2 More BAD Habits You MUST Break

Today we will cover the remaining two bad habits you need to replace. I share these with you without judgement. We all drift in the direction of our bad habits, but by having a system for behavioural change, you can replace these habits with better ones. And so, I humbly share this content with you in the hope it will make a BIG difference in your life as it has in mine.

Bad Habit #4 – Doing things with haste for no apparent reason

In a fast world people are now addicted to speed. This is a destructive habit that will destroy your health and relationships. Eating, driving, working, making love, scrolling, reading, texting….everything done in haste for no apparent reason puts a lot of pressure on you and ironically makes you slow, sick and stupid. I say this with the utmost of respect. The science clearly shows that when you do things with haste the stress you put on your mind and body ironically slows you down and makes you ineffective. And the stress hormones (especially adrenalin and cortisol) surging through your system make you physically sick over time. It will impair your digestion, you will not absorb what you eat, you will have trouble sleeping, and it’s a downhill spiral from there. A lot of people use exercise as therapy to neutralise the effects of speed-induced-stress but the better method is to SLOW DOWN! There is usually no reason to speed up. Almost everything we do day-to-day can wait or be done in a slower, methodical manner. There is not one piece of research showing any benefit whatsoever from doing things quickly.

As the godfather of the slow movement, Carl Honore says, “I am not anti-speed but there is a time for doing things quickly and a time for slow living.”

How do you know you are addicted to speed?

· You get a rush from meeting self-imposed deadlines
· You find it difficult to sit and do nothing for more than 10 minutes
· You find it difficult to focus and listen to what the other person is saying
· You need alcohol to relax and constantly crave carbs/sweets
· You find it difficult to notice beauty around you. Or you are numb to it

The solution: Speed is an addiction. If you’re used to running on adrenalin, you will feel strange without it. Here are some tips to wean yourself off speed:

· Don’t do more than one thing at a time
· Don’t take call waiting – in fact you should disable this feature
· Don’t schedule too many meetings in a day
· Take at least 2 renewal breaks throughout the day to stretch, breath and meditate for 5 – 15 minutes
· Don’t take on too much work. Learn to say ‘no’
· Take a walk after work, preferably in nature. Go alone

If you’re interested in reading more about the dangers of speed I highly recommend the books: “In Praise of Slow” and “The Slow Fix”, both by Carl Honore.

Bad Habit #5 – Watching TV till late for no apparent reason

A surprising high percentage of adults get too comfortable in front of the television and mindlessly surf channels or binge. They use this to wind down and induce sleep. The problem with this is two-fold. Firstly, it delays your optimal going-to-bed sleep time, which depending on your chrono-type is between 9:30pm -11pm. (Don’t know your chronotype? Refer to my articles on sleep starting with: How to get The Best Sleep). Secondly, the artificial light from the TV may lull your eyes to get tired but it ironically delays the release of sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin; because the light tricks your body-clock into thinking it is still daytime. You need melatonin not only to get to sleep but to get deeper sleep; deep sleep is the most important part of your sleep cycle which detoxes your mind, body and emotions. It is the single most potent factor for you to look younger and live longer.

The simple solution: We set an alarm to wake up, why not set an alarm for sleep. My meditation app Headspace has a feature which prompts you with a notification to go to bed and listen to a sleep cast, which is the equivalent of a bedtime story. Don’t laugh, it works! Plug in your ear phones in bed and I guarantee you will nod off in record time!

5 BAD Habits You MUST Break

Before we continue the series I’d like to first bring your attention to the top 5 BAD HABITS you need to be aware of. Today I will cover three of them. I will cover the remaining two in upcoming blogs.

Please don’t hate me for pointing these bad habits out to you. I do it without judgement whatsoever. I sincerely wish you the best life, which is why I write these articles. I always come from a place of love and if you decide to take action I know it will make a BIG difference in your life as it has in mine.

I don’t believe there is a secret to life nor do I believe in waiting for inspiration or motivation before doing something. I do believe however in a number of incremental changes that you can make to your habits that compound over time to build a great life, brick-by-brick, day-by-day.

