What are the best habits to have in life? After all, it’s the tiny actions we do every day that shape our lives. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this because I believe that small changes can add up to huge differences in the way you feel and behave. I know personally for example that simply changing the way you eat can have a dramatic effect on your mood.
After seeing personal wins by making small habit changes, I began to research more about the best habits to have in life. This post contains the habits that have helped me and are largely habits that are echoed throughout history in one form or another.
Whilst your individual needs will be different from the next person’s, these positive habits are certainly worth striving for.
- 1 1. Remember each day there will be obstacles
- 2 2. Set daily intentions
- 3 3. Make your bed right away
- 4 4. Do some exercise, whatever it is
- 5 5. Practise gratitude on a regular basis
- 6 6. Get better at managing money
- 7 7. Treat others how you would like to be treated
- 8 8. Always be willing to learn (and then do)
- 9 9. Get out of bed at a good time
- 10 10. Find and eat real foods regularly
- 11 11. Find time to be still
- 12 12. Surround yourself with good people
- 13 13. Let things settle before acting
- 14 14. Be mindful of your emotions
- 15 15. If you want to do something, do it for 2 minutes
- 16 16. Self-compassion
- 17 17. Learn to single-task
- 18 18. Have tech breaks
- 19 19. Face your dragons
- 20 20. Don’t eat too much
- 21 21. Track what you eat
- 22 22. Set specific goals
- 23 23. Learn to forgive
- 24 24. Learn to cook
- 25 25. Keep in mind the fragility of life
- 26 26. Listen more often
- 27 27. Voluntarily take on responsibilities
- 28 29. Practise your interests
- 29 30. Keep things tidy
- 30 31. Say what you mean
- 31 32. Concentrate on that which you can control
1. Remember each day there will be obstacles
Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil.
One of the best habits to have in life is to remind yourself that there will be obstacles to face every time you wake up. Nothing is all good, all exciting. There will be people who display a wide range of emotions and it’s up to you whether you indulge them or not or you decide to concentrate on yourself. People will make comments and decisions largely through ignorance.
2. Set daily intentions
In the morning, when you are slugglish about getting up, let this thought be present: ‘I am rising to a man’s work.’
You cannot have a productive day if you don’t set your intentions. Each day is an opportunity to achieve something, even if it’s a boring Monday that doesn’t seem all that important.
When you feel like you can’t face the day, ask yourself if staying in bed and accomplishing nothing would feel better.
Tell yourself; “I will do ‘X’ at ‘X time’ to achieve ‘X’.” Even if it’s something that seems mundane.
3. Make your bed right away
Whilst it may seem like a trivial thing, no matter how bad your day may get, you can always come home to a made bed that’s ready for you.
Making your bed is a small habit that will get you in the right head space to go on and complete other small habits, leading to a more productive day alround.
4. Do some exercise, whatever it is
One of the best habits to have in life is exercise. It’s even better if you can get into the habit of doing exercise from a young age. The benefits of exercise are obvious and yet most people do very little exercise or none at all. It’s easy to get comfortable or even lazy and sit in front of the TV when you get in from work each evening.
However, even just 30 minutes of exercise will benefit not only your body but also your mind. As a human, you were never meant to sit still and get too comfortable. Try something new and you may just find a form of physical activity that you love.
So do some exercise, whatever it is and you’ll soon feel the benefits.
5. Practise gratitude on a regular basis
It’s easy to think the grass is always greener on the other side but in my experience, that’s hardly ever the case. We all have so many good things that we can take for granted from time to time. It’s only until we lose those things that we realise how lucky we were.
Practising gratitude doesn’t have to take long. In fact, you can make a habit of practising gratitude once a day with a simple gratitude planner. Practising gratitude has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression in many studies.
6. Get better at managing money
Whether you like it or not, money really does make the world go round. Therefore, it’s important to get good at managing your money. More importantly, money can be a real source of stress and can cause havoc in relationships. Whilst it’s not always easy to make more money, you can always get better at managing the money you have.
