During the month of March, we’ll explore habit-forming and how a self-care checklist can help you attain mental, academic/artistic, physical, and spiritual wholeness. Come back each Sunday for a new self-care checklist and suggestions about how you can form healthy habits.

Making Brain Space

I remember hanging on to the handle above the passenger door in our 4Runner and trying not to let my white-knuckle reaction translate into frustrated words to my daughter. Maybe allowing Sarah to get her driver’s license at 15 and a half wasn’t such a great idea. I flipped the radio on to calm myself.

“Um, Mom,” Sarah said as she slowed down for the next corner, “can you turn the radio off? I can’t drive and listen to the radio at the same time.”

Oddly enough, I remembered having almost the same conversation with our oldest daughter at about the same stage of her driving career. They’ve both possessed their drivers licenses for over a decade by now, but their similar responses to having the radio on while learning to drive illustrates a point about human behavior.

Until we learn a new skill, we don’t have the brain space to do two things at once. But once the new skill, like driving, becomes a habit, we can easily listen to the radio and drive. As you form habits, you actually free up brain space to concentrate on other things.

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The Snowball Effect of Healthy Habits

Self-care, the focus of this month’s series, involves forming positive habits that nurture our well-being. As we form each positive self-care habit, we free up our brain space to form more positive habits. Good habits have a snowball effect.

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As Dave Ramsey says, start with baby steps. Don’t try to incorporate 20 good habits at once, or you’ll set yourself up to fail. Start with one good new habit. When you do it automatically without thinking about it (21-70 days), add another one. In order to effect lasting change, we have to allow ourselves time to retrain our brains.

When we form a good habit, the glow of success makes it easier to tackle the next habit. The snowball starts to build with each new habit, and it becomes easier and easier to build on our success. Just think back to when you first started driving, and how you drive now.

When you drive your usual route, you may find it easy to talk on the phone, talk to your passenger, or sing along on the radio. But if you start driving in an unfamiliar place, perhaps talking, noise, or radios distract you and make you frustrated (especially in the midst of heavy traffic).

The Best Time to Start a New Habit

If you prioritize the habits you want to form, you can identify which ones to start with—the easy ones. As you experience success, you’ll free up brain space and mental energy to form habits that seemed impossible at the start.

For example, I started by keeping the kitchen counter clean. Now I find it easy to automatically empty the dishwasher while I steam the milk for my morning latte. With a clean counter and an empty sink, I find it easier to enter that space and not feel stressed. I’ve eradicated the litany of negative thoughts that used to march through my head each morning as I entered the kitchen.

If you have an especially difficult habit you’d like to break or one you think will prove difficult to establish, try starting on a vacation. According to Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit,

Vacations provide a break in our routines, which makes it easier to install new routines.

Charles Duhig

Don’t Wait! Get the Ultimate Self-Care Checklist for Forming New Habits Now!

I’ve put together a habit-forming system that will help you automate your self-care routine by starting with baby steps and allowing the snowball effect of good habit formation to carry you along.

The self-care checklist allows you to define what nurtures YOU (every person feels nurtured and cared for in different ways). You’ll find out about the four primary areas of self-care: Mental, Academic/Artistic, Physical, and Spiritual (MAPS) and start your journey to better health and happiness.

Don’t suffer from lack of self-care any longer. You DO have time to form good self-care habits. Ignoring healthy self-care can cost you in increased stress, lack of motivation, burnout, weight gain, and a host of other negative things. I know from experience—all of these things happened to me when I neglected to take care of myself during my husband’s cancer crisis.

When you nurture yourself in a balanced way, you’ll find that you get more done, have more energy, and feel more positive about life. So, sign up to get the Ultimate Self-Care Checklist for forming new habits. It won’t cost a cent.

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