BAD Habit #1: Snacking on food all day

Your body has an intelligence where it naturally heals itself and constantly regenerates and repairs, not just when you are sleeping but also when you go hungry. If you are constantly snacking, you never allow your body to enter this state. Scientists are now discovering that our bodies are not genetically designed to continuously eat. We need to go hungry and this has been our way of life for thousands of years. We ate, we rested and then we hunted and gathered, but in between we went hungry, often. Today we call that ‘fasting’. 

We have a primal switch to consume food when it is available. The problem is that food is available everywhere at any time. Look, don’t get me wrong, I love my food experiences. I am not saying abstain from food but allow yourself to go hungry by not eating between meals. You should allow 3-5 hours between each meal depending on how large the previous meal was. Instead of setting a time period, it’s best to not eat until you actually feel the hunger in your stomach.

BAD Habit #2: Snacking on Technology/Social Media 

Having your phone on you the whole time, checking texts, emails, posts and getting constantly distracted by other notifications is an extremely poor habit that you MUST break. It has dire consequences on your cognitive performance and your relationships, especially if you have children. I have been talking about the harmful impact of pop-up notifications since 2010 but now the impact is a lot worse because it is overlaid by the highs and lows of social media ‘likes’ and the inevitable social comparisons people make. It is very damaging to your physical, mental and emotional health on so many levels. I recommend the highly acclaimed work of Georgetown University Professor Cal Newport called Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distrated World.

The Solution: 

·     To do deep work you need to do a digital detox twice a day not once a year. Leave your phone behind whenever you get the chance. I do this when I am jogging, in the gym, shopping for groceries, attending meetings, cooking and in the bedroom. You need to make a point of detoxing for 20 mins twice a day, every day. And switch off your phone after 9pm at home.

·     Disable your email notifications on your laptop. In her research paper titled Why is it so hard to do my work?, Professor Leroy from University of Minnesota, found that people are less productive when they are constantly moving from one task to another instead of focusing on one thing at a time. She called it ‘attention residue’ and it is a real problem if you are trying to be effective and efficient. Otherwise you are wasting a lot of precious time trying to re-focus after the interruption and this reduces your ability to finish the task quickly and effectively. Which means you need to work longer hours for a sub-optimal result. This is time that could be spent socialising with family and friends.

BAD Habit #3: Shallow Breathing

Why is this a bad habit? Shallow breathing triggers your sympathetic nervous system because it tricks your body into thinking that you are under attack, i.e. fight or flight response. The problem with this state is that you cannot digest your food, sleep or do good work. The other problem with shallow breathing is that it builds up toxins in your body. How? Next time your naturopath talks you into a detox program of herbal tonics and juice fasts, you may want to remind them that 70% of the toxins in our body are expelled by the lungs during proper exhalation. The other 30% through sweating and elimination (number 1’s and 2’s). Breathing deeply is easy and its free!

These are the usual triggers for shallow breathing:

·     driving in traffic
·     at your laptop or pc
·     on your iPad or iPhone
·     sitting for long periods especially in meetings
·     when you are doing things in a hurry
·     when you are focusing on external things
·     whenever you are stressed
·     watching dramatic movies

The solution: It can be very difficult to catch yourself shallow breathing because you will usually do it when you are deep in thought. The next best thing is to set an alarm reminder every hour to stop, revive, survive. Revive by breathing in through the nose for 4 seconds, holding it for 5, and breathing out for 6 through your mouth. Do these 4 times every hour. It only takes 60 seconds every hour and is a whole lot cheaper than buying detox programs.

Essential Habit #5: Review & Reflection

This article is in a series of 4 rituals, 5 habits and 6 hacks that will revolutionise your life. You will find the series at A Higher Branch Blog Page.

What is Reflection and Review?

I touched on this habit in Ritual #1 on Journaling. When you develop the habit of reflecting and reviewing throughout the day, you flip any failures and rejections that inevitably happen into opportunities for LEARNING and GROWTH.

Why is this Habit Important?

Without a process for reflection and review, you will indulge in toxic thinking throughout the day. By the time the day is over and you arrive home, your feelings will be littered with negative beliefs about yourself. But when you ask yourself two simple questions in that moment you will avoid ruminating, you will feel better and you will sleep better that night ready for growth the next morning. The two simple steps/questions are:

· NOTICING: How am I feeling right now?
· LEARNING: What can I learn so I can do it differently next time?

