Your everyday routine looks something like this: Jump out of bed energized, smash out a high-intensity workout, down a healthy breakfast, and then head to work for a full day of uninterrupted productivity. Right?
Okay, so that’s the goal anyway. Even if your reality looks pretty different (hey, you’re human!), the point is that healthy food, exercise, and sleep are probably already on your radar as important elements of a winning everyday routine. So this isn’t where we tell you to go running and take more naps.
Instead, let’s look at six of the more surprising things that you can add to your everyday routine to make you as happy, healthy, and productive as can be.
6 Ways to Level Up Your Everyday Routine
1. A hug
There’s no faster way to fix yourself up with a case of the warm-and-fuzzies (those are a thing, right?) than to give someone a hug. Science backs us up here (though maybe not in those words). One study found that people who received hugs stayed in a better mood after a conflict with others.
The thing about hugs is that they’re such a simple way to make you — and someone else — feel good. And yet, when we’re caught up in the hectic whirlpool of our lives, days can pass without us throwing our arms around someone who matters.
So, hugging someone as part of your everyday routine? Might just be the fastest way to improve your day.
2. Mindful breathing
We probably don’t need to point out that mindfulness is trending, or that it’s really beneficial at that. Mindfulness is good for all sorts of things, from knocking your anxiety down a peg to making you generally healthier and more resilient.
So here’s a surprisingly easy way to add a mindfulness practice to your everyday routine — take some time out to focus your attention on your breath. In an interesting study from 2006, participants were shown a series of negative images. Those who did a 15-minute focused breathing exercise beforehand reported feeling less negative emotions and were able to tolerate the negative images longer.
You don’t have to do anything fancy, though sitting or lying down with your eyes closed does help. Just observe each breath as it flows in and out, and when your mind (inevitably) wanders, just gently draw your focus back to your breathing.
Bonus: You can do this one pretty much anywhere, like on your morning commute or when you’re at your desk. Fifteen minutes is ideal, but if you can only manage five, hey, that’s great too.
3. A daily reflection
This one may seem like a no-brainer, and yet, how many of us actually do it? Reflecting on the events and experiences in our lives helps us to better understand, appreciate, and learn from them.
In a Harvard Business School study, employees who reflected for 15 minutes at the end of each day about what they’d learned performed 23.2 percent better. Another study found that brief daily written reflections helped students to learn, made them more aware of their thoughts and actions, and increased their sense of mindfulness.
So try this: Put aside a small block of time each day to simply reflect. It may be a mental or written reflection. Your reflection might encompass things like what you could have done better today, what you were grateful for, and what you learned.
4. A workspace tidy-up
Yeah, we know. Not exactly the most fun thing to add to your everyday routine. But there’s a reason we suggest giving your workspace a tidy-up on a daily basis. Actually, multiple reasons.
For one, doing a small cleanup regularly means you don’t have to face that dreaded mammoth cleanup when things get out of control. (Because, hello, they won’t get out of control).
Secondly, a decluttered workspace is good for productivity. Research shows that visual clutter clouds our brains and gets in the way of our ability to focus. So taking a few minutes — at the start of each day or at the end — to tidy up and declutter your workspace means you’ll be able to focus better. And, you know, actually find your phone charger when you need it.
5. A period of distraction
Now, we’re not saying you should go and play video games or anything, but…you probably should. If your goal is to be creative, that is. Studies show that letting your mind wander — by, say, doing an undemanding task — can give your creative problem-solving skills a boost.
“Insight problems involve thinking outside the box,” explains an article in Scientific American. “This is where susceptibility to ‘distraction’ can be of benefit.” Hence we can use our off-peak times of day (like that post-lunch mental lull) to partake in a little pleasant distraction while our minds more efficiently mull over creative problems.
A science-backed excuse to indulge in your favorite series for an hour? You’re welcome. Just don’t overdo it.
6. A moment with nature
Nature has a way of making us feel all the good feels — peaceful, awed, inspired. But you don’t have to wait until you’re amongst the trembling beauty of a pine forest in winter to appreciate it. Hey, your IKEA house plant counts as nature, too.
Seriously though, nature is all around us whether it’s a tiny patch of grass or the moon rising overhead. Research suggests that paying attention to the natural aspects of our surroundings makes us feel more positive and connected.
So how about taking a moment with nature as part of your everyday routine? You could take a picture of one natural thing that moves you, or simply walk mindfully while paying attention to the nature in your surroundings.
Birds flying high and sun in the sky? Without a doubt, they’ll have you feeling good.
Your turn: How do you make the most out of your everyday routine? Let us know in the comments.
Author: Tania Braukamper
Tania Braukamper is an Australian-born writer and photographer. She believes in curiosity, kindness, and adventure as a state of mind.