Hello all and welcome back to the awesome A Life With A Little blog! I want to share a little about why habits matter today because, trust me, they really matter! In fact, I decided to share this during Maternal Mental Health Week because habits can really help you when you’re dealing with mental health problems. I believe developing habits over the last four months has done me a world of good, and I continue to make new monthly habit goals for that very reason.
So today let’s talk about habits and why you need to set some. We all have habits we’ve developed over a lifetime, and they can be bad or good. One thing that I notice is when I set new habit goals that are good for me, it helps me to be more cognizant of what I’m doing outside of that habit.
As an example: I set aside time to read my Bible daily and try to make that a daily habit I pick up. I may not always succeed, but when I do read my Bible, especially if I manage to get it done in the morning, I tend to find other ways to be productive throughout my day. I might throw in an extra load or two of laundry, wash some dishes, prep food for the next few days, or work on my upcoming blog posts. These are all things that need to get done, but when I’ve already done one good habit, I feel more motivated to add in these other things during the day because I feel good about myself and my productivity.
Another example of this is something I added in April. I made it my daily goal to do some oil pulling. If you’re not familiar with oil pulling, you take a tablespoon (or less if it’s new to you) of an oil (I use coconut oil like this one) and put it in your mouth. Let it dissolve into liquid form and swish around like a mouth wash for 20 minutes before spitting it into the trash and rinsing your mouth out. I also added peppermint and clove essential oils to mine for the flavor and breath freshening qualities.
The idea behind oil pulling is that it helps to remove toxins from your mouth and promotes tooth and gum health. My goal was to do this daily during the month of April, and I didn’t quite make that happen. That said, every day that I started out with a bit of oil pulling, I also made other “good” choices, like washing my face or taking extra care when I brushed my teeth.
Now that you’ve seen my examples, I want to share some benefits of developing good habits as a new mom.
Why You Need Habits As A New Mom
Habits give you something to focus on.
As a new mom, it sometimes feels like I’m a moth, constantly diverted from one shiny thing to the next. I get distracted easily, suffer from forgetfulness often, and find my mind drifting more often than not. When I have a new habit I want to develop, though, I make that a priority and actually take time to focus on it. And that focus is a great way to center myself in the middle of a busy day of taking care of the baby and the house. Even a small habit like oil pulling makes me take a few extra minutes to grab my oil and then set a 20 minute timer to properly swish the oil. I might do something else during those 20 minutes, but it’s a great way to focus my mind on just this one task for a few minutes, which really helps when anxiety or depression are throwing dozens of thoughts at me at once.
Habits help you develop character.
Whether good or bad, habits will develop your character. Admit it, you’ve probably looked at someone participating in some kind of habit and drawn a conclusion about that person’s character before. Maybe you saw someone running on the sidewalk and thought they must be in good shape to go for a run or that they were getting into better shape because of the exercise. Maybe you saw someone smoking and felt turned off because of the health problems associated with smoking. Either way, we associate habits with character traits, and it’s important that when we develop new habits we think of how those habits will develop our own character. As moms especially, we want to develop habits and character traits that we can model for our children and be proud to see them emulating.
Habits give you incentive to create a routine.
One thing I really struggled with at first was creating a routine. For me, the struggle was finding time to develop a routine for Emmeric and myself amidst all the doctor appointments. We constantly heard questions about what our routine was for nursing, napping, and everything else, and I always replied that we had no routine because of all the appointments.
Developing habits like making time for a daily Bible study or setting daily goals can really give you an incentive to create a routine. Why? Because you’ll need to set up a time during your day to get those habits accomplished, which means looking at your daily schedule and deciding where to put those in your day.
Habits bring a little sanity to your life.
In the middle of diapers, nursing, picking up toys that are thrown right back on the ground, and trying to teach new things, you need a little sanity. Habits provide that for you by being a steady companion in your daily life. When you know that you’ll get to read your Bible or journal your thoughts about the day or go for a walk in the sunshine, it helps you to make it through the particularly difficult days of being a new mom. The great thing about habits that you form is they’re always there for you to give you a sense of normalcy so that when things get a little hairy, you can go back to those habits and feel at peace.
How Can You Create Great Habits?
