One habit to improve your whole diet

Can one new habit change the way you eat in just 2,5 weeks? The experience of Evgeniya, who participated in the «Habits Bootcamp» says «Yes!». She was learning how to build new habits including the habit of planning her meals for the next day. And that’s her story!

Evgeniya: I am foodie and sometimes it’s really difficult to confront chocolate bar, bread or other food that I’d like to stay away from. In the beginning of the Habits Bootcamp we were encouraged to choose 3 habits to practice on. So, I’ve chosen the habit from ‘nutrition area’. I thought that planning my meals in advance will help to avoid impulsive food decisions, eat more regularly and avoid junk food. And looks like, it worked 😊

How that habit was designed?

Step 1. First, we defined the optimal moment in my day for writing a meal plan. We considered few options and picked the one that appeared to be the best for that habit. In my case that was the time after I finish working on clients’ orders in the evening.

Step 2. Then we clarified how exactly my habit should look like. I decided to write a 5 meals menu for the next day on the chalkboard in the kitchen including those meals that are already in the fridge and those that should be cooked tomorrow. If any ingredients are missing, I’m adding those items into the shopping list in my phone right away.

Step 3. What surprised me was when Ekaterina advised that I should pay myself a compliment each time after I complete the new habit. Simple thing, but after saying to myself «I am a superhero! Yes!”, I feel a genuine positive feeling that got associated with my new habit, making the whole experience sort of fun 😊

After we came up with the “habit design” I started practicing my new habits (meal planning, and 2 other habits I’ve chosen). Every day I was sharing my report on the habit progress with Ekaterina and together we checked what worked and what had to be fixed.

After two weeks of those observations and adjustment I realized that I’m not only writing the menu every day how I planned, but I also managed to stick to it (which was the hardest part). Thanks to the menu planning, I no longer find myself hungry with no healthy options at hand, ready to swallow chocolate bar or a sandwich.

On top to that, there was a part of Habits Bootcamp when we were encouraged to analyze our home environment through the lens of the habits we want to build. As a result, I got rid of chocolate bars, cookies, crackers and stocked up with healthier snacks alternatives, like fruits or cottage cheese. I’m trying to include those sweet but healthy options in my daily menu, as I’m a sweet-tooth.

If one of the meals happens outside of home, I’m also trying to plan what I’m going to order in advance, to avoid last minute impulsive decisions. All that helps a lot in maintaining the planned diet.

My key achievements after 3 weeks of learning how to build habits:
-I started eating healthier
-My menu for the week is much more diverse and balanced
-I no longer feel guilty for eating chocolate bars in the evening (because I no longer eat those)

And that’s only one of the habits I’m working on now! 😊 But most importantly, now I have much better understanding of how I can effectively build new habits in different areas of my life. That’s a great skill to have in your armory!

If you’d like to learn how to build new useful habits, you can also register for the coming Habits Bootcamp via the link.

What is mindfulness and how it benefits your brain and body? 3 science-backed videos from Harvard and MIT

#1. Short (5-minutes) video by Jon Kabat-Zinn, MIT professor and the founder of world-known  mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program. In the talk he explains the concept of mindfulness.

Interesting quote: «Mindfulness is paying attention in the present moment on purpose non-judgmentally»

#2. Ellen Jane Langer is a professor of psychology at Harvard University. In that inspiring 25-minutes video she reveals some mind-blowing consequences of acting mindlessly or mindfully.

Interesting quote: «We are frequently in error when we are mindless, but rarely in doubt».

#3. «Now and Zen». Harvard Medical School conducted a highly educational seminar on the subject of mindfulness. Lucky for is it was recorded. You may find the link on the video below. The whole recording is 1,5 hours. To save your time, I’d recommend the following pieces:

Dr. John Denninger from Harvard Medical School, explains the health benefits of mindfulness. For example, how genes expression (“good” and “bad” genes being turned on and off) may be affected by mindfulness practice. The results can be achieved after 8 weeks of regular meditation (20 minutes a day).

David Vago, PhD, Harvard Medical School explains what exactly is happening in your brain when you’re practicing mindfulness. It’s a bit of a technical talk, with brain images, schemes and color-coding, but extremely insightful. Interesting quote: “Mindfulness is not only described as a state of awareness, but also as a systematic form of mental training <…> You go to the gym to exercise to build your muscles, by practicing meditation you’re building and flexing your mental muscles”

Sara Lazar, Assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, elaborates on the benefits of meditation for your brain. Interesting quote: “The 50-years old meditators had the same amount of grey matter as the 25-years olds, suggesting the meditation can actually slow down or prevent normal cognitive decline in the brain (as we get older)”

Remark: I normally watch all educational YouTube videos on 1,25-1,5 speed, which helps to save the time, but I’m really doing my best not to multitask while I’m watching. Full attention, or why do it at all? 🙂

“Mindful dishwashing”: how to turn a boring chore into mindfulness practice

What if we approached hand dishwashing as mindfulness practice rather than a boring chore? According to the study made in Florida State University, “mindful dishwashers — those who focus on the smell of the soap, the warmth of the water, the feel of the dishes — report a decrease in nervousness by 27 percent and an increase in mental inspiration by 25 percent”.

“Mindful dishwashing” can help you to kill two birds with one stone: clean those plates (you’re doing it anyway) and introduce an everyday mindfulness practice into your life. If you like the idea, but still are not sure how exactly you can meditate over the dishwashing routine, here’s the guided meditation that can give you an idea.

I personally have a dishwashing machine, but I’m definitely going to try this one! How about you?

Writing articles: how to make it a habit? Case study

Elizaveta is a researcher and significant part of her job is dedicated to writing articles in her field of study. She used to force herself to work on articles, driven by dead-lines, working in a rush under stress.

Writing articles as an everyday habitIn November’17 she went through the Habits Bootcamp, an online program where people are learning how to turn useful behaviors into everyday habits. There she learned how to turn this occasional practice of working on the article into a solid everyday habit. That’s is her story.

Working on my article is now the first thing that I normally do when I come at work. I turn on my desktop, that serves as a «trigger». My “habitual action” is to write an article for 25 minutes. That approach is also known as “Pomodoro technique”. I don’t set my goal as to “write an article” or “to finish the chapter X”. No, I’m just saying to myself: now I will write my article for 25 minutes, and after that I’m free.

In fact, in most cases I work much longer than 25 minutes. But that feeling that my task is so short, helps me to start the work right away. Of course, sometimes I slip and check mail or chat with colleagues before writing (or get carried away with paperwork or a meeting, etc.) but I try and stay on track.

When I just started working on that habit I used to reward myself with a nuts bar after I finish my 25-minutes work cycle, but I no longer feel that I need a dedicated reward to carry on.

To get less distracted while working I also installed a browser application that blocks Facebook, YouTube and other social media. That helps me stay focused on my work. I also put on my headphones to signal people around that I’m focused and I should not be distracted.

During the Habits Bootcamp Ekaterina Akulich advised to install the RescueTime mobile application, that tracks how you spend your time on your gadgets. And I discovered that just in a few days I spent whole 3 hours on Instagram alone! So, I installed the app that blocks Facebook, Instagram and some other sites on my phone at specific periods of time. For example, when I’m at work. That helps to stay focused!