Creating Healthy Habits On the Road (and at Home)
What are your habits? Don't tell me you don't have any because everyone does. Everyone. We are creatures of habit and, if we choose not to cultivate habits for ourselves, they will cultivate themselves for us, and that's not often a good thing. When I had a home I had habits, things I did every day whether I cultivated them or not. After reading a book on habits and their formation (and for most of us who are unaware, their control over us much more than our control over them), I began noticing the habits I had, almost as an outside observer monitoring its subject. I was astonished. I had some very good habits but, much to my chagrin, I also had some very unhealthy and even bizarre habits of which I was previously unaware. Changing habits, eliminating bad habits, cultivating healthy ones is a tough job, but add the elements of full time travel to the mix and it's darned near impossible. Nonetheless, it can be done, home or away, and we've got a few habits for your mind, body, and soul that we've employed for strength and sanity. When you're ready, have yourself a good self-analysis and see if newer, healthier habits can be cultivated as replacements. Here are my daily faves...
If there is one habit that, once cultivated, is more beneficial than any other habit, it's got to be reading. The beauty of reading is it doesn't matter if you do it fast or slow, it's still beneficial. Plus, what in the world do you do during your downtime? Telly just isn't that edifying, and if you think it is, it's probably a sure sign you don't read enough. Fiction, non-fiction, instruction guides, white papers...it really doesn't matter. Your brain is truly fed by reading and we've got a whole list of books to get you started if you're short on ideas.
I love this smartphone app so much that I include it in my daily rituals. Never heard of it? Well, let me introduce you. It bills itself as a brain training app, but it plays out as games that challenge various areas of your cognition, attention, and memory skills to keep your brain fit. It takes about 15 minutes per day to play a few fun games...and that's it. I've noticed a marked difference in my memory alone and can't recommend this fun little app enough. There is a paid version but the free offering will keep you busy without having to shell out any dough.
Keep a Journal
You don't have to travel to record what has happened today. In fact, though my journal contains travel and food notes, most of my prose is spent analyzing the day, my reactions to events, and generally talking to myself about how I feel. While I believe firmly in- and regularly make good use of- my close relationships, I'm a firm believer that I should be my own best friend, my strongest supporter, and my most honest critic. Keeping a journal really helps me hear myself when I'm right or wrong and heal myself when I need it most.
7 Minute Exercises
It's 7 minutes, what's not to like? Actually, you can really work up a sweat in these 12 intense exercises, performed for 30 seconds each with a 10-second break before the next 30 seconds of torture begins. The good news is it's over quickly. The other good news is you get a real workout. The other other good news is you can choose from a variety of workouts to give yourself a general conditioning or focus on major areas. You can also choose from an corny cheerleader leading through your torture or a drill sergeant beating you down if you don't like the regular voice. Hey, it's only 7 minutes,,,
There are runners and there are walkers, but at least be one of them. I will admit I don’t run because I don’t like it. But I do walk, for miles and miles daily. It may help to have a dog, but no matter, it’s still a great habit. I know runners who love nothing more than achieving their daily “runner’s high” and I applaud that. And I know walker’s like me who can put in 10 miles and enjoy getting out in nature so much that it never felt like exercise. Whichever form floats your boat, getting out in some fresh air for as long as you need it is one of the quickest ways to feel better and continue to feel great.
Avoid Eating Out
Being a full-time traveler, it feels counter-intuitive to suggest that one go to exotic locales and then not eat out. But actually it makes great sense to eat out rarely, learn the food, and perfect the cuisine at home/AirBnB. It's easier on your budget, you take a souvenir of the cuisine home with you in the form of learning to actually cook it authentically, and you know exactly what ingredients are going into that dish you're making; you're literally in control of what goes into your body. Eating out gives someone else in a cordoned off kitchen the ability to concoct dishes that may taste delicious but may not qualify as healthy. We cook at home 99% of the time and love every minute of what we're able to create and replicate.
My days don't start any other way. A ritual of quietude, prayer, meditation, thoughtful repose- whatever you want to call it- it'll start the day off on the right spiritual foot. There are a million apps out there but a good place to start, if you're looking, is Headspace. This app has basic guided meditations, focused meditations and a plethora of situational guides to fit any daily challenge. The basics are free but the good stuff is in a monthly subscription. If you don't want to pay for it and are willing to do a little bit of searching for just the right meditation practice, Insight Timer is terrific. IT offers free meditations on just about everything and while it also has a subscription offering, its free library is substantial if a bit less slick and user friendly. No matter what you use or don't use, the day begins best with spiritual, centering self-care.
My favorite form of meditation and exercise, Tai Chi is also unfortunately the regimen I do least. Tai Chi requires a small bit of open space but it's not often I have that kind of space in my stays, and weather about half the year is messy. Nevertheless, as often as I have the space (or rain gear), I practice this beautiful and physically challenging discipline. There are YouTube videos to teach you the 24 movement short form but you'll spend the rest of your days trying to perfect each move in this beautiful, flowing martial art slowed down to its most graceful pace.
Not everyone thinks they can afford it and I suppose not everyone thinks they need it but a little dose of self time vaccinates against all kinds of crazy. It really doesn't matter how busy our days get, a solo walk or even some headphones that tune out the world is one of the most rejuvenating gifts you can give yourself. I insist on “Lisa” time several times a week and, as hectic as our schedules can get, there's always a little room for self care quiet time.
The Bottom Line
Changing habits is hard work, I'll not kid you. After all, they are not called habits for no reason. I have a schedule for literally everything, especially when I'm trying to cultivate something new in myself. I set my phone alarm for nearly every minute of the morning and most of the afternoon and evening just so I have a firm routine for the big and the small. Items that may seem mundane- make bed, eat breakfast, exercise, meditate, designated work times, designated play times, days off and days on, bedtimes and wake times- I literally schedule my day accordingly until they become habit. It may seem extreme, and for some it is, but by scheduling my day and moving the necessary rocks out of my way- by taking my care myself in mind, body, and spirit in a scheduled slot- I'm ready to face the unexpected for the rest of the day; I've got the foundation laid. My healthy habits are being cultivated. You always have time for self-care. In fact, you must have time for self-care. You can't take care of anyone else properly until you care for yourself. It doesn't work any other way for very long. So, what are your habits?