3 Habits That Make Me Happy(ier)

I still suck at meditating. I’m far away from being a non-smoker (after announcing “I quit smoking” several times.) Sometimes I even leave the house without brushing my teeth (luckily I store a toothbrush at the office). I feel so ill-disciplined in many ways.

BUT in order to stay motivated in the process of incorporating positive new behaviors, I want to share even my small successes and learnings with you. (That’s the whole idea of growthbuddy). There are some healthy things I integrated (nearly) without any effort into my everyday life that improve my day.

I figured that “three” is a good number to skim through. 🙂

1. Showering Cold

In July I read a facebook post about cold showers. This friend was literally raving about the revolutionary effect of cold showers on his life. I was fairly impressed. The benefits of contrast showers in “Kneipp” manor in order to increase the blood circulation were not new to me. In the past I experienced cold showers as an unbeatable hangover-cure. So I gave it a go.

The water in Munich is freezing cold, but luckily it was boiling hot summer during that time. “Why not have this feeling of jumping into a mountain river every morning?”, I thought to myself and ever since I’m finishing (not beginning;) my showers cold.

What can I say? The effects I’ve noticed after three months are staggering:

  • I feel more awake – also during the whole day. No coffee can unleash this level of energy.
  • I feel stronger and happier, because I already master a challenge before I even leave the house. 😉
  • My body is toning automatically: Hot showers increase the blood circulation too, but cold showers are also triggering the so called “brown adipose tissue”. In other words: They burn more fat! Besides that cold showers help draining fluid retention in the body.
  • My hair is more healthy as cold water treats the hair structure.
  • Hungovers are easy to tackle as cold showers help detoxing.;)

2. Stretching and Squatting

During the past ten years I’ve been trying different sports: Yoga, Functional Training, Parcours, (Russian) Martial Arts, Qi-Gong, Running. During the last years I went to the Bouldering gym regularly, but the gaps between my visits vary a lot.

I still exercise as often as I can, but I just don’t really stick with anything. But there is something I found out, that helps me to improve my over-all well-being during the day: Stretching!

What do I do and why?

  • Before I go to bed and in the morning I do back stretches like a forward bend, some qi-gong movements or tricks of my favourite youtube fitness trainer in order to relieve stress and sleep (or wake up) easier.
  • Bridge or downward-facing-dog or even practicing handstand at lunchbreak before the afternoon-low is kicking in (or to cure it).
  • Writing an e-mail or brushing my teeth or doing whatever (sometimes even waiting for the bus, if not too many people are watching) in deep squat position.

Stretching is good. We all know that. The trick is, that I try to integrate it into my day-to-day life as often as I can. I don’t need to “find the time”. But these small exercises help me to relieve stress or tension in my back and my whole body feels more refreshed. I can’t really give you the scientifical reason for it, but it feels like my feet are warmer as well.

3. Walking Different Ways Home

Even if I live in the self-pro-claimed “bike city” Munich, I prefer walking to riding the bicyle. Sometimes I move my ass on the seat of my mountain bike to cruise down Isar – the river in Munich, but I avoid the city traffic completely.

Mainly I’m just lazy, but also I’m afraid of dying – it might sounds ridiculous, but I’m paranoid because of the traffic and the other bikers (because they are so fast and rude, haha.) Instead of stepping into the pedals I read books in the subway and go for extensive pavement walks across the city.

After work I’ve started to drive one station too far or I take a different line to a different area from where I can reach my home within a 20 minutes to two hours walking distance. (depending on how much time I have).

On Sundays the “left-right-left-game” became my favourite occupation. Instead of choosing a route, I navigate into a rough direction and turn left and right alternately. It always leads me to suprising places. I discover new interesting restaurants and meet different people.Sometimes I even walk home 10 km from the city centre just to get “a better feel” for the distances.

What are the benefits?

  • Walking calms my nerves down, when I feel over-exerted or brain-wrecked and improves my over-all well-being.
  • An additional plus to the physical and mental benefits is the fact, that I get to know the city much better. Sometimes I even walk slow intentionally to acknowledge my surrounding.
  • I walk between 8 and 15 km nearly every day.

 

Micro Habit Challenge 1.2 Week Two – My Breath Becomes my Friend

Week two is over and so is the Micro Habit Challenge 1.0. What had changed? Actually more than I expected had changed. It seems like tha first week was dedicated to “becoming aware of my body” and the second week “becoming friends with my body”.

