52 Realistic Microhabits to Live a Little Better Every Day

Jan 01, 2022
 Created by the author

I’m tired of lists of habits that I’m never going to actually do.

I’m not going to wake up at 5 a.m., run 10 miles a day, or fast for 20 hours a day. Let’s face it, most of us aren’t.

No single habit will magically transform your life if it needs too much mental energy from you. I try to make a habit as small as possible to nudge myself in the right direction, following BJ Fogg’s philosophy.

It’s unlikely you can maintain all 52 habits on this list. Yet if you can try a new one each week and some of the habits stick, your life may very well be a bit better. Go with the microhabits that feel right to you. Personal growth is acting in a way consistent with your goals, not anyone else’s.

  1. Balance on one leg when brushing your teeth in the morning and the other leg in the evening. Standing on one leg is a great indicator of overall brain health, this simple exercise trains you both physically and mentally.
  2. Turn off auto-replay. Ever sat watching hours of Netflix when you planned to only watch one episode? There’s a simple solution: Turn off auto replay. This gives you the time to break the loop and decide to do something else with your time instead.
  3. Always eat before you go shopping. Research found people who shopped on an empty stomach were more likely to impulse buy food to satisfy the craving coming from their brain. If you eat first, it’s easier to resist the smell from the pastry section.
  4. Take a break after your meal before going for dessert. It can take 15–20 minutes for our brain to register that we are full as we process our food. If you jump straight into dessert, you’ll only feel the bloating and food coma effects afterward!
  5. Drink water before you snack. We can confuse hunger and thirst pretty easily and many adults are chronically dehydrated. Try drinking a glass of water before you reach for a snack to be sure you’re eating because you are actually hungry.
  6. Don’t sit still. Despite all the focus on perfect posture, humans weren’t designed to be statues. Even the best posture is bad for you if you stay in it for too long. It’s better to fidget and move around in your seat to stop yourself from stiffening up.
  7. Always get off the elevator one floor lower than your destination. This is a simple way to get in an extra flight of stairs and a bit of extra movement in your day.
  8. Make your phone grayscale. This simple trick makes your phone far less interesting, scrolling through Instagram is not the same. Our brains aren’t as attracted to the dullness. I found it reduced my phone usage by over 50%.
  9. Delete social media apps. I have kept social media but got rid of the apps. The apps are perfectly designed to steal your attention, the mobile website experience isn’t nearly as enjoyable. You can still check your accounts but it’s less addictive.
  10. 20–20–20 rule. Set a timer for every 20 minutes to look away from a screen for 20 seconds at an object 20 feet away. We didn’t evolve to spend half our waking day staring at a screen and our eyes don’t just miraculously adapt to the strain they are now under. Looking away for a period allows our eyes to refocus and reduces the chance of eye strain.
  11. Take vitamin D spray in the winter. If you live in a country with a cold and dark winter like me, you are probably vitamin D deficient in this period. Vitamin D comes from sunlight naturally and helps regulate the immune system. I leave my spray next to my toothbrush and it’s difficult to miss.
  12. No screens while eating. Eating mindfully means you give your brain the chance to taste your food. It also helps you to work out when you are full so you don’t overeat.
  13. Every time you go shopping, buy a fruit or vegetable you haven’t tried before. Eventually, you’ll run out but you’ll find healthy foods you didn’t know you liked. Variety is critically important to our diet and different colors in vegetables signify different essential nutrients our body needs.
  14. Leave the remote control next to the TV. There’s nothing wrong with watching a bit of television but you want to avoid sitting there for hours in a row without moving. The remote control is a great invention to help you be lazy. By putting it out of reach, you’re forced to get up more often.
  15. Unfollow any accounts that make you feel lesser. It’s important to not only follow people who agree with your viewpoint. Yet if someone’s posts constantly serve to trigger negative feelings in you or make you feel inadequate, then remove them from your feed. How Twitter sees an event often isn’t how it actually plays out.
  16. Turn down the volume of your music 10%. There’s a hearing crisis coming soon for millennials who’ve blasted loud music through their eardrums through their headphones. Lower your default volume for listening to music. Your ears will thank you.
  17. Take a deep breath before scrolling. The average American checks their phone 86 times per day. Imagine what a difference 86 mindful breaths would make to your life. Every time you reach for your phone, breathe in for three counts, hold for four and exhale for five.
  18. Avoid coffee within six hours of bedtime. Coffee addiction feels socially acceptable, even though it can wreak havoc on your sleep. If you can survive for the six hours before going to sleep without coffee, then you reduce the damage to your health.
  19. Keep the things you use most often in less accessible spaces. Most people organize their wardrobes and kitchen cupboards for convenience. Why don’t you flip it so that you need to move your body a little bit extra each day.
  20. Make your bed. As a single guy currently working from his bedroom, this one can be easy to skip. Yet as Admiral McRaven shared with such power, this early achievement gives you a slight morning mood boost.
  21. Sleep with your phone in another room. Ninety percent of millennials sleep with their phones. We’re better than that. Keep it in another room so when you wake up you have a few tech-free seconds to think. Use an old-school alarm clock if you need it.
  22. Clear up one item every time you leave a room. For my fellow natural slobs, it’s easy to let a mess build up. The easy way to keep it under control is to look for one thing to put in its right place every time you exit.
  23. Make sure your butt is against the back of your seat. I remember when I thought it was cool to sit like a confused sloth. Age has taught me a harsh lesson here. You probably won’t follow all the posture rules out there but your back will thank you if you make sure your butt is against the back of every seat you use.
  24. Use a two-liter water bottle to motivate yourself to drink more water. Only 22% of Americans drink the recommended amount of water per day. You don’t need to be told why drinking water is important but you probably need to drink more. Use a 2-liter water bottle at home and fill it to the top every morning.
  25. Keep nuts around. Many people aspire to never snack but I’ve tried many times and failed. What works for me is replacing unhealthy snacks with healthier ones. If you’re not allergic, nuts can be a good source of nutrients and block a craving.
  26. Listen to songs that make you want to dance during errands. In the internet’s obsession with productivity, it can be tempting to want to listen to podcasts whenever you can or binaural beats to focus. Yet don’t forget music’s ability to boost our wellbeing. Not everything needs to be about productivity. Have fun!
  27. Mute notifications for all non-essential apps. Nothing makes me rage delete an app faster than when it sends me pointless notifications. The average American gets 46 a day. If you go to your phone settings, turn off notifications for all apps except those used by the people you want to get in touch with you.
  28. No sugar in tea or coffee. We don’t need sugar in tea and coffee. Most of us get more than enough sugar as it is and after a couple of weeks, your taste buds will adjust so you don’t miss it. This takes away one micro-task from you.
  29. Wear sunscreen whenever in the sun for long periods. Even when it’s cold or cloudy, the UV can still damage our skin. It’s why many dermatologists recommend adding products to protect our skin all year round.
  30. When you finish work, turn your world upside down. We spend most of our day with our head above our feet but swapping this around can offer a release.
  31. Tell someone if you’re having a bad day. You don’t need to rant but don’t bottle it up. It’s okay.
  32. When queuing, make sure your hips are level. So many of us resort to staring at a screen whenever we have to stand still for more than five seconds and tilt our weight one way or the other. Instead, try to keep your hips level with each other and have your shoulders inline above them. This can prevent muscular imbalances and the potential for back pain.
  33. Leave a glass/bottle of water on your phone. In the night, our body uses our water reserves so we often wake up in a dehydrated state. Many of us forget to restore our body’s balance so I use my tech addiction to my advantage. With this method, I need to touch a bottle of water to get my phone.
  34. Before going to sleep let your neck and shoulders hang off the edge of your bed. Add this stretch to your bedtime routine to open up your chest and get your blood flowing to the heart and brain. Have your legs and lower torso on your bed then hang your upper body off the edge. Lean toward the floor as much as you are comfortable.
  35. Compliment at least one person every day. It doesn’t need to be big. Just let someone know you appreciate them.
  36. Buy the smallest portion of a sugary snack. We’re all going to have moments where we give in to our cravings. When it comes to sugar, I have the self-discipline of a ferret. If you can buy the smallest possible portion to get your fix, the inconvenience of needing to buy another can stop a binge session.
  37. Keep your shower products on the floor. Another way to get in a couple of extra stretches per day is by placing your items like soap and shampoo on the shower floor rather than in a more convenient holder. It’s not much but in the long run, every little helps.
  38. Before you meet anyone you already know, think of one good memory you shared. Life is busy and sometimes we aren’t present with the people we care about. Don’t let a negative event from earlier in the day poison how you interact with them. Go into every meeting with a positive mindset by thinking of a time the person made you happy.
  39. Always say please and thank you. Maybe it’s because I’m British but this is just good manners. Your small bit of gratitude could brighten someone’s mood and take no effort from you. Why wouldn’t you do it?
  40. Place a micro-chapter book in your bathroom. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday. Both are books where you can open a random page and find meaning.
  41. Leave any impulse purchase over $100 in your basket for a day. Every day our brains are fighting against a persistent invasion from adverts for things we don’t want. We see between 4,000 to 10,000 a day! Give yourself a cooling-off period to see if your enthusiasm fades.
  42. Give yourself at least one compliment every day. You’re awesome. Be compassionate to yourself every day. Yes, we’ve all got our struggles but we all have our strengths too.
  43. Commit to a one-minute leisure walk a day. As many of us discovered in the disaster that was 2020, walking is great for our mental health. The mistake many people make is trying to block out too much time. Plan to walk for just one minute and once you’re out you’ll probably be happy to continue for longer.
  44. Don’t stand still. Standing still for an extended period is not much better than sitting for a long period. You can rock your weight forward and backward move it between the balls of your feet and the heels to reduce some of the negative effects.
  45. Set up automatic investing. It takes ten minutes to create your account and create a regular payment schedule. Then you don’t need to think about this until it’s time to take the money out. The only true form of passive income.
  46. Walk and talk. If you’re having an old-school phone call, walk while you talk to get some extra steps in. One study found walking boosted creativity by 60% so it’s great for brainstorming sessions.
  47. Put your alarm clock across the room. I used to set my alarm to a time that would allow me to have a peaceful morning. I’d then snooze it to the last possible moment where if I ran around the house, I’d still make it to work on time. The extra stress wasn’t worth it. By putting my alarm clock on the other side of the room, I was forced to get out of bed instead.
  48. Breathe deeply during dead time. On the London underground, everyone is looking down at their phones and compressing their chest. Use your waiting or commuting time to lift your head and breathe deeply instead. You’ll feel calmer and your brain will thank you.
  49. Practice zero inbox. Whenever you open an email, do something with it whether it’s deleting it or archiving it. The only emails I see when I log in are the ones I still need to act on. There’s something beautiful about seeing an empty inbox.
  50. Do extra squats whenever you go to the bathroom. The ability to stand up after being sat down is a standard test of functional fitness. We all need to answer nature’s call so why not use the opportunity to strengthen those glutes with a couple of extra squats.
  51. Make the bathroom a phone-free zone. If you live with people, and especially if you have kids, it can be hard to get any time alone with your thoughts. If you keep your phone away, you can check in with yourself instead.
  52. Do one random act of kindness a day. Being kind to others makes us happier. If every day you look for an opportunity to do one small good thing for someone else, it makes your day better and their day better too.

Amar's Letter

Real talk on driving impact as an imperfect human.