So now you know why habits are helpful as a new mom, and I could really list another dozen or so ways habits have made my life better. But what you need to know is how to create those habits. Studies say that doing the same thing anywhere from 21 days to 2 months can create a habit, and while I think that’s all well and good, I believe you have to be intentional about creating habits.
I realize from my own life that creating great habits starts with making a choice. I choose what I want to take on in my life, and this year, I laid out a set of goals or habits I wanted to create for myself in the form of yearly goals. Note I didn’t say resolutions. I don’t like to create “New Year’s resolutions” simply because that daunting term seems doomed to failure in my experience.
Instead I set up a page in my bullet journal that detailed different goals on a personal, business, spiritual, and health theme. Now some of these goals were broad ones that could be implemented at any time that I felt like getting them done. For example, I decided I would start a website, which only took a little engineering and voila! We have my website that you’re reading right now.
Other goals were actually habits I wanted to create. One such habit was my goal to read the Bible through in a year. To do this, I needed a Bible reading plan, and the type of plan I chose was a daily reading plan. So there I wanted to create a Bible study habit.
I may not be successful at reading my Bible daily, and in fact, this last week and a half made for a huge struggle just to get to the Bible. However, I come back to this habit and keep plugging ahead, little by little, because I feel it’s been a huge help to me this year.
Three Practical Steps You Can Take To Set Good Habits
Here are three practical steps you can take that will set yourself up for success when creating a new habit. I use these steps myself, and I believe in them because they really do help me to stay on track with habits I want to form.
One | Grab your planner or bullet journal and set your monthly habit goals.
I started this in my bullet journal because I prefer using that to a planner, but either one will work. Some people prefer the Moleskine notebooks or the Leuchteurm notebooks with the dotted grids, and I do have one of the Moleskines I plan to break into at some point. But the point is that a bullet journal can be whatever you want to make it, so be creative.
Every month, I try to set up two important monthly pages. The first page consists of my monthly calendar with the upcoming appointments on it, followed by a goals list. I put my habits here in list form to remind myself what I plan to accomplish that month. The second page consists of a grid where I track those daily habits I’m trying to keep up with, and it really helps me to put it into a daily visual form where I can color in the grids to chart my success or failure.
You can set up similar pages in a planner or bullet journal, and you might find yourself feeling more connected to these habit-forming goals when you write them down and have a visual.
Two | Break the habits into weekly and daily visuals for yourself.
If I want to start a particularly difficult new habit, I add it to my weekly grid on my bullet journal. For me, this looks like setting up a page in my Bible writing notebook that outlines every verse I plan to write in a month, followed by daily dated spaces where I copy down the reference and follow up by writing out the Scripture. This goal was one I made to keep me reading and writing Scripture, and having a specific place for it in a notebook helps keep me on task.
For you, it might look like adding a separate check box to your planner for something important, like taking medication or doing some form of daily exercise. You can write things down like I do or get a few habit tracking apps to help you keep up with your habits. Either way, sometimes it helps to not only create an overall habit-forming goal but also to break it down so you’re keeping accountable to yourself.
Three | Put everything you need for your habits in view.
In April I wanted to start oil pulling daily, and since my goal was to get started with this routine first thing in the morning, I knew I needed everything to be visible and handy. I gathered my coconut oil and essential oils together and placed them in front of the coffee pot. They lived there because I start my day by going to the kitchen, taking my medications, and putting coffee on to brew.
Another example is my Bible reading materials. I keep my Bible reading materials in a box on my coffee table to remind me of my need to stay in the Word but also to make it easier for me to grab my Bible and read it during the day.
How can you apply this to your habits? Easy, just grab the things you need and put them in plain view somewhere. If you want to work out regularly, grab your workout clothes, sneakers, water bottle, and towel and put them all together in front of the door so you can take them to work with you. If you want to drink more water, get a water bottle and mark lines on it to show what you should drink by different times of the day. The point is that if it’s in front of you, you’re more likely to actually do it!
How Are You Creating Habits?
So, mamas and readers of all backgrounds, how are you creating good habits for yourself? I want to hear what you’re doing and how habits have helped you. And if you’re a new mom, I hope this post encouraged you to set some new habit goals so that you want really start seeing a lift in your mood as you put them into practice! Look forward to another great Maternal Mental Health Week post on Monday, my friends!
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