Here are some examples of how we process rejection and failure without reflection and review and then with Reflection and Review:

Health: You did exercise and you feel rundown after it.

Without reflection and review your subconscious negative self-talk might sound like this: “I am not fit enough” or “I should wait until it gets warmer” or “I am just not cut out for exercise” or “I must be coming down with a cold”.

With reflection and review: “What can I learn from this? Did I eat too much before exercise? Do I need to get more sleep? Did I need to stretch? Did I over-train? Was I dehydrated? Should I train at a different time of day that suits my chrono-type?” What can I do differently next time?

Love & Relationships: You initiated intimacy and was rejected by your partner. Single? You initiated conversation and you were brushed.

Without Reflection and Review: “My partner does not find me attractive. My partner does not love me. I am dull and boring. I am ugly. I have nothing interesting to say.”

Now With Reflection and Review: “What can I learn from this? Did I choose the wrong timing to approach my partner/that person? Did they have a bad day? Were they feeling tired and self-conscious and not in the mood? How can I approach it differently next time?”

Work & Clients: Customer doesn’t call you back after a consultation.

Without Reflection and Review: “They don’t like me. I’m not good at my job. Others are better than me. I should try another job.”

Now with reflection and review: “What can I learn from this? Do they fear making a decision and a commitment? Was I coming on too strong? Did I listen enough in the meeting? Are they just not ready? What can I do differently next time?”

Notice from all the above examples, ALL reflection and review starts with step one: noticing and acknowledging your feelings and step 2: starting with the question: “WHAT CAN I LEARN FROM THIS?” and finishes with the question “HOW CAN I DO IT DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME?”

WHY Do We Dump on Ourselves?

If I can be honest with you, the major reason is that it is easier to indulge in negative self-talk (as much as it hurts) than to confront the pain. It gives us the excuse to fail and stop trying. It is much harder to stop, feel the pain, and reflect and review what you have learned. Why? Because your learnings require action and a lot of the time, the action requires you to pivot and step outside of your comfort zone. So review and reflection is tough. Step 1 requires you to feel the pain (you need to feel to heal). Step 2 requires you to learn, grow and do something different.

How do YOU cultivate this Habit?

To cultivate this habit, you need to practice mindfulness meditation. I know you have heard that word too many times but the truth is that mindfulness works. It helps you realise that you are not your thoughts. You need to step outside of your thoughts and notice (step 1) and take different action (step 2).

Just like Habit #2 on Situational Gratitude, this Habit #5 on Reflection and review must happen in the moment. It cannot wait until you get home and journal. By all means still do that, but for it to be most effective, it needs to be practiced right there and then, straight after the interaction that led to the sinking feeling from a fail or rejection. You need to process it on the fly. I often take moments out of my day in between meetings to do that. Now it’s a habit.

This is why this series of articles starts with the 4 rituals, including the ritual of daily meditation. It is meditation that helps you to notice your thoughts and feelings (being mindful). Without the ritual of daily meditation, you will find it difficult to develop the habit of Reflection and Review in the moment.

(Our meditation coach, Tom Sullivan, is an expert that can help you and your organisation learn the practice of mindful meditation. Please reach out to him by emailing our team on enquiries@ahigherbranch.com He coaches our team every two weeks and the results have been nothing short of remarkable.)

Essential Habit #2 – Situational Gratitude

Did you know that every time you focus on what you don’t have and take what you have for granted you enter into a state of systemic lack of gratitude that leads you down the path of unhappiness; and for some, misery and depression. DID YOU ALSO KNOW THAT, in this negative state, your mind sends a message to your physical cells to die? That’s right. This accelerates your ageing and shortens telomere length that makes you look and feel older. In this article I will provide you with the antidote. And it’s NOT gratitude as you know it.

Last week I brought you Habit #1 as part of the series in our academy’s daily system for living – featuring 4 rituals, 5 habits and 6 life-hacks. We have already covered the 4 essential Daily Rituals. (Incidentally the difference between rituals and habits is in the timing. Rituals are scheduled so you show up at the same time every day. Habits are something you do throughout the day). The link to all these prescriptive articles is on the A Higher Branch website. For now I want you to focus on what I call the battle between 1% and 99%. 99% wins hands down right?

