10 wall pumps.

Take a picture of gratitude
If a gratitude journal isn’t your thing, plan to take one photo per day of something special in your life. It could be a cute photo of your dog, a sunset, or a delicious meal. Take a moment to study the photo, sit down with your feelings of gratitude, then share it with a friend or post it on social media. When we strive to notice our surroundings or to show our appreciation for the people, places or things that make us happy, this is called “savoring”. Scientists know that savoring exercise can lead to significant gains in overall happiness and well-being.

Create a list of “feelings”
Every day when you brush your teeth or brew your coffee, ask yourself: How are you really doing? Think of a word that describes exactly how you are feeling. Unstable? Energetic? Delighted? Irritated ? (Avoid standard responses like “good,” “good,” or “OK.”) This simple labeling activity is surprisingly effective in relieving stress and removing the sting of negative thoughts. (The Hoffman Institute has a detailed list of feelings at Studies show that when we label our feelings, it helps turn off the emotional alarm system in our brain and lowers our stress response. Also ask your children to choose a word that describes their daily feelings. It can be a surprisingly fun family routine.


Five Finger Meditation is an easy way to calm yourself down, wherever you are.

Do a five finger meditation
It’s an easy way to calm yourself down, no matter where you are. Use the index finger of one hand to trace the outline of the opposite hand. As you lift a finger, inhale. On your way up, breathe out. Continue finger by finger until you have traced your entire hand. Now reverse directions and start again, making sure to inhale as you come up and exhale as you descend. I’ve used this method on airplanes, before getting my COVID shots, and in stressful meetings, and it works every time.

To make easy
In the scientific study of habit formation, the thing that makes it harder for you to reach your goal is called friction, which usually comes in three forms: distance, time, and effort. The frictionless habits you’ll stick are those that are convenient, happen near you, and don’t take a lot of time or effort. For example, one of my goals this year was to cook more and stop ordering take out or buying expensive store-prepared foods. I hated going to the grocery store and had a hard time cooking for one. Then I read a Wirecutter article on the best meal kit delivery services and realized that I could make cooking at home easier for myself. I started using the Martha Stewart & Marley Spoon meal kits, and it was like having my own personal sous chef. By removing friction, cooking is now fun, easy and delicious.

Watch the jellyfish
One of the best mindfulness tips I’ve come across this year comes from Cord Jefferson, the TV writer who thanked his therapist on National TV when he won an Emmy. Jefferson told me he struggles with traditional meditation, but enjoys watching a web camera showing jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Bookmark the jelly-cam at and lose yourself in the gentle pulses of jellyfish for a short break from mindfulness during your workday.

Find a health companion

Pick a friend who shares your health goals and make a plan. Meet once or twice a week for a walking appointment. Or it could be a daily SMS check-in to see how you’re doing on a diet or a Zoom call to work together on a decluttering project. Studies show that we are more likely to achieve our goals when we bring a friend on the trip.

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About Shirley A. Tamayo

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