Hacking Your Habits for Happiness

This past week was major for me and The Orenda Tribe. We launched our first-ever 20-hour teens' wellbeing program – a huge milestone! But here's the funny thing (well, not exactly funny): while I was preaching wellbeing to a room full of teenagers, my own wellbeing went straight out the window.

For five days straight, I was a productivity machine fueled by sheer willpower (and maybe a questionable amount of coffee). 7 am alarm bells, 1 am bedtimes, a relentless schedule of four-hour workshops, prep sessions, CEO duties – you name it, I crammed it in. Oh, and let's not forget the daily two-hour workout sessions (because self-care, right?). My social life? My relationships? Yeah, those got put on hold.

By day five, I was a walking zombie. Finished the last workshop, stumbled home, and promptly did a face plant into my pillow. Woke up 14 hours later feeling like I'd been hit by a truck.

Sharing this story with a friend, Her response? A simple but powerful question: "I don't know why we do that knowing that it isn't right."

That question hit me like a ton of bricks. It was time to ditch the burnout cycle and find a way to actually enjoy my work while still being productive.

Enter: the power of habits. After a much-needed recharge, I dove into researching how our brains actually work around habits. Here's the thing: understanding how our brains form habits might just be the key to unlocking a more balanced, fulfilling way of working.

Our brains are like amazing computers. When it comes to habits, they work in a simple loop:

  1. Cue: Imagine a blinking notification light on your phone – that's a cue. It triggers your brain to go, "Hey, remember that thing you like to do?"
  2. Routine: This is the action itself – checking your phone, grabbing a coffee, maybe even starting your workday with an outdoors jog.
  3. Reward: The good stuff! That dopamine hit you get from checking your social media, the energy boost from caffeine, or the endorphin rush from your jog – your brain is basically saying, "That was awesome, let's do it again!"

The more you repeat this loop, the stronger the connection between the cue, routine, and reward becomes. Eventually, it becomes automatic – you see the coffee pot, your hand reaches out for a cup, and before you know it, you're caffeinated and ready to conquer the day.

The key here is that habits can be good or bad. The blinking light cue leading to the phone-checking routine can be helpful for staying connected, but not so much if it distracts you from important tasks. The good news is, by understanding this loop, we can hack our own brains and build habits that actually support our wellbeing, not drain it.

So, that's my crash-course in brain habits and the burnout buster I'm hoping it'll be. The next step? A serious overhaul of my own routine! I'm taking a deep dive into my priorities and what true wellbeing means to me. Then, I'm hacking my brain with habits that support that vision, not hinder it. Think walking shoes strategically placed by the door for a mindful morning walk, or scheduling tech-free zones to recharge and reconnect.

What about you? This journey to wellbeing is a team effort, after all! What habits are you itching to add to your day to support your own well-being? 

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