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I don’t know about you, but I start to get a fire in my belly this time of year. I look at that shiny new year on the horizon, and I want to make my life over.
Want to guarantee that life this time next year looks loads better than the life you’re living right now? The best way to do that is by harnessing your habits, and making sure that those little things you do over and over are serving you well.
Our brains LOVE turning things into habits so they don’t have to work so hard. Constantly deciding what to do is exhausting, after all. Although trying to start a new good habit might seem a little tough at first, before long, we’re able to run on automatic pilot with the new habits we’ve created.
In honor of the fact that we’re about to begin a new decade, here are 20 good habits to start in 2020 to help make your mom life AWESOME.
1. Drink water
Mama, I’m starting with the absolute easiest, no-fail way to improve your life that I can think of. Most people are chronically dehydrated, and it causes all sorts of problems. If you’re not drinking enough water, you’re probably experiencing:
- Difficulty losing weight
Yes, all of these negative consequences, and all can be improved by being intentional about the amount of water you drink.
So, how much water do you actually need? Most experts agree that you should use the following formula to determine ideal water intake:
Body weight in pounds/2 = ideal water intake in ounces
That means that a 150-pound woman would need 75 ounces each day. Mamas who live in hot climates, drink alcohol, exercise, or breastfeed need even more–so get drinking!
2. Get up before the rest of your family
Getting up before everyone else in your house can be the difference between having the day you design and the day you simply react to. This can be a tricky prospect when you’ve got very little ones with erratic sleep schedules.
It is SOOOOOOOO worth trying to implement, though. Mamas who get up before the rest of their families have time to enjoy a few minutes of solitude. We can work on our priorities without getting sidelined by the priorities of our spouses and kids.
The absolute best way to harness these early mornings is to create a routine for yourself that you can run on automatic pilot while you’re groggy. I wrote all about creating one in The Complete Guide to Your Mom Morning Routine.
3. Plan your day the night before
There are lots of magical things that happen when you wake up in the morning knowing exactly what you have to do that day. I find personally that I experience a lot less anxiety since I started writing a list for each day the night before.
I don’t get surprised by appointments I’d forgotten about. I know when I wake up what I’m having for dinner. I don’t walk out the door without essential things that I need. Most importantly, I start every day with a priority and a purpose. This prevents my day from just ‘happening’ to me and assures that I direct my day rather than simply respond to it.
4. Move for a few minutes every day
Look, we all know moving is good for us, right? In 21st century America, though, life can be pretty darn sedentary. Without daily movement, our physical health, our mental outlook, and our waistlines suffer.
The Federal Government’s Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recently updated their guidelines for the amount of activity we should be getting each week:
at least 150 to 300 minutes weekly of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or 75 to 150 minutes weekly of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or an equivalent combination of both, plus muscle-strengthening activities on at least two days a week
With 1,440 minutes during the day, you can afford to take between 20 and 60 to do something physical.
Wondering how to exercise when you have little kids at home? Check out this post.
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5. Keep a gratitude journal
I sometimes feel like a broken record about gratitude because I recommend it sooooooo often. It really is a good habit to start if you want to nurture your mental health, though. I don’t know about you, but my natural instinct is to always look for what’s missing, for how things can be better, and for what someone else has that I don’t.
Keeping a gratitude journal flips the script to force your brain to see the abundance that’s already around you. Instead of looking for where things could be better, you celebrate how great things already are. Instead of feeling like you have less than someone else, you feel thankful for what you have.
Keeping a journal needn’t take more than a few minutes a day, but forcing yourself to think of at least three positive things, even when life looks darkest, does wonders for your mental health.
Want some ideas for getting your list started? Here are 101 Gratitude Journal Prompts to get your creative juices flowing.
6. Speak positively (without complaining or gossiping)
When I was a little kid, my mother always used to say, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I find myself spouting it back to my own kids (usually when they complain about what we’re having for dinner). I don’t always remember to live it myself, though.
I often use complaining or gossiping as a conversational crutch—rolling my eyes or poking fun at a particular situation when I can’t think of anything else to say. The world doesn’t need anymore negativity, though, from me or from anyone else. I wonder how my outlook will change as I try to start the good habit of making my words consistently positive and kind this year. I’m excited to find out.
7. Get outside
I often compare my kids to dogs or horses that just have to get out and run. They do much, much better when they can get outside each day, even for a few minutes. (The secret is that I do better, too, though.)
I love, love, love this article that talks about the scientific benefits of going outdoors. Try to start the good habit of going outside for a few minutes every day, even in ‘terrible’ weather. You’ll experience the benefits that the scientists describe, like an improved immune system, more energy, and greater creativity.