After these two weeks I have way more trust, that I can actually reach the goals I’m setting myself. My level of happiness had increased (not sure if it is due to my meditation practice or due to external factors, but I like the idea, that happiness grows within me:). Well, the downsides of this week are that I didn’t write much into my diary, but the insights I gained are powerful! Happy scrolling.

My Habit Diary

Day 1 9:39 am – Meeting an Acquaintance

Okay, new week new luck. I meditated this morning on a matt on the floor, which worked quite well. I thought about my breath as my friend. When I’m meditating I’m caring for my breath, I have some warm thoughts about it and I’m really thankful that he is always there for me. Thinking of my breath as a very close friend does make it a bit easier for me.

Day 2 8:22 Uhr Deep Conversations

I consider my breath as a good friend now. Normally I don’t listen to him closely. Even if he demands my attention from time to time. Today he’s a bit angry and he shouts: “Come on, you expect me to care for your every day, in every situation, even when you are very stressed out I provide you with oxygen and you are not able to listen to me?” So I promised him to listen more closely from now on. 🙂

Day 3

(no entry)

Day 4 21:52 Uhr Empty Brain

What can I say? I’m so so tired and I need to go to sleep immediately. 

Day 5 6:32 am Is it Love?

Okay, I practiced meditation everyday – yesterday I cheated a bit, because I was at the physiotherapist. So I was laying down during my fango packung and enjoyed the silence to meet my friend – my breath.

It seems like this is a very strong way for me to connect with my body – to consider my breath as my (growth) “buddy”. And even if the meditation doesn’t work out well, I’m trying to meet my friend the breath in my daily life more often, every now and than during a short break from work I’m practicing meditation to calm my thoughts down. That works better than I thought.

Two days ago, when I didn’t write something in my diary, I had probably the best day in the last six weeks – jobwise and also emotionally. I had an outdoor shoot with the fleet of BMW. The sun was shining the whole day – it was an incredible day. And somehow I felt like finally I’m able to show my real me. I think it was due to my meditation practice. But now I got to take a shower, I have a long day of work ahead.

Day 6

(no entry)

Day 7  Final Conclusion

Well, this week had been a very intense week workwise. I didn’t only finish three video editing projects, but I also had two days of video shootings. I didn’t have such a productive week in a long time – also due to some tough deadlines. So it was an extra tough week to cultivate new habits into my daily life.

I step right into the conclusion of the week for you.

What did I Do?

  • I meditated 5/7 days, 4/7 days on the matt in front of my bed
  • I kept my phone on flightmode more often during work automatically
  • I was happy 7/7 days – at least most parts of the days (probably the happiest week I had during the last 6 months – EVEN if I was on holidays inbetween)
  • I didn’t work out much, but went for extensive walks of 8-12 km on 5/7 days and included stretching before I went to bed

What did I Learn?

  • Happiness is a state of mind (nothing really new, but I “experienced” it the first time)
  • meditation/working on my goals helps me to feel more satisfied and grounded
  • Loving myself means loving my whole body
  • I don’t miss much, if I leave my phone on flightmode
  • writing a diary is helpful to manifest insights (as it is my biggest issue to have an overview over my insights AND keep re-reading them to seed them into my subconsciousness)

What about the Future?

  • I gonna keep writing a diary on a regular basis and in ONE document
  • I will keep meditating regularly for two more weeks to extend my personal tool set
  • Keep not being a “victim” of my devices (including my beloved Thinkpad – no offence :*)

Final Words with Love

Well, after my two weeks Micro-Habit Challenge a few surprises had happened. I didn’t forsee to find a new friend within me. 🙂

I believe, that I can learn to be happy, if I become friends with my “companions”. In this case of course my breath is not my enemy, so companion seems to be a more appropriate phrase. All the last times I tried meditation, I just couldn’t focus on my breath. Sometimes it even felt like he is working against me (or I’m working against him.)

Giving my breath a personality helped me to focus. Probably this is not the same for everybody, but it helped me a lot – even during my day to day life.

When I was in a stressful situation for example during a live-videoshooting with an audience of 1400 people, I remembered that my breath is here to support me. As soon as I became aware of it, I already started to calm down. My heart rate started to decrease.

I believe, that this strategy could help me in several situations. Also it helps me to ACCEPT my body, if I consider my whole body as a loveable friend:


“Love yourself”

The phrase “love yourself” gets a different meaning for me and it adds much more value to my day-to-day life as it means, that I have to actually love my whole body. It sounds logical, but somehow I never considered my body as a part of this “self”. So from loving my body, I discover love for my weirdness, love for my odds and weaknesses…. If I don’t love myself, who else will do?

