3 new habits: baby steps to better health

Over the past two months, I’ve quietly been making changes to my lifestyle in pursuit of better health. Normally, I’m a State Your Goal Loud and Proud sort of taskmaster, and go for the gusto publicly, because that’s worked in the past. But because my health challenges are so unpredictable, and there’s a whole slate of things to change, I was actually worried that I’d do that thing where I’d ambitiously take on the world, start stumbling, and struggle to find my footing again.

It’s weird. Financial goals, no matter how outrageous, always seem achievable. Even if they are vastly out of reach, they aren’t ever daunting. But health goals are no longer that easy for me. They actually even make me a little insecure.

Knowing that, I’ve eased into the pool, a few toes a time. Picking a few areas where slack habits that were ingrained for a (bad) reason, I gave myself a new reason and new license to like the new habit.

1. New Habit: “Missing the bus”.

In an effort to maintain work-life balance, I tried to stick to a schedule of leaving work at a certain time. This was partly because my public transit option was fairly rigid. If I missed a specific bus, every other bus behind that magic one was unreliable, late, or might not show up at all.

Triggered: Stress over the transit, grouchiness about getting home really late, double stress if PiC had to come pick me up because we’d both be extra late.

Conclusion: My work-life balance “solution” was actually not always workable, it was exhausting when extenuating circumstances arose as they will in my position and the extra stress is unhealthy.

Solution: I found an alternate transit solution that required a mile walk. Now, if something really needs just a few extra minutes, or an hour, and it’s important, I don’t need to stress myself out over the choice between not getting it done or running for the bus. I get it done, and take a nice long decompression walk.

Now, I actually plan to “miss” the bus more than once a week when the weather’s fine because it’s good for me. That removes all guilt-related stress from the equation. PiC knows that it’s semi-planned that it will be at least one to three times per week, I let him know as soon as bus-time nears, and he doesn’t feel pressured to rush around to accommodate an unexpected late day.  He knows that on those late days, he’ll just go to Plan B and everything goes more smoothly.

2. Spend Money. On purpose.

Mostly I’m frugal but there are days, and weeks, when I’m an absolute cheapskate because “I just don’t feel like spending.” And being disinclined to shop just doesn’t help matters at all. Say, when it comes to necessities.

My feet take a pounding because I run around at work all day. Plus I’ve added the above walking regimen. You would think I’d be willing to get the necessary things to be well shod and comfortable. But it costs money and takes time to find such things, it requires dedicated shopping and I haven’t got the patience so I just won’t do it.

Triggered: Pain!

Conclusion: That’s just silly. I have smart, fashion forward friends who can make good recommendations and I can order online if I refuse to shop in-store. I’ve been walking around with blisters for nearly a month because my shoes have failed me. Now, where’s my sign?

Solution: I asked for shoe recommendations from friends who travel and walk like I do: in flats and a LOT.

I also remembered that Nordstrom has a really good return policy so I can actually try shoes for real, not just a few steps on carpet which isn’t at all a stress test of how they will feel when you have to commute in them. I ordered a STACK to try on and will keep the ones that hold up to real trial.

3. Chunking

Weekends are often saved for all those chores and errands that seem impossible to squeeze in during the week after a long day, at the end of a night: Laundry, grocery shopping, dry cleaning, car maintenance, cleaning of every sort.

Triggered: Exhaustion and a sad weekend when it’s all work and no play.

Conclusion: Trying to preserve the weekday and weekend divide between work and home just creates a lump sum of misery on either side of the wall.

Solution: I’ve been breaking off little chunks of errands like filling up the car with gas, or vacuuming just one part of one room, or clearing off a table top and fitting it into my day if I can squeeze in fifteen or thirty minutes. This still leaves the big stuff for the weekend but if there are only two or three big things for each day, that’s only a few hours’ worth of work and a lot of free hours left!


These three items are my focus right now. I’m taking it slow and steady to let the habits become natural before I heap any more on my plate.


::: What would you target in a quest for better health and happiness?

::: How would you make it sustainable for your life?


About Revanche

Revanche writes the personal finance blog A Gai Shan Life.