A good habit in life is to only spend what you have right now instead of borrowing money for something you could get if you waited and saved.
7. Treat others how you would like to be treated
Act with kindness but do not expect gratitude.
It costs nothing to be kind to others. Even when you’re having a bad day, others do not deserve your bad mood inflicted upon them. This is something I have to remind myself of every day. When you’re kind, people are more forthcoming and willing to help you. More importantly, no one likes a nasty person.
Treat people how you would like to be treated and do so without expecting gratitude from others. You will never regret doing so.
8. Always be willing to learn (and then do)
That’s why the philosophers warn us not to be satisfied with mere learning, but to add practice and then training. For as time passes we forget what we learned and end up doing the opposite, and hold opinions the opposite of what we should.
For a long time, I thought learning was confined to the classroom; learn what you can and then apply those teachings for the rest of your life. However, if you stop learning and stop being curious, you stagnate. It took me many years to realise I had to keep learning and absorbing information and then actually act on it.
If you choose only to learn and not apply what you have learned, what’s the point? For example, how many motivational videos have you watched and then forgotten about only a day later?
9. Get out of bed at a good time
Most of us set alarms in the morning but how many of us get out of bed straight away? If you get out of bed at a good time you save yourself so much stress. You also set the tone for the rest of the day. When you’re organised, you feel better and getting up earlier gives you more time to be organised. Simple.
Getting up early usually means you go to bed earlier which mas many health benefits in itself like an improved immune system and a reduction in overall stress.
10. Find and eat real foods regularly
How many bad eating habits do you still have from childhood? I can think of a few myself. Although my parents made me eat vegetables, I spent many years avoiding them altogether as I got older.
If you can find and learn about the benefits of natural, raw foods I believe you’re more likely to add them to your diet. Most of us have diets that are heavy in processed foods. These foods are terrible for our health but even if you have one meal a day full of healthy, natural foods, you’ll improve your health dramatically.
11. Find time to be still
There is no greatness if we cannot be. We must be still.
How can you be happy if you’re rushing around like a headless chicken? You’re pulled from one thing to the next, never really having a chance to stop and be still. In our downtime we look at screens, finding ourselves hyper-engaged in artificial entertainment to keep us busy. When was the last time you were just still?
Why can we not be satisfied with just being?
You cannot be happy when you’re restless. Being still is a difficult habit to master but it must be one that we try and practise regularly for the sake of our mental wellbeing. You can start practising stillness with apps like this one.
12. Surround yourself with good people
Misery loves company. It’s easy to share your sadness with others who are also suffering. However, it’s sometimes much harder to surround yourself with positive people. The truth is we need to be around people who are going to support us emotionally and push us forward. When you’re around people who are highly motivated it rubs off on you.
These people show you that there is a pathway to feeling better and happier. Your own experience is a very unique one because only you can see through your eyes.
Spending time with positive people can give you a fresh perspective. Whilst negative people pull you down, positive people pull you up and breathe new life into you.
13. Let things settle before acting
If you want to determine the nature of anything, entrust it to time: when the sea is stormy, you can see nothing clearly.
Time really is a healer, at least to some degree, depending on what the situation is. It’s also a mental windscreen wiper. Think back to an argument you had and the things you said. Would you still say those things if you were calm?
One of the best habits in life is taking a pause before you act. When your emotions are either too high or too low, you run the risk of making mistakes and doing things you regret. Anger creates stormy waves that cloud your eyes. It’s better to hold your tongue and pause before you act or speak.
14. Be mindful of your emotions
One of the best habits you can have is to be mindful of your emotions. That means paying attention to how you feel rather than actually indulging in those emotions. This is the core of what mindfulness is and it’s a habit that takes practice. All too often we can find ourselves consumed by anger, sadness or even joyfulness.
However, observing your emotions as things that you are channelling rather than defining you helps you to keep a level head. Again, if you can observe your emotions rather than allow them to take over, you can stay calm and make better decisions.
