“Give those you love the gift of taking excellent care of yourself.”
As you begin the new year, it’s a good time to reassess how well you are caring for your most important asset . . . you. Excelerated self care — taking excellent care of yourself — isn’t selfishness but selfulness . . . filling yourself up from the inside. You can’t give what you don’t have. You must care for yourself if you are to be able to care for others.
Broaden and Build
I have a belief, based on personal experience, that when you perform one positive action, it leads to another, which leads to another, etc. These actions build upon one another, so that as you do some positive things, it is easier to do more. As it has been said, “a rising tide raises all boats”.
I know that if I exercise in the morning, then I am more likely to follow a healthy diet during the day, and take better care of myself in other ways. This is the thinking behind the “10 Daily Habits”. This is an exercise that I share with most of my coaching clients and periodically with readers of this blog.
Research in positive psychology bears out this belief. Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson has done much pioneering research into the effects of positivity on peoples’ lives. She developed a theory she calls “broaden and build”. Dr. Fredrickson has proven in study after study how adding positivity practices to one’s life builds psychological strengths, social connections, good mental habits and improved physical health. [Fredrickson] One of the findings I find especially interesting is the “upward spiral”, the idea that as you practice adding a few positive experiences into your life, you are more inclined to add others.
The 10 Daily Habits
Which brings us to The 10 Daily Habits. If you were to make a list of bad habits that you wanted to break, you would likely have no trouble naming ten. And you can easily come up with at least 10 things you should, could, or ought to do instead. Today, I encourage you to think of 10 gratifying things that you want to make a habit of doing each day.
Sometimes we get caught up in what we should do or ought to do and we find it hard to come up with 10 pleasurable things to begin doing. The idea is not to think up things you think you should do (“I should eat more vegetables”), but to come up with 10 things you love to do and that contribute to your better life. Even if you can’t identify 10 right away, start with one or two or three and add others as they come to you.
Think of activities that bring you joy, peace, a feeling of accomplishment, or that improve your mental or physical health. Don’t select activities that are merely pleasurable. Eating a pint of ice cream or drinking a six-pack of beer each day might be pleasurable, but these are not gratifying and they certainly don’t contribute to taking better care of yourself. Don’t make them too elaborate or difficult. Look for ten activities that leave you feeling good about yourself, which you can easily do and which don’t require a lot of your time. I’ve provided a chart you can use to track your progress each week. Feel free to make as many copies as you need.
Do Something Every Day
The old rule that “it takes 21 days to form a new habit” has long been debunked. Some habits may be instilled in a few weeks; some may take up to a year. Research shows that, on average, it takes about 10 weeks to form a new habit. It depends on the habit you are trying to form and your own personality.
Don’t get too hung up on how many days you’ve done it. Just concentrate on doing them each day, then check them off (or stick on a gold star!) on the chart. As you see the checks or stars accumulate, it encourages you to continue the behavior. Before you know it, you will have 10 daily practices of taking excellent care of your most important asset. And that is embracing the Excelerated Life!
Excelerated self-care — taking excellent care of yourself — is one step in creating your Excelerated life, a life of well-being, meaning, and purpose.
Fredrickson, Ph.D., Barbara, L. Positivity. New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2009