8. Change your self talk
#6 on my list mentioned speaking positively to others. Now I’m going to urge you (and me!) to try something harder: to start the good habit of speaking positively to yourself. This speech is even sneakier to control than the things we say out loud because it’s inside our heads. It’s also often full of the nastiest, most horrible, most unkind things.
My self talk regularly contains speech that I would never say to anyone—even my worst enemy. I hold myself to an impossible standard and then criticize myself relentlessly when I make the smallest misstep. Practicing speaking kindly to myself is one of my main goals for this year.
I always felt like I had no time or patience to meditate. Then I actually started doing it, and I realized I couldn’t afford not to. Meditation calms my monkey brain and helps me focus better throughout the day.
If you’re new to meditation, you might like a guided meditation best. During a guided meditation, a narrator walks you through the meditation process, often giving you specific things to focus on or particular sensations to notice.
There are tons of meditation apps available. I particularly like the Insight Timer. It is available on both iOS and Android, it’s got a wide variety of meditations (24,000!) and an easy system for navigating to find the one you want, and it keeps track of your streak for you. (I don’t know about you, but I hate to break a streak.) Trying to keep it going really motivates me to meditate daily.
10. Do a ten-minute pickup before bed
This is one of my favorite tricks for keeping our house pretty presentable most of the time. I gather the troops (aka my husband, 8-year-old and 5-year-old), set the timer for 10-minutes, and put everyone to work picking up something.
Putting a limit of ten minutes on the task adds a little bit of a competitive element to cleaning up, which is fun. It also ensures that no one is overwhelmed or complains too much. Because we do this regularly, everybody knows to expect it. I hope this good habit stays with my boys when they don’t live with me anymore.
11. Look up
Why not make 2020 the year that you finally break the hold your electronic devices have on you? Consider creating new, more positive habits surrounding your screen time.
You might choose to turn off your notifications so that you can check in when you want to, remove time-wasting apps like Facebook and Instagram to make the sites harder to access, or plan out in advance how many hours each week you’ll spend watching television. Regardless of what you choose, you’re sure to find more time in your day for other things you’d like to do.
12. Say no
Want to be happier and less stressed this year? Practice saying ‘no’ to anything that isn’t a “hell yes”. We end up doing so many things that we aren’t suited for, don’t have time for, or simply don’t want to do because we’re afraid to decline. We might be afraid to disappoint the person who asked us or afraid of how we might look if we choose to do things differently.
Whenever you’re faced with something you really don’t want to do, remember that you always have the power to choose your response. Start the good habit this year of saying ‘no’.
13. Say yes
Ok, I know that number 13 is the opposite of number 12, but this year, why not try to say ‘yes’ more often to the little things that bring joy to life? Maybe it’s an extra piece of cake, five more minutes to snuggle, or a family pajama day.
The next time you find yourself saying, “I shouldn’t”, remind yourself that life is short and you are the boss. Enjoy the ride.
14. Ask for help
We moms seem to be experts at trying to do everything ourselves. (After all, we can usually handle most of the household tasks faster and better than the rest of the folks in our family, amiright? Oh, and we might look incompetent if we admitted to our community from time to time that we needed help.)
Your fellow humans don’t want to see you struggling, but we’re busy ourselves and we don’t always notice when you finally get overwhelmed. If you need a break from your kids, a friend or neighbor would likely be glad to take them for a play date with her own children. If you’re struggling though a long illness, your friends and neighbors are likely available for help with meals or rides to appointments.
We don’t know unless you ask, though. Don’t be too proud to let us know you need us, don’t assume that we should just “know” what you need, and remember to pay it forward when the opportunity presents itself for you to help someone who needs it.
15. Make a (simple) meal plan
Do you find the moments just before dinner to be one of the trickier parts of the day? I do. Hangry kids start fighting with each other or clamoring for my attention. Everyone is tired after a long day. My boys inevitably turn up their noses at whatever I’m cooking, reminding me that they don’t like to eat X, Y, or Z. I miss the days before kids when I’d put on some music, pour a glass of wine, and get creative in the kitchen.
These days, though, I’ve swapped creativity for simplicity. We’ve made a no-frills meal plan that covers 10 or so unique menus, and we repeat it constantly. Having a short, simple list of meals my family loves means that I can make a master grocery list that stays consistent. It means that the kids rarely refuse to eat dinner. It means that I don’t waste time each day staring in the refrigerator and trying to come up with something to cook.
