Tell me your daily routines and I will tell you your future. To stress-proof our lives we not only need to do inner work, such as we talked about in the last two Provisions, we also need to do outer work. And that takes many forms. In this Provision we look at the question of our routines. When we get in the groove of healthy routines, we don’t have to work as hard and we can better handle the things that come our way. Through clarity, information, connection, and curiosity we can set ourselves on the right course. That has been my experience and that is my hope for you.
Question: how hard do you have to work to remember to brush your teeth on a regular basis? If you are anything like me, that one doesn’t take a lot of effort. It’s not on my Outlook calendar and I don’t have reminders popping up on my PDA. I just do it. I also go to the dentist for a cleaning, every six months. I make the appointment for my next visit before leaving the office from my last one. That appointment goes into my PDA and when the time comes around, it beeps and I’m there. It’s all pretty routine and automatic.
The same goes for my exercise routine. I get up in the morning and do pretty much the same thing every day. I get dressed in my workout clothes, make a pot of green tea, read the paper while drinking the tea, check on my appointments for the day, take four deep breaths, and then go for a 30-90 minute run or bike ride. On Saturdays, I go for a long run that lasts for two hours or more. When I get back from my aerobic workout, I do some stretches, sit-ups, and, from time to time, strength training before cleaning up and getting started with my day.
Breakfast is also a routine. 90% of the time I make and drink my Healthy Fruit Chewy. I’ve posted the recipe on our website and I have updated it over time as the recipe has evolved. It includes an abundance of health-positive fruits, proteins, seeds, spices, oils, and other ingredients (like bee pollen and acidophilus). That gets me all the way through to lunch without hunger or snacking. It really is a great way to start the day (along with the vitamins and other supplements I also take routinely).
In the afternoon I enjoy taking a break from work with a pot of Purple Leaf Tulsi Tea, also known as Holy Basil. This naturally caffeine-free leaf is a sacred plant from India used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. In India, Tulsi is considered an “elixir of life,” relieving stress and supporting well being. Recent studies suggest that Tulsi may be a COX-2 inhibitor, like many modern painkillers, due to its significant amount of eugenol. It also has a goodly amount of antioxidants as well as significant antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal activity.
If I feel tired in the afternoon, which doesn’t happen very often, I may lie down for 15-20 minutes. I can usually fit that in around my coaching appointments and other work. On occasion, I also do a brief stint (6-12 minutes) of Heart Rate Variability meditation using the Healing Rhythmsbiofeedback training program. It doesn’t take much time and I enjoy the relaxation it brings.
Lunch and dinner also have their rhythms. My wife and I participate in a CSA Farm, which gives us a steady supply of fresh fruits and vegetables for more than half the year. You can find a CSA Farm near you by visiting LocalHarvest.org. Through our local Farmer’s Market we have also connected with local sources of lean, happy meat such as bison and free-range chickens. So we have a salad for lunch and a small piece of meat with a side of vegetables for dinner (along with a second round of vitamins and other supplements).
With the longer days in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s easy right now to go out for a walk after dinner • a great way to settle things down and to reconnect with those you love. That paves the way for a couple more hours of productivity, if I want, or relaxation before ending the day with a 30-minute stint in the hot tub. We bought that tub in 2003 and we still manage to sit in it most every evening. It has more than paid for itself, since it helped me to avoid surgery for a torn rotator cuff and my wife to avoid surgery for a frozen shoulder.
Before going to sleep, I take a few more deep breaths, talk with my wife about the things we are grateful for in our day, and take the melatonin that has been so helpful to me in the wake of my2007 panic attack. The melatonin helps us to fall asleep more quickly and to feel more rested the next day. That’s the function of melatonin: a hormone produced naturally by our pineal glands at night: it helps us to mop up and recover from the stress and strains of the day. After considerable research, personal experience, and talking with multiple doctors (to confirm its health safety), I am persuaded that everyone over 40 should take melatonin unless there is a medical reason to avoid it.
Then we go to sleep and get up the next day, only to do it all over again. There are, of course, variations for travel and special activities (like entertaining, lawn mowing, gardening, and guitar playing). But even then, we seem to hold on to most of our healthy routines. I never pack a suitcase without including my running gear, my supplements, and multiple bags of tea. I also take the biofeedback device with me for my laptop.
