10 Small Habits That Helped Me With My Happiness and Well-Being

I haven’t been doing the best lately, and being self-employed means that I am living a rather unstructured life if I do not implement proper habits and routines myself. 

I also went through a fair share of existential crisis during this period, leading me to believe that there is no eventual outcome, or meaning in life. This is a rather destabilising thought, and it has caused a fair share of rather unproductive days of me sleeping in more than I should. 

After spending a couple of weeks in existential dread, I decided to take incremental steps to help pull myself out of this hole. 

These small habits and practices will not solve your problems or answer deep, existential questions, but i hope sharing what works for me will help you with figuring out something that will work for you. 

Small Habits and Daily Rituals That Helped Me With My Mental Well-Being

1. Allowing myself to do a task for just 5 minutes 


doing work for 5 minutes

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One of the small habits that significantly improved my mental well-being was giving myself permission to start a task for just 5 minutes. 

Often, when faced with a daunting or overwhelming task, I would procrastinate or feel anxious about it. However, by committing to just five minutes, I lowered the mental barrier to getting started. 

This simple practice is grounded in the principles of behavioral psychology, particularly the “Two-Minute Rule” popularized by James Clear in his book Atomic Habits, which highlights that starting a task for just a few minutes can overcome the initial resistance to action, making it more likely that you’ll continue and accomplish more over time. This approach not only boosts productivity but also helps me reduce stress related to procrastination.

2. Not expecting change to happen overnight 


cat sleeping

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As I spent the past couple of months attempting to build something of my own from the ground up, one critical realisation was the importance of not expecting overnight transformations. 

I used to set unrealistically high expectations when it came to the work that I did or exercise-related ambitions,  and that often led to frustration and disappointment. 

After multiple failures on that front (such as failing to build my marketplace business, and failing to do 1 pull-up after a month), I learned to embrace the idea that change is gradual, and it sometimes requires me to fail multiple times. 

This shift in mindset helped me approach myself with patience and resilience, leading to more sustainable progress.

3. Having a rough outline of how the day looks like 


morning routine

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During a session with my counsellor, we worked out a simple outline of how my day would look and it looks something like this: 

  • 8.30 am-9.30 am: Wake up and have a coffee 
  • 9.30 am-12 pm: Work 
  • 12 pm-2 pm: Lunch break + housework chores 
  • 2 pm-5 pm: Work 
  • 5 pm-8.30 pm:  Exercise, Dinner, Rest, TV 
  • 8.30 pm-11 pm: Clear excess work, organise for the next day, quiet time.
  • 11 pm: Get ready for bed 

Research cited in the Journal of Applied Psychology demonstrates that having a plan can reduce anxiety and increase productivity. 

Knowing what to expect and allocating time for work, self-care, and relaxation helps establish a sense of control and contributes to a better mental state. 

4. Being hyper-aware of negative self-talk 


negative emotions

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Over the years, I have had the tendency to talk to myself in a negative manner and prescribe to self-limiting beliefs. For example, I’ve recently caught myself saying phrases like “sorry”, or “it’s not that good” when it comes to presenting things that I do. 

There were numerous times when I belittled my own efforts, and it has resulted me in not being able to develop trust in myself or take myself seriously.

 Being aware of my thought patterns has been an important first step to correcting other behavioural patterns that were concerning for me. 

If like me, you’re someone that tends to talk to yourself negatively, Socratic questioning is an effective method for challenging and changing irrational thoughts. 

By examining the evidence and reasoning behind negative thoughts, you can shift your perspective to a more positive one. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What is the evidence for this thought?
  • Am I basing this on facts or feelings?
  • Could I be misinterpreting the situation?
  • How might other people view the situation differently?
  • How might I view this situation if it happened to someone else?

5. Changing the way I talk about myself and to my friends 



Source: Unsplash

When I first started out trying to build my own business a couple of months ago, I enrolled in a rather prestigious venture capital incubation programme, only to drop out unceremoniously just a couple of weeks later. 

Looking back, I realised that I was allowing my emotions and self-doubt to get in the way of my desire to do something great. I also realised that I belittled myself during self-introductions and networking sessions, and I spoke of my ideas in a rather condescending way. 

This had many unintended consequences: For one, I caused myself a lot of unnecessary grievances. I wasn’t able to build anything substantial because of the constant self-doubt. What’s more, this causes people to not take me as seriously. 

Changing the way you view and talk about yourself and your ideas to others is truly an important skill to inculcate. It has also helped me cultivate healthier and more supportive relationships.

6. Building exercise habits that are suitable for my preferences and schedule



Source: Unsplash

I’ve always hated running and dreaded going out of the house for any form of physical activity. Yet over the months, I was able to build a consistent habit of running slowly for 30 minutes, for 2-3 times a week. 

I was able to do this because I realised that the main reason I hated running was because of the unconscious pressure I put on myself to run fast, or to run a fixed distance at a certain timing. 

Consciously going on very slow runs helped take the pressure away, making the exercise a lot more therapeutic and less physically strenuous. This also allows me more time out of the house, and it provides me an outlet to better regulate my emotions  

7. Checking in with someone on my progress 



Source: Unsplash

I’ve had the privilege of having great people around me to give me a reality check. 
Since being on a career break for the past 7 months, I worked with a mentor on a weekly basis for 2 months to check in on my mental well-being and growth.  This has provided me a sounding board, and a second opinion on the things I’m doing, and it has kept me accountable for myself. 

8. Being intentional in learning emotional regulation techniques 


dealing with emotions

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One of the key small habits that significantly improved my happiness and well-being was the conscious decision to be intentional in learning emotional regulation techniques. 

I realised that my emotional responses often dictated the quality of my day and overall well-being. So, I started dedicating time to understanding and practicing various mindfulness techniques that help with anxiety and catastrophising thoughts. 

 These practices helped me gain better control over my emotions, reduce stress, and enhance my overall emotional resilience. 

By intentionally incorporating these techniques into my daily routine, I could respond to challenging situations with greater composure and adaptability, ultimately contributing to a more positive and balanced outlook on life.

9. Being more aware of the physical cues from my body 


body aches

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Another pivotal habit that significantly improved my happiness and well-being was becoming more attuned to the physical cues from my body. 

Often, our bodies send signals that indicate our emotional states and overall health. By paying closer attention to these cues—such as muscle tension, headaches, or fatigue—I became better equipped to identify and address the root causes of stress and anxiety. 

This heightened awareness allowed me to take proactive steps to prioritise self-care, whether through exercise, a balanced diet, or simply taking breaks to relax. 

10. Learning to celebrate small wins 



Source: Unsplash

In the pursuit of our goals, it’s easy to overlook the smaller achievements along the way, leading to a sense of stagnation and frustration. By consciously recognising and celebrating small achievements, I started to appreciate the journey more than just the results of my efforts. 

Whether it was completing a project at work or achieving a personal milestone, taking the time to acknowledge and celebrate these small wins became a powerful source of motivation, allowing me to go about my day with a happier mindset. 

The Importance of Small Habits

Small habits may seem insignificant, but they can make a big difference in our lives. Incorporating these small habits and daily rituals, grounded in some psychological research and principles, can help with your mental well-being over time. 

Small habits also create consistency, allowing us to build momentum to make more substantial changes in future. If you’re looking to make incremental improvements to your life, do try out some of the practices. 

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2 thoughts on “10 Small Habits That Helped Me With My Happiness and Well-Being”

  1. Pingback: Developing Anxiety After My First Job: Here's What I Would Do Differently

  2. Pingback: I Live as a Full Time Digital Nomad in New Zealand: Here’s What I did To Achieve This Lifestyle - readlatable

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