Whether you create an ultra-simple meal plan like we did, follow a theme for each night of the week, or simply sit down one evening a week to plan your meals and make a shopping list, make this the year you can always easily answer the question, “what’s for dinner?”
16. Stop comparing
We live in a society where it’s become really easy to share cherry-picked details of your life on social media and make things look better than they really are. We all know this, but we still look at Facebook and Instagram and feel our own lives are lacking.
Even in real life, we often compare our lives to those of our neighbors, friends, and fellow moms. We start to feel competitive about the things we have or don’t have. Make this the year you start the good habit of practicing contentment, and stop worrying about what others are doing.
17. Adopt a Self Care Sunday (or Thursday, or any other day of the week that you like)
Why not start the good habit this year of making your self care a priority? I would love it if you took time to do practice self care every day, but how about just starting with one day a week? Make a plan to do something small that you enjoy and can look forward to. It needn’t be something expensive, incredibly time consuming, or elaborate, but it should be something just for you.
Maybe you take a walk around the lake near your house without the stroller. Maybe you read a novel for 20 minutes with a cup of tea. You might paint your toenails while you listen to a podcast you love. You might even choose something different every week. Whatever it is, make it something you LOVE.
Self care is addicting. I urge you to fit it into your schedule whenever you can.
18. Schedule dates with your spouse and with your friends
Alright, Mama, you’ve now scheduled a date with yourself, but if you really want to be happier this year, you need to schedule some other dates, too.
I am sad to say that at different times in my marriage I have gone for MONTHS without going on a date with my husband. The kids were small, life was busy, and we just didn’t make it a priority.
You know what happened? We started to feel like roommates rather than husband and wife. Don’t make the same mistake. Prioritize time as a couple to remember why you had those kids in the first place. Schedule time once a week (or at least once a month!) for one-on-one time with your spouse.
Remember how fun it was to go out with the girls? You still need mom friends (you can read more about why here.) When was the last time you went to brunch or for a moms’ night out? Add get-togethers like these on your schedule at regular intervals.
19. Pursue a hobby
Do you have anything that you do just for fun? If so, do you make regular time to pursue it?
So often, we moms get stuck in the drudgery of life–in caring for our homes and families and working hard. If we want to truly LOVE our lives, though, we need to nurture that little spark inside of us–that part of us that wants to learn, enjoy, and create.
Choose something that brings you joy, and then make it a habit to spend at least 10 minutes a day doing just that. If you spent only ten minutes a day pursuing a hobby every day in 2020, you’d have spent more than 60 hours on your hobby or hobbies by the end of the year.
You’ve probably read Malcolm Gladwell’s assertion that it takes 10,000 hours to be a world-class expert at something, but Josh Kaufman asserts in this video that it only takes 20 hours to go from knowing nothing about a subject to being pretty good at it.
If you start the good habit of practicing a hobby for 10-minutes a day, every day this year, you’ll spend about 60 hours doing something you enjoy. If Josh Kaufman’s right, that’s enough time to get pretty good at three new skills. What will you choose?
20. Find a reason to laugh every day
Laughter is great for us. It strengthens our immune system, boosts our mood, and helps to combat stress. Do you remember to seek out laughter regularly, though?
Whether its looking at a favorite funny website, being silly with your spouse and kids, or listening to a podcast that cracks you up, make scheduling opportunities for laughter into every day a good habit you start this year.
How to Start Incorporating These Good Habits Into Your Busy Life
Did I convince you to start some good new habits in the coming year? Wondering how on earth you’ll incorporate them into all the stuff you already have on your plate? Here are some ideas to consider.
They don’t take as much time as you think
Remember that many of the things on this list take 10 minutes or less to do, and some of them don’t even need to be done daily. You have 144 10-minute blocks in a day. Certainly you could spare a few of them to make your life better.
Make one change at a time
Even though it isn’t time consuming to start these good habits, it could be overwhelming if you try to do it all at once. It takes about 21-days for a habit to become automatic, so why not try to cement only one or two of these habits at a time? You’ve got a whole year, after all.
Get a buddy
Positive changes in your life are more likely to stick when you work with friends to make them happen.
Want a buddy to hold you accountable as you start these good habits this year? I’m going to be implementing these habits along with my subscribers and including reminders to practice them, ways to track them, and tips for success as part of my weekly emails.
Subscribers get all sorts of bonuses like these not available to casual readers of the blog, including access to my subscriber’s resource library, free self care challenge, and fun mom quizzes. If you’re serious about making your life AWESOME, click here to subscribe.
I hope that this year is a wonderful, transformative year for you, Mama. You deserve it.