Creating Healthier Habits
Nothing is more important than your health, and no job, client or project should require you to sacrifice that being your top priority. While I love being a designer, there are aspects that I can really do without. These aspects include drinking too much caffeine, snacking on office sweets, eating out every day, working late hours and sleeping too little. More often than not we glorify this behaviour and accept that it is the price of being a creative. I want to debunk the implication that being a designer or developer means an unsustainable, unhealthy lifestyle, so here are a few ideas to break bad behaviour and create healthier habits.
We hear and read about it all the time: sitting is going to kill us. It’s a common experience, you finish college and suddenly you’re sitting at a desk for 70% of the day, inactive and slowly building up bad behaviour that is an unintentional by-product of your new environment. I understand that not everyone can afford a gym membership or a standing desk but you have to break up the sitting! Even owning these things doesn’t guarantee you will make proper use of them, and there are many free/cheap alternatives. This isn’t about getting in the best shape of your life or being fit enough to run a marathon—it’s simply about increasing mobility in even the most subtle of ways.
Fidget as much as possible
While this is usually an unconscious action, fidgeting can be good for you if it’s not a result of nervousness or anxiety. Tapping your foot, rolling your shoulders or nodding your head is increasing your energy output without moving from your chair.
Clench those cheeks
This sounds hilarious but it’s another good exercise you can do at your desk. Try squeezing your butt cheeks together and then alternate one side at a time. You can keep working while strengthening your gluteus at the same time. Now that’s what I call multi-tasking! When your done with your butt you can move onto your abs! Sit-ups are for suckers if you can flex and Photoshop.
Set an hourly timer
The guys at work laugh at me when I forget to put my headphones in, because my computer tells me the time aloud on the hour, every hour. At first this might sound kind of annoying, more of an interruption than an improvement but I find it actually helps me focus more. Constantly being aware of the time makes me take note of how productive I’ve been in the last hour, and if I need to snap out of a mindless scrolling state. It also serves as a reminder to stand up and walk around for 10 seconds. I usually grab a cup of tea, have a stretch, go to the bathroom or something that requires me to stand up and look away from my screen. It gets me up for a moment and is also a chance to rest my eyes.
Do something active in your lunch break
Physical activity doesn’t have to mean a run or epic sweat session. Just taking the stairs or adding a walk around the block is extra movement. Barely adds any time but enough to increase your daily blood flow.
Nice try, but I don’t mean alcohol. Chances are you already drink too much of that, along with caffeine and other high calorie drinks. I’m talking about drinking that good ole H20!
Limit your intake
I would never tell someone to give up alcohol or coffee, they are simple pleasures in life that I enjoy thoroughly as well. However I want to point out that there is a big difference between enjoyment and dependance, so maybe stop and ask yourself if you really need that third flat white. The last two months I have completely stopped drinking coffee through the week and look forward to one or two cups on the weekend.
It’s hot, has no calories and is freaking delicious! I’m not even talking fancy, loose-leaf, pretentious tea that admittedly I still buy because the packaging is pretty. As long as you don’t add milk or sugar, you can drink as much tea as you want. This also helps with getting up every hour as you’ll trip to the bathroom more frequently. A summer option is infusing cold water with a bit of fruit. I love adding a slice of lemon, orange and mint because it’s refreshing and colourful.
Put a jug of water on your desk
Then challenge yourself to finish the whole thing by the end of the day. If it’s sitting right in front of you, you’re far more likely to remember to drink it.
Packin’ n’ snackin’
I love pizza like any of the Ninja Turtles but I hardly have their metabolism. Chocolate is another weakness and when I’m stressed I want it in and around my mouth. It’s pretty common for studios to stock unhealthy snacks and even more common to overeat the Arnott’s Assorted Creams if they are staring at you all day. Best defence is having a healthy alternative ready! Chopping carrots, capsicum or kohlrabi* means you always have a tasty treat on hand, while skipping the sugar come down an hour later. It might also be worth asking work to stock a fruit bowl over the biscuit tin.
Don’t eat while you work
This is a terrible, terrible habit and I’ve seen it in too many studios. It has to stop! Eating at your desk is not saving anyone time and is so unproductive. Any time saved is then wasted cleaning crumbs out of your keyboard, so do yourself a favour and have a proper break. You’ll pay more attention to your food and actually enjoy it.
Practice mindful breathing
When we get stressed we often take shorter breaths, preventing maximum oxygen from going to our brains. Having a moment to pause and take a deep breath can release tension, toxins and give you the clarity you need to work through those stressful situations.
Sleep is not for the weak
I used to joke about this at college, saying “sleep is for the weak” after pulling all-nighters in an attempt to finish assessments in time. Not everyone needs 8 hours but a proper sleep is essential. The kind of sleep where your body can recoup and wake up feeling refreshed—not like you’ve fallen out of a tree and hit every branch on the way down. This is probably the most important thing of all the tips I have listed, mainly because not getting enough sleep means you aren’t rested enough to make positive decisions. I know for me personally, it’s always when I’m tired that all mindfulness goes out the window.
I promise that everything in your life improves when you start taking better care of yourself. Your body, mind and creative juices will thank you. Make 2016 your best year yet—change your behaviour by changing your environment and as a result create healthy habits for our industry. The power of habit is the strongest force to reckon with. I reckon you’ve got it in you!
*Totes kidding about the kohlrabi hey.