8 Daily Habits to Make You Feel in Control of Your Life
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Sunday evenings are best spent lying smack-dab in the middle of your queen-sized bed, flanked by glowing laptop screens and a smattering of takeout food containers in all of your end-of-week glory. But one ill-fated glance away from your Netflix marathon, and suddenly, you're painfully aware of the dress gathering dust on your bedroom floor—the very same dress that you thoughtlessly discarded mere hours beforehand in your carefree weekend splendor.
With that twinge of discomfort, the floodgates have officially opened: One by one, your many weekend faux pas begin to reveal themselves; your eyes dart to the dishes in the kitchen sink, the spilled makeup bag on the vanity, the books scattered across your bedroom floor. Mere casualties of your impetuous quest for weekend frivolity, every misplaced shoe and haphazard closet hanger suddenly weighs heavily on your subconscious—you can no longer ignore the chaos surrounding you. Like a pin in your side, not even Friends reruns and comfort food can distract you from the fact that your apartment is out of order, and, therefore, your life is out of order. Like the Chinese food you shoveled into your mouth mere moments before, an unwelcome feeling of anxiety begins to settle in your stomach alongside the MSG. This is Sunday, people, and it's scary.
The above scenario is often symptomatic of an extremely busy lifestyle that allows little in the way of "me" time (aside from Sundays, of course). Between juggling work assignments, social engagements, and family time, finding the 10 minutes a day required to keep your home from resembling a Forever 21 on a Saturday is easier said than done. What's more, any down time you do manage to find is relished—perhaps a little too much. But, rather than saddling yourself with a severe case of the Sunday Scaries by week's end, adopt these daily mini-habits to restore order to the labyrinth of your busy life:
Never underestimate the power of an evening face mask and a hour-long soak in the tub after work. According to Medical Daily, adopting a grooming routine is essential to our well-being as mammals and social creatures. "Taking care of yourself—including little things like keeping your nails trim, flossing your teeth, and showering—can make a big difference in how you feel about yourself," writes Lecia Bushak. "Being clean is a refreshing feeling, and will give you the kick you need to start getting things done." Even something as simple as washing your face, removing all makeup, and doing a few stretches before bed can make you feel more confident and in control.
The seemingly mundane task of making your bed not only restores order to your surroundings, but it also gives you a sense of accomplishment—however small. In the words of Navy Seal Admiral William H. McRaven, "If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day." McRaven, a somewhat famous public speaker in addition to his accolades as a Navy Seal, spoke to the importance of making your bed every morning in a now-viral commencement speech at the University of Texas, Austin: "[Making your bed] will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. … So if you want to change the world, start off with making your bed."
At MyDomaine, we're big fans of trying new things in an effort to better ourselves. If the sheer number of articles touting the transformative powers of meditation weren't any indication, many of us have found solace in this sacred practice. From diminishing insomnia to reducing feelings of stress and anxiety, engaging in just 10 minutes of meditation a day can restore a much-needed sense of calm and stability to your hectic life. Whether you're a seasoned professional or just starting out, meditating may be one of the most effective tools in your wellness arsenal, not to mention a foolproof way to regain a sense of control over your life.
Many people can speak to the therapeutic effects of cleaning—especially when you don't leave your laundry list of chores until Sunday night at 8 p.m. But you'd be surprised to discover just how much a tidy environment can positively impact your mental state. According to a recent study published in the journal Environment and Behaviour, a clean, stress-free environment can actually lead to healthier eating habits as well. "Being in a chaotic environment and feeling out of control is bad for diets," said lead study author Lenny Vartanian. "It seems to lead people to think, ‘Everything else is out of control, so why shouldn’t I be?'" If that's not a reason to pick up after yourself, I don't know what is.
Aiming to get a solid six to eight hours of sleep every night will keep you feeling refreshed, recharged, and, most importantly, relaxed. According to Kelly McGonigal, Stanford University psychologist and author of the best-selling book The Willpower Instinct, sleep is essential for maintaining a sense of self-control in life. "Sleep deprivation is a kind of chronic stress that impairs how the body and brain use energy," writes McGonigal in her book. "The prefrontal cortex is especially hit hard, and it loses control over the regions of the brain that create cravings and the stress response." In other words, a lack of sleep can cause you to make impulsive, unhealthy decisions that you wouldn't make otherwise. Getting enough sleep is perhaps the first step in gaining a sense of control over your life.
If you have yet to grasp the critical importance of nutrition and healthy eating habits, just look around you: Our wellness-obsessed culture will surely remind you of that fact. Juice bars have replaced fast food restaurants, gluten-free has become the norm, and any given food establishment now makes an effort to cater to vegetarians, vegans, and the like. That said, focusing on what you put into your body certainly has a measured effect on your self-esteem and willpower—even something as simple as cutting out sugar or processed foods, for example, can improve focus and increase energy levels in the brain. Adopting some sort of routine in the health department—whether it's preparing your lunches a week in advance, sticking to a prescribed list of multi-vitamins, or only eating organic, home-grown foods—will make you feel better both mentally and physically when all is said and done.
Maintaining a sense of self-control in life has a lot to do with taking a step back, and considering what will make you feel better in the long-run, instead of in the next five minutes. In a financial sense, giving yourself that critical space between stimulus and response has been dubbed "the 72-hour rule," which simply means waiting a full three days before deciding to purchase something. But according to Roy F. Baumeister, author of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, the same rules apply to daily life. "People who tell themselves, 'not now, but later,' are generally less tormented by the temptation of something they are trying to avoid," writes Baumeister. Keep this in mind when enjoying your weekend down time—while we're all about relaxing and living in the moment, you'll thank yourself for thinking long-term come Monday morning.
As with nutrition, we're surrounded by constant reminders to keep physical fitness top of mind. This habit is about establishing a routine more than anything else—hitting the elliptical or attending a yoga class on a regular basis is actually a great way to train your brain and make you more stress-resilient. In the wise words of Harvard University's very own Elle Woods, "Exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy." These endorphins also have a tendency to "minimise the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain, and are even associated with a feeling of euphoria," according to Kelly McGonigal. Introducing these added benefits into your life via regular exercise can give you a greater sense of self-control in life.
What habits do you turn to when trying to feel in control? Share your go-to tips in the comments below.