1% vs 99%

Most people know of the power of journaling gratitude. This is where you sit at the end of the day and write down everything you are grateful for in life, blah blah blah… This way of practising gratitude is mediocre at best (I will admit however that it is better than nothing). Plus you will find it difficult to persist because you can end up writing the same thing every day and will quickly get bored.

I call it ‘mediocre’ because the rest of your day is unaccounted for. You have on average 16 waking hours. That is 960 minutes. If you practice gratitude for 10 minutes it means you have spent a miserly 1% of your day focused on being grateful. The question is: What are you focusing on the rest of your 950 minutes? The other 99% of the time? What is going on in your thoughts and feelings? What is inhabiting your heart and mind? Are you truly living in ‘a state’ of constant gratitude?

1% can never defeat 99%.

In the 21st Century, we are constantly bombarded with media and material wants designed to keep us on the hedonic treadmill. Which means we are constantly not happy with who we are or what we have. This is a sad state to be in – literally. If you are spending 99% of your day in that sad state, you are continuously sending signals to your cells to die. We call it ‘going after our goals’ or ‘progress’ or ‘winning’ or ‘achieving’, but in reality it is a discontentment with our life. When we are stuck in this cycle we cannot really be giving thanks for each and every powerful fulfilling moment. Instead, we are constantly focused on what we do NOT have and this causes us to take what we have for granted. So can 1% of gratitude override 99% of discontentment? Clearly not.

There is a rule in this universe. If you consistently take what you have for granted, it will either abandon you or be taken from you. Be it the people in your life: your family, your partner, your friends, your staff, your colleagues or your customers. Or your health, your wealth and your peace of mind.

In this 99% state you are also more inclined to be irritated throughout the day and this puts you more and more in the zone where you are constantly blaming and complaining about the state of your life and how you are “wanting change”. Pardon the cliche: Change is within.

“You will never materialise a magnificent future if you are not in love with the present”

Habit #2: Situational Gratitude

The Powerful Habit I learned from My Grandmother Rose

When you are in a constant state of gratitude throughout the day, you become innately happy without effort. You will not have to write anything down.

I grew up in a peaceful little village at the foothills of Mount Lebanon. As a boy I was always shadowing my grandmother as she harvested seasonal produce, milked cows and sheep, fetched eggs, cooked slow meals and baked bread. My role was to run and pick herbs for her as she stirred her old warped but deliciously coated pots that had the scent of fennel seeds, thyme and ghee. But most of the time I was listening to her speak. She was the type of person who verbalised just about everything she was thinking and feeling. So I grew up hearing her declarations of gratitude.

​What she said: “Summer has done its job and autumn will bring figs”
How it made me feel: “There is no good or bad season. Every season is exciting in its own way.”

What she said: “Enjoy these spinach pies Samuel, our precious neighbour made them with her gifted hands. Look at the perfect way she has shaped them.”
How it made me feel: “People matter. People have special talents and gifts.and I am so grateful to have them in my life.”

What she said: “Dont worry Samuel, God will make you feel better. He always takes care of you.”
How it made me feel: “Someone in this universe has my back. I cannot lose, even when I fail”

Over time I too developed the habit of being grateful for the little things that happened to me each and every day. I would give thanks quietly and inwardly, whether I am in traffic, sitting in a cafe or in a business meeting.

How to Practice Situational Gratitude

​Simply, whenever you mindfully experience something that engages one or more of your five senses.

Touch

When you touch your warm furry pet you are flooded with feelings of happiness and gratitude for their constant loyalty, playful energy and cuddles and muzzles. 

The warmth of the summer sun. The freshness of a cool winter breeze.

Taste

When you have a delicious cup of coffee or tea be grateful and give thanks to the hands that harvested the beans or leaves, the sun that ripened the plant, the water that nourished it and the 

​Give thanks to a meal that you can eat in a cafe or restaurant that has been grown by a farmer, transported by a truck driver and prepared by a cook. You can enjoy all of this at a fraction of the cost of your time.

