Throughout my career, it has been common to field questions such as “How can I lose weight?” or “How can I have less anxiety?” It has been much less common to ask, “What are some healthy habits to improve my workday?” or any questions about building good habits at work. Most of us just don’t think that way. Usually, we keep living our life how we want to live it until there is a problem that bothers us enough to consider changing.
And here, with the word “change,” we arrive at the sticky spot. Most of us don’t want to change. We might think we need to change, but thinking we need to change and actually changing are two different things. We’ll talk more about this in a minute.
Let’s pause to consider the fact that most of us spend at least half of our waking hours working. Add in a few more hours as we prepare for and release from work, and it’s easy to recognize that nearly three-fourths of our non-sleeping hours are devoted to our jobs. That is a lot of hours!
If we want to have more enjoyable lives and/or to address our health concerns, we need to step back and look at good habits we can integrate into our workday. In reference to feeling better, I hear folks comment, “I just need a vacation,” or “I need to win the lottery.” My response is, “Start where you’re at. Currently, you have yourself and your job. Let’s talk about how to bring the experience of vacation and lottery into your work environment.”
Who wouldn’t want the experiences of vacation and lottery winning as part of their workday?
I would like more of these experiences in my life! When I imagine going on vacation or winning the lottery, I automatically start feeling more interested, engaged, rejuvenated, creative, and alive. Both opportunities tickle my mind and expand my perception of what’s possible beyond my everyday routine.
How do you feel when you think about going on vacation or winning the lottery? Take note of these feelings.
How to connect good feelings to good habits at work
To successfully add healthy habits at work, it’s important to adjust your mindset to make whatever habit you choose feel pleasurable rather than painful. The perception that change is painful is part of why many good habits at work never get adopted. Being attached to the pleasures of a current habit makes it tough to release. Choosing a new habit that feels more pleasurable (and healthier) than the old habit is an antidote to this problem.
Through the lens of conditions we experience when winning the lottery or going on vacation, let’s see how we can bring this concept into the work environment.
Unwind Time: Enhanced Workday Habit #1
One of the things that can happen when we are on vacation is we sit still and breathe. We listen to the sounds around us, and sometimes we take naps. This is called taking a break and unwinding. We can add little bits of unwind time into our workday if we choose. Consciously setting aside short periods of time for our brains and bodies to disconnect from the ever-present buzz of to-do lists provides the opportunity for relaxation and resetting. Sometimes, new inspiration even pops in.
Schedule time to unwind. Even if you only spend 1-2 minutes gazing out a window, you’re still giving your mind and body a break. It’s okay to simply close your eyes and breathe.
Guided Unwind Moment: Take a moment to close your eyes and breathe deeply. Tune into the sound of your breath as you inhale and exhale. Listen to your breath. Let the sounds of your environment fade into the background, and just listen. Do this for 6-7 breaths. Now open your eyes. Notice what you notice. Did your mind become quieter? Did your shoulders relax?
Exploration: Enhanced Workday Habit #2
Another thing that happens on vacation is exploration. We scour the internet for things to do. We visit restaurants for tasty treats. We go on tours and see shows. All these experiences make our brains fizz and pop with positive endorphins, which boost our happiness.
Find new things to explore. Keep exploring the same subject until something else becomes more interesting.
Guided Exploration Activity: For inspiration, peruse the magazine racks at your local book or grocery store. Pay attention to the pictures, words, colors, or subjects that catch your attention. When you find yourself feeling curious, take note of what sparked you. It could be anything from the image you saw on a magazine cover to the font in which some text was written. Once you recognize you’ve been sparked, ask yourself, “What is my next step to explore this further?” Then listen and follow the answer that comes to you.
Celebration: Enhanced Workday Habit #3
Continuing with the lottery and vacation theme, another element common to both genres is celebration. When we celebrate, we are taking time to acknowledge that goodness is present. When we stop to savor the good, we buffer ourselves against the bad and become more resilient in life. Who doesn’t want to be more resilient?
Celebrating is important. Whether it is taking your first sip of the perfect coffee or finishing a new page on the company spreadsheet, these are moments worth celebrating. When it comes to celebration, you oversee what gets to be celebrated. Set aside your inner critic and let yourself feel the success and pleasure of accomplishment. Ideally, integrate moments of celebration throughout your day for the most benefit.
Guided Celebration Activity: Before you leave work for the day, pick one activity you did that you would like to celebrate. Then stand up, put a smile on your face and say, “Good job!” while patting yourself on the shoulder. Finally, take a deep breath, notice how that felt and move on with your day.
You have just started engaging with healthy habits at work!
Good habits at work make a difference. A little creativity can transform humdrum to fun. With vacation and lottery winning, remember that planning is important. Give these workday enhancements the same amount of regard and attention you would to the bigger experiences. Put them on your schedule and think of them as little seeds for the grander versions of what you want. Don’t cancel them. Don’t schedule over them. Your lottery winning and vacation are essential!
Learn About the Power of Self-Care
Download the Mental Health Tool Kit to learn about mental health in the workplace – what it is, why it matters, and how you can start supporting employee mental health!
By participating in/reading the service/website/blog/email series on this website, you acknowledge that this is a personal website/blog and is for informational purposes and should not be seen as mental health care advice. You should consult with a licensed professional before you rely on this website/blog’s information. All things written on this website should not be seen as therapy treatment and should not take the place of therapy or any other health care or mental health advice. Always seek the advice of a mental health care professional or physician. The content on this blog is not meant to and does not substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.