 

To be continued…

 

Micro Habit Challenge 1.1 Week One – The Aftermath

Here comes the ugly truth about my first week of the Micro Habit Challenge 1.0: Not many things had changed. This is not a surprise applying the rule of the ”three r’s” – repetition, repetition, repetition.

Well, I don’t consider the first week as a failure, but definitely not as a huge success. It just motivates me to keep going, to work on my personal goals with slightly more discipline.

In the first part I’m presenting you my diary as promised. The second part concludes my learnings and insights.

My Habit Diary

Day 1 – Throwback

Well, on day one I had this valuable insight about changing my habits in manageable steps. I felt so much wisdom growing inside of me. This was probably one of the most succesful days I had in a long time.

Day 2 – 12:02 pm – Fragile Relaxation

This is Micro Habit Challenge Day two – right after meditating:

Okay, to be honest – my meditation practice didn’t worked quite well so far – I couldn’t really find a comfortable position, but at least I found motivation to “just sit” and listen to my body: I can feel that the right side of my body is totally stiff and strained and uptight. It starts at my head: It feels like my right ear is somehow plugged and I feel a pressure in the whole right side of my head. This feeling of tight pressure goes through my jar into my neck, where it puts screws on to the area of my shoulder. My right shoulder nearly burns, when I’m starting to relax. It feels like I never let the pain be felt, which is kind of ironic because I’m dealing with pain so often. Well, from there this uptight feeling goes deeper to my upper back, where I feel especially one vertebra blocking my whole spine from pain-free moving. From there the dark stress wanders down next to my spine towards the area of the kidneys. From there it transforms into diffuse feeling of uneasyness in the area of my hips, but than it manifests again in the sacroiliac joint. From there it slides down unremarkably down to my calfes and down to my foot, where it stiffs my ankle a little bit.

All this tension already became obvious during my first rounds of meditation, when I reached fragile states of relaxation.

Day 3 – 10:04 pm Hungover Excuses

Alright, today was a bad day. Well, I didn’t meditate yet, due to a massive hangover from Oktoberfest yesterday, but I will do a meditation session before I go to bed. My plan for the next days is to do it in the morning in order to start relaxed into the day. Anyhow – even if it was not the most successful day, I feel motivated to make another meditation before I fall asleep. Anyway I had some insights today: I kind of felt an acceptance for my body. I understood that I have to take care of my body in order to balance my mind.

“A healthy mind lives in a healthy body”

This is what I learned from my hangover today – I really need to recover regularly – not only, when my body is completely exhausted.. The last months or better say years – I have always lived to the fullest, pushed my personal boundaries to the limit until I really needed recovery as I was so exhausted from living. – This has to end. I need to find a little relaxation everyday.

Day 4 – 21:31 pm Energy Household

As I found out yesterday householding with my energy is something I have to learn. Today I meditated two times already. And I tried to integrate more deep breathing into my day. And I just “let go” and decided to enjoy the sun one hour longer than usual. What happened? Today I felt a bigger boost of energy than ever before (at least more than within the last weeks). Well, this showed me how much a little change already can help to improve my day.

Update: 00:13 am

Well, it is already late now, but I decided to insert a short qi-gong session before I go to sleep. I did the same two days ago. And tonight I understood, that I really have to calm down before I go to sleep – no matter what time it is. Just before the qi-gong I felt still agitated by the day – in a positive way, but also I felt this stiffness in my back, that I always feel, because my body is strained most of the time. After the qi-gong I feel an inner quietness and relaxation, which makes me just want to go to sleep with my hot water bottle. FINALLY, I’m learning what it takes to relax my thoughts – FINALLY I feel, that I can learn the strategies – EVEN ME, I thought I need to run a marathon, walk for ten days, travel for 15 months – fuck no, I just need to practice qi-gong and meditation and that will do the job. (It won’t stop me from the desire to reach physical and mental limits. But I already feel, that it will improve every single day of my life from now on…)

Day 5 The Heartfire keeps burning

Somehow, the last two days have been strange days. I can’t really express why. On the one hand I was more relaxed than in a very long time, but on the other hand I felt a little bit over-motivated, strained, “heartfired”… I think finally I understand the difference between fatigue and tirednes. When you are tired you should go to bed, against fatigue you need to relax and settle your chi. 😀

To be honest – I can’t quite write today, I feel very uninspired and exhausted – even if I didn’t have a tough day. It just reminds me that I have to keep going.

Good night, now I’m just tired.

