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Foundational habits for 2017 - #1 eating healthy

Certain habits are especially important. They are the ones that create the foundation for other habits. The same principle applies for everyday habits as well as professional habits. There are some foundational habits that underlay success in different contexts.

I'm going to draft some foundational habits that I'm considering for the year 2017 for myself. I start with the foundational habits that deal with health, well-being and work-life balance. I also plan the set of cues that remind me of those habits. In the best scenario, the habits become so automated that the habits kick in subconsciously when I get exposed to these cues. 

I hope that these examples inspire you to draft your own foundational habits for 2017! By the way, if you come up with your own foundational habits, please share them with NANOHABIT -enthusiasts via the Facebook group.   

Foundational habit #1: Eating healthy

I consider healthy eating a foundational habit since being healthy and energetic is a precondition for almost everything else I do on a daily basis. I need to come up with a few good nano-actions that help me stick to the habit each day. Nano-actions are the small yet incredibly impactful behaviors that are carefully designed to be repeated day after day. Each small nano-action may mean relatively little on its own but over time they sum up to have extensive impact on our life.  I want to keep these small actions as simple as possible to be able to anchor them into my everyday life. 

Nano-action #1: Vegetables first

I love food so eating too big portions and too many carbs is a continuous challenge for me. The nano-action I plan to utilize is "the vegetables first". It means that before any other portion of food, I always eat a serving of vegetables. One of the logics behind "the vegetables first" is that the brain doesn't immediately register that the stomach is full. It can take as long as 20 minutes for the body and brain to register feelings of fullness.  During this time, receptors inform the brain that your body is receiving nutrients by sending hormone signals. In addition to providing me with nutrients, "the vegetables first" -tactic gives me time to understand that I'm actually full. 

Nano-action #2: Tracking caloric intake

My second nano-action related to healthy eating is tracking my caloric intake. I use the app called MyFintessPal for tracking. There are a plethora of similar apps but I'm fond of  MyFintenessPal since it allows me to scan the barcodes of different food packages and get the nutrition information easily. The app identifies the Finnish food products as well, which I find quite amazing.  I have learned from experience, that the mere act of tracking changes my behavior towards healthier eating. Since tracking requires some work, I have decided to do it every other day. I mark the tracked days in my Harvest Calendar. 

Cue: Harvest Calendar in the kitchen (visual cue) 

I'm planning to use a visual cue that reminds me to follow my planned nano-actions. I got an inspiring Harvest Calendar as a Christmas gift. I have decided to put it on display in our kitchen where I see it each time I'm preparing food. 

In the next post I will detail my second foundational habit.
Meanwhile, I am wishing everyone a good start for the year 2017!

This is what my "vegetables first" nano-action looks like. I cut some carrots and cucumbers into pieces and make sure that I eat them before any other dish. Simple as that.

This is what my "vegetables first" nano-action looks like. I cut some carrots and cucumbers into pieces and make sure that I eat them before any other dish. Simple as that.

The harvest calendar as a simple visual cue. I plan to locate it to the kitchen wall where I can see it each time I'm preparing food. I think that I don't have to track my calorie intake for the whole year since my shopping habits  (what I get from the store) , "vegetables first" etc. will become quite strong after  2-3 months. But let's see what happens.  

The harvest calendar as a simple visual cue. I plan to locate it to the kitchen wall where I can see it each time I'm preparing food. I think that I don't have to track my calorie intake for the whole year since my shopping habits (what I get from the store), "vegetables first" etc. will become quite strong after  2-3 months. But let's see what happens.  

Nanohabit for boosting divergent thinking

Nanohabit: put your shoes on and go to the forest

Effects:

  • boosting divergent thinking
  • feeling healthy and energetic
  • being present and sensing beauty

I introduce you to a nanohabit that both boosts your creativity and promotes your mental and physical wellbeing. During the Christmas season in Finland, we tend to stay inside since it's so dark most of the day. In addition, there's a lot of good food around that is somewhat difficult to resist! Instead of staying inside and eating, I recommend putting shoes on and going to the forest. You'll get some fresh air and a healthy dose of exercise. The forest also has a calming effect which helps you to feel relaxed, present and connected. And there's a good change that something almost magical happens if you need to do some ideation. 

Start with a minimum effort and end up with a flow

Let's elaborate on this a little. The actual nano-action is to put the shoes on and go to the forest. That's all. This activity is so small that it is difficult to come up with reasons not to do it. You may ask if committing to this small thing is enough for achieving any reasonable effect. The answer is likely to be "yes". This is what often happens with nano-actions: you begin with minimal effort but end up with a flow that takes you much further than you expected.  

I'll recall my own experience from this morning. I put on my spiked running shoes since it can be dangerously slippery outside if there's some ice underneath the snow. It took me about 5 minutes to walk to the closest forest. Finding a wooded area in Finland is not too difficult, since about 72 % of the land is covered by forest. The air was a bit chilly and fresh, so I decided to do some running. I love jogging in the forest because I tend to focus on my steps, the path I choose and the jump I have to take to cross the stream. I don't notice any strain on my muscles or occasional heavy breathing. I soon lose track of time and distance covered; running for a quite long time. 

Moving boosts divergent thinking

When the blood started to flow in my veins, my brain started to generate endless streams of ideas related to the work which I had been doing just before my outdoor escapade. I stopped every now and then to record the ideas to the Google Keep on my phone and taking some photos of the beautiful surrounds. 

Most of us know from experience that ideas start to flow when we walk. We may also have heard of famous inventors to have daily strolls and walking meetings. But there is more to it than just stories -  researchers have quite recently been able to prove that walking boosts creative inspiration. According to the study conducted in Stanford by Marily Oppezzo and Daniel L. Schwartz , a person's creative output increase by an average of 60 percent when walking. They examined creativity levels of people while they walked versus while they sat. The study demonstrated that the benefits of walking applied to the “divergent” element of creative thinking, but not to the more “convergent” or focused thinking characteristic of insight. So when you need to get new ideas, walking really is a great strategy. If you want to learn more, the study has been published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition and can be found here

Beauty as a bonus

When walking or running outside, I like to switch between internal thought processes and the awareness of my environment. When in the forest, you notice minor details and manifestations of untouched visual beauty. I took some photos which you can see below. I hope that they inspire you to put your shoes on and go to the forest. You not only get some fresh air but fresh ideas as well!


Running in the forest - feeling the fresh air. Korpilahti, Central Finland.

Running in the forest - feeling the fresh air. Korpilahti, Central Finland.

A scenery with birches.  Korpilahti,   Central Finland.  

A scenery with birches. Korpilahti, Central Finland. 

I finished my run at the lakefront and was confronted with this nice scenery.  Lake PäijänneCentral Finland.