Smell

When you inhale the scent of a bouquet of flowers, be grateful for the bees pollinating the plants, the growers, the florists who go to the markets at 3am every morning to select and then creatively arrange them;

The smell of freshly cut grass usually instantly brings happy childhood memories of playing outside and of warm weather.

Hear

When you hear a beautiful song, give thanks to the musicians who took the time to labour over the music and lyrics. For the engineer that set up the board. Not to mention the radio producer that cues the song. I know they are all getting paid for their work but that does not mean you cannot appreciate all the effort behind the scenes. All so you can enjoy it in a few minutes.

Sight

The beauty of the sunrise or sunset, the beach, the clouds, the flowers, natures art in the sky, the beauty of eyes, the design of clothes, cars, furniture, food and all things that are created by passionate creative humans. It is truly miraculous when you think about it.

Gratitude When You Have An Irritating Moment

We all experience irritating moments on any given day; sometimes multiple times a day, but when you get into the habit of slipping into gratitude in that irritating moment, you neutralise the irritation.

The practice of flipping an irritating moment is extremely powerful. It is simply practiced by reminding yourself of all the things you should be grateful for in each of the 8 areas of your life. The roof over your head, your health, your loved ones, the safe and secure country you live in, the clean air and water, the books, the courses, the people, the food, the friendships and the mere fact of being alive.

​So next time you have an irritating moment, let a smile fill your face. I say to myself: “Sam you are getting irritated, slip into gratitude.” I start to list all the things in my mind and sure enough the irritation subsides and disintegrates.

Incidentally, your high level gratitude list should be written at the very front of your journal. Click here to read all about the journaling ritual.

I hope this article has made you think of gratitude in a different way. I write with pure love and my ultimate aim is for you to sow the habits that will bring you happiness and joy.

Very soon we will be announcing our line-up of speakers for Upgrade Your Life 2020. If you have not yet secured your spot and are thinking about attending, please do so as soon as possible. What you will achieve in 2 days will revolutionise your whole year.

The 5 Powerful Daily Habits

This article is part of a series in our academy’s “4-5-6 System” – 4 rituals, 5 habits and 6 life-hacks – for daily living. Systems like this are powerful because they do not rely on motivation. Whether you wake up feeling like crap or down on something, this daily system will keep you on track. What most of us don’t realise is that everyone on the planet experiences issues, setbacks and disappointments, some are just better equipped at managing them.


We have covered the 4 daily rituals in detail in past articles. Now we swing into the 5 daily habits that will absolutely revolutionise your life. If you are new to our community and have not read the rituals it is preferable you do so. Why? Because it will be difficult for you to instil these new habits without the 4 daily rituals as your foundation.

Ritual #1 – Journaling – is the conversation you have to hold yourself accountable.
Ritual #2 – Movement – gets you out of your head and into your body where the state of pure consciousness lives.
Ritual #3 – Meditation – teaches you to be mindful and conscious of your thoughts.
Ritual #4 – Learning – helps you grow so you continuously tweak your habits and life hacks.

To read the last 4 articles on the daily rituals and the one before titled: “Is Motivation Destroying Your Identity”, please go to www.ahigherbranch.com/blog

I know, I know. That is a lot of reading. But do you remember how many hours and effort you put at school, learning Shakespeare or trigonometry? Or at university getting your degree? How much more important are you than what you do? Your identity is not defined by what you do but who you are. So please take the time to learn about yourself. The ancient sears instructed us to “know thy self”. Why is this important? In my personal experience, my life started improving dramatically when I started to learn about me. That process of self-discovery is where you will discover and unleash your talents and skills. This in turn boosts your performance in all 8 areas of your life, including your work or business.

The Power of 5 Habits

We live in an era of self-actualisation where everybody has dreams but so few work on their goals. The difference? Dreams live in the heart. They ignite passion and excitement. Goals live in the mind. Goals are what you need to work on to achieve your dreams. (Some people describe dreams as ‘end goals’).

A dream may be to finish a degree. But the daily goals are the lectures you need to attend, the texts you have to read, the assignments you need to complete and the exams you need to pass. A dream may be to have a loving intimate relationship. But the daily goals are the dates you need to schedule, the hours you need to listen and the support you need to give, the tolerance you need to show in times of stress and conflict. A dream may be to have a have a fit and sculpted body. But the daily goal is to show up to the gym or park or oval, the waking early or staying up late to train, shopping, preparing and eating an athletic-engineered diet.