I mention all this not to boast or to show off what a good life I have. Indeed, you may look at my routines and not find them attractive at all. “A Healthy Fruit Chewy, every morning, for breakfast!!!” I can hear you exclaiming and see you shaking your head right now. That’s fine. I’m not trying to persuade you to adopt my routines. I just want you to know that I have them and that they make it easier for me to support the kind of life I am building for myself.
That’s what routines do. They eliminate the hard work of deciding anew, each and every time, each and every day, what we will do. And the secret of our future is hidden in our daily routines. Perhaps that explains, at least in part, why my “real age” is almost 20 years younger than my “chronological age” according to those virtual age calculators on the Internet. My routines help to support my health.
Twenty-five years ago I had a friend in his mid 50s who worked in a downtown office building and who had the then-obligatory, mid-life heart attack for white-collar workers. After being treated by his doctor and after recovering sufficiently to go back to work, my friend showed up in the office with a prescription, written on a physician’s Rx pad, for a 20-minute nap every day after lunch. Now this man had never taken a nap in his life, and there was certainly no nap room at the office (let alone a culture that supported naps).
He nevertheless talked to his boss and they agreed that a 20-minute nap after lunch every day was better than another heart attack. So my friend brought in a yoga mat, loosened his tie, and found a place to go and lie down for 20 minutes on a daily basis. To the best of my knowledge he’s alive and well today in the state of Kentucky.
I’m glad I didn’t have to wait to have a heart attack and to get a doctor’s prescription / permission before developing my healthy routines. They work better preventively anyway. Especially when they become habits that work on autopilot. We don’t want to have to think about these things. We just want to set them and forget them, like a thermostat that regulates the temperature of the environments in which we live and work.
If that sounds boring to you, then you’re missing the distinction between a rut and a routine. Ruts are mundane, random, boring, life-depleting, and going nowhere. Routines are vital, chosen, satisfying, life-enriching, and spiraling upward. That’s exactly how I feel about my routines. They not only organize my life and make it easier, they also fill me with joy because they are meaningful to me and because they support my values and goals in life.
No wonder good habits have such stress-proofing potential. The more you can get in a positive rhythm, the easier life will be. Of course, bad habits have the opposite effect. Smoking two packs a day, to mention only one example, will lead to health problems more often than not. Everyone know this, but not everyone sets up their routines accordingly. That makes me sad but it also keeps me in business as a coach. Setting up what one coach calls “personal ecosystems” is a lot of what we do. We help people design the habits that make life work.
So how do we develop good habits? There’s no surefire method, but it does help to become clear, informed, connected, and curious:
- Clarity. What’s important to you? What do you value? What’s alive in you? What needs do you want to meet? Until we can answer questions such as these, there’s no way to get started on developing good habits. Clarity is motivation.
- Information. Once you know what you value and what’s important, then there’s usually a body of knowledge to learn and master. If snowboarding is the most important thing in the world to you, then you better learn about snowboarding. If green energy is the most important thing, the you better learn about green energy. And if you want to live a long time, so you can do what you want and contribute what you can for as long as possible, then you better learn about living a long time. Information is power.
- Connection. No one is an island and that’s especially true when it comes to life-enriching habits. My wife tells me that I have greatly influenced her lifestyle since I share my habits with her. That’s probably true, but it works the other way around as well. We support each other. So too with personal trainers, massage therapists, running buddies, or anyone else who has similar interests and services. Connections are wonderful.
- Curiosity. Don’t take my word for it, figure things out for yourself. Habits start out as experiments. What healthy routines would relieve your stress and make your life better? You’ll never know until you try. Once you find one you like, repeat it. Play with it. Modify it. Adapt it. Amplify it. Before long, your experiment will become a healthy regimen. Curiosity didn’t kill the cat. Curiosity is what makes life possible.
Coaching Inquiries: What habits make you feel good? What habits make you feel bad? How could you develop more good habits? What values would that support? Where could you go for information? Who could support you on the journey?
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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..
Really enjoyed the brain talk in your last Provision!! The whole article was informative. Thanks!
Here’s a couple of YouTube videos of Dan Gilbert, author of “Stumbling on Happiness”. I love this guy! So intelligent, and with such a great sense of humor. I’m listening to “Stumbling on Happiness” on CD, read by Dan Gilbert. Excellent!
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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