Last month I took part in a workshop on Building Positive Habits. It was part of my work staff conference and there were a number of workshops available to choose from – including one on sit-down-yoga which I really wish I’d had had the guts to try. That said, this one really grabbed my attention because I’m forever trying to improve my habits and bring positivity into my world.
The session was run by Susanna Halonen (@SuskyH) who introduced herself as a Happyologist. Now I don’t know about you but that job title threw my mind all over the place. A Happyologist. What is that? It sounded made up and I didn’t want made up. I was hoping to get something scientific and concrete from the session, something that I could take away and add to my box of life tricks. However, I am well aware that my demands – and the success of achieving them – have less to do with Susanna’s job title and more to do with my own attitude, and so I sat and listened…
Susanna kicked things off by asking us to think broadly about three things in relation to our positive habits:
#1 – What we eat
#2 – How we live our lives
#3 – What we do at work
We worked through these broad areas, one step at a time, and looked at ways to introduce positive habits into our lives.
#1 – I came out of this section okay. I eat a good balance of fruit, vegetables and carbs – with a healthy addition of dark chocolate which a Happyologist told me was okay so I’m taking it. Unfortunately, I also eat way too many biscuits and additional chocolate.
#2 – I didn’t do so well in this section. I lie in as much as I possibly can, I don’t exercise nearly as much as I should, I spend too much time surrounded by technology and not nearly enough time with nature. On the plus side, I do have hobbies and surround myself with loved ones so I gained some points there.
#3 – This section was pretty poor too. I don’t step away from my desk very often (unless essential), I never stretch during the day and I often work through lunch.
So what we had established at this point was that I was a bit crap, pretty lazy and in need of some new positive habits. See? I knew I’d picked the right workshop. The question was, how do I create positive habits and – more importantly – stick to them.
Susanna’s approach was interesting and started off with good thoughts. She asked us to think about our existing positive habits. I chose:
“I am a dedicated blogger and I create time for this every evening, which not only keeps my hobby going but also prevents me from thinking about work all evening.”
Having recognised some good existing habits, we discussed how to create a new habit. With various interesting graphs and bits of science (yes, I like facts) Susanna told us that positive behaviours were most likely to become habits if we had high motivation and high ability for the habit we want to create.
How about, “I want to read more books.” My ability to do this is very high, but I don’t quite have the level of motivation needed to get me there.
You get the idea.
The habits I actually chose to work on will come as no surprise to regular readers:
#1 – Drink more water
#2 – Go swimming
#3 – Stop unhealthy snacks
By this point in the session I’m feeling pretty good because the three habits I want to work on are three things I have the ability to do and the motivation to do. The next stage of the process was where I hit my problem: TAKE TINY STEPS. No! I want to find a way to be brilliant at this immediately without having to work at it. Oh woe is me!
Susanna gave us a number of practical tips during the workshop, such as rewarding ourselves when we did well and changing things to make the habit easier to achieve. For example, if your habit is to go running she suggested laying your running clothes out the night before and your trainers by the door; that way it’s one less thing to think about the next day and the trainers will be a helpful reminder. Unfortunately I’m too good at ignoring those reminders, then feeling bad about it and having an extra biscuit to console myself!
There are ways around this. Susanna suggests putting reminders in your calendar that pop up with motivational things to encourage you to attempt your new habit, and advised us to be flexible and learn from the times we mess up instead of berating outselves.
I’ll be honest, most of the things Susanna said were common sense but there’s something about a happy person bouncing in front of you and telling you how easy it is to build new habits that really sticks in your brain.
Since the workshop, I’ve been thinking about my three new ‘habits’ and the fact I’ve done absolutely nothing to try and achieve them. I got in touch with Susanna this week and signed up to her Happiness Newsletter which promises to send me tips to live my most happy and fulfilling life.
Watch this space – I’ll keep you posted. Oh, and one other good thing… Susanna signs her emails “happy regards” which I really love. That little nicety injected a spot of happiness right into my gloomy day.