Day 7 Resolutions

Well, I have to skip day 6, because I didn’t write into my journal yesterday. I had to work in the morning (luckily after a good nights sleep.) and than I went to a barbecue/housewarming party out of town. I meditated in bed in the morning, which felt like a slight cheat..

The Payoff of Week One

Well, I did my “excercises” everyday, but the way I did it was not perfect. Successfully I abandoned my smartphone from my morning routine and before I went to bed I turned it on flight mode as early as possible. (When I came home late sometimes I missed the 30-minutes rule, but in general it worked quite well.) And did I feel any differences? Too be really really honest with you: Today I’m not sure if anything had changed.

What did I do?

  • On 2/7 days I felt more relaxed than normal (okay, it was a special week due to Octoberfest)
  • I practiced the 8 brocades video 4 times this week
  • I listened to much more music again
  • I felt fatigue and physical exertion
  • I started dancing and working out, when I felt very stressed

What did I learn?

  • Qi-Gong is good for me and really regulates my energy and helps me to find ease
  • Dancing improves my mood 100%
  • Listening to my body can be quite helpful (Ok, this is understated: It is fucking important!)
  • It’s a loooong way

What do I want to change next week?

  • I’m going to intensify my meditation practice by determining a fixed time (or time of the day) and by sitting in one spot in order to train my mind more specifically
  • I’m going to integrate another small change – exercising daily in order to reduce my stess level much more
  • Keep doing what I do with the smartphone, might add more timed smartphone breaks as I have to work a lot next week
  • Not getting drunk

I will keep up the fight – throwing the towel is not my style anyways.

“It doesn’t matter, how slowly you go as long as you don’t stop”

 

Micro Habit Challenge 1.0

A few days ago I published this massive Not-To-Do List. I realized, that there are way too many things I want to change. Of course I can’t (not) do it all at once. So, I asked myself, what is my biggest issue at the moment?

Well, the answer is easy: I can’t focus. And why is it so hard for me to focus? Because I’m working on too many projects at the same time (two blogs, and the pre-production of a video project), plus I have two part-time jobs (in video production and as a barkeeper). “On the side” I’m trying to change my way of thinking – from negative to positive. And in the back of my mind I’m constantly thinking of my climbing shoes, which are catching dust.

Everyday I pressure myself  to reconcile everything, but at the end of the day I get nothing done and I’m super exhausted. Plus: I’m prone to procrastination and smartphone addiction, which doesn’t help. I realized:

Before I can master my life, I have to master my mind.

In order to change something it is important to comprehend, how habits work: Depending on the resource you want to believe it takes around 60 days to internalize a new habit. Around 60 times you have to force yourself to do something differently, to excercise, to eat healthy, to not smoke a cigarette and so on. 60 days sounds scary doesn’t it?

Luckily I stumbled upon an article, that introduced me to the micro-habit challenge (Thank you Amina Moreau). Let’s forget about the number, because everything starts with day one. Finally I find the motivation to approach my goals – in small steps:

Trying to make too many big changes at once is all too often destined for failure. It’s the small, incremental changes that end up sticking.

Now it’s time to put up or shut up. Today is my day one of a 14 days challenge.

The next 14 days I want to:

1. Meditate for 10 minutes every day

Since a few years I’m trying to learn meditation. I joined meditation classes, I tried to practice with youtubevideos and by myself. A few months ago I decided to renounce meditation. “I’m just not the meditation person.” But, what I didn’t understand was, that my expectations were just way to high. You can’t learn meditation with a few sessions – It’s a process of learning step-by-step.

To make it easy I picked the easiest form of meditation for a start: breathing meditation.

2. Turn off my phone 30 minutes before I go to bed and turn it on after breakfast

Slowly, we find out, that smartphones are not only bad for our social interaction but poisonous for our brain. The brain of a smartphone addict reacts like the brain of a gambler – every ‘beep’ releases dopamin, which arouses a short rush of happiness and satisfaction in our head. And because we want it over and over again, we tab the screen around 150 times a day. That’s insane and because I see similarities with an addict in my own behaviour I want to make a change.

I’m hoping to really make a difference by splitting my personal goals into digestible bites. As a side-effect I’m hoping to build up more patience with myself. More and more I consider impatience as my biggest weakness. But I know I can work on it – step-by-step.

And now?

Well, day one is nearly over. This morning I meditated and turned off flight mode at the subway with a smile on my face, because my brain was already much clearer. And: I published this article – yaayy! 🙂 The next days I want to maintain a small diary, where I will capture my progress. I will publish it by the end of the week.