15. If you want to do something, do it for 2 minutes
There’s no doubt that we could all get more done if we overcame procrastination and just acted. If you want to get something done, try James Clear’s 2-minute rule. If there’s something you want to do, commit to doing it for 2 minutes. That’s an easily achievable target for anyone.
The idea is that all habits can be scaled down to 2 minutes. Once you start your task you’re more likely to see it through. For example, once you fold a pair of socks, you’re more likely to fold all of the laundry and then put them away.
Another important habit in life is to show yourself some self-compassion. When you’re hard on yourself it can quickly spiral into self-loathing. Self-compassion means forgiving yourself for your shortcomings and accepting you will make mistakes from time to time.
You cannot always be perfect and that’s okay.
17. Learn to single-task
Multitasking just does. Single tasking accomplishes.
In my opinion, multitasking is a myth, for when you multitask you also half-arse. Is it better to do a little of everything or all of one thing? There is a focus epidemic right now as Johann Hari recently wrote about in his new book. With so many distractions, it’s hard for us to sit down and complete a task at one time without our phones pinging or a notification buzzing.
Hari believes that whilst it’s normal for your attention span to decrease with age, we’ve also got the added distractions from modern technology and modern expectations from our bosses and our families. Hari’s book explains the importance of deep focus and how you can go about regaining yours. It’s an interesting read and Hari makes some fantastic points that will get you thinking.
18. Have tech breaks
One of the best habits to have in life is having tech breaks. Hari talks about how big tech has quite literally hacked our attention spans. So, it’s not because you’re weak that you can’t leave your phone alone, you’re constantly being manipulated by companies that want your attention. After all, the more you look at your phone, the more they get paid.
You don’t have to change your habits too dramatically to have a tech break. Try leaving your phone at home when you go out in the evening for a walk in nature. Whilst you may have the urge to reach into your pocket at first, you might be surprised how free you feel after a while.
19. Face your dragons
That which you most need will be found where you least want to look.
What would your life be like if you stood up to and worked towards overcoming your fears and obstacles? Clinical phycologist Jordan Peterson often talks about ‘slaying the dragon within us.’ It’s the idea that you must face what’s holding you back whether it’s childhood trauma, anxiety, etc.
The dragon is a metaphor for the very thing that’s holding you back, it’s the monster that’s standing in your way. It’s easy to spend your life running away from your dragons but you can only move forward if you slay them. Once you do, you’ll realise that you can face anything and conjure a bravery you never knew was inside of you all along.
If you ignore your dragons, they grow bigger and bigger until they’re almost too huge to face.
20. Don’t eat too much
Most of us eat with our taste buds, rather than our stomachs. Overeating doesn’t just make you gain weight, it’s bad for your overall health. Worst still, if you’re overeating junk, it can lead to a build-up of fat around your organs, not just around your belly.
The best way to stop yourself from overeating is to get your portion sizes right. You can do this by using smaller plates and then using your hands to measure out each food type. Healthline.com has a very helpful guide for getting your portion sizes right.
When you learn about proper portion sizes you’ll be amazed at how much food you actually need each day.
21. Track what you eat
Download MyFitnessPal and track what you eat. Simply enter your weight, and your goal weight and then watch as the app tells you how many calories to eat each day. Simple. It will change your life.
Download it here for Android and here for IOS.
22. Set specific goals
A goal without a timeline is just a dream.
There’s no use setting goals if they’re too broad. The broader your goals are, the more room you give yourself for failure. For example, you may tell yourself to eat less. If you set specific meal sizes for yourself, you’re more likely to stick to that goal.
This applies to everything. Set a specific goal and then work backwards to see what it is you need to do to reach that goal. You won’t get it right every time but you’ll be far better off than you would if you’re too loose with your targets.
23. Learn to forgive
Another best habit to have in life is to learn how to forgive. You cannot move on with life if you have grudges on your shoulders. Over the years they can stick to you and weigh you down. You can’t see them or half the time remember them but they lie deep beneath your subconscious affecting you.
If you can learn to forgive people, you can set yourself free, feel lighter and see an improvement in your attitude. Forgiving those who have hurt you may seem like a sign of weakness but it’s quite the opposite.
24. Learn to cook
By starting small you can build the foundation that eventually leads to confidence in the kitchen.
Another way to set yourself free is by learning to cook. You don’t even need to be anywhere near a pro. Just start small and build upon your experience. learning to cook breaks you free from buying processed, unhealthy foods. You quickly learn that making tasty food doesn’t have to take too long and it doesn’t even have to be expensive.
25. Keep in mind the fragility of life
You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.
It’s easy to think you have all the time in the world. Whilst you do have a lot of time, especially when you’re young, remembering the fragility of life can help you to take action and not pass up on opportunities.
Once again, living a life of being in an over comfortable state will not help you to develop your character or mind. Saying ‘yes’ and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone will. It’s arguably not a nice thing to think about but remembering your mortality when you’re not sure about something can help you make a decision.
If you don’t do it now, when will you do it?
26. Listen more often
We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.
One of the best habits to have in life is listening. Whilst you may want to get your point across to others, I’d argue that it’s more important to listen and listen intently. Everyone wants to share their thoughts, offload and talk about what’s on their mind.
Listening is an important habit to have because it benefits you and others at the same time. If you can listen well you can learn well, do well at work and improve your chances of having successful relationships whether romantic or professional.
Most importantly, being a good listener will make the experience of being around you more enjoyable for others.
27. Voluntarily take on responsibilities
As a child, you (hopefully) have little to no responsibilities. Your parents take care of all of the mundane day-to-day things so you can be free to experience childhood. Usually, the only responsibility you have is to remember your lunchbox when you go to school.
However, as you grow older, it’s important to take on responsibilities and more importantly – voluntarily. If you don’t you end up being an adult without purpose. You become someone that clings on to their childhood, even though it’s long gone. This affects your relationships and job opportunities.
You become bitter, jealous and angry when everyone else seems as if they’re moving on with their lives and you’re still stuck in the past. Taking on responsibility is one of the most important habits to have in life because it affects your entire life negatively if you forever shy away from it.
29. Practise your interests
Another best habit in life is to practise your interests. In my experience, if you ignore or push down your interests you can become resentful and bitter, restless and agitated. You have to make time for the things you love whether they are drawing, dancing or writing, etc. There’s a reason you have an interest in them and just like you’d exercise your body, you have to exercise your passions.
Performing your passions and hobbies gives you a brief window where you can be completely focused and engaged and enter a state of flow. If there’s something you’d love to try, just try it and see how you feel. Make a habit of doing it at least once a week.
30. Keep things tidy
How can you have a calm mind when your environment isn’t calm? I often find that my mental state is a reflection of my environment. For example, if you go to a quiet beach with calm waters, you’re more likely to feel relaxed and calm. If you’re in a busy traffic jam, you’re more likely to feel annoyed and frustrated.
It’s the same at home. I cannot even begin to think clearly if my home is a dump.
One of the best habits to have in life is to keep your home tidy. You’ll feel better and more relaxed when things are in order. Leaving a chaotic mess will have a big effect on your mood, whether you realise it or not. It seems like a trivial and obvious habit to have and yet sometimes we find it difficult to keep up with or put it off completely, only making the eventual task harder than it needs to be.
31. Say what you mean
Another best habit to have in life is to say what you mean. Don’t ‘beat around the bush’. Try and be direct with people so they understand your position. Things usually go wrong because of poor communication.
Proper communication also helps us to build relationships and pass on important information.
When I think back to situations in my own life where something went wrong it’s usually because of a lack of proper communication. Communication is a skill and something you have to work at constantly.
32. Concentrate on that which you can control
There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.
Another thing you have to work at is not letting yourself fret over the things that you cannot control. Instead, you should focus your attention on the things you can influence.
Life is happening, it’s not happening to you.
Time will continue to move forward regardless of how you feel. You can worry about things for ten years but will still wake up and eventually be ten years older. How do you want to feel for those ten years? It’s up to you.