Seven ideas for leveling up your daily habits in 2018

We’re nearly at the end of January, and I just remembered that New Year’s Resolutions were a thing! Too late? No way.

If you’re like me, there are some things in your life that you would definitely like to improve on. The good news? The most important step is to just start, today. Whether you want to become the life of the party, get your finances in order, or trade in ten pounds of fat for ten pounds of muscle, think about shifting one of your daily habits. What is the one activity that would make the biggest difference if added to your life?

Now that you have a goal in mind, it’s time to get to work. But if you’re worried that you won’t be able to keep it up past February, be sure to check out this 10-minute must-read on self-discipline by Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits. It’s a game-changer.

And if you’re not sure of the change you’d like to make, I’m happy to provide food for thought. Here are seven daily habits that I have been practicing (some more consistently than others) for the last couple months, and that I absolutely intend to continue throughout the New Year:

1. Start the day with a cold shower. I haven’t found any substantial scientific evidence of the medical benefits of cold showers. However, personal experience of the psychological benefit is proof enough for me. For example, a cold shower will for sure wake you up from your morning grogginess and give you a caffeine-free boost of energy. And on those days when you dread taking that plunge, you’ll have an opportunity to strengthen your willpower muscles–becoming more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

2. Get at least 45 minutes of exercise per day. Unlike the above, this habit boasts more evidence of health benefits than you can shake a stick at. But beyond helping you become a healthier person, there are several reasons that being stronger and more fit is awesome. You can be more useful to the people around you and learn to overcome the challenges you set for yourself. You also become more home in your own body, and typically look better to the opposite sex (or same sex, whatever floats your boat).

3. Eat (mostly) plant-based foods. (Okay, brace for the guilt trip :-P) But seriously, there are several reasons you may consider going vegan: to reap the apparent health benefits of this diet (with some nutritional supplementation), to avoid unneeded suffering and killing of animals, or to reduce the amount of energy and carbon that you use. Whether you decide to take up Meatless Mondays or go cold tofurkey on all animal products, moving towards a balanced, more plant-based diet is a good call.

4. Write for at least 10 minutes in the evening. Writing gives you a chance to reflect, and to create something new. It provides an opportunity for you to improve your communication skills by forcing you to gather the noise in your head and to shape it into something tangible. It’s a gift. And if you’re lucky, sharing your experience and passion with the world may benefit others–whether by inspiring, educating, or making someone laugh when they’re having a crappy day.

5. Read for at least 10 minutes before bed. If you’re like me, you often have trouble quieting your brain to go to sleep. Reading, either in bed or in another comfy spot, may help you to detach from the day and get ready to saw some logs (Stephen King’s It and other page-turners are not recommended for this goal). You could also use this habit as an opportunity to learn new things, such as philosophy, art, or science. (Reading a Spanish translation of Harry Potter aloud knocks me out in two pages, and gives me an opportunity para practicar hablar español!)

6. Do not masturbate or use porn. Even if, like me, you have not been a regular user for some years now, seriously consider spending your time and energy on more constructive things–especially things that will help you make better connections with young women in real life. Although the scientific literature is not quite clear on the effects of masturbation or porn, this habit will help you to resist the pull of easy gratification. (One strategy that I am trying out is keeping a bet with my brother–if I break this “habit” then I have to call him, tell him, and then pay him $100. So, hell no.)

7. Do a good deed. This may be tougher than it sounds, but it is totally worth it. Getting into the habit of looking for one unique opportunity to help a fellow human being (or even an animal) every day can be incredibly rewarding. Even if your good deed for today is as simple as holding the door for someone carrying packages, it will make you feel happier and more connected to the world. This is what being human is all about.

So, what are your New Year’s resolutions for 2018? Share below, and let us know how it is going! Also, thank you to David de las Morenas at How to Beast for the inspiration for this post.

Quick note: I definitely did not do justice to all of these activities, and I think that Habits 2, 3, and 6 especially call for further discussion. I will make sure to spend time citing and linking reputable resources to back up arguments made during those conversations, and I welcome your thoughts on these matters.

Author’s note: This post was lightly edited January 27, 2018.

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