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Start Small, Win Big

This week, I was reminded of the concept of keystone habits and their importance. Journalist Charles Duhigg introduced this idea in his book—The Power of Habit. The term represents the image of a keystone—or a central stone—that holds an arch together. Keystone habits are minor changes or routines that can trigger a positive ripple effect in other areas of a person’s life, much like the first domino piece. I especially love the idea that introducing one small habit can result in several big things taking care of themselves.

For me, regular exercise is undoubtedly one of the most significant keystone habits with a domino effect. This could range from hard weight training for an hour or a relaxing stretch on a mat for 10 minutes to a stroll around the neighborhood. Moving my body has always had the most positive effect on my mind. Because I exercise regularly, my natural inclination is to eat healthy. Since I feel better, I have better energy throughout the day. When in doubt, I move my body, and, sure enough, I always feel at least 1% better afterward, whatever that movement might have been.

Another simple keystone action that I find helpful is making my bed. Could making your bed result in more happiness? According to Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, the answer is YES, it can! While researching her book, she found that one of the most common simple changes that led to happiness was learning to make one’s bed each morning. Interestingly, she said that, in addition to overall happiness, bedmakers are more likely to enjoy their jobs, feel motivated to exercise regularly, and feel well rested.

I am not sure if all those significant results can be attributed to making your bed, but I surely notice that it does add an overall positive feel to the room that I frequently pass by throughout the day.

Here are seven more ideas for top keystone habits that you might want to try.

1. Planning your day: Taking a few minutes to prioritize your to-do list and planning the day in the morning or, better yet, in the evening before going to bed adds a noticeable value to my day.

2. Establishing daily routines: It might not sound sexy or spontaneous to stick to the same rituals every day, but that is precisely what many successful people do. Just sticking to morning rituals and night routines before going to bed makes me feel more creative throughout the day. It sounds ironic, but I feel that I can fly higher by setting boundaries.

3. Going to bed early: This sometimes requires conscious effort from me. But whenever I go to bed earlier than 10 p.m., I feel rested and have a longer deep sleep time, more energy, and better focus the next day.

4. Cooking a healthy meal for myself: Honestly, I can’t say that I am good at cooking, especially when it comes to preparing an elaborate meal for others. At the same time, I regularly cook meals for myself all the time. Half Brussels sprouts, carrots, and salmon drizzled with olive oil and sea salt and cooked in an air fryer is my ready-to-go healthy meal. I feel the best when I eat nutritious meals at home.

5. Meditating and focusing on breathwork: I like to “habit stack” my breathwork with my morning routine of stretching, planning my day, and journaling. Who says you have to make each keystone habit separate? Deep breathing, with 10 slow inhales and exhales, contributes to a relaxed mind for me.

6. Stretching: These days, I place a yoga mat open by the bed before going to sleep and slowly roll over to the mat like a sloth when I wake up. Three to five minutes of whatever feel-good movement on the mat first thing in the morning makes a world of difference for me. The key here is to reduce the hesitation in having to open a yoga mat as soon as I wake up in the morning. It is already there before my mind starts to make up excuses.

7. Practicing piano in the morning: This might not apply to you, but whenever I practice piano in the morning, I feel positive and am at my productive best throughout the day. Whichever activity requires the most brainpower for you, try to do it in the morning.

These are some of the keystone actions that have had a positive domino effect on my life. What is your keystone habit that brings a significant change? What is one thing you want to try this week? Please share it with me!

Have a wonderful week!


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