I outline this because people confuse goals with dreams. Why is it important for you to know the difference? Goals are the tough stuff you need to do daily. Everybody gets pumped up on ‘the dream’ but then lose motivation on the day to day goals they need to achieve. So, they give up.

Enter habits.

Habits are much more powerful than motivation. Habits are what drives the performance of your goals. Habits are what gets you through the tough stuff. The work. The grind. The setbacks. The rejections. The disappointments. The energy dips. The sore and sick moments.

Why Do Humans Have Habits?

Habits are an automation tool of the subconscious mind. Through the repetition of an act (that yields a reward), humans are wired to delegate tasks from the conscious mind to the subconscious mind so they end up performing a task without really thinking about it. This delegation frees the conscious mind up to focus on new experiences, new ideas, creativity, and other important functions. You don’t want to use the conscious mind to tie your shoe laces or brush your teeth. Waste of attention bandwidth, right? But what if we can use habits to automate actions that are tough but good for us? Really good for us.

In this next series of 5 articles I will outline the 5 habits that will help you power through the toughest of times. They will get you to show up every time, rain hail or shine. Before I reveal the first important habit you must be wondering….

How do you cultivate a new habit?

Through repetition and reward. Neuro scientists tell us that it takes two lunar cycles to cultivate a new habit. Roughly 60-odd days. So, at first, it is tough but as you repeat an action it gets easier and easier. You need to persist and have willpower at first. But to make it easier, the habits I will be sharing with you will yield a strong emotional reward and this is a critical element that makes you more inclined to repeat it until you cross what scientists call the ‘line of automaticity’. This is the point where this new task goes from the conscious to the subconscious. From there the task (and life) gets easier, not because you do not experience issues and challenges, but because you will have the toolset to deal with them.

The first habit is…..

Habit #1: Smiling

‘Smile on waking and smile all day.
Smile as soon as you open your eyes to greet a new day.’

My family say I am dorky for making up this simple little poem. But hey, behind those words is some powerful science. So please don’t dismiss this as too simple. Please stay with me as I demonstrate why this first daily habit is so important.

Did you know that people who walk around with a ready-smile…..

· Are more attractive and charismatic.
· Have more confidence.
· Are more trusted by customers or clients.
· Are less likely to have arguments and conflicts.
· Are more persuasive and influential.
· Make better leaders.
· Have happier children and families.
· Are more productive at work.
· Are much less likely to suffer from seriousness, anxiety and depression.
· Have lower blood pressure.
· Live longer!

Smiling even boosts your immune system! [See research by Dr Murray Grossan, ENT-otolaryngologist and the science of psychoneuroimmunology – how the brain is connected to the immune system]

The science of how our physiology impacts our thoughts and feelings has been established by many researchers [notably by Harvard professor Amy Cuddy). And there is countless research specifically on the benefits of smiling (even forced smiling) but the most interesting is recent research by the University of Cardiff that showed even people who could not frown due to botox injections were happier on average than those who could frown.

Why is smiling on waking important?

The simple act of smiling on waking will set the tone for the next 16 waking hours. Science tells us that the first few seconds after we wake and the feeling we wake with stays with us all day.

How Can You Reward This Habit – so it Gets Repeated?

The benefits of smiling I listed above will be reward enough. But to make it even easier here are some powerful tips.

· Watch or listen to comedy before you go to bed – preferably before the last hour.
· Hang out with people that are fun or funny. There is a tonne of research on the ‘law of attraction’ and human mimicking behaviour. There is a tonne more showing that the majority of women prefer to marry or live with a partner who has a great sense of humour.
· Do more fun things in your day. For a detailed list of how to have fun read my blog: “Yes but are you having fun?”

How do I smile without appearing creepy?

It comes down to time and place. There is a time to be serious and a time for humour. There is a difference between child-like and childish. There is a difference between wit and just plain inappropriate conduct. And just like any other habit you create, the more you practice smiling, the more natural it will start to feel. And then you will find yourself smiling out of pure joy. It’s not about faking it until you make it, it is about faking it until you start to become it.

Coming Next: Habit #2