In partnership with our friends at Avocado Green Mattress
Developing healthy habits can be an exercise in patience. It takes time to get a new behavior right, and then you have to get it right more than a few times before it becomes automatic. Responsive tools can make things easier: It’s shocking what a good motivator – whether it’s words of wisdom or ridiculous forbearance – can do.
We’ve rounded up some of the products, apps, and books that have helped us tweak our own habits in four different categories: sleep, meditation, waste reduction, and productivity.
A good night’s sleep is all about consistent habits: get some exercise during the day, make sure you have a mattress and pillow that will fit you, avoid screens for a few hours before bed, limit your caffeine- and alcohol consumption and decline about the same time every night (including sleeping tips). Some of them are easier said than recorded.
The ultimate kick-starter for good sleep hygiene is a bed that you can hardly get into – and where all these sleep rituals are absolutely worthwhile. Take this product that we made in partnership with Avocado: it was completely customized by you and made to order in Los Angeles, where it’s made from 29 layers of ethically sound, certified organic materials over hundreds of hours. So if your dreams are cashmere, Indian wool, Peruvian royal alpaca, and reclaimed and sustainably grown hardwoods, this may be what ultimately convinces you to leave your phone in the other room when it’s time to relax.
The best way to know it is all paying off: get the data. The Oura Health Tracker fits on your finger and collects some of the most complete biometric data available outside of laboratory settings. As you doze, Oura measures your resting heart rate, heart rate variability, breathing rate, body temperature, night movement, sleep quality, and light, deep, and REM sleep periods. This data is then combined into a general sleep value via the associated app from Oura and personalized instructions are given on how you can optimize your habits for better recovery.
For those who believe that there is something spiritually important in the mindfulness practice but do not see clearing their minds as a reasonable goal, there are two other mindfulness tools that may be useful. The first is active meditation, a technique in which you focus your attention on the process of a single, simple task. (You may know the idea of finding the flow while in a good groove with work or hobbies. Active meditation works the same way.) Mindfulness coloring books are a good introduction. They allow you to access the silence in a way that won’t drive you crazy if you are the above non-meditator. Those at The Coloring Method resort to traditional meditation techniques like metta (kindness) and guide you through breath work and positive affirmations to substantiate the practice. You can find a preview in the PDF for download in our Questions and Answers with the Founders of The Coloring Method.
Most contemporary mindfulness practices come from Zen Buddhist traditions. And Zen is so much more than meditation. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff book is a good primer. It offers a hundred ways to redefine minor stressors in your life and to be more mindful of your thoughts, relationships, and workloads. Pick your lessons and cover just a few pages at a time if you want. Perhaps the chapter “Your ‘In-Basket’ Doesn’t Go Empty When You Die” really speaks to you today: Most of us need to remember that when we put off the good things (family time, downtime, time for me) until – dos are all done, we may never get to the good things. And when you return to the chapters you need most, you may find that you are getting better at this mindfulness matter.
We cannot talk about healthy habits without considering those that are healthy for the planet. Some of the most important sustainability habits in the home happen in the kitchen. First of all, throw away single-use plastics and paper. This starts with having the right alternatives on hand. Try reusable food packaging instead of plastic wrap, which normally can’t be recycled outside of specialized facilities. The von Snacksheets are available in different sizes and use vegetable resins and waxes instead of beeswax, so they are also vegan. Then fill up with silicone sandwich bags of any size so that you never have to reach for a snap closure again. They’re perfect for packed lunches, can be used for sous vide, and can be put in the dishwasher if needed. Further recommendations: “Paper towels” made of organic cotton and metal straws in pretty rose gold.
Second, we are talking about composting. Leftovers that you compost turn into nutrient-rich humus that nourishes the soil and helps sequester atmospheric carbon. Those you throw in the trash end up in a landfill, where they add to methane emissions. And the health of our atmosphere has a direct impact on our own health: climate change has been shown to affect our personal health and the health of our local communities – from extreme weather events to the emergence of novel infectious diseases. If you’re hesitant to compost at home because you’re scared of how that banana peel will smell in three days, there is some good news: Vitamix has developed a countertop composting tool called the Foodcycler FC-50 that will ventilate your products and break down food waste that are converted into natural fertilizer at the push of a button. The carbon filter system eliminates odors and the machine itself is super quiet. A few hours later, your compost can be spreading around your yard or replenishing your houseplants, and you can put the inner bucket in the dishwasher. It makes a good habit really easy – and easy means you stick with it.
PERFORMANCE AND PRODUCTIVITY
Most of us find that we are more productive when the work day doesn’t feel like a marathon. And sometimes a timer is enough to make things more manageable. The Pomodoro technique allows you to break your work down into pieces with built-in pauses. For every twenty-five minute period of work, put everything else aside and focus on what you are doing. When the timer rings, you have five minutes to let the dog out, stretch, prepare a snack, and text your friends. Then for your next twenty-five minute cycle you are back on, five off. Every four cycles you get a longer fifteen minute break. (We like to extend the break in the middle of the day for lunch and a walk.) If all of this seems to be paying a lot of attention, there is an internet browser extension called Marinara that does the timing for you so you don’t think about it – and You can adjust the length of your cycles to fit your schedule.
Perhaps the best way to tweak good habits is to get into the habit of thinking about them. This is where this journal comes in: each day, write down how you felt about your habit performance, what you want to remember, what went well and what didn’t, and what you can do tomorrow to bring you closer to your goal . There’s also space for daily gratitude notes – some needed perspective for days that didn’t go as planned.
We hope you enjoy the products we recommend here. Our goal is to only suggest things that we love and that we think you could too. We also like transparency, meaning full disclosure: we can collect part of the sales or other compensation when you shop using the external links on this page.