I’m a creature of habit. And I’ll put money on the fact that you are too. In fact, as humans we are all creatures of healthy habits and routine. Many of our habits are so ingrained that we don’t even think of them as habits. We brush our teeth, put our socks on the same foot first each time and look both ways before crossing the street.
You will be able to rattle off a whole series of your own habits and behaviours too.
Today I would like to talk about three healthy habits that keep me grounded. Through everything. The good times, and the not so good times. And if you’re not familiar with my story, there have been some pretty significant ‘not so good’ times (a breast cancer diagnosis and 12 months of active treatment in 2017).
I’m sharing these with you because I believe it’s important to recognise and tap into your own cornerstones and anchors, when you need them.
My 3 Healthy Habits
Movement has always been a significant part of my life. I played sports, rode horses and was a gymnast from a very young age and continued these through until I had left high school. I then jumped onto the group fitness wagon as a young adult, regularly running off to a Pump, Aerobics or Step class. Then came Spin classes as a new Mum. And from there, I fell for the free weights section of the gym floor.
As I became stronger and more curious about exactly what I could do with this new strong body I had developed, I fell deeply in love with Powerlifting. A love that continues to this day. And alongside all of this I love nothing more than a long walk in nature. I trekked to Everest Base Camp in 2010 and walked a chuck of Spain’s Camino de Santiago in 2016. Then there’s been sprinklings of yoga, pilates and swimming too.
So you can see that movement is definitely one of my cornerstones. It’s an anchor that has served me well and a habit that I made sure I leaned into during my cancer treatment and recovery. During this time my movement looked very very different to what it had before my diagnosis. Walks were often short, slow and exhausting. I kept a weekly appointment with my coach and lifted weights, as best as I could. Some days were hard, emotionally and physically. But I showed up nonetheless and did my best, and my coach never asked anything more from me. He was a huge support for me during this difficult time.
Maintaining a connection and commitment to moving every day, regardless of what else is going on in my life, has been a gift that pays incredible dividends. Movement is good for my mental health, my physical health, my emotional health and my social life. It reminds me to be grateful for my incredibly strong, capable, resilient and miraculous body. Movement serves as a form of meditation, making time for reflection, the marination, rumination and creation of ideas. It helped detox chemotherapy and other drugs from my system during my treatment and played a significant part in my recovery. Movement has taken me on many adventures and is a key player in so many of my happy memories.
Movement is a healthy habit I’m incredibly grateful for and definitely keeps me grounded.
2. Soaking in an Epsom Salt Bath
This is my idea of heaven. I can only think of one house I’ve lived in that didn’t have a bath and I struggled, big time. I’ve been soaking in a hot bath for as long as I can remember. All I need is a good book, Epsom Salts and a bath deep enough that I can fully submerge. I may also be known to watch TV in the bath… thank you streaming services!
So why have I included something as simple as taking a bath in my three healthy habits?
Because, like movement, taking a bath has become a cornerstone in my self care routine. I look forward to it, schedule it into my week (more than once if I can!), I relish this time to myself and it makes me feel soooooo relaxed.
And why the addition of Epsom Salt? To start with the two main ingredients of Epsom Salt are magnesium and sulfate, both readily absorbed through the skin. It is believed that the combination of the two stimulates detoxification pathways and that sulfate helps draw out heavy metals and toxins. Magnesium helps the production of serotonin which eases stress and also decreases inflammation and relieves muscle soreness and tension.
All of the above have been good enough reasons for me to indulge in a regular soak for years. But the ritual became even more important when I was diagnosed with, and was having treatment for, cancer.
Like movement during this time it wasn’t always easy. Sometimes I had to ask my husband to help me in and out of the bath and he would check in that I hadn’t fallen asleep and slipped under the water! But it was the importance of maintaining routines that kept me grounded, sane and protected my overall wellbeing.
3. A good book
An article on the BBC’s Teach website says that “Reading for pleasure has been found to improve our confidence and self-esteem, providing the grounding we need to pursue our goals and make life decisions. It can also aid our sleep and reduce feelings of loneliness.
To the onlooker, reading can appear to be a solitary and passive activity. But the simple act of picking up a book can do us a world of good.”
I’m a ferocious reader, and again, like my healthy habits above, have been since I was a child. See the pattern?
Settling in with a good book takes me out of my head, calms my racing mind and transports me to a whole other world. One that’s not about me, doesn’t demand anything from me and doesn’t depend on me. This is the gift of reading for me. And it can be done anywhere!
Curled up in bed, on a comfy sofa, at the beach, in the bath, on a plane, bus or train, by a pool, in a waiting room – a little like green eggs and ham… I like reading anywhere!
Without a book to read, I honestly feel a little lost and at sea. So when life becomes overwhelming and exhausting, simply knowing there’s a book on my bedside table waiting for me, calms me. This form of escapism, for me, is reliable, safe and has been a constant throughout my life.
There you have it, three healthy habits that I’ve identified as constant cornerstones in my life. They keep me grounded and are always there for me to lean into, through all of life’s ups and downs.
What are your healthy habits?
I invite you to take a moment to reflect on what cornerstone habits you have. They might be simple and as a result easily taken for granted because they are just a part of your life. But I believe it’s helpful to identify these healthy habits, recognise them for what they are and know that when life gets tough and a little messy… they are waiting for you. Come home to them and